Porn star pay­offs can’t be ig­nored

Trump’s long his­tory of mar­i­tal in­fi­delity is well-doc­u­mented.

Waikato Times - - Comment & Opinion - JOHN M CHRISP

Other com­men­ta­tors have noted how scan­dalous the Stormy Daniels hush­money af­fair would be if it weren’t ob­scured by so many other Trump-era dis­trac­tions. And, in­deed, if such an al­le­ga­tion had been made against Pres­i­dents Obama, Bush or Rea­gan, we would have talked of noth­ing else for months. And look what hap­pened to Bill Clin­ton.

But it’s hard to see how we can ig­nore pay­offs to pros­ti­tutes just be­cause more im­por­tant things are go­ing on. At the least, hush money to porn stars raises es­sen­tial ques­tions of char­ac­ter, trans­parency and vul­ner­a­bil­ity to black­mail.

And in Trump’s case, since the pay­off oc­curred just weeks be­fore his elec­tion, one has to won­der if he would be pres­i­dent to­day if vot­ers had known about it.

We prob­a­bly shouldn’t waste too much time wor­ry­ing about whether Daniels’ al­le­ga­tion is true. In a court of law Trump has the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence, but not in the court of pub­lic opin­ion. Trump’s long his­tory of mar­i­tal in­fi­delity is well-doc­u­mented, he’s been ac­cused by nearly 20 women of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and as­sault, he’s bragged about the sex­ual priv­i­leges be­stowed by his celebrity and he’s demon­strated a no­to­ri­ously un­en­light­ened dis­re­spect for women.

Trump is a man with many mil­lions of dol­lars and the sex­ual ma­tu­rity of a teenager. When you see him goof­ing on his own golf course with a pros­ti­tute, you can be for­given for imag­in­ing that some­thing is go­ing on.

In fact, the ad­min­is­tra­tion hasn’t both­ered to put much en­ergy into deny­ing the al­le­ga­tion. Press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders as­serts that Trump says that Daniels’ charges aren’t true, just as he branded as liars the women who ac­cused him of sex­ual as­sault, when, of course, some, most or all of them are likely telling the truth.

In the face of the ev­i­dence, San­ders re­lies on a for­mula: the Amer­i­can pub­lic knew about these al­le­ga­tions – and had even heard the shame­less Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood tapes – be­fore the elec­tion and had, nev­er­the­less, voted ‘‘over­whelm­ingly’’ for Trump. And ex­cept for the ‘‘over­whelm­ingly’’ part, she is cor­rect.

Still, one won­ders: Few would ar­gue at this point that Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion, while sig­nif­i­cant, was ac­tu­ally the fac­tor that handed vic­tory to Trump.

Nor, prob­a­bly, would many ar­gue that the un­timely rev­e­la­tion by FBI di­rec­tor James Comey that the agency was tak­ing an­other look at the Clin­ton email ‘‘scan­dal’’ change the cal­cu­lus enough to make a dif­fer­ence in the out­come of the elec­tion.

But isn’t it at least pos­si­ble that the rev­e­la­tion that Trump or his lawyer had paid off a pros­ti­tute right be­fore the elec­tion might have formed the third el­e­ment of the per­fect storm that could have re­sulted in his de­feat?

But, in­stead, money changed hands, Stormy Daniels kept quiet and the elec­tion went to Trump by an un­der­whelm­ing mar­gin.

Of course, what peo­ple do in their pri­vate lives is their busi­ness. But when you’re pres­i­dent – or close to be­com­ing pres­i­dent – your char­ac­ter is the peo­ple’s busi­ness. Would the evan­gel­i­cals or women or blue-col­lar work­ers who had to swal­low hard and look the other way in or­der to vote for Trump have fi­nally been per­suaded against him by the news that he was pay­ing for the si­lence of a porn star?

Trump fa­mously re­marked that he could shoot some­one on Fifth Av­enue and still be elected pres­i­dent. He might have as eas­ily spec­u­lated that he could pay off a pros­ti­tute to keep quiet about their af­fair around the time his third wife was giv­ing birth to his last son and still been elected.

But in the first case, Trump wasn’t be­ing lit­eral. I think. If he had ac­tu­ally gone out on Fifth Av­enue and killed some­one with a gun, we would never have elected him.

In the sec­ond case, enough vot­ers might have changed their minds to make a dif­fer­ence in a close elec­tion. We’ll never know. But it’s never too late to know the truth. May it come to light. Then we’ll truly know what kind of a pres­i­dent we have.

PHOTO: AP

Adult film star Stormy Daniels was al­legedly paid hush money to keep quiet about an al­leged af­fair with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

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