Just when it seemed that this particular election season couldn’t make your skin crawl any more, right on schedule (on a Friday evening of a holiday weekend), the “October surprises” we’d been bracing ourselves for since summer started dropping on our heads like frozen airline sewage.
Human nature being what it is, the one garnering the most attention isn’t the one related to important public policy but to sex. The Washington Post released an 11-year-old secretly-recorded tape of Donald Trump making some offensive “locker room” type comments about women to host Billy Bush before going out to do a TV appearance. I won’t go into the details; if you want to hear them, check out this link. A warning—they are disgusting and lewd. I’d suggest actually watching the video, though, since that conveys better than out-of-context excerpts the attitude with which the remarks were intended.
Trump issued a statement in which he apologized and admitted what he said was wrong, but he pointed out that the tape was over a decade old and he is a changed and better man now (you can hear/read his entire statement here):
Hillary Clinton reacted as you would expect, tweeting, "This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president,” apparently in her zeal to pile on forgetting the type of inter-gender relations that prevailed in the Oval Office the last time a Clinton was President.
(A personal aside: I admit that I am appalled by Trump’s comments. I think they are inexcusable regardless of the context or the fact that it happened 11 years ago. But I also believe that people are capable of change and deserving of forgiveness. I certainly don’t condone what he said in what he thought was a private moment 11 years ago, but here’s a good reminder that in these times of ubiquitous microphones and cameras, there are no private moments. I can truly hope he’s genuinely contrite and has outgrown it and that he himself is as repulsed by it as are those who view it.
One thing that bothers me and that nobody is mentioning is the fact that someone recorded a private conversation, sat on it for years, then released it just before an election to try to alter the course of history. This is a genuine invasion of privacy to advance a political agenda. It’s different from the hacking scandals currently plaguing Democrats. While it’s true that someone stole and exposed emails, those emails involved official business that the public had a right to know. Hillary’s problem is that she is believed to have used her private server for official business, then deleted emails that were subject to the Freedom of Information Act. If her private server really had been used only for her personal communications and someone had hacked it and released those, I would be among the first to call for the arrest of whoever did it. Similarly, if Hillary had decided not to release her personal tax forms, I would have supported her just as I did Trump. Running for President shouldn’t mean having every detail of your personal life forcibly laid bare in the public square. If you lament the choices of candidates we have, then consider what we put them through. It’s no wonder that only those with the thickest skin even consider running.)
Of course, Hillary is very lucky that the Trump tape surfaced when it did, since WikiLeaks pulled its own October surprise on her the very same night. They released emails hacked from her campaign chairman John Podesta, the most damaging featuring excerpts of her highly-paid speeches to big Wall Street firms that she’s so far refused to release. They show that despite her attempts to woo Bernie supporters by opposing deals like the TPP, she came across as practically a cheerleader for free trade in front of the wealthy financial elite. She told one Brazilian bank in 2013, “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders.”
It’s hard to say what the fallout of all this will be. Many voters already believe the worst of the candidate they oppose, and both of these stories just bolster their negatives. Charles Krauthammer observed that it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Trump has said crude things in private and that Hillary has two sets of principles, one for in public and one for big donors behind closed doors. The only difference is that with these stories, we get to hear both of those things exposed in the candidates’ own words, which somehow makes it seem more shocking that it might otherwise.
My guess is that the Trump story will prove more damaging, for several reasons. The media will pile on him while ignoring the Hillary story. Fellow Republicans will denounce and desert him, while if he were a Democrat, his colleagues would circle the wagons to defend him and attack the sleazy leaker for violating his privacy with “old news” that he’s long since “moved on” from. And again: sex sells, while the revelation that Hillary Clinton will say anything to get elected is hardly news at all. Even Barack Obama told us that back in 2008.
- Mike Huckabee
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