Frankly I’m surprised by the outrage. It’s not that Donald Trump’s leaked 2005 conversation with Access Hollywood’s Bill Bush isn’t outrageous (it is); it’s just that we didn’t learn anything new about The Donald that we didn’t already know. If someone leaked a tape of Obama talking about women like this, that would be news, because it would mean that we were completely wrong about him. But this isn’t news. Because we already knew Trump was a pig. That being said, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the proverbial locker room, and I’ve never heard a guy (even a drunk guy) say anything like this: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” These aren’t the words of a player. They’re not even the words of a guy talking shit. These are the words of an entitled little asshole, a straight-up misogynist and a sexual predator.
Much as I loathe Trump, I must confess that it’s getting sorta suspicious the way that new skeletons keep falling out of Trump’s closet at regular intervals, in the month before Election Day. Tax returns leaked one day, and then a few days later we get this Access Hollywood video. What’s next? My guess: next Wednesday, The Washington Post is going to post a leaked video of Donald Trump shooting Biggie Smalls on March 9, 1997. But seriously, we need to think long and hard about the implications of all of this. Is Trump a douche? Sure. Does he deserve to go down in flames? Sure. But that won’t solve the problem made manifest by this election campaign.
Texting, email, digital photography, social media and the proliferation of high-quality video equipment have radically transformed 21st-century communication. There’s a record of pretty much everything now. In practice, this means that there’s a great deal of dirt, or stuff that can be construed as dirt, on pretty much everyone under the age of 30, and many of those above it. What does that mean for the future of our democracies? Are we to be governed by elected officials who can be publicly disgraced and taken down at a moment’s notice whenever they challenge the powers that be? Or are we to be governed by the exceptionally virtuous few? Historically, that hasn’t always worked out so well. Maximilien “The Incorruptible” Robespierre was a disaster. Same is true of famously upright and uptight Hitler.
Do we really want to limit public office to the careful and calculating, to the single-minded, to the lifelong valedictorians, who’ve been building their CVs, and grooming their public and private personas, since the fifth grade? I can think of a lot of great politicians who’d fail to make that cut. Churchill and Lincoln spring to mind.
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