At twenty-four days to Election Day – Trump or Clinton – there was no talk of public policy or foreign policy or economic policy. One of the candidates was obsessed with other matters, and his opponent fell silent and let him be obsessed. Hillary Clinton would let Donald Trump fume and periodically burst into flames of incoherent rage, in reaction to a flood of accusations from what seems to be an endless stream of women saying he did grope them and it was sexual assault. There was that tape that had surfaced a week earlier where he had bragged that he could do that to any woman, because he was a star and they couldn’t do anything about it. Then there was the second presidential debate where, when pressed, he said that yes, he did brag about that, but that was just locker-room talk. He said he never did any such thing. Sixty million people saw him say that. It was a defiant denial.
That was a mistake. Those who had been groped would have none of it. They were angry, even after all these years. He wasn’t going to get away with it. Two of them told their stories to the New York Times, and nothing bad happened to them. Trump didn’t sue. Fox Business Channel’s Lou Dobbs did tweet out the phone number of one of them, but no one showed up at her door to shoot her cat and then shoot her. (Dobbs did this apparently by accident; he later apologized to her.) In fact, most of the public found these two stories credible, given everything Trump has said about women, from Rosie O’Donnell to Megyn Kelly and beyond. There were no repercussions. Other women who had had nasty encounters with Trump saw that. They got it. They could finally say what happened, publicly. They did – one after another after another. They rose to the challenge. It was Trump’s challenge. Prove me wrong!
That seems to be what the final twenty-four days of the campaign will be about – not public policy or foreign policy or economic policy, or Hillary Clinton’s emails. Trump had said it was all talk – he had done no such thing, ever. Woman after woman said yes you did, to me. Trump has made a defiant denial. Now he had to make it again, over and over, case by case. And he was angry. He had to show his base he was very angry, and that they should be too. That’s where the votes are. That meant he had to periodically burst into flames of dramatic rage, and that meant that there was little time for anything else, like issues.
Hillary Clinton could watch from a distance, saying little. When the flames died down, and the smoke cleared, she’d still be standing there, the somewhat flawed but rational candidate – the only calm and rational candidate. As for Trump, twenty-four days out, in Charlotte, North Carolina, he kind of lost it:
Donald Trump hurled personal insults Friday at the growing number of women who have accused him of groping and kissing them without their consent, labeling them as “horrible,” “sick” and “phony,” and suggesting that at least two of them were not attractive enough to warrant his attention.
As Trump spoke about the allegations, supporters who gathered to see him at an afternoon rally here cheered him on, at one point chanting “Lock her up!” while he was talking about one of the accusers – a slogan usually reserved for Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. At another point, he also appeared to disparage Clinton’s looks in recounting their encounter at Sunday’s presidential debate: “And when she walked in front of me, believe me, I wasn’t impressed.”
He was standing behind her. He was staring at her ass. He wasn’t impressed. She’s a sixty-nine-year-old woman with a fat flabby ass. He didn’t say those words, but everyone understood. And a few of those women who were accusing him of hitting on them were ugly skanks. Why would he hit on them?
He didn’t seem to realize that those were the words of a sexist pig, which he was claiming he wasn’t, but he but that doesn’t seem to matter now:
The vitriol provided further evidence of Trump’s intention to wage an unprecedented scorched-earth campaign in the final weeks before Election Day that seems likely to leave few unscarred in either party. It also came on a day when two more women stepped forward to accuse Trump of groping them without their consent and as new videotapes emerged of Trump speaking in crude terms about sex on “The Howard Stern Show.”
He was fighting a losing battle:
At the Greensboro rally, Trump sought to belittle Jessica Leeds – who first told the New York Times that Trump groped her and tried to reach up her skirt on a flight more than three decades ago – by suggesting that she was not attractive enough for him to pursue.
“‘I was sitting with him on an airplane, and he went after me on the plane,’ ” Trump said, mockingly impersonating Leeds. “Yeah, I’m gonna go after – believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.”
Trump also called another accuser, former People Magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff, a “liar” and added, “Check out her Facebook, you’ll understand.” The crowd laughed.
Stoynoff accused Trump of kissing her without permission in 2005 as she prepared to interview him and his wife, Melania, for a story.
And there was this:
Trump also continued criticizing the Times, which first reported the allegations of Leeds and another woman. The GOP nominee, who has often directed his anti-immigrant rhetoric at Mexicans, accused Times reporters of being “corporate lobbyists” for Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the largest shareholder at the paper.
“Now Carlos Slim, as you know, comes from Mexico. He’s given many millions of dollars to the Clintons and their initiatives. So Carlos Slim, largest owner of the paper, from Mexico,” said Trump.
Ah, a Mexican billionaire is behind it all, but that doesn’t explain this:
In a report published Friday, Kristin Anderson told the Washington Post that Trump slid his hand under her miniskirt at a New York night spot in the early 1990s, touching her vagina through her underwear.
Trump appeared to reference the allegation at the North Carolina rally, saying: “One came out recently where I was sitting alone in some club. I really don’t sit alone that much. Honestly, folks, I don’t think I sit alone.” Anderson never told The Post that Trump was alone.
He continued: “And then I went whaa-” as he abruptly reached to the side with his right hand, apparently mimicking groping.
Also Friday, Summer Zervos, a former contestant on the reality show “The Apprentice,” accused Trump of aggressively kissing her and groping her breasts during a 2007 meeting to discuss a possible job at the Trump Organization.
Zervos, who appeared on the show in 2006 and now owns a California restaurant, spoke about the incident at a news conference alongside civil rights lawyer Gloria Allred. At times tearing up, Zervos said the incident occurred at Trump’s bungalow suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which she visited after he suggested that the two have dinner.
In a written statement, Trump said that he “vaguely” recalled Zervos as a contestant on “The Apprentice” and that “I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago.”
The New York Times and their Mexican (minority) shareholder had nothing to do with any of that, but at least Trump does know that he was off-topic:
Trump said his close associates are advising him not to talk about the mounting allegations of unwanted sexual advances and instead focus on policy issues.
“My people always say: ‘Oh, don’t talk about it. Talk about jobs. Talk about the economy,” Trump said, but he added, “I feel I have to talk about them because you have to dispute when somebody says something.”
Somewhere, Hillary Clinton was smiling, because there’s even more that will keep Trump off-topic:
New details about Trump’s history of lewd comments about women emerged Friday as The Post reported on six recordings it obtained of interviews Trump did on Stern’s radio show between 2002 and 2013. Some of the recordings were described in part in previous news reports.
In a 2004 clip, Trump and Stern talk about the then-teenage actress Lindsay Lohan – and the impact of her father’s troubles on her.
“Can you imagine the sex with this troubled [woman]?” Stern asks.
“You’re probably right. She’s probably deeply troubled, and therefore great in bed,” Trump responds. “How come the deeply troubled women, you know, deeply, deeply troubled, they’re always the best in bed?”
“You don’t want to be with them for the long term,” Trump says, concluding this thought. “But for the short term, there’s nothing like it.”
Go ahead, try to make that sound presidential, and as for that Mexican billionaire, Kevin Drum says this:
Here’s what’s great. There’s hardly one American in a hundred who’s ever heard of Carlos Slim. This makes him a great candidate for a master conspirator, of course, since he’s basically a blank slate. And Mexican too! So Trump can pretty much say anything he wants.
But here’s what’s really worth waiting for: watching all the paid shills on CNN suddenly start spouting mountains of dirt on Slim. The anchors will all carefully let them have their say, and Trump fans will be listening. Then the Washington Post (or someone) will go out to do yet another “What Trump Supporters Really Think” thumbsucker, and they’ll come back with lots of angry white folks swearing that Carlos Slim runs the Illuminati and the Trilateral Commission.
Jesus. What an election.
Ben Schreckinger shows that in how he reports the events in North Carolina:
Donald Trump hit back at a woman who accused him of sexual assault by accusing her of being ugly and claimed a Mexican billionaire was orchestrating his downfall. One of his Teleprompters fell off its stands and he dismantled another one. Some of Trump’s supporters pummeled a protester and some called for the jailing of another woman who has accused Trump of sexual assault. Another supporter yelled at a television reporter speaking to a camera, “Jackass, shut up.”
Friday was positively placid on the Trump campaign trail in North Carolina – at least compared to the sturm und drang of the day before. After Trump spent Thursday blaming an avalanche of new sexual assault allegations against him on a vast globalist conspiracy at an expo center in West Palm Beach and more than 15,000 of his supporters showered reporters with boos and angry chants at an evening rally in Cincinnati, a series of events on Friday that would have boggled the mind a year ago simply amounted to a breather in the presidential campaign’s frantic race to the bottom.
Yes, Trump appeared to call his accusers unattractive liars and invited women to come forward to accuse the president of sexual assault, but the bar for shock has been raised.
This is some election:
Aside from the physical assault of a protester carrying an American flag and the chants of “lock her up” directed at an alleged victim of sexual assault, an early afternoon event at an outdoor amphitheater in Greensboro had the air of a picnic.
One man pacing the lawn at the back of the venue interjected his chants of “Blacks for Trump” with a call for Trump to “Stay on the issues.”
After the rally, in an amazing sign of the exasperation Trump is causing for many of his advisers, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway herself joked on Twitter that it had been she who was shouting the advice at Trump. When Conway briefly appeared in the press pen later in the day, a reporter told her he enjoyed the tweet, and she responded, “At least you have a sense of humor.”
A sense of humor may be necessary:
Later, in Charlotte, the tumbling of one of Trump’s Teleprompters from its stand provided some levity. Trump recalled being told by advisers to begin using the devices after he clinched the Republican nomination. “All of a sudden they said, ‘Well now you’re running in the election you need Teleprompters.’ Well I like Teleprompters. They’re fine, but I think it’s kind of cooler without them,” Trump said, then proceeded to dismantle his second teleprompter and continue his stump speech without them.
Somewhere else, Hillary Clinton was smiling even more broadly, but Dahlia Lithwick adds some historical perspective to Trump’s dilemma:
This past Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of Anita Hill’s devastating Senate testimony accusing then–Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of workplace sexual harassment. In light of the most recent accusations against Donald Trump, it’s hard to miss the almost perfect synchronicity between these two October explosions of gender awareness. In a deeply personal and visceral way, America is having another Anita Hill moment.
But this time it’s different:
A lot has changed since October 1991, and American women are reaping the benefits of having gone through this looking glass once before. The nearly universal and instantaneous outrage at Trump’s comments and behavior – from the press, from GOP leaders, from really everyone outside of the Breitbart bubble? We have Anita Hill to thank for that.
It’s almost impossible for women like me, who came of age during the Thomas Senate battle, to miss the parallels between the two episodes. In both cases, powerful men allegedly mistreated and shamed women with less power than they had. In both cases these victims came forth reluctantly and sometimes years later. In both instances, supporters of the man accused of misconduct argued that it was “just words,” or that it was all “years ago,” or that he was merely joking, or that it never happened at all. They argue that if the subordinate was soooo offended, why did she wait to complain?
Back when Hill brought her claims to Capitol Hill, most Americans were barely aware of the term “sexual harassment” or the fact that there was a body of law to be used to fight predatory behavior in the workplace. In a sense, the real awakening came after the hearings had ended, when thousands of women came forward, often in letters they mailed to Hill, to say that this had happened to them and that they hadn’t understood that it was illegal.
As a result of the dawning realizations, the number of sexual harassment cases filed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission doubled in just two years. In 1992, later dubbed “The Year of the Woman,” the number of women enrolling in law school peaked at more than 52 percent of all law students, the number of women elected to the U.S. House of Representatives increased by over 60 percent, and the number of women in the U.S. Senate tripled. Dianne Feinstein scored the first female spot on the Senate Judiciary Committee (never again would a woman testify before an all-male panel), and Carol Moseley Braun became the first African American woman in the Senate. In 1993, the Senate added a single-stall women’s bathroom off the chamber floor, finally expanded in 2013 to accommodate the 20 women elected in that session.
None of this just happened. As NPR’s Nina Totenberg put it 25 years after the Thomas hearings, it was because of Hill’s testimony that “all of those silent, female experiences materialized … in the phones exploding on Capitol Hill.” And that was before social media.
That too changed things:
Last Friday, after the Washington Post published audio of Trump talking about sexually assaulting women, author Kelly Oxford took to Twitter. “Women: tweet me your first assaults,” she said to her followers, sharing her own harrowing tale under the hashtag #notokay. By late Monday, the New York Times reported, nearly 27 million people had responded. RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, told the Huffington Post that it saw a 33 percent spike in online traffic over the weekend.
The argument here is that, after Anita Hill, and Twitter, Donald Trump never had a chance:
Anita Hill’s fight to be heard and respected launched the modern sexual harassment laws by which we are bound, right down to the training videos we must view on our work laptops. But she also created a template in which women could look at predatory behaviors they had largely normalized in their own lives and say that it was not only unacceptable from those seeking higher office, but also unacceptable in their own homes, and workplaces and universities. They could say that there should be processes to hear these stories and processes to adjudicate them. They could say this isn’t just “locker room talk.”
It was that 1991 act of painful storytelling, of enlightening right-thinking men, of refuting and rebuffing tedious arguments about what men do or why women don’t report it, that gave us a model for how to do it again in 2016. Now everyone but the worst among us knows: It’s not OK.
Donald Trump doesn’t seem to know that. Perhaps he’s stuck in the past, or it’s something else. Six months ago Franklin Foer offered this:
Donald Trump holds one core belief. It’s not limited government. He favored a state takeover of health care before he was against it. Nor is it economic populism. Despite many years of arguing the necessity of taxing the rich, he now wants to slice their rates to bits. Trump has claimed his nonlinear approach to policy is a virtue. Closing deals is what matters in the end, he says, not unbleached allegiance to conviction. But there’s one ideology that he does hold with sincerity and practices with unwavering fervor: misogyny…
Trump wants us to know all about his sex life. He doesn’t regard sex as a private activity. It’s something he broadcasts to demonstrate his dominance, of both women and men. In his view, treating women like meat is a necessary precondition for winning, and winning is all that matters in his world. By winning, Trump means asserting superiority. And since life is a zero-sum game, superiority can only be achieved at someone else’s expense.
That matches Jane Goodall:
“In many ways the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals,” Jane Goodall, the anthropologist, told me shortly before Trump won the GOP nomination. “In order to impress rivals, males seeking to rise in the dominance hierarchy perform spectacular displays: stamping, slapping the ground, dragging branches, throwing rocks. The more vigorous and imaginative the display, the faster the individual is likely to rise in the hierarchy, and the longer he is likely to maintain that position.”
That may have been what was happening in Charlotte, and Nancy LeTourneau adds this:
The question isn’t whether or not Trump sees himself as the alpha male. It’s whether or not someone with that approach to the world is fit to be POTUS. What we’re witnessing right now with Trump’s attacks against the Republicans who are distancing from him is the attempt at dominance from an alpha male. His stalking behind Clinton and threatening to jail her in the last debate was another example of this. Trump’s respect for foreign dictators stems from the fact that he actually admires them as alpha males. But I shudder to think of what he might do as president in a contest for dominance with one of them.
One of the reasons why Trump leads in the polls among men is that there is still an admiration for alpha males in this culture. It is this patriarchal notion of dominance that undergirds not only sexism, but racism and most of the other “isms” that continue to plague us. Unless something dramatically changes in the next month, Donald Trump is not going to be our next president. But it is our acquiescence to and admiration of alpha males that we need to grapple with in both our politics and culture.
Well, some people have had enough:
Several of the Republican Party’s most generous donors called on the Republican National Committee on Thursday to disavow Donald J. Trump, saying that allegations by multiple women that Mr. Trump had groped or made inappropriate sexual advances toward them threatened to inflict lasting damage on the party’s image.
To an elite group of Republican contributors who have donated millions of dollars to the party’s candidates and committees in recent years, the cascade of revelations related to Mr. Trump’s sexual conduct is grounds for the committee to cut ties with the party’s beleaguered standard-bearer, finally and fully.
“At some point, you have to look in the mirror and recognize that you cannot possibly justify support for Trump to your children – especially your daughters,” said David Humphreys, a Missouri business executive who contributed more than $2.5 million to Republicans from the 2012 campaign cycle through this spring and opposed Mr. Trump’s bid from the outset.
Bruce Kovner, a New York investor and philanthropist who with his wife has given $2.7 million to Republicans over the same period, was just as blunt. “He is a dangerous demagogue completely unsuited to the responsibilities of a United States president,” Mr. Kovner wrote in an email, referring to Mr. Trump.
“Even for loyalists, there is a line beyond which the obvious moral failings of a candidate are impossible to disregard,” he wrote. “That line has been clearly breached.”
Timothy Egan puts that a different way:
A wounded bear is a dangerous thing. Detested and defeated, Donald Trump is now in a tear-the-country-down rage. Day after day, he rips at the last remaining threads of decency holding this nation together. His opponent is the devil he says – hate her with all your heart. Forget about the rule of law. Lock her up!
This is not okay:
He’s made America vile. He’s got angel-voiced children yelling “bitch” and flipping the bird at rallies. He’s got young athletes chanting “build a wall” at Latino kids on the other side. He’s made it okay to bully and fat-shame. He’s normalized perversion, bragging about how an aging man with his sense of entitlement can walk in on naked women.
Here’s his lesson for young minds: If you’re rich and boorish enough, you can get away with anything. Get away with sexual assault. Get away with not paying taxes. Get away with never telling the truth. Get away with flirting with treason. Get away with stiffing people who work for you, while you take yours. Get away with mocking the disabled, veterans and families of war heroes.
You know this by now – all the sordid details. For much of the last year, the Republican presidential nominee has been a freak show, an oh-my-God spectacle. He opens his mouth, our cellphones blow up. But now, in the final days of a horrid campaign, an unshackled Trump is more national threat than punch line. He’s determined to cause lasting damage.
And he could do that:
Civility, always a tenuous thing, cannot be quickly restored in a society that has learned to hate in public, at full throttle.
Trump has made compassion suspect. Don’t reach out to starving refugees – they’re killers in disguise. Don’t give to a charity that won’t reward you in some way. Don’t pay taxes that build roads and offer relief to those washed away in a hurricane. That’s a sucker’s game. We’re not all in this together. Taxes are for stupid people.
Every sexual predator now has a defender at the top of the Republican ticket…
So it has come to this: The core lessons that bind a civilized society are in play in the last days of this election. We long for family dinners where Trump no longer intrudes, for tailgate parties where football is all that matters, for normalcy. Remember those days? They may be gone forever.
That is definitely not okay. Hillary may watch Trump periodically burst into flames, from a distance, not saying a word, for political reasons – his self-immolation means she’ll win this thing. Liberals may enjoy their told-you-so schadenfreude, smug that they know what that odd word actually means. But Trump’s final and laughable scorched-earth campaign is a problem. In the end, all that’s left is scorched earth. That’s not okay at all.