Columnist

Billy Bush is back. In a Hollywood Reporter interview, he tells us what he has been doing. He has walked over hot coals with Tony Robbins, went to a healing retreat in Napa Valley, did yoga, meditated, read motivational books and spent time with his family. All the self-centered endeavors were, I suppose, to be expected of the former host of the “Today” show and, back when it mattered, “Access Hollywood.” Still, I am disappointed. I don’t want to know what Billy Bush means to Billy Bush. I want to know what he means to me.

Bush, as you must know, is the cheeky — and toothy — young fellow who had that juvenile conversation with Donald Trump back in 2005. T’was then that Trump uttered his now-famous boast that he was so famous and so attractive that he could skip the usual seduction techniques and just grab women you-know-where. The back and forth was recorded, and during the presidential campaign The Washington Post got hold of the tape and, in October, gave it the airing it deserved. I rocketed out of my chair with glee.

Trump is finished, I said to anyone who would listen. A presidential candidate cannot say such a thing and survive. Certainly the American people expect more from a president. Trump’s language was so crude, his view of women so juvenile, that he would be hounded from the race and his base among evangelicals would rebel and Mike Pence, rather than merely registering his disapproval, would quit the ticket. I was of course wrong.

Why? Mostly because the voters who wanted Trump expected no better of him. They knew the guy was a clod. They knew also that he had been married twice before and has, as they used to say, his innings. He carried on with Marla Maples while inconveniently married to his first wife. This is all in Google.

In this sense, Trump was like Bill Clinton. He lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky (and others), but the lie was about sex, which is too often just not compatible with the truth. The lie was the barnacle on the act. Case dismissed.

All this I understand. But it was Bush who was punished and not Trump. It was Bush who had suffered for what Trump said — although Bush egged him on a bit — and not Trump. Bush lost his job. Trump became president. The outcome was so fundamentally upside down and backward that the saga of Billy Bush should, by itself, become an academic discipline. It certainly belongs in philosophy and theology departments where the bad are supposed to be punished and not the not-so-bad merely reprimanded.

Bush’s visage deserves to be on Mount Rushmore so that kids will know that life is not fair, that the bad don’t always suffer and something else as well — you tell me. All I know is that for months now I’ve been searching for meaning in the rise of Trump and the decline of Bush. Maybe I have to walk on some hot coals.