The Post set off a string of events on Friday with this report:
Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone, saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” according to a video obtained by The Washington Post. . . . In that audio, Trump discusses a failed attempt to seduce a woman, whose full name is not given in the video.
He essentially boasted about sexual assault.
And it then got worse. In a written statement (itself conveying how damaging he thinks this is), Trump said he’s heard Bill Clinton say worse. What does that have to do with anything? Bill Clinton is not a candidate. Treating him as such — in essence, making Hillary Clinton responsible for her husband — is yet one more sign of how little he thinks of women. And, really, if Trump wants to go down that road, a bunch of questions become relevant. Was he unfaithful to Melania, his third wife, whom he married in January 2005? Does he regret bragging about his sexual conquests when still married to his children’s mother? Does he think sexual assault is a crime, or does he confer bragging rights?
While Trump has done and said things far more outrageous, and his hateful utterances about women are well-known, Republicans pronounced themselves shocked and moved in unison to condemn the comments from 2005, which essentially boasted about sexual assault. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) issued a statement saying he was “sickened” by Trump’s words regarding women and would not appear with Trump as scheduled in Wisconsin on Saturday. Vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence, a devout Christian, who said he is proud to run with Trump, agreed to appear at the event in place of Trump. The feckless Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, who has enabled and defended Trump every step of the way, issued a statement: “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) put out his own statement, calling Trump’s remarks “repugnant” and demanding he apologize to “women and girls everywhere.”
After midnight, Trump released a shoddy-looking video that could have been mistaken for a cable access program. “I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not,” he asserted. “I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.” He then immediately pivoted (as he did in his original statement) to an attack on Bill Clinton. “I’ve said some foolish things, but there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.” Republicans have warned him against going down that road to no avail.
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.
One can imagine the stream of deserters becomes a flood until the well of support for Trump runs dry. It will be interesting to see what the evangelical leaders who have offered their support decide to do. In tying themselves to Trump, they’ve now made a mockery of their causes and permanently disgraced themselves.
While the particulars could not have been predicted, Trump’s meltdown certainly was. Republican leaders and voters, not to mention bottom-feeding talk radio hosts, ignored them. There was ample reason to reject Trump for any number of statements, lies and character failures. Trumpkin supporters now pay the price, which may include a mortally wounded GOP.
Trump insists he won’t quit. It hardly matters; the race is over. The only question is how many Republicans he will take with him.