Thursday, March 22, 2018

time to bring out the popcorn?

As I noted in my "Donald Trump, One Year On" post, President Trump currently stands accused of sexual impropriety by no fewer than nineteen women. Bill Cosby's stack of accusers puts this number to shame, but it's still cause for shame for any decent human being with a conscience. I don't know what the status is of those various accusations against Trump, but they don't seem to be making much news these days, despite the gravity of the claims against him. Viewed in this way—call it the "Teflon perspective"—the upcoming Stormy Daniels interview on CBS is merely one more log on an already-large woodpile.

Stormy Daniels is a porn star who claims to have had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006. Ten years later, in 2016, Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement to keep the affair hushed up. In January of this year, this payment was reported in the Wall Street Journal. There is an implication that the payment, given the closeness (to Trump) of the people involved and the timing of the payment itself, may represent a violation of campaign-finance law. Daniels is scheduled to air a purportedly tell-all interview with CBS on Sunday, March 25.

Trump supporters no doubt dismiss Daniels out of hand, already sure of what she's going to say, and confident that nothing she'll say will rise to the level of a provable, damning assertion. But is such dismissiveness warranted? At the very least, if I were Trump and his team of lawyers, I'd be worried that Daniels might reveal physical details about Trump that only Melania Trump can confirm ("Yup, he does have a mole right there, and his semen does, in fact, taste like rosewater"). This, at least, would establish that an affair really happened. Add to that any confirmatory paperwork ("We stayed at hotel X on night Y; here are the receipts"), and the makings of a narrative begin to emerge—a narrative whose details can be independently verified. For Trump, I'd say, caution is paramount.

At the same time, we can look at how a mountain of evidence against Bill Clinton failed to bring that president down. In Clinton's case, there was even a semen-stained dress, which I suppose helped nudge the lecher to the grudging admission of an "inappropriate relationship" with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton, to be sure, was impeached for lying under oath, not for a sexual dalliance that was—until Lewinsky changed her story very recently—considered consensual. Trump and his legal team have apparently been trying to strong-arm Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford), a fact that can be used against them. At the same time, Trump—perhaps aware of the Streisand Effect—hasn't been at his most aggressive in trying to suppress Daniels's testimony; it looks as though the CBS interview is going to go full steam ahead.

I'm withholding any further judgment until after the interview has aired and been analyzed by some of the talking heads. Trump's womanizing ways are already well known, so there's a chance that his randy reputation will preemptively blunt the impact of this scandal. At the same time, I'm pretty sure his enemies across the ideological aisle will watch the interview with relish, looking for clues that, yes, this time, Trump will be cast down, and his downfall will come at the hands of a woman. YouTube will soon be filled with interview-analysis videos, some of which I'll watch. That said, I often think the left is like Charlie Brown running at that football, forever hopeful that this time, it's going to be different. Trump, meanwhile, is like Lucy, yanking the football away again and again. In truth, we won't know the fallout of the Daniels interview until a couple months from now. If it's serious, then it might have implications for the midterm elections in November. If it's not, then that's another strike against the "blue wave."


Charles said...

I would be roughly 0% surprised to find out that the allegations are true. I would also be roughly 0% surprised if that truth then turned out to make absolutely no difference. After all, it is not illegal to have an affair with a porn star. And, like you said, this is something that we already knew about Drumpf--it's not like anyone is shocked by this.

Which also leads me to believe that the inevitable nothingness that will follow whatever happens will not be a strike against the "blue wave." If you like Drumpf, you like Drumpf. If you hate Drumpf, you hate Drumpf. This will change nothing and will be unlikely to affect the midterm elections one way or the other. That's my take, at least.

Kevin Kim said...

There are a lot of factors that could affect the blue wave; my point was merely that, if the Daniels interview ends up doing serious damage, then this could influence what happens in November and facilitate any blue wave. If, however, Trump comes out of this mostly or wholly unscathed, that fact might actively bolster the confidence of his base, thus leading to a possible voter boost come the midterms. That boost represents the "strike" against the blue wave that I was talking about.

All in all, though, I suspect you're probably right. A lot of this has to do not so much with political ideology as with raw power and privilege. Slick Willie the Democrat had both, and that's how he was able to get away with his transgressions. Trump the Republican is in the same boat, so yeah, the Daniels interview will likely be little more than a ripple in the long run.

Charles said...

Yeah, I just disagree that Trump coming out of this unscathed would do anything to change the confidence levels of his base. I think it would probably just be par for the course. I mean, he pretty much comes out of everything unscathed, and nothing much has changed.

As for this possibly facilitating a blue wave if the Daniels interview ends up doing serious damage, sure, I could see that, mainly because it would the first time that anything would have seriously damaged Trump. I just don't see how, even if all the allegations turn out to be true, it would do any real damage.

I think I'm becoming a cynic.

King Baeksu said...

It would be nice if the Democrats cared as much about the American working class as they do about Russian Twitter trolls and porn stars with fake tits.