“Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am,” Donald Trump said in a videotaped apology released Friday night.
But those sexually brutal words captured on tape do reflect who Trump is. That’s what makes them so damning. And if they come as a shock or even a mild surprise, then you either haven’t been paying attention, or for political reasons you have talked yourself into ignoring the flaming obvious.
We knew. We knew as early as the very first Republican debate, when Fox News host Megyn Kelly read off a partial recounting of Trump’s long misogynistic history, and he later retaliated with his infamous “blood coming out of her … wherever” statement. Rosie O’Donnell, Alicia Machado … we knew.
When he bragged about his “hand size,” we knew.
We knew that, as a beauty pageant owner, Trump would physically divide the contestants backstage, like cattle in a stockyard show, putting those whom he’d like to have sex with in one group and those who didn’t meet that standard in another. And we already had testimony that on the set of the “The Apprentice,” he would publicly conjecture about the sexual abilities of women on the cast and crew, and try to intimidate others into joining him.
In other words, this tape reveals nothing, yet confirms everything. It confirms that to Trump, his fellow human beings — and especially women — are simply things put on this earth to be used for his own gratification, aggrandizement, enrichment or amusement. His sense of perverse entitlement comes through clearly in that tape, but again, it came through just as clearly in his life and career.
Trump’s initial response to the release of the videotape — made in 2005, when he was 60 years old— is also no surprise. It lacked any sense of class and regret, and attempted to pass off his remarks as normal male interraction:
“This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course, not even close.”
Unless you were on the golf course with Trump and Clinton, I suppose that you cannot say with 100 percent certainty that Trump is lying, but it’s precisely the sort of convenient fabrication for which Trump is infamous. It is also just like Trump to try to take someone else down with him when he gets caught with his, well, equipment in a wringer.
But Trump’s remarks are not “locker room banter.” They are not normal. I grew up in a blue-collar/military/locker room environment, and the type of abusive, misogynistic, predatory language used by Trump on that tape is by no means typical. Most men would walk away in disgust from anyone who talked like that, recognizing that the person who uttered such statements was damaged and dangerous.
In the end, the only thing that I find surprising about this whole affair is the number of Republicans who even now refuse to walk away. Ralph Reed of the Faith and Family Coalition has reiterated his support for Trump, as has Tony Perkins of the evangelical Family Research Council. Prominent GOP leaders from Reince Priebus to Paul Ryan to Mitch McConnell have condemned the comments as unacceptable, but they continue to accept the author of those statements as their nominee.
That’s on them. If they will not separate their party from the ugliness that is Trump, they can’t expect voters to make that distinction either.
NOTE: The post above contains portion of a blog entry posted Friday night. It is published here as the electronic version of a column to be published in Sunday’s AJC.