Another day, another important national conversation about the president and pornography. The good ole U.S. of A., land of the free and home of the brave, purple mountain majesties and all that. Give me your tired, your poor, your 72-year-old TV billionaires yearning to — actually, let's not, okay?
Earlier this week a federal judge rejected the defamation lawsuit brought by Stormy Daniels against President Trump. This was always going to happen. Defamation cases are hard to win in this country and almost impossible when they involve two or more public figures. While it is true that in theory the president is not immune from private actions, the path leading, à la Clinton v. Jones, from the Daniels suit to a Lewinsky scandal was always a tangled one at best. The real danger for Trump was simply that the hush money payment arranged by Michael Cohen to cover up Trump's alleged affair with a porn star would be considered an illegal federal campaign contribution and thus grounds for the former's impeachment at the hands of a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. This still seems likely.
Trump responded to the judge's dismissal with a syntactically defective tweet — what else — in which he coined another of his famous nicknames, "Horseface," for Daniels. If you are like me, you might have asked yourself why he went out of his way to commit adultery with a woman whose countenance reminds him of a mammal of the family Equidae. Was he ashamed of himself afterward for this reason? Perhaps this explains why he went to such extraordinary lengths to hush up something that his supporters, predictably, laughed off as soon as it became public.
Stormy went there, of course. She would. That is why she manages to capture the attention of a nation long after we have stopped caring especially much what Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi or, heaven help us, Tim Kaine have to say about the president. Daniels is playing the game at Trump's level.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present your president. In addition to his...umm...shortcomings, he has demonstrated his incompetence, hatred of women and lack of self control on Twitter AGAIN! And perhaps a penchant for bestiality. Game on, Tiny. https://t.co/6DpDD5ELtj
— Stormy Daniels (@StormyDaniels) October 16, 2018
Tiny! I wonder if that is going to catch on. If Democrats were even moderately resourceful politicians they would be able to do something with it. Modesty cannot be the reason. They just aren't good at using words.
The Daniels saga has shown us Trump at his worst — and at his weirdest. This was true beginning with their first meeting at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe in July 2006. Imagine hanging out with a recent Super Bowl champion, posing for pictures with a bunch of middle-school girls, picking up a porno goodie bag, and deciding that with your (third) wife at home with a baby it would be as good a weekend as any to begin a months-long affair with the star of When the Boyz Are Away the Girlz Will Play 7. Imagine deciding that after sleeping together your future encounters would involve things like forcing her to sit in a hotel room with you to watch the Discovery Channel. Imagine later getting bored of the whole thing and then years later sending thugs to harass her while she fussed with her child's car seat. Imagine years later still, a few weeks before you think you are going to be elected president, hiring one of your cronies to write up a non-disclosure agreement in which you refer to her as Peggy Petersen and yourself as David Dennison. Why the goofy alliteration?
"History," T.S. Eliot wrote, "has many cunning passages." Do you remember when Michael Cohen was not only Trump's trusted personal lawyer and all-around fixer but also one of the chairs of the Republican National Committee, shaking down corporate boards and PR honchos for millions in exchange for his supposed insight into how the president thinks? Do you remember when Michael Avenatti was not polling slightly below Eric Holder and around the same level as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the nascent race for the Democratic presidential nomination?
Millions of us are sick of the whole thing, but hearing every unedifying detail is, I think, the price we have to pay for excusing Bill Clinton's sexual transgressions. In the '90s we decided that we didn't mind if the president was a pervert and an adulterer. Aspiring politicos took us at our word.
Now we have a president who is fascinated by large fish, terrified of germs, addicted to McDonald's and social media, a teetotaling misogynist commander in chief who has appeared in a Playboy video and has had public arguments about the dimensions of his penis with more than one person, including a sitting Republican senator.
How did we get here? Was it worth it? Are we all still enjoying ourselves?
I think not.