As bombshell reports and convictions monopolize the news, America is learning that Donald Trump isn’t all that great of a guy. Here’s why it won’t really matter and why American politics in 2018 is where it is.
As Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort take their well-deserved lumps both in court and in public, it’s becoming increasingly clear that for all the excitement, populism, packed rallies, and rhetoric; Trump…..probably isn’t all that great of a guy. I mean, at this point it’s all but certain he had an affair, or at least an illicit encounter with one if not more women while married and attempted to cover it up with hush money.
I’m not talking about Stormy Daniels or Karen McDougal. I’m talking about Ivana Trump and Marla Maples. When Trump divorced Ivana amid an affair with Maples, Ivana agreed to a settlement that included a confidentiality agreement. When he divorced Maples a few years later, the same type of agreement was used.
This isn’t breaking news because anyone who wasn’t born yesterday has known who and what Donald Trump is. I certainly did. I grew up in New York where he was a favorite of tabloids and talk shows. Never one to turn down an appearance to get in front of the camera, Trump was everywhere.
And so was his personal life.
As reported by The Atlantic as well as, basically every newspaper in the country both then and now, Donald Trump has a history of being a bad husband and a womanizer. Melania, after all, is his third wife and it seems obvious at this point that he has been unfaithful to all of them.
Here’s Why It Won’t Matter
So, how did we get to this point in American politics in 2018 and why won’t it matter? Donald Trump’s public life, including his numerous romantic and sexual indiscretions, has been on full public display for the better part of the last 40 years. Anyone who had half a desire to pay attention was already well aware that Trump probably wasn’t the kind of guy you wanted dating your daughter.
His supporters certainly knew. The Evangelical Christians who helped secure his victory knew. On the latter point, why do you think Mike Pence was selected as his running mate? Outside of being a subdued, polished, establishment presence to even out Trump’s bombastic style; Mike Pence is about as close to a perfect running mate an Evangelical Christian could ask for.
So why then, will the latest revelations not matter much in the long run? Two reasons. One has to do with Bill Clinton. The other has to do with the state of American politics and its descent into tribalism.
On Bill Clinton
Much of the state of American politics in 2018 can be traced back to Bill Clinton. I know this will sound like a lot of “whataboutism” and to a certain extent, it is. However, indulge me for a bit. When the Bill Clinton / Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, I thought Clinton should have resigned. A sitting president having an illicit affair with a young White House intern in the oval office? And lying about it under oath? Instant resignation, right?
As the sordid details of the acts became public knowledge (blue dress, cigars, etc), I thought it should be obvious. Democrats couldn’t possibly defend this, could they? But defend they did. Ruthlessly. And at every turn. Which is not entirely surprising, by the way. After all, you expect members of the party to rally support around a president of their own party. At least, at first. But eventually… I mean, you have to cut ties eventually right?
Of course, whenever I voiced these opinions to Democrats, I was met with the same response. What was I, a prude? So he cheated on his wife. That’s not my business. Why should I care? Hey, what happens between two consenting adults is nobody’s business but theirs. It has nothing to do with whether or not he can do his job. Etc, etc, etc.
Which, by the way, is not an entirely unreasonable belief to hold. We have all done things in our lives that we aren’t proud of. Everyone makes mistakes. However, the President is supposed to be above that. Or at least that was what I was led to believe.
Simply put, I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life being told that having a president who *** interns in the Oval office with a **** and then **** on their dress has nothing to do with whether or not they can do their job so lighten up.
Forgive me if I’m not buying the pearl-clutching going on by Democrats today about Trump.
Democrat politicians and supporters actively cheered when Bill Clinton “won” his trial. All Democrat senators voted “Not Guilty” on both charges, perjury, and obstruction. The latter was more difficult to prove than the former. The perjury charge was all but an obvious “guilty” to anyone paying attention at the time.
Chief Prosecutor Henry Hyde remarked in his closing:
“A failure to convict will make the statement that lying under oath, while unpleasant and to be avoided, is not all that serious…We have reduced lying under oath to a breach of etiquette, but only if you are the President…And now let us all take our place in history on the side of honor, and, oh, yes, let right be done.”
In hindsight, I still think he was right as a matter of principal.
Bill Clinton’s impeachment and trial was certainly guided in part by politics. But that doesn’t mean the charges were false. Swords came out and battles were fought along party lines during the whole process. It is easy to forget, however, that the impetus for the investigation into Clinton had nothing to do with Monica Lewinsky. Rather, a special counsel had been appointed to investigate the Whitewater scandal; alleged illegal real estate practices that were tied to both Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Ken Starr, the counsel appointed to investigate the dealings, stumbled into the Lewinsky Scandal almost by accident. This, of course, led to severe criticism of the investigation. The term “witch hunt” was used on more than one occasion. A popular phrase at the time, in some form or another, was that Ken Starr went looking for real estate fraud and found a bl**job.
But whether you agree that Clinton should have resigned, if you think he beat the rap, got off on a technicality, should have stayed in office, should have been removed, etc. There is no denying that the ordeal changed American politics in a way that no vote or piece of legislation had or could.
America began its downward spiral into intense tribalism that day. To Democrats, it didn’t matter if Clinton was guilty or not. That he had faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, including assault. It didn’t matter if he had lied under oath or not. No, what mattered was that Republicans were out to get him and by golly, they weren’t going to let them.
The love affair with Bill Clinton among Democrats continues to this day, despite all of the above. The revisionist history, the willingness to forgive credible rape allegations, the dismissing of lying under oath, the numerous bouts of infidelity. All of that is apparently not so big a deal when it’s Bill Clinton. It led directly to the state of American politics in 2018.
What drives my Republican friends nuts is not the fact that Bill Clinton is a bad guy. It’s the smug indignation with which Democrats put Bill Clinton on a pedestal for the last 20 years despite all of the above. What’s more, is the glaring double-standard which is applied when even a vague allegation of misconduct is levied against a Republican lawmaker while Bill Clinton remains welcome in polite society.
A Re-Evaluation? Hardly
Don’t believe me? Calls for a re-evaluation of Bill Clinton in the age of #metoo have largely fallen on deaf ears. Michelle Goldberg, in an op-ed for the New York Times openly declared “I Believe Juanita.” Referring to Juanita Broaddrick who has spent 40 years alleging that Bill Clinton raped her in 1978.
The response by Democrats? At best, “meh.” At worst “Yeah, but Trump.” To be fair, many Democrat voters did generally agree (you can read the comments section on the article above) with Michelle Goldberg. But so far, nothing substantive has emerged from what was essentially a lukewarm “yeah, we should revisit that whole Clinton thing.”
And no, I don’t think Bill Clinton should be dragged out of his bed today in handcuffs. What’s done is done. But that sentence has as much to do with Bill Clinton’s past legal issues as it does with the scandal that set the groundwork for where we find American politics in 2018.
And Here We Are
No, as you can probably tell, I don’t like Bill Clinton. And to be fair, this isn’t entirely his fault or doing. We, as Americans, have chosen to go down this path of tribalism. The worst thing in politics is the notion that whatever “our guy” does is okay so long as it’s “our guy.” When it’s the other guy? Hell hath no fury. Burn down the village. What an affront to decency!
Does anyone have principals anymore?
This is why Republicans will, by and large, continue to support Donald Trump regardless of how many porn stars he’s had sex with. Much of that was already “baked in” to the Trump cake when they ordered it. Much the same way Bill Clinton was a well-known womanizer prior to becoming President and winning two terms.
The Clinton/Lewinsky scandal not only changed politics. It pushed the boundaries of what we, as voters, were willing to accept in terms of the behavior of our elected officials. I was not a fan of George W. Bush or Barack Obama either. However, their composure and behavior were far more in keeping with what we, perhaps foolishly or blindly, want from our President.
You don’t get Donald Trump without Bill Clinton. The two men are far more alike than either would ever admit to.
American Politics in 2018
Whether or not Donald Trump is guilty of violating campaign finance laws is a dubious claim at best, and difficult to prove. While certainly not a good thing, campaign finance violations are, to be honest, relatively common. Most of the time they result in a fine. As far as American politics in 2018 goes, it’s not a bombshell scandal. Yet.
Regardless of whether Trump is guilty of such violations, even the worst kind; it’s a far cry from being a willing spy/puppet of Vladimir Putin who colluded with a hostile foreign government to win a Presidential election.
No, it’s not good. But very little in American politics in 2018 is these days.
Not GOP Rep Duncan Hunter and his alleged campaign finance violations, or Democrat Maxine Waters’ alleged violations. Not Senator Bob Menendez and the allegations of fraud and corruption which resulted in a mistrial. And have we forgotten about Roy Moore already? What about the 268 sexual harassment settlements against members of Congress that are still sealed? What about the assault allegations against Deputy DNC Chair Keith Ellison?
No, nothing about American politics in 2018 is great. But that’s where we are. And that’s how we got here.
What comes next will be the usual partisan posturing. Republicans will circle the wagons around Trump, save for a few holdouts who are up for re-election this year, or those in blue states such as Susan Collins. Democrats, many of whom would not have dared cast a “guilty” vote for Bill Clinton (several are still in office) will clutch their pearls and act outraged at the President’s behavior. Republicans will dismiss it as dirty politics the same way Democrats did in 1998.
If Democrats reclaim The House in 2018, they’ll almost certainly try to impeach Donald Trump.
Impeachment in the House may not go anywhere. In part because Republicans know all too well what comes next and damned if they’re going to let the Democrats impeach a Republican president. Were it to move to the Senate, 67 sitting Senators will have to agree to remove Trump from office. Simply put, that probably isn’t going to happen unless a true bombshell scandal emerges. But hey, this is American politics in 2018. Anything can happen.
No Room For Choirboys
Donald Trump is far from a saint. America knew that when they voted for him. When Democrats clutch their pearls and attempt to posture themselves as having the moral high ground, it rings hollow. And unless a true crime emerges, it will continue to appear as though Democrats only desire is simply to remove Trump, regardless of what the charges are.
Ken Starr went looking for real estate fraud. He found a bl**job. Robert Mueller went looking for Russian collusion. So far, he’s found a payment to a porn actress. Welcome to American Politics in 2018.
No, Donald Trump isn’t a saint. Not even close. But he’s the right-wing answer to Bill Clinton. He’s a bulldog who fights, even (and sometimes especially) when he shouldn’t. For my part, I’ve given up on believing in the goodness of most politicians. They’ll always let you down in some way or another. I’d rather place my politicians in the trenches than on a pedestal.
Instead, I think it’s more important to believe in ideas. If a politician comes along which can execute those ideas, great. But I’m not holding my breath and waiting for a choirboy. If American politics in 2018 has shown us anything it’s that the choir doesn’t sing here anymore.