The recording of Donald Trump’s comments about women has created a firestorm. First, let’s listen to the recording itself that was caught on a ‘hot mic’, when the people being recorded did not know that their microphones were on, because it has to be heard to be believed. This 2005 recording was obtained by Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold.
We should be very clear about what is most objectionable about this because there will be a lot of obfuscation in the coming days as the Trump camp tries to put out this latest conflagration. It is not just the words that he uses or the attitude towards women or the things he says that he wanted to do to women, bad as they all are. It is the things he admits that he actually does to women. Those constitute nothing less than assault and normally if someone did anything like that, they would be arrested and charged and rightly so. By his boastfulness, Trump has revealed his amorality in a dramatic fashion.
Late last night Trump issued a 90 second statement on the issue.
He says, “I’ve never said I’m a perfect person or pretended to be someone that I’m not” and “Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am”. It is amazing that he can say these things with a straight face.
The question is what Republicans and Trump supporters will do now. I don’t think that Trump’s comments will hurt him that much with his supporters, in the sense of creating huge swings in the opinion polls. With just 31 days to go before the election, we’re well into sunk-cost territory. People hate to admit that they made a wrong choice and after cheering for so long the person whom they saw as the savior of the nation, it will be too hard for them to disavow him. So expect to hear the following rationalizations: It was a long time ago. It was just locker-room talk. This is how real men talk. He was not running for office then. He is not a cautious politician. It proves that he is not politically correct. Bill Clinton was much worse. Hillary Clinton has done worse (Benghazi!). And so on.
The one argument that has at least some validity, that what is important in elected officials are the public policies that they pursue and not their private behavior, however reprehensible, will not be made because in America, morality and sanctimony must be upheld in public however much they are violated in private. Furthermore, the argument that has been advanced with his taxes, that what he did was legal, does not apply here since the actions he admits to are clearly illegal.
Where this will likely influence people is in two areas. One group consists of the people who say they are undecided. They usually do have a preference but have just not publicly articulated them, and it will be easy for them to now say that they will not vote for him. Their numbers are really small but in these days of rigid political polarization, a shift of even 1% can be hugely significant.
The other group consists of Republican elected officials and those who make a living in the media as political commentators. Those people’s prime goal is to protect their careers and future earnings. As long as Trump had a chance of winning, it was worth it to them to defend him and reap the fruits of his possible success. If it looks like he is going down in flames, some will abandon him. While many Republican leaders have distanced themselves from his remarks, only a few have actually renounced their prior endorsements of him. There has been some talk of Trump being replaced on the ticket but this is highly unlikely. This article discussed this possibility back on August 3 when there was another major controversy, but there have been so many of them that for the life of me I cannot recall what happened back then that prompted this speculation. The rules for replacing him at this late stage are extremely complicated and he would have to quit of his own volition, and he will never do that.
(As an aside, Ted Cruz should really start wondering if his god, whom he thinks of as his close buddy whose commands he follows when making decisions, is actually messing with him. After snubbing Trump at the convention and portraying himself as the one true righteous and moral conservative, Cruz cravenly capitulated to Trump and even worked a phone bank for him just a few days ago. But now, just after his ignominious reversal, Trump seems to be on the verge of actually crashing and burning, the very thing that Cruz must have been hoping for at the convention and that predicated his earlier strategy. He must be kicking himself for not standing by his earlier snub because he would be smelling like roses now. It is a spectacular example of poor timing on his part.)
You can be sure that comedians are going to have a field day with this latest news. Bill Maher has got off to a quick start.