Do We Really Need A Leaked Tape To Identify A Scumbag?

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After all the things Donald Trump has said and done over the course of the campaign, and really, of his entire life, the size of the shit-storm still brewing over the recently-leaked, “grab ’em by the pussy” video is impressive. The recording was taken on the set of Days Of Our Lives in 2005, of Trump’s strange attempt at bonding with Access Hollywood twinkbot, Billy Bush (George W.’s first cousin, and impressively, one of the stupider-named of the Bush clan). Some of the now infamous banter included:

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there, and she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything.” (It’s not clear who Trump was talking about.)

“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

In the wake of the leaked tape, a not insignificant number of prominent Republicans have urged Trump to resign from the presidential race. Those calling for Trump to drop out have included John McCain, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, Utah governor Gary Herbert, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, and confused turtle Mitch McConnell, among others. Sure, most of these people weren’t huge fans of Trump to begin with, but almost all of them had previously endorsed him. And somehow this video was the last straw for them? How many more former Trump supporters are going to take this tacit pledge of utter stupidity and moral weakness?

Do I even need to list Trump’s greatest hits at this point? This is a guy who congratulated himself for accusing the black president of being a foreigner during the debates (“I succeeded in getting the president to produce his birth certificate”). He’s accused of raping a 13-year-old girl in a case currently making its way through the courts, bragged about not paying taxes “because I’m smart,” and got his start in business — his one, constantly-repeated qualification for this office — by working for his family’s organization, which has, according to the New York Times, a “long history of racial bias.”

In fact, there was a rich, steaming irony in watching Trump chide Clinton for not allegedly knowing that emails marked with a C were classified during last night’s debate, considering the Trump family business had their own history with documents marked with C, something they used to denote “colored” in order to know which housing applications to pass over.

Over the next decade [1963-1973], as Donald J. Trump assumed an increasingly prominent role in the business, the company’s practice of turning away potential black tenants was painstakingly documented by activists and organizations that viewed equal housing as the next frontier in the civil rights struggle.

The Justice Department undertook its own investigation and, in 1973, sued Trump Management for discriminating against blacks. Both Fred Trump, the company’s chairman, and Donald Trump, its president, were named as defendants. It was front-page news, and for Donald, amounted to his debut in the public eye. […]

When it was over, Mr. Trump declared victory, emphasizing that the consent decree he ultimately signed did not include an admission of guilt.
But an investigation by The New York Times — drawing on decades-old files from the New York City Commission on Human Rights, internal Justice Department records, court documents and interviews with tenants, civil rights activists and prosecutors — uncovered a long history of racial bias at his family’s properties, in New York and beyond. [“No Vacancies For Blacks,” New York Times, 2016]

You’d think that would’ve been an albatross, but no. And to prove his egalitarian bona fides, Trump, believe it or not, actually bragged about letting black people into his country club. Onstage. During the first presidential debate:

“I’ll go one step further. In Palm Beach, Florida, tough community, a brilliant community, a wealthy community, probably the wealthiest community there is in the world, I opened a club, and really got great credit for it. No discrimination against African- Americans, against Muslims, against anybody. And it’s a tremendously successful club. And I’m so glad I did it. And I have been given great credit for what I did. And I’m very, very proud of it. And that’s the way I feel. That is the true way I feel.” [actual debate transcript]

Keep in mind, he bought this country club in the 1990s, not the 1940s. He’s legally obligated not to discriminate against people based on their race.

My point is, the idea that this latest news story is damning enough for him to resign is an insult to all the other scandals he’s been involved in. He leers and boasts and bandies about a bunch of douchecringey hypotheticals, but I’m not sure how damning it is in and of itself. Was it a revelation to someone out there that Donald Trump is kind of a scumbag? Trump’s such an unapologetic scumbag that his entire campaign has basically boiled down to “look at all this nice stuff I got from being a scumbag. Can you imagine the nice stuff America could have if a scumbag like me were running it?”

I take Trump at his word when he says what he was caught saying was locker room talk. Having been in a few locker rooms myself, it didn’t seem that out of bounds for a “locker room conversation,” outside of the part where he bragged about being able to get away with sexual assault because he’s famous (how much of that was true and how much idle boasting, who knows). I’ve heard plenty of lewd, sexist talk, but rarely has it been so grasping and nonsensical. To me, it sounded like two rich boys from prominent families who are decidedly not guys’ guys trying to do their best impression of what they think guys’ guys sound like (as Trump would say, “sad”). Basically, a locker room conversation carried on by two dudes whose only locker room experience was at Little Lord Fauntleroy’s Lacrosse Academy for Affluent Dweebs. “Ayyy, broads, am I right?”

I mean, “moved on her like a bitch?” In most locker rooms, if someone’s telling you you’re doing something “like a bitch,” that’s probably not a compliment.

It would be fitting if this dopey exchange — that tells us absolutely nothing about Donald Trump that anyone paying attention wouldn’t already know — actually brought down his candidacy. Lately it seems like we have this annoying habit of ignoring decades of bad behavior until a tape emerges of someone saying something naughty. Actions are supposed to speak louder than words, but if you’ve been keeping up with the news these past few years, that is clearly not the case. A lot of people apparently can’t be sure someone is a scumbag until they can actually hear them being a scumbag in an unguarded moment, even when they’ve spent the better part of their lives openly bragging about it.

A great example of this phenomenon pre-Trump is former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Like Donald Trump’s father, Sterling spent decades of his life making a handsome profit off discriminatory housing policies. We rightly demonize people who say they support segregation, but Donald Sterling was an active segregator who managed to own an NBA team without issue until 2014. He faced virtually zero consequences until he complained about his girlfriend being seen in public with blacks on a secretly-recorded tape. Bomani Jones’ take on this scandal went viral in the wake of it. It was nice that people were finally paying Bomani Jones some attention, because he had already written a detailed account of Donald Sterling’s history of racially discriminating a full eight years earlier. And somehow no one cared until Sterling got caught telling his girlfriend “don’t bring black people” to Clippers games and to not put black people on her Instagram.

(Trump, of course, defended Donald Sterling and blamed the woman, saying, “He got set up by a very, very bad girlfriend, let’s face it. She’s called the ‘girlfriend from hell.'”)

It’s getting to feel like the only way we can recognize scandalous behavior anymore is if it comes in the form of an amateur video with text captioned at the bottom. Is shameful behavior only recognizable as shameful when surreptitiously recorded?

Sometimes I wonder if we’re living out the plot of a bad action movie, where we can’t recognize a bad guy until he lays out his entire evil plan once he has us tied up. Aha! We saw your secret heart! Only most of the time, it wasn’t a secret at all. Trump is probably going to lose, but what are we going to do when confronted with a bad guy who’s only half this stupid? Anyone who waited until the Days of Our Lives tape leak to denounce Donald Trump should also issue a public apology for being blind, deaf, and dangerously dimwitted.

Vince Mancini is a writer, comedian, and podcaster. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.