Thursday, March 22, 2018

Stormy clouds on Trump's horizon

Consider some political stormy clouds that now loom on the near horizon. Suppose that Trump manages to avoid an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller (perhaps by firing him - a very real possibility). But then Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) gets her day in court and compels Trump to publicly testify. Below are snippets from two articles extending my line of thought.

New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni muses about The Calm Before the Stormy. How come Trump is tweeting whacks at Mueller but is silent on lawsuits over his alleged extramarital affair with an adult film star?

Apart from his own kin, there’s no category of person exempt from Donald Trump’s attacks. He has gone after past presidents of the United States, current leaders of our closest allies, stewards of his own party, senior officials in his own administration, the Latina mayor of a city freshly devastated by a hurricane, the Muslim mayor of a city just struck by terrorists and the families of American soldiers killed in combat.

But not Stormy Daniels. Where are the tantrums and tweets for her? It’s a glaring and fascinating omission.

Bruni considered and discounted a couple of possibilities.

Maybe the explanation is straightforward: He doesn’t want to give her any extra motivation to speak out and describe whatever happened between them in a negative light. But when has Trump ever played the tempered pacifist before?

Lawyers are no doubt urging him not to amplify her importance — and spotlight a payment to her that may have violated campaign-finance laws — by personally battling her. But he has repeatedly ignored their counsel not to rail against Robert Mueller and others who are looking into his campaign’s ties to Russia, and that’s a matter of presumably greater threat to his presidency.

Meanwhile he stays mum about a porn star who is peddling steamy secrets about him — and who is doing what he hates most, which is using him as a stepping stone to saturation fame. The interview that she gave to “60 Minutes” is scheduled to be broadcast this coming weekend without a peep from the president (though with frantic efforts by his lawyers to quash it). His silence speaks volumes.

… What if the enigma of what Daniels is about to say really rattles him, and his turning away from it is the telltale sign of that? The assumption has long been that his Twitter account gives us his psychic vital signs and that we can chart his distress by his diatribes. But diatribes are his norm. Deviations from them may hold more meaning.

Trump maybe rattled by how Daniels described him in a previous interview.

"Textbook generic” was how she described the sex that she said she had with him … he comes across as somewhat pitiable. And she has reportedly given new details and documents to “60 Minutes.” [The CBS program airs this coming Sunday.]

Then there’s Melania. By all evidence the distance between the Trumps has widened since the surfacing of Daniels’s allegations that he had sex with her shortly after Melania gave birth to Barron in 2006 and that he told Daniels to pay his wife no heed. Every mention of Daniels must mortify Melania, and the president can’t afford that. There’s more than enough strain in their marriage and turbulence in the White House already.

… it’s worse still if a series of recent elections — in Virginia, in Alabama, in Pennsylvania — suggest that you repel women in the suburbs and they’re acting on their disgust. They won’t be soothed by an illicit romance that could be titled “Filthy Shades of Orange.”

So the take-away here is that Trump’s silence may indicate that he is more disturbed at a deep personal level by the lawsuits coming his way from Stormy Daniels (and other women like Karen McDougal) than by Mueller’s investigation. Perhaps he is aware of his vulnerability when it comes to civil suits. In exploring this latter possibility Washington Post opinion writer Richard Cohen thinks Stormy Daniels — not Robert Mueller — might spell Trump’s doom.

The saga of the adult-film star and the juvenile president has become a rollicking affair. Each step of the way, Daniels has out-Trumped Trump. She is as shameless as he, a publicity hound who adheres to the secular American religion that, to be famous, even for nothing much, is to be rich. By and large, that’s not true, but then there is Kim Kardashian to prove otherwise.

Daniels alleges she and Trump had an affair beginning in 2006. The president’s lawyer and his press secretary allege that the allegations are not true. The lawyer, Michael Cohen, does admit to paying Daniels $130,000, apparently to keep her silent about an affair that, according to Cohen, did not happen. To do this, Cohen set up a private Delaware company and concocted false names for everyone involved — the allegation-maker and the allegation-denier. Only the name Delaware is legit.

The payment of $130,000 over an affair that did not happen did not deter Daniels. For one thing, no one could possibly believe Cohen paid a woman not to talk about a sexual interlude that did not happen. (What’s the price for one that did happen?) I, for one, am understandably mortified that any lawyer named Cohen could be that stupid. Second, the various deniers, both at the Trump Organization and at the White House, keep confirming that Trump and Daniels were fighting it out in court. For instance, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently said that Trump’s lawyers had won an arbitration case “in the president’s favor.” Bingo!

Sometimes … it is hard to take sides. … Daniels, after all, is a porn actress. She directs and writes screenplays as well, but she is best known for having sex in the movies — turning what used to be called a romp in the hay into a payday. But, with the inadvertent cooperation of Trump and his band of merry incompetents, she now comes across as the victim. Cohen says he can demand as much as $20 million from her for breaching a nondisclosure agreement. In other words, they’re out to crush her.

But they are on shaky legal ground, as Jennifer Taub reported in slate.com.

[This scandal has become] about a woman up against a bully and it makes other things explicable: This is what Trump did to Andrew McCabe, fired from the FBI hours before he qualified for his pension. Crushed.

In pre-Trump days, it might have been possible to destroy Daniels by calling her a slut or whatever. But Trump himself is a slut. He is a liar and a moral harlot who revels in irresponsibility and bad-boy behavior. He has no moral edge over his accuser. We have all been instructed by Trump himself to disregard schoolhouse virtues of honesty, dignity and rectitude. Trump himself travels light.

It was the little thing that killed Harry on safari [in The Snows of Kilimanjaro]. It was the unattended cut, the disabled truck, the tardy rescue plane. As he died, he dreamed of Kilimanjaro, “unbelievably white in the sun” but the hyena that had been stalking him made “a strange, human, almost crying sound,” and he knew what the hyena already knew. It is what Trump is learning.

P. S.
Hyenas are scavengers and will often drive off lions from their kills. I invite you to complete the analogy.

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