Billy Bush is col­lat­eral dam­age

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Jonah Gold­berg The Na­tional Re­view Jonah Gold­berg is syn­di­cated by Tri­bune Me­dia Ser­vices.

To say I care about Billy Bush’s ca­reer is overly gen­er­ous. If you’d asked me two weeks ago who he is, I doubt I could have given an an­swer be­yond, “The name is fa­mil­iar,” or “Isn’t he on one of those shows?” And by “those shows,” I mean that un­dif­fer­en­ti­ated hog trough of “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood,” “En­ter­tain­ment Tonight,” “TMZ,” “In­side Edi­tion,” etc.

But now, of course, I know who he is. He’s the cousin of Ge­orge W. Bush who’s made a liv­ing in the worlds of in­fo­tain­ment, gos­sip, celebrity wor­ship and distaff day­time “news,” to be found in the cru­cial third hour of NBC’s “To­day.” He smiles a lot, too.

Eleven years ago, he worked for “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood,” an aptly ti­tled pro­gram that al­lows the hoi pol­loi to par­tic­i­pate, at a dis­tance, in the prac­tice of what we will have to call “stel­lar for­ni­ca­tion” for the ben­e­fit of the edi­tors of fam­ily news­pa­pers. He was as­signed the task of in­ter­view­ing Don­ald Trump on the cusp of Trump’s cameo ap­pear­ance on the soap opera “Days of Our Lives” in which the self-de­scribed “star” was slated to pro­mote his re­al­ity show, “The Ap­pren­tice.” A weighty af­fair in­deed.

While sit­ting around on a bus, Bush gig­gled and guf­fawed as Trump told him: “You know I’m au­to­mat­i­cally at­tracted to beau­ti­ful [women].” In the realm of con­fes­sions, this is about as shock­ing as say­ing, “When I’m thirsty, I like to drink wa­ter.” There’s am­ple con­fir­ma­tion in the so­cial-sci­ence lit­er­a­ture that het­ero­sex­ual men are in­stantly at­tracted to beau­ti­ful women. The only per­ti­nent ques­tion is how men act on the at­trac­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Trump — and a grow­ing num­ber of women — he just starts kiss­ing and grop­ing, be­cause he can get away with it.

But we’ve heard plenty about that al­ready. What I find bizarre is that Bush has been sus­pended from his job at “To­day” for ... what? I don’t re­ally know. Was he sup­posed to slap Trump? Rip off his mic and say, “How dare you, sir?” Re­port him to the po­lice?

Maybe he should have. I cer­tainly would think bet­ter of Bush if he had. But I have to as­sume that when you’re in the busi­ness of suck­ing up to celebri­ties in a cut­throat com­pe­ti­tion for prized “gets,” one must lis­ten to — and see — all man­ner of things that would of­fend de­cent, mid­dle­class sen­si­bil­i­ties. For­tu­nately, pro­fes­sional stel­lar for­ni­ca­tors are screened for such en­cum­brances early in their ca­reers.

When Trump added that he had made sex­ual over­tures to Bush’s then-col­league, Nancy O’Dell, Bush surely should have not only stopped gig­gling, but shown a scin­tilla of de­cency or even chivalry. (O’Dell has said she wants to be kept out of this story, con­demn­ing Trump’s com­ments but de­clin­ing to con­firm or deny whether Trump hit on her).

And that’s what I think is worth paus­ing to pon­der. Celebri­ties serve as a kind of sec­u­lar aris­toc­racy in our cul­ture, get­ting away with be­hav­iors we would not tol­er­ate from any­one else. Bar­bra Streisand re­port­edly de­mands that her staff not look her in the eye. Sean Penn had an as­sis­tant swim the dan­ger­ous and fetid cur­rents of New York’s East River just to bring him a cig­a­rette. Sylvester Stal­lone once stopped an in­ter­view un­til his ho­tel room was painted a more de­sir­able color.

Some­times the self-in­dul­gence spills out of the cat­e­gory of mere ar­ro­gant ec­cen­tric­ity. Money alone doesn’t ac­count for what Bill Cosby is al­leged to have done. British BBC “per­son­al­ity” Jimmy Sav­ile sex­u­ally preyed on chil­dren for decades — and got away with it be­cause he was just too “im­por­tant” to be ex­posed.

Whether you be­lieve some, none or all of the al­le­ga­tions against Trump, the re­mark­able thing is that the only rea­son he’s be­ing held to ac­count for them is that he dared de­scend from the con­stel­la­tion of stars into the terra firma of pol­i­tics, where the rules are slightly dif­fer­ent — but only slightly (see: Clin­ton, Wil­liam J.; Kennedy, John F.; et al.).

Billy Bush’s ca­reer is merely col­lat­eral dam­age caused by Trump’s wrench­ing mi­gra­tion. One can only imag­ine what re­pug­nan­cies will re­main un­known, so long as rock stars and rap­pers, ac­tors, jocks, idols, di­vas and Hol­ly­wood doyennes stay in their royal cham­bers for us to wor­ship from afar.

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