THE MORNING PLUM:
At least four women have now stepped forward to claim that Donald Trump inappropriately groped or kissed them in unwanted fashion, and predictably enough, his response has been to lash out at the news media, claiming (once again) that it is deliberately trying to derail his candidacy. He is threatening to sue the New York Times for its story quoting two of the women, and his lawyers are charging the paper with recklessly providing those out to smear Trump with “a platform.”
It’s almost as if Donald Trump thinks you are too stupid to remember that only a few days ago, he literally tried to provide a platform for Bill Clinton’s accusers, when he attempted to parade them into his family box at Sunday’s debate, in hopes of creating a great confrontation before an audience of tens of millions, only to see his plot thwarted by the debate organizers.
The Times reports this morning that two of the women who came forward did so after seeing Trump claim at the debate that he has not ever made good on his boast, captured on tape in 2005, of being able to grope women due to his powerful position. One claimed that Trump touched her breasts and tried to put his “octopus” hands up her skirt on a plane more than three decades ago, which she described as “an assault.” A second said Trump kissed her on the cheeks and then right on the mouth outside an elevator in Trump Tower, prompting her to immediately report the episode to her sister in shock.
Meanwhile, the Post notes two other instances: one in which a woman alleges Trump “groped her rear end,” and another involving Trump kissing her “without her consent.” Trump is angrily denying the charges reported in the Times:
In a phone interview on Tuesday night, a highly agitated Mr. Trump denied every one of the women’s claims.
“None of this ever took place,” said Mr. Trump, who began shouting at the Times reporter who was questioning him. He said that The Times was making up the allegations to hurt him and that he would sue the news organization if it reported them.
“You are a disgusting human being,” he told the reporter as she questioned him about the women’s claims.
But, as the Post notes, there is plenty of evidence that these women told other people of the episodes long before the sex tape came to light. And of course, Trump himself admitted to such behavior in his own words, captured on that tape.
Regardless, Trump’s lawyers repeated the allegation that the Times is telling these women’s stories as part of an active effort to destroy his presidential candidacy. In a letter to the paper, his lawyers wrote:
Clearly, the New York Times is willing to provide a platform to anyone wishing to smear Mr. Trump’s name and reputation prior to the election irrespective of whether the alleged statements have any basis in fact.
What’s remarkable about this is that Trump and his advisers explicitly sought (but failed) to place three of Bill Clinton’s female accusers in the Trump family box at last Sunday’s debate, in order to “intimidate Hillary Clinton and embarrass her husband,” as the Post report put it. The scheme fizzled, but they were in the audience anyway.
But here’s what happened with the three women whom Trump paraded before the nation: Bill Clinton settled Paula Jones’s sexual harassment lawsuit with no admission of wrongdoing or guilt; Clinton’s lawyer denied Juanita Broaddrick’s charge of rape and no charges were ever brought; and Clinton denied Kathleen Willey’s allegation of groping, and prosecutors concluded there was insufficient evidence to persuade a jury otherwise.
We don’t know for sure what happened in any of these cases involving Trump or Bill Clinton. But the point is that Trump’s rage and sense of victimization — which by all appearances are genuinely felt — are remarkable when viewed alongside his own cavalier willingness to haul all of these Clinton episodes out before the nation once again. And that’s putting aside the fact that he isn’t even running against Bill; he’s running against Hillary.
Trump likes to claim that the things he says are “just words.” That’s how he has repeatedly dismissed the sex tape. During the GOP primaries, it was true: he could say literally anything. GOP voters were not repelled by — and perhaps were even drawn to — his steady stream of insults directed towards Mexicans and women; his appallingly cruel vow of mass deportations; his pathologically dishonest demonization of Muslims; and his various flirtations with authoritarianism and white nationalism. At the same time, no matter how hard the press went at him over these things, it only seemed to help him, drawing the media attention that undoubtedly helped boost him to the nomination.
But Trump has simply never been able to accept that the general election is another matter entirely. His “words” continue to destroy him in the minds of college-educated whites and suburban women. During the primaries, Trump talked a good game about reviving the 1990s Bill Clinton affairs. But it was widely predicted that if he did this during the general election, something would surface from Trump’s own past that could prove crippling. He didn’t seem concerned. After all, it’s all “just words.” But that’s exactly what happened, and the press attention that once boosted him is now unearthing new revelations that are probably going to prove insurmountable. No wonder Trump is sinking into rage and self-pity.
* CLINTON HOLDS WIDE LEAD IN PENNSYLVANIA: A new Bloomberg Politics poll finds Clinton leading Trump among likely voters in Pennsylvania by 48-39 in the four-way, and by 51-42 in the head-to-head match-up.
Striking finding: Clinton leads Trump by 28 points in the Philadelphia suburbs, where over 80 percent of voters say they’re bothered by the sex tape. It’s going to be nearly impossible for Trump to find enough voters in the rest of the state to overcome her margin in the southeast.
* TRUMP GIVES UP ON VIRGINIA: ABC News is now reporting that sources inside the Trump campaign say resources will now be pulled out of Virginia to focus on other battleground states.
At this point, the Trump campaign is even on defense in all of the four states that his own campaign says he must win — Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina. The polling averages have him narrowly trailing in all four.
* TRUMP IS IN ‘BIG TROUBLE’: Nate Silver looks at all the most recent polls and concludes Trump may be toast, or at least browning rapidly:
Trump now trails Clinton by 6.5 percentage points in our popular vote forecast — by comparison, he was 4.6 points back of Clinton a week ago, on Oct. 5, before the videotape or the second debate. So he’s moving in the wrong direction as time is running out. While a Trump comeback is still mathematically feasible…it wouldn’t really have any good precedent in recent American presidential elections.
But the second debate “stopped the bleeding,” we keep hearing. All that really means is that he stopped Republican lawmakers from deserting him.
* WHERE’S THE GOP’S AD SPENDING FOR TRUMP? Ken Vogel and Alex Isenstadt ferret out an interesting story about the Republican National Committee’s ad spending, or lack thereof:
A Politico analysis of campaign finance records reveals that the committee has not spent anything on commercials boosting Trump since he emerged as the party’s likely nominee….The lack of air cover has prompted grumbling from Trump aides and allies, many of whom believe that the RNC was never fully supportive of their candidate and that it’s now turning its back completely on the anti-establishment nominee as his poll numbers crater.
The plot to rig the election against Trump reaches all the way into the offices of the RNC.
* THE POST ENDORSES CLINTON: The Post editorial board makes the crucial point that there is one “well-qualified, well-prepared candidate on the ballot,” and spells out the case:
If Ms. Clinton is elected, she will attempt to govern an angrily divided nation….It is fair to read Ms. Clinton’s career as a series of learning experiences that have prepared her well for such an environment….Ms. Clinton…is dogged, resilient, purposeful and smart….she knows Washington…she has executive experience….She does not let her feelings get in the way of the job at hand. She is well positioned to get something done.
And here’s the Post’s case against Trump.
* AND THE GOP SCAM COMES BACK TO BITE THE PARTY: GOP lawmakers are caught between backing Trump (who is increasingly toxic) or abandoning him (which risks angering Trump voters). E.J. Dionne puts this in its larger context:
For years, Republicans managed an exceptional acrobatic act: to mobilize right-wing populist anger and white working-class voters behind a program whose benefits flowed to the economic elites….The assumption was always that the base would get the noise and the elites would get the policy. Now the noise is deafening, a dangerous and profoundly flawed man leads the party, and its candidates cannot move one way or the other without falling off the wire.
I would only add that all of this was entirely predictable. Indeed, some people predicted it.