The power just came back on! Today Mr. Blow, in “Donald Trump, Barbarian at the Debate,” says we have to stop grading this man on a curve. Prof. Krugman has a question in “Predators in Arms:” Is there a partisan pattern here? Here’s Mr. Blow:
What the hell did I just watch in that presidential debate last night?
Before the debate even commenced, did a man who was just caught on a hot mike bragging about being a serial sexual predator who routinely assaults women by kissing them without their consent and grabbing them by the vagina actually organize a news conference with the sexual abuse accusers of Bill Clinton?
Did he actually plunge the debate into a reality television swamp of tawdriness and tackiness?
By the way, at least one of these women was part of a group of accusers whom Donald Trump in 1998 called “terrible” and a “really unattractive group.” In that same interview with Neil Cavuto of Fox News, Trump said of Bill Clinton: “He is really a victim himself.”
Did Trump actually use those women, whom he had chastised and demeaned for their looks (something he is wont to do because he is a sexist and a cretin), as a political prop?
Did Trump actually sit those women in the debate hall and use them to attack Hillary Clinton for her husband’s behavior?
By the way, in 1999 Trump told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Clinton was “a wonderful woman,” “really a very terrific woman” who has “been through more than any woman should have to bear, everything public.”
But last night did he actually add to that public burden and call Clinton a lying “devil” who “has tremendous hate in her heart” to boot?
When the moderator Anderson Cooper said to Trump, “You described kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?” did Trump actually respond: “No, I didn’t say that at all. I don’t think you understood what was — this was locker room talk”?
Did Trump essentially say that he didn’t actually say the things we all heard him say? Did he actually try to deflect and normalize sexual predation as ubiquitous jocular language intrinsic to maleness itself? Does he not actually realize that this is precisely how rape culture is maintained and perpetuated — through normalization? Does he not register that that answer should scare the daylights out of every woman and shame every man who knows full well how aberrant and not at all normal those comments were?
Furthermore, did Trump actually suggest that as president he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate his political opponent and would jail her?
Did Trump actually suggest that he indeed had not paid federal income taxes for many years, as many had speculated, because of a $916 million loss he reported in 1995? And then, did he actually try to pin his not paying taxes on Clinton, saying:
“A lot of my write-off was depreciation and other things that Hillary as a senator allowed. And she’ll always allow it, because the people that give her all this money, they want it. That’s why.”
Did Donald Trump actually throw his running mate Mike Pence under the bus on live television?
The moderator Martha Raddatz asked the candidate what he would do about the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, Syria, and said to Trump:
“I want to remind you what your running mate said. He said provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength and that if Russia continues to be involved in airstrikes along with the Syrian government forces of Assad, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike the military targets of the Assad regime.”
Did Trump actually say: “O.K. He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree. I disagree.”
Did Raddatz have to respond with what many were thinking: “You disagree with your running mate?”
Throughout the debate, did Trump actually use his physicality as a tall, rotund man to menace Clinton as he stalked and prowled about the stage like an agitated animal, grimacing and sniffing, glowering over her back and getting uncomfortably close when she was answering questions, seemingly trying to unnerve and intimidate his female opponent?
I was gobsmacked at the whole spectacle and incredulous as to whether I was actually hearing and seeing what I was hearing and seeing. Could this really be happening, or was I losing my mind?
Yes, all of that happened, Charles. You are not crazy. Trump’s performance, however, was.
Forget all the post-debate “it was a draw” foolishness you may have watched and read. It wasn’t. Though Trump stood tall, last night his campaign continued to crumble. Indeed, an admittedly Democrat-heavy CNN/ORC poll of debate watchers showed a clear victory for Clinton, with 57 percent saying Clinton won, as opposed to 34 percent for Trump, although most said Trump exceeded expectations.
We have to stop grading this man on a curve, against abysmal expectations. The curve is how he has been allowed to bend the truth, to bend decency, to bend decorum, to bend America’s moral fiber.
I try not to give predictions, but if I had to give one after this week, with that lascivious tape and this bizarre debate, this would be it: Trump is toast.
And now here’s Prof. Krugman:
As many people are pointing out, Republicans now trying to distance themselves from Donald Trump need to explain why The Tape was a breaking point, when so many previous incidents weren’t. On Saturday, explaining why he was withdrawing his endorsement, Senator John McCain cited “comments on prisoners of war, the Khan Gold Star family, Judge Curiel and earlier inappropriate comments about women” — and that leaves out Mexicans as rapists, calls for a Muslim ban, and much more. So, Senator McCain, what took you so long?
One excuse we’re now hearing is that the new revelations are qualitatively different — that disrespect for women is one thing, but boasting about sexual assault brings it to another level. It’s a weak defense, since Mr. Trump has in effect been promising violence against minorities all along. His insistence last week that the Central Park Five, who were exonerated by DNA evidence, were guilty and should have been executed was even worse than The Tape, but drew hardly any denunciations from his party.
And even if you consider sexual predation somehow uniquely unacceptable, you have to ask where all these pearl-clutching Republicans were back in August, when Roger Ailes — freshly fired from Fox News over horrifying evidence that he used his position to force women into sexual relationships — joined the Trump campaign as a senior adviser. Were there any protests at all from senior G.O.P. figures?
Of course, we know the answer: The latest scandal upset Republicans, when previous scandals didn’t, because the candidate’s campaign was already in free fall. You can even see it in the numbers: The probability of a House Republican jumping off the Trump train is strongly related to the Obama share of a district’s vote in 2012. That is, Republicans in competitive districts are outraged by Mr. Trump’s behavior; those in safe seats seem oddly indifferent.
Meanwhile, the Trump-Ailes axis of abuse raises another question: Is sexual predation by senior political figures — which Mr. Ailes certainly was, even if he pretended to be in the journalism business — a partisan phenomenon?
Just to be clear, I’m not talking about bad behavior in general, which occurs among politicians (and people) of all political leanings. Yes, Bill Clinton had affairs; but there’s a world of difference between consensual sex, however inappropriate, and abuse of power to force those less powerful to accept your urges. That’s infinitely worse — and it happens more than we’d like to think.
Take, for example, what we now know about what was happening politically in 2006, a year that Nate Cohn, The Times’s polling expert, suggests offers some lessons for this year. As Mr. Cohn points out, as late as September of that year it looked as if Republicans might retain control of Congress despite public revulsion at the Bush administration. But then came the Foley scandal: A member of Congress, Representative Mark Foley, had been sending sexually explicit messages to pages, and his party had failed to take any action despite warnings. As Mr. Cohn points out, the scandal seems to have broken the dam, and led to a Democratic wave.
But think about how much bigger that wave might have been if voters had known what we know now: that Dennis Hastert, who had been speaker of the House since 1999, himself had a long history of molesting teenage boys.
Why do all these stories involve Republicans? One answer may be structural. The G.O.P. is, or was until this election, a monolithic, hierarchical institution, in which powerful men could cover up their sins much better than they could in the far looser Democratic coalition.
There is also, I’d suggest, an underlying cynicism that pervades the Republican elite. We’re talking about a party that has long exploited white backlash to mobilize working-class voters, while enacting policies that actually hurt those voters but benefit the wealthy. Anyone participating in that scam — which is what it is — has to have the sense that politics is a sphere in which you can get away with a lot if you have the right connections. So in a way it’s not surprising if a disproportionate number of major players feel empowered to abuse their position.
Which brings us back to the man almost all senior Republicans were supporting for president until a day or two ago.
Assuming that Mr. Trump loses, many Republicans will try to pretend that he was a complete outlier, unrepresentative of the party. But he isn’t. He won the nomination fair and square, chosen by voters who had a pretty good idea of who he was. He had solid establishment support until very late in the game. And his vices are, dare we say, very much in line with his party’s recent tradition.
Mr. Trump, in other words, isn’t so much an anomaly as he is a pure distillation of his party’s modern essence.