Friday, October 07, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Surprise!

It's October, and here's its first surprise: video and audio of Donald Trump making lewd and explicit comments about women and his behavior towards them in 2005, including describing what some are calling sexual assault.  Here's the WPost story that broke it.

One can argue whether these are Trump's worst sexual offenses--Josh Marshall reminds us that one ex-wife testified under oath that he raped her, and another similarly testified that he attempted to rape her.

But this has video and audio, and it reverberated through the 2016 campaign in hours, with likely more to come.  Media suggested that this one, really this one, would finally do Trump in. Democrats condemned it, some Republicans did, while others locked the door and wouldn't say anything (Mike Pence especially.)

Democrats also called on Republicans to finally repudiate their nominee--"a tough proposition given how tight many Senate races are, but not unthinkable given the explosiveness of Trump's comments," wrote Burgess Everett in Politico. "Alienating Trump supporters in October could make it impossible for Republicans to win reelection, but Democrats were itching to make the GOP own its Trump endorsements through what marks the toughest stretch of his controversy-scarred campaign for president."

In a sense how voters reacted didn't matter yet--politicians had to at least pretend to be offended.  And that's how it started to play out.  By evening there was this:

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan asked Donald Trump not to attend a campaign event with him Saturday as scores of other Republicans attempt to distance themselves from the party’s nominee following the disclosure on Friday of a 2005 video in which Trump made lewd comments about women.

However, Ryan's own statement won't win any awards for enlightenment:

“I am sickened by what I heard today,” Ryan said. “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.”

No word on whether Ryan intends to "champion" and "revere" Hillary.

Senate leaders McConnell and McCarthy issued statements condemning Trump's comments as did others but so far the Utah GOP governor and a Utah Rep are the only notables withdrawing support.  Mike Pence has gone utterly silent, although he will appear with Ryan in Trump's stead.

The fallout from this is happening fast.  There are calls for Trump to step down from his candidacy (officially by a GOPer congressman from Colorado and a congresswoman from Virginia, among others)  so the Republicans can nominate somebody else (likely Mike Pence, which may be why he's silent.)  But Josh Marshall sees in the timing of the condemnations-without-withdrawal of support a top down effort by the RNC to see if they can weather this.  Update: The WPost has a persuasive article that replacing Trump is virtually impossible, probably according to RNC rules but mostly because the election has started and ballots in many states can't be changed.

Politico's headline: GOP panics as outrage with Trump boils over

And the story itself is growing.  A woman Trump talks about on the tape has reportedly been identified,  and after she rebuffed his sexual advances, Trump allegedly tried to have her fired as host of one of his beauty pageants.

Nicholas Kristof tells the story of a completely different woman who claims Trump relentlessly groped her, in what ostensibly was a business partnership that included her husband.

Trump then issued a video, in which he clearly is reading a statement of apology and also the intent to raise questions "in the coming days" of Bill Clinton's sexual past and Hillary's behavior towards women involved.  He ends: "See you at the debate on Sunday."

So it seems we can pretty much forget about a policy-driven debate.

Trump's apology was couched in the redeemed sinner mode much favored by fundamentalist Christians (a group he needs)--i.e. I did bad things but I've changed and I promise to be better.  The statement was also a bit schizoid, as if the first half was written by one person, the second half by another.

All of this completely buried excerpts from the wikileaks dump of purported emails stolen from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, mostly having to do with Hillary's speeches before Wall Street groups, in which she appears to have said nothing greatly different from what she says on the stump, although with some different emphasis on trade issues.

On any other day the political headlines would be Trump's (unsubstantiated, needless to say) charge that illegal immigrants are flooding across the southern border to vote in the election, or his continuing smear of five young men of color exonerated in a media frenzy New York rape case.

(The idea that Mexicans would brave border crossing to vote in the US seems ridiculous.  But how about Canadians coming across to vote against Trump?  That makes more sense.)

However the biggest political news of the day would have been that federal intelligence agencies announced they are confident that the emails stolen from Democrats were stolen by Russia with the intent to influence the U.S. elections. Politico called it "amounting to the most significant effort by a foreign power to interfere in U.S. domestic politics in American history."

 This is a charge with international implications and should be a sobering moment uniting Americans.  But that's unlikely to happen.  At least right away.

No comments: