Monday, October 10, 2016

The hunting of the presidency (Part 12):
Trump’s 2005 October surprise and its consequences

YOU GRAB ‘EM BY THE PUSSY.” Those six words spoken in 2005 apparently constitute Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s former approach to securing the romantic attention of women. They’re hardly an 11th-hour outreach to women voters still inclined to sit on the fence over whether or not to endorse him with a vote for the presidency, 28 days from today.

But those six words and more — others in the same brittle, callous, misogynist vocabulary of a man used to getting what he wants when he wants it — are likely to be the political epitaph of an [x]illionaire self-improvement grifter at the helm of the campaign that will be a template for how not to run a campaign ... for generations to come.

In September 2012, and with no fear of contradiction, I called Mitt Romney's White House bid “the most panoramically inept presidential campaign of the modern American political era.”

With the release on Friday of a video from 11 years ago, the torch has been passed to a new conflagration.

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The new backstory you know by now: In 2005, Trump was hangin’ with “Access Hollywood host” Billy Bush on a bus while on the set of the NBC soap, “Days of Our Lives.” At one point, while they were talking, his inner primal didact coming to the surface over an accidentally live mic, Trump began to discuss Nancy O’Dell, an “Access Hollywood” host now with “Entertainment Weekly,” in sexually subjective and strategic terms.

Showing always beats telling, and excerpting this mess doesn’t do it justice. Witness for yourself:

Witness the unscripted conversational asides of a prospective president of the United States and leader of the free world: “I moved on her like a bitch. ... I did try to fuck her ... she’s got the big phony tits ... grab ‘em by the pussy ... when you’re a star, you can do anything.”

Well, maybe. The one thing this star can’t do is nail down supporters in his own party at a critical juncture in the campaign. The absence of any major newspaper endorsements, and the defection of some high-profile historically conservative papers to the other side — all that’s bad enough.

But then, The Washington Post reported this on Saturday: “Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Deb. Fischer (R-Neb.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah); Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Joe Heck (R-Nev.), Mia Love (R-Utah), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Barbara Comstock (R-Va.); and Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada as well as the current and former governors of Utah are among those Republicans who have pulled their endorsements and/or called for him to leave the race. Carly Fiorina and talk-show host and Trump apologists William J. Bennett and Hugh Hewitt dumped him as well.”

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THIS FOLLOWED what happened earlier in October, when 30! Republican lawmakers past and present signed an open letter calling for the party to drop Trump as its nominee.

“Our party’s nominee this year is a man who makes a mockery of the principles and values we have cherished and which we sought to represent in Congress,” the letter read in part, as reported by The Hill.

The lawmakers who signed on include former Sen. Gordon Humphrey, former Rep. Vin Weber, Reps. Bill Clinger, Jim Leach, Tom Petri, G. William Whitehurst, Sherwood Boehlert, Jim Kolbe and Geoff Davis.

Imagine a poker table at one of Trump’s casinos, a huge circle for a big number of Republican high rollers, placing their bets on Trump as the winning hand ... then, going around the table, one by one, player by player, throwing down their cards in sputtering disgust and shouting “fold!”

That’s what happening for Team Trump right now.

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Even before the tape surfaced, the Trump campaign was in a nosedive; since then, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, approved cutting off funds to Team Trump, preferring instead to spend that money to down-ticket races — a tacit admission that the RNC thinks the top of the ticket is dead as fried chicken.

If a plurality of recent polls is even remotely accurate, as they often are, the steady descent of the Trump campaign is undeniable and it's likely to continue. The American people are starting to see Donald Trump for what he is: a smug, passive-aggressive attention addict, a 24-karat charlatan, a vampire masquerading as a phlebotomist.

Whether you buy the flash-poll interpretations of who won or lost the second debate, Trump won’t move the needle much regardless of how you score it. There’s a trajectory that’s locked in now. There’ll be no road-to-Damascus moments for this campaign; Team Trump’s had more than one of those opportunities already,  and they’ve ignored them every single time.

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PRESUMPTIVE conservative cerebral cortex Newt Gingrich gets this. “He can’t learn what he doesn’t know because he doesn’t know he doesn’t know it,” Gingrich said to The Washington Post back in August. Back when there was still hope.

It’s way worse than that now: Trump doesn’t want to learn what he doesn’t know. He doesn’t want to learn any more about things that distract him from what’s important, which is, now and always, Donald Trump. That’s why all the bogus talk awhile back about a “campaign reset,” all the expectations of the candidate “evolving” beyond his primary-season self were certainly a waste of time. It’s way too freakin late in the day for all that.

The Donald Trump we’ve seen for the last sixteen months, the one we’ve discovered in the last seventy-two hours, the one that stepped on stage last night is the only Donald Trump we’re going to get from here on in. And that’s true for the elegantly, sadly simplest of reasons:

It’s a small part of the only Donald Trump there ever was. That's why given what we know about the candidate, the only thing surprising about Trump's October surprise is that we're surprised by it at all.

Image credits: Trump illustration: via The Nation. The Washington Post nameplate: © 2016 The Washington Post Company. Priebus: CNN.

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