In “Donald Trump, Unshackled and Unhinged” Mr. Blow says he still has a chance to turn things around, but he’s showing no inclination that he wants to. Mr. Kristof, in “What Donald Trump Is Right About,” says actions count more than words, and his are heinous. In “And Now, the Good News Is…” Ms. Collins says we should always look on the bright side of Donald Trump. Here’s Mr. Blow:’
Donald Trump tweeted this week that his “shackles have been taken off.” The rest of us need to buckle up.
The effects of a 2005 tape on which Trump brags of a history of sexually predatory behavior is still rippling though the Trump campaign and wreaking havoc.
This is a particularly, spectacularly potent scandal, because of the moral clarity of how reprehensible it is.
This is not an issue that you can couch in policy or strategy. This is so very clearly about character. It is unambiguous and lecherous. It is repulsive and rapacious.
And it appears to fit a pattern.
BuzzFeed reported on Wednesday: “Four women who competed in the 1997 Miss Teen USA beauty pageant said Donald Trump walked into the dressing room while contestants — some as young as 15 — were changing.”
One of the young contestants told BuzzFeed that when Trump entered the dressing room while she was getting dressed, he “said something like, ‘Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.’”
“Jill Harth, a pageant owner trying to work with Trump in the mid-1990s, filed suit against him in federal court in Manhattan in 1997, describing a ‘relentless’ campaign of sexual harassment and assault including an incident in which he reached under a table, put his hands on her thighs and grabbed her ‘intimate private parts’ during a meeting at a New York restaurant.”
Temple Taggart, Miss Utah 1997, told The Times in May that when she was introduced to Trump, “He kissed me directly on the lips. I thought, ‘Oh my God, gross.’”
Gross is right.
No one can defend it, but that hasn’t stopped Trump and his supporters from twisting themselves into knots trying to. Trump has repeatedly called it “locker room” talk and suggested that he was lying when he said that he had assaulted women.
Supporters have done everything from deny that what Trump described was indeed assault to saying the tape was made before Trump began his faith journey to attacking Beyoncé lyrics and Hillary Clinton’s admiration of the pop star.
None of that has worked particularly well. Trump’s post-tape polls look absolutely horrendous.
Furthermore, prominent Republicans are fleeing in droves.
According to The Times, more that 160 Republican leaders, most of them members of Congress or governors, have declared that they won’t support Donald Trump. Nearly a third of those fled from Trump in the wake of the lewd tape.
In a statement, John McCain wrote: “Donald Trump’s behavior this week, concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy.”
The Times reported on Monday, referring to the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan: “Mr. Ryan informed Republican lawmakers on a morning conference call that he would never again campaign for Mr. Trump and would dedicate himself instead to defending the party’s majority in Congress.” Ryan’s spokeswoman followed up with a statement confirming that “the speaker is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities.”
Trump is bleeding badly. But many of us know this from nature: A wounded animal is a dangerous animal. Trump is lashing out like a man with nothing left to lose. If he is going down, he’s threatening to take the entire ecosystem with him.
He’s lashing out at the Republican establishment — especially Ryan and McCain — in a striking and seemingly unprecedented intraparty feud just weeks ahead of the election.
But Trump is also striking out at Clinton and Obama.
Trump threatened this week, “If they want to release more tapes saying inappropriate things, we’ll continue to talk about Bill and Hillary Clinton doing inappropriate things.” He also continues to threaten to investigate Clinton and lock her up, and seemed to return to the absurd assertion that Obama founded the Islamic State.
None of this seems like an effective strategy to broaden his base and actually win in November. This feels like Trump having a temper tantrum. This feels like a campaign in its death throes.
Trump had some good weeks when he was following a disciplined strategy of reading speeches from a teleprompter and effectively deceiving some into believing that he was not in fact the man who he has, over the course of his life, revealed himself to be.
Apparently, that deception was a set of shackles. In other words, it was a lie.
This is true Trump: mean, erratic, abrasive and pathological.
Trump still has a chance to turn things around, but as of now he’s showing no inclination that he wants to. As disturbing as the idea of a foreign government trying to interfere with our elections is, the content of leaked emails from the Clinton campaign could be far more damaging to her in the hands of a more competent opposition.
But Trump isn’t a competent opponent. He’s a maladroit savage spiraling out of control.
And next up we have Mr. Kristof:
Astonishingly, Donald Trump is right about something!
After recently being caught on a 2005 tape gloating about sexual assaults, Trump issued an unapologetic apology in which he focused on the “big difference” between words and actions. And he has a point.
But there’s abundant evidence that Trump has indulged in not just scurrilous rhetoric, but also in heinous actions. Several more women have stepped forward to offer on-the-record accounts of having been aggressively groped or kissed by Trump against their will, right after he met them.
I also find entirely credible the allegations of Jill Harth, a former business partner of Trump’s, that he assaulted her in 1992 and 1993. Equally credible is the assertion by a former Miss Utah that Trump inappropriately kissed beauty contestants on the lips.
Some Republicans have demanded laws to ban transgender women from entering women’s restrooms or locker rooms, but instead they might focus on the risk of Trump doing this. He has boasted that he marched unannounced into changing rooms to ogle beauty pageant contestants naked, and a former contestant, Miss Arizona, Tasha Dixon, said he did just that as they were changing into bikinis. “Some girls were topless,” she said. “Other girls were naked.”
The pageant theme that year? Empowering women.
There’s more. In Trump’s 2005 tape, he referred in vulgar ways to a married woman, Nancy O’Dell, he had unsuccessfully pursued, but what’s less known is that in 2007 he reportedly tried to have her fired from hosting the Miss USA Pageant. Why? Because she was pregnant.
Of course, as Trump acknowledged, words matter as well. On my blog, I posted an essay by a survivor of a home invasion and rape, Michelle Bowdler, who recounted that her attacker had said he wanted “some pussy” — and the moment he used that word, she felt that her life was in danger, that she “existed only as a thing.”
What is dehumanizing is not necessarily dirty words as such, but rather the casual braggadocio by men that normalizes assault. One study of 16,000 comments on a website for fraternity men found that the most common body part mentioned was “ass,” followed by “tits.” Men posting on the site were 25 times as likely to refer to a woman’s “ass” as to her “smile.”
There’s some evidence that hearing sexist language may be linked to greater tolerance of rape. And we already have a national problem with sexual harassment: One large survey found that almost one-quarter of American women said they had been groped in public spaces.
So I’m delighted that at least one person, Billy Bush, is paying in a concrete way for the words in the Trump tape. Maybe this can be a wake-up call for us men to appreciate that sexist epithets are no more acceptable than racist epithets.
All that said, Trump is right to emphasize the importance of actions more than words: If we’re outraged by vulgar words, shouldn’t we be even more appalled by predatory actions? And policies? Here the truth is that a Trump administration’s policies might be less titillating than his words, but they would be far more dangerous.
Every year, 550,000 women in America require medical attention after an assault by a boyfriend or husband. That’s an issue that is belatedly being addressed through screenings under Obamacare, which Trump wants to repeal, and by the Violence Against Women Act, which a large bloc of Republicans opposed in Congress. Trump’s concern about such assaults seems dubious, and in fact both he and his campaign C.E.O., Steve Bannon, have been accused of domestic violence themselves.
Since he never held public office, Trump lacks a voting record. But his running mate has tended to look at what might help women and do the opposite, including voting against equal-pay legislation.
Mike Pence also signed a bizarre anti-abortion bill as Indiana’s governor requiring burial or cremation even of tissue from an early miscarriage. That led women to form a Facebook group, Periods for Pence, and announce their periods, just in case they might be miscarriages.
At a time when 11 women a day die of cervical cancer, Trump and Pence have also been stalwart opponents of women’s health programs that provide cancer screenings. They are motivated partly by hostility toward Planned Parenthood over abortions, but Pence, while a congressman, also sponsored legislation to defund Title X, the main federal family planning program. It does not pay for abortions but does help screen more than 750,000 women for cervical cancer a year.
New York magazine once quoted Trump as telling a friend about women, “you have to treat ‘em like——” well, manure. But to me, his language pales beside his behavior and likely policies. So let’s try to pivot from outrage at gross words to condemnation of unconscionable behavior and policies. On that sole point, that actions matter more than words, Trump is exactly, frighteningly right.
And now we get to Ms. Collins:
We’ve already learned so much this election year. Besides the importance of not bragging about girl-grabbing when there’s a microphone pinned to your lapel.
For instance, boring people have never looked better. This is a seldom-defended subset of the American population, but after a year or so of the exciting Donald Trump, we have a new appreciation. Right now, many voters may be looking at their local congressman — a person they would change lines at the grocery store in order to avoid having to engage in conversation — and thinking, “Wow, Fred may be a snooze, but when you think about it, there are so many worse possibilities.”
Can you imagine how deliriously happy the Republican Party would be if Trump woke up one morning feeling boring? But no, he’s still bounding from one rally to the next, attacking members of his own party and demanding that Hillary Clinton go to jail. The new WikiLeaks from her campaign, he thundered on Wednesday, “make more clear than ever … how unattractive and dishonest our country has become.”
Unattractive? Is there no entity this man doesn’t judge in terms of physical appearance? Do you think Trump secretly believes America has gained weight? Had an unsuccessful breast enhancement?
The WikiLeaks, so far, have just underlined how blessedly boring Clinton’s campaign has been — it turns out that her talking points sometimes include instructions on when to smile, and that some of her major tweets have been the work of up to four aides. Deep in their hearts, most Americans know that’s way better than having a president who wakes up at 3 a.m. and just starts free associating.
Another important lesson of 2016: There are a lot of things worse than political correctness. Trump brags constantly about his own freedom from that particular defect, and some of his followers feel liberated to attend the rallies wearing signs or shirts that call Hillary Clinton every conceivable vulgarity.
During the last debate, a sad-looking Muslim woman asked how she could deal with “the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country. …” Trump replied, “You’re right about Islamophobia and that’s a shame,” without any particular tone of sympathy. “But,” he continued, “one thing we have to do is, we have to make sure that, because there is a problem. I mean, whether we like it or not and we could be very politically correct, but whether we like it or not, there is a problem.”
Not often you can avoid political correctness in a way that mangles so many sentences. Trump then veered off into a complaint about how neighbors of the San Bernardino shooters noticed a whole ton of armaments at the family home but failed to say anything about it, presumably because they didn’t want to look anti-Muslim. We could point out that this is a make-believe story, totally unsupported by fact. Except that it would sound so darned you-know-what.
On the plus side, the campaign’s recent unpleasantness has provided a wonderful opportunity to randomly torture irritating Republican officeholders. Ted Cruz — who insulted Trump by failing to endorse him at the convention, then panicked and gave him a nod just before the trash-talk tape went public — must be having the worst week of his political life. Which certainly is a mood raiser.
Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, whose longstanding flirtation with the birther movement led him once to aver that there were enough votes in the House to impeach President Obama, fell into a rabbit hole this week while he was defending his Trump endorsement on MSNBC. Anchor Chris Hayes prodded, asking whether he’d feel the same if a tape came out with Donald Trump saying, “I really like to rape women. …”
“That would be bad and I would have to consider it,” said Farenthold, who then followed up with a desperate series of Twitter retractions. (“During an interview on MSNBC with Chris Hayes tonight, I was thrown off by the anchor’s use of a hypothetical question.”) Which then gave Austin political writer Jonathan Tilove a chance to revisit a conversation he had with the congressman about Trump’s appalling attacks on a Mexican-American judge. “He may have crossed the line there, but I don’t agree with everything I say sometimes,” explained Farenthold.
Trump’s campaign, meanwhile, is obsessed with the Republicans who’ve gotten … cold. The candidate himself complains at his rallies that the speaker of the House failed to congratulate him after the last debate. (“So wouldn’t you think that Paul Ryan would call and say, ‘Good going?’”) Attacking members of Congress who’ve dropped off the team, Trump said he “wouldn’t want to be in a foxhole” with people like John McCain. And campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told Chris Matthews that some of the congressmen who’ve complained about Trump’s sex remarks were known for “sticking their tongues down women’s throats uninvited.”
It’s always possible to learn more than you really want to know this season.