Nobody who has been listening to the moral vacuum of a man who rode a wave of anger and willful ignorance to the GOP nomination can be surprised by the fact that Donald Trump would casually boast about sexually assaulting women.
Nobody needed a hot mike to know that this is the sort of person who sees women as objects to be hit on “like a bitch,” to be kissed with his repulsive, Tic-Taced mouth, to have their genitals groped by his wandering hands.
“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump told then-“Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush. “You can do anything.”
This is who he always was. There should by now be nothing shocking here.
No, the shocking part of the tape, the part that has me oscillating between rage and despair, is the role played by Bush.
You can do “whatever you want,” Bush said to Trump, endorsing the ugliness.
On Friday, Bush issued an apology for his role in the 2005 conversation, saying he “acted foolishly in playing along.” He wasn’t just playing along, though. Right before they met her, Bush and Trump sized up actress Arianne Zucker like a side of beef. When they got off the bus, Bush urged the unsuspecting actress to get close enough to smell Trump’s minty breath.
“How about a little hug for the Donald?” Bush coaxed.
Men like Trump exist because men like Bush exist. And men like both of them are everywhere.
I’ve met a few of them. I remember them all. I remember the self-satisfied looks on their faces. I remember how it felt when the air left my body and my stomach turned and I froze when they hit on me “like a bitch,” or grabbed me, or humiliated me.
I remember the man with the mustache and the long, curly, brown hair who lived in the apartment building overlooking the backyard where I played on a swing set, the one who walked out on his balcony naked and stood there, exposing himself to an 8-year-old.
I remember the teenager, a friend of my best friend’s older brother, who asked me to show him a gymnastics move and then, when I couldn’t get away, groped me. I was 12.
I remember the relentless regulars who sat at the bar where I worked in my early 20s, gulping down beer and telling me to unbutton my shirt and wear shorter skirts.
I remember the senior editor who told me, in the presence of another senior editor (who did nothing), that he liked my new shorter haircut because it showed parts of my body he couldn’t see before. Unable to summon words, I went back to my desk. He went on to great things in another newsroom.
Almost every woman I know has stories like these, and worse.
And I’ll bet a lot of the women cited by the Republican men suddenly on their high horses about Trump — “As a father of two girls,” etc. — have them too. Did these men not have wives and daughters when Trump was calling women names and spewing sickening derision for them to Howard Stern and others? Trump’s misogyny was in plain sight all along. Like misogyny in general.
Yet, the tape is the straw that finally breaks it for many who were fine — or fine enough to stand by their nominee — when Trump was saying despicable things about other people: When he said racist things about Hispanic and black people; when he was denouncing Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers, and questioning the impartiality of a judge because of his heritage; when he was talking about banning Muslims and tormenting the grieving Khans; when he made light of prisoners of war and mocked a disabled journalist.
None of these were deal-breakers. It’s possible that the men finally denouncing Trump over his misogyny don’t know any Muslims or former POWs or African-Americans or Latinos, but that’s unlikely. More likely: That no group attacked by Trump is as valuable to Republicans as white women.
They’re all Billy Bushes: Not just the politicians, but the voters who flocked to Trump, too. They’ve not just been playing along, but egging Trump on, vaulting this man of all men so close to the White House that he can grab the republic.
They’re saying Trump is done. I’ll believe it when I see it.
But even if he does go down in flames, we’ll still be left with the people who flocked to him, the ones who laughed along, who embraced or overlooked what Trump represents — the ones all too willing to say to America, “How about a little hug for the Donald?”