Whatever else might happen, our Republican friends can't say that nobody warned them. They were told over and over again that their love affair with Donald Trump was going to end in something like this, and they refused to listen. So now they pay the hellacious price.
Let's take a quick moment to review, shall we?
-- Donald Trump brags to Howard Stern several years ago that as the owner of several beauty pageants, he just walks unannounced into dressing rooms so he can see these beautiful women naked, and nobody has the power to stop him. “And so, I sort of get away with things like that,” he proudly tells Stern. Multiple women, including former Miss Teen USA contestants, have now come forward to confirm that yes, Trump was exactly as creepy and perverted as he claimed to be.
Trump then denies it, calls them liars and threatens to sue.
-- Trump brags on tape to Billy Bush that as a powerful celebrity, he just walks up to beautiful women, sticks his tongue down their throats and gropes them, without regard to consent. "When you’re a star, they let you do it," he says. "You can do anything." Multiple women then come forward to confirm that yes, Trump did exactly what he claims to have done, and often. (Here's a particularly creepy first-person account of such an assault.)
Trump denies it, calls them liars and threatens to sue.
-- To top it all off, the Trump campaign is now complaining about the nasty turn that things have taken and insists that the media drop this tabloid-style coverage and start covering the important policy issues that confront this nation. They issue this demand three days after they paraded long-ago accusers of Bill Clinton into the presidential debate hall at Washington University and attempted to stage-manage a nationally televised personal confrontation with Clinton.
We can talk on and on about what this tells us about Trump's lack of character, his sense of entitlement and his attitude toward women, and how it ought to disqualify him to be president. But let's take a different tack. Let's talk instead in terms of basic competence, judgment and strategic sense, because the level of sheer stupidity on display here also constitutes grounds for disqualification.
First, Trump knows the type of life that he has led. He knows that there is tape of him saying and admitting to outrageous things; he knows that there are dozens if not hundreds of women with not-so-good stories to tell about him. Given that background, the decision to take the campaign in this direction makes as much sense as a man wearing a gasoline-soaked suit deciding that it's a good idea to light a match.
How could they have possibly thought it was a good idea?
And make no mistake: Trump did choose this battle. He chose the weapons, he chose the low ground on which to fight it. He's been hinting since the beginning of the campaign that before it was over he would try to hang Bill Clinton's misdeeds around his wife's neck and drag the whole thing into the gutter. And if you have any doubts about his intentions, look at the team of political thugs that he assembled.
Steve Bannon of Breitbart, who was grinning ear to ear about the debate stunt. David Bossie, a gut-level Clinton hater and fabricator since the '90s. Roger Stone, the renowned back-alley streetfighter and Nixonian dirty trickster. Jeffrey Lord, a gleeful character assassin. This isn't a team of high-falutin' policy advisers. These are hired guns who have been wanting their entire lives to run this kind of ugly, no-holds-barred campaign against the Clintons, and Trump has given them free rein to do it.
And that too is nuts. Back in the '90s, when Ken Starr and "bimbo eruptions" were in all the headlines, Republicans used these issues to try to drive Bill Clinton from office. Instead, thanks to their own excesses, they turned a lying adulterer into a figure of national sympathy and gave Clinton the highest approval ratings of his presidency.
Bill did pay a price, however. He was impeached, he was publicly humiliated, his presidency and reputation will always be tarnished and he was stripped of his law license. But it's 20 years later, he's moved on, we've moved on and his name appears nowhere on this year's ballot. So the idea that a moral cripple like Trump could win the presidential election of 2016 by dredging all that back up again has to be one of the stupidest calculations in American political history.
In the end, Trump and his alt-right zanies wanted a knife fight, and they got it. As a result, Trump is standing before the American public, sliced and diced as neatly as a piece of high-priced tuna at a sushi restaurant.
It's poetic justice, really.