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Partying with Cheerleaders

These are the lazy, hazy days of summertime, when the cotton is high and the living is easy and the news cycle usually slows down. In the age of President Donald Trump there’s always something to talk about, however, and on Wednesday it was some old footage from the National Broadcasting Company of the future president indulging in what looked to be a pretty wild party at his Mar-a-Lago estate with a bevy of National Football League cheerleaders.
There’s nothing on the tape that would justify Trump’s impeachment, and his apologists can rightly argue that cameras might have caught such Presidents Clinton and Kennedy and Harding behaving just as badly if the media had been as nosy, but it doesn’t look good. Trump is once on again on tape assessing women’s worth by his scale-of-one-to-ten ratings of their physical attractiveness, and pulling women by the waist and patting their derrieres and forcing kisses and stopping just short of grabbing them by the pussy. He’s also seen yukking it up and comparing notes on the assembled pulchritude with fellow Palm Beach billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who is now a convicted sex offender and currently resides in a federal jail awaiting trial on more charges of exploiting underage women, and is someone Trump now claims he never liked.
The footage is from a 1992 segment on NBC’s talk show “A Closer Look,” hosted by Faith Daniels, who recalls that Trump forced a kiss on her while her husband’s head was turned, which the videotape confirms. At the time Trump was newly-divorced from his first wife and not yet married to the mistress who would become his second wife, and a recently bankrupt real estate and casino mogul who was known for calling all the New York City tabloids to boast of his sexual exploits. He clearly relished his reputation as the playboy of the western world, and was eager to play the part before NBC’s cameras.
These days Trump has a third wife and is the darling of the “family values” religious right wing of the Republican party, and swears he doesn’t have a sexist bone in his body, but he’s probably unconcerned about the footage. On our drive home from a northeast side dive we heard one of the right-wing talk radio talkers talking about how everyone already knew that Trump was a hound dog and he became president anyway, and the die-hard fans seem to take his pussy-grabbing tendencies as further proof that he’s the sort of dominating alpha male we need to make America great again.
Trump credibly claims to have had no contact with Epstein since the sex crime conviction, and has defenestrated the Secretary of Labor who gave Epstein a sweetheart deal back when he was a U.S. Attorney, and former President Bill Clinton was also a pal of Epstein, so Trump should also survive his past friendship with the world’s most notorious sex offender.
In the long run it’s just one of those aged filler stories that the media need to fill a slow summer news day, but we still say it doesn’t look good. That America has elected two different presidents who were once pals of Epstein troubles us, and there’s no telling what Epstein’s upcoming will reveal. We never did like any of those guys we grew up with who rated women by their looks and pulled waists and forced kisses and grabbed pussies, and we still believe that more thoughtful and respectful types are needed to sustain American greatness.

— Bud Norman

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A Pervert and His Friends in High Places

Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to felony solicitation charges involving minor girls back in 2007, and is currently in jail awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges involving at least a dozen minor girls, but he’s not your average sex offender. He’s a multi-billionaire investor, and has also been friends with former President Bill Clinton and current President Donald Trump.
Flight records confirm that Clinton took at least 26 trips to far-flung locations on Epstein’s private jet, dubbed “the Lolita Express” by the media, and ditched his security detail on at least five of the flights. Following Epstein’s most recent arrest a Clinton spokesman issued a statement¬†which admitted the former president had traveled with Epstein on four different flights in 2002 and 2003, but denied press reports that he’d traveled to Epstein’s privately owned island. Clinton’s past relationship with a notorious ephebophile might have been a bigger issue in the last presidential race, when his long-suffering yet ever-protective was running as the Democratic nominee, but Trump had his own ties to Epstein.
Trump now flatly denies ever even knowing Epstein, but that’s another one of the lies he routinely tells. In 2002 Trump told New York Magazine that “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy.” He could plausibly deny having any idea abut Epstein’s sexual predilections, but he also added that “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful woman as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it, Jeffrey enjoys his social life.” There are also numerous accounts from numerous sources about Epstein’s frequent visits to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, which is near Epstein’s Palm Beach home, and two pictures in the Getty Archives of the two yukking it up together at the resort.
Both presidents seem to have kept their distance from Epstein since his arrest and guilty plea in ’07, and Trump reportedly had him banned from Mar-a-Lago around that time, but the Trump administration remains caught up in the scandal.
Epstein received an extraordinarily generous deal in exchange for his plea, getting only a one-year sentence for a crime that the federal guidelines say should have imprisoned him for life, and he was even able on six out of every seven days of the year to leave prison to work at his office. What’s more he and various friends who had allegedly joined in his underage orgies were given immunity. This sweetheart deal was negotiated by then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, who is now Trump’s Secretary of Labor. The Democrat-run House Judiciary Committee is expected to have him under oath and before the cameras to further explain his decision, which will likely prove embarrassing to the administration, but for now Trump is insisting that Acosta is one of those very best people he promised to appoint.
Some leaked address books show Epstein not only had numerous telephone numbers to reach both Clinton and Trump, but also Britain’s Prince Andrew and several of Epstein’s fellow billionaires. There’s a popular conspiracy theory on the far-far-right that the world’s elites are all in on a global child sex ring, and although it’s far-fetched Epstein makes it seem slightly more plausible. The same conspiracy theorists theorize that the professors and reporters and business big wigs who oppose Trump do so because he’s going to expose the whole racket, but the whole Epstein affair and Acosta’s continued service in the cabinet make that even less plausible
At least since the days of the Roman Empire there’s been a suspicion among the common folk that the rich and powerful know-it-alls who run things are a decadent bunch, who get away with things poor perverts never would, and this is just further confirmation of that historical fact.

— Bud Norman

Fighting to a Tie a the Bottom of the Pit

As Sunday night’s presidential debate began we had a red-hot loathing for both candidates, and by end the end of it we were loathing both of them even a bit more, so we’ll call it a tie. In baseball a tie goes to the runner, and in politics it goes to the candidate whose campaign has been faring worse lately, so by the rules of American sports we’d have to say that Republican nominee Donald Trump got slightly the better of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
In the unlikely event you’ve been lucky enough to avoid any political news for the last couple of weeks, it’s pretty much all been bad for Trump. There was a general consensus that he was rude and obnoxious and obviously unprepared and strangely sniffling and thoroughly trounced in the first debate, then he followed it up with an early morning “Twitter” war against some beauty pageant winner that gained a few pounds some time ago, along with his admonition for everyone in America to watch a sex tape “check out” what proved to be either fuzzy footage of some blanketed figures in a South American reality show or some hard-core pornography featuring another Latina actress who bore a slight resemblance to the beauty queen, and the resulting three- or four-point surge in Clinton’s average of poll numbers seemed to confirm that general consensus. His boringly traditional Republican vice-presidential running mate got good reviews for his performance in a little-watched debate a week or so later, largely by indignantly denying that that he or Trump had ever said the ridiculous things that were being alleged, but the next couple of days of news were full of undeniable videotaped evidence that Trump had indeed said all of those ridiculous things. Since our last post on Friday there has surfaced an 11-year-old videotape of Trump bragging on a hot mic to his “Access Hollywood” interviewer about how his celebrity allows him to do deplorable things to both single and married women that our old-fashoined Republican editorial standards forbid us from explaining in such obscene terms as he used, which led to a rash of high-ranking Republican’s denouncing his candidacy, and all he could offer was a rather ambiguous apology and a plausible if contestable claim that Clinton’s ex-president husband was even worse.
Given all that, Clinton’s failure to make an incontestable metaphorical out against Trump on Sunday night means that he’s at least metaphorically safe on first base and still with a chance of metaphorically making it all the way home.
The first 15 minutes or so of the debate were devoted to that appalling “Access Hollywood” videotape, but that had been preceded earlier in the day by Trump’s news conference with a woman who alleges that Clinton’s husband had raped her, another woman who won a sizable settlement after alleging that Clinton’s husband had exposed himself to her, another who claims that Clinton’s husband groped her, and yet another who was a 12-year-old rape victim whose attacker had the charges reduced because of Clinton herself’s aggressive legal defense on his behalf. Trump alluded to all of it after after apologizing for his own boasts of similar behavior, which he also described as mere “locker room banter,” and Clinton conspicuously declined defend her husband’s past but instead said she would take the advice of inexplicably popular President Barack Obama’s inexplicably popular wife that “When they take the low road, we take the high road.” This will probably hearten her die-hard supporters, and even be sufficient for those more reluctant supporters who hate Trump more, but we doubt it was persuasive to even the most reluctant supporter.
Over the next few days we expect to hear a lot about that married woman who is alleging in court that Trump attacked her in pretty much the same way he was bragging about attacking women in that videotaped “locker room banter,” and one of Trump’s two ex-wife’s allegations sworn testimony that he raped her, which was sworn into court testimony but then recanted after she signed on to a generous alimony settlement that included a “no public disparagement” clause, along with numerous beauty queens and reality show starlets alleging the same sort of boorish behavior associated with Clinton’s husband. There likely won’t be as much attention paid to the recently cleared-for-trial claims of a woman that she was raped by Trump when she was 13 years old, given that his alleged co-defendant was the convicted billionaire sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein, who is also a friend and flying partner of Clinton’s husband, but in any case we’ll wind up loathing both Trump and Clinton, and expect that so will much of America. Clinton’s media allies can also call up Trump’s past claims that the impeachment of Clinton’s was a Republican mania and his disparagement of that woman who claims Clinton’s husband exposed himself to her and his past defense of both Clinton and creepy husband, and it will wind up as another disgusting tie.
The rest of it was devoted to what passes for “issues” these days, and anyone who slogged through all that boring stuff would probably call it a tie going to the runner. Secretary of State Clinton offered that ridiculously aplogetic “re-set” button with Russia that blamed any misunderstandings with the peace-loving dictator Vladimir Putin that encouraged his revanchist ambitions in Georgia and Ukraine and perhaps the rest of the former Soviet Empire, but she came off tougher on Russia than Trump, who still claims that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that dismantled the Soviet Empire is “obsolete” and clings to some hope that he and the “strong” Putin can join forces to defeat Islamic terrorism even as Russia is clearly aligned with the Iranian government that Trump rightly criticizes Clinton for helping, and he was forced to renounce his vice-presidential candidate’s more forceful stand in that supposedly winning vice-presidential debate, so we wound up loathing both all the more, and suspect that the rest of the country didn’t notice how awful both are. There was some talk about tax policy, with Clinton indignantly noting and Trump proudly admitting that he hasn’t paid much in the way of income tax since declaring a $916 million loss 20 years ago, but it was unclear if either was committed to changing that the laws that made possible.
Although the moderators did seem favor Clinton they allowed some questions about her recently-leaked big money speeches to Wall Street donors, which Clinton more or less admitted were true, and she embarrassed herself further trying to invoke “Honest” Abe Lincoln and George “I’ll Never Lie” Washington to justify it, but the coming news cycle will no doubt feature Trump’s boasts about the bribes he’s made and similar scandals he’s racked up in the private sector. In Clinton’s favor she didn’t need any laser pointers to guide her onto the stage or suffer a coughing fit or otherwise exhibit any symptoms of the imminently many fatal illnesses that have been ascribed to her, while that sniffling problem of Trump’s that was widely remarked on after the first debate seems to have gotten worse, and that “taking the high road” strategy might work out for her after the media takes the low road for her in the upcoming week.
Trump’s most ardent supporters and the more reluctant and his more reluctant Clinton-hating supporters will be delighted that he outright called her “the devil” and promised to have her imprisoned if he became president, his more die-hard supporter and the more reluctant ones who fear Trump will probably find it redolent of the South American banana republics that Trump warns we’re becoming. Clinton’s most ardent and most reluctant supporters will praise her for taking the high road, and cheer on the media as it takes the low road this week, and by the end of it we’ll be deep in the gutter. Which leaves us loathing both of these horrible people, and what we can guess are their horrible policies, which in both cases don’t even specifically address what to about the national debt and health care and a degenerate culture that has wound up offering two such spectacularly awful choices.
The good news, if you need some, is that there’s only one debate and less than four weeks left before this is all over, one way or the other.

— Bud Norman

Of Hurled Stones and Glass Houses

All through the Republican primaries one of the arguments most often made for the candidacy of Donald J. Trump was that he was the only one in the field who would be willing to wage a ruthlessly negative campaign against pre-ordained Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The others might politely criticize her policies or make some mention of her many scandals, we were told, but Trump alone would be willing to raise the issue of her character. We never doubted that he would, given the way he bullied his way past “Lyin'” Ted Cruz and “Little” Marco Rubio and “Low Energy” Jeb Bush and Carly “Look at That Face” Fiorina and the rest of the competition, but that only further confirmed our suspicion that his own character was the most susceptible to counter-attack.
Trump has lately been in the down-and-dirty mode that his admirers promised, regaling his rallies with verbal attacks on the Clinton Family Foundation and the Clinton family itself, but his adversaries in the press are having great fun noting the many ironies involved.
After congratulating himself on all the networks for being too gentlemanly to say anything about Clinton’s ex-president husband’s famously tawdry sex life, Trump is now more forthrightly saying things about it. He reminded a New Hampshire audience that President Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, his surrogates are speaking about his numerous other alleged affairs and sexual misbehaviors, which includes allegations ranging from general creepiness to outright rape, and it’s always implied that the current Democratic nominee was complicit in it all.
Which seems fair enough to us. All through Bill Clinton’s presidency we were appalled by the tawdriness of Clinton’s all-too-public private life, being the blue-nosed sort of red-staters who bitterly cling to an old-fashioned notion that a president ought to set some sort of moral example, and after so many years we’re still no more pleased by the idea of him being First Gentleman or whatever he’d be called if his wife gets elected. Even such polite media as The Washington Post have lately been obliged to acknowledge that the Democratic nominee did play a leading role in disparaging the women her husband was involved with and accused by, and given that she’s running as a feminist standard bearer who has insisted that any woman alleging sexual assault must believed it seems a legitimate issue. Alas, it’s Trump who is raising it.
A thrice-married casino-and-strip-club mogul who has publicly boasted about his penis size and all the married babes he’s bagged over the years sounds rather ridiculous when tsk-tsking about anyone else’s behavior, and that illegal immigrant nudie model he’s currently married to doesn’t seem much a role model, so his fans are left to dispute the levels of tawdriness. Some note that Trump hasn’t been accused of rape, but one of his ex-wifes did once make the accusation and another woman has a lawsuit pending alleging that Trump raped her when was 13 years old, which thus far haven’t gotten the press attention that Trump is now inviting. Bill Clinton is a friend of the billionaire and convicted ephebephile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, and has travelled with him on the “Lolita Express” to his Caribbean orgy sites, but Trump has also boasted of his friendship with Epstein and joked about his affinity for younger woman and that woman with the pending lawsuit alleges that she was assaulted at one of Epstein’s parties. The press is also happily pulling up old stories about how Trump had once said that Clinton’s impeachment was “nonsense” about “something totally unimportant,” which his surrogates are having a hard time explaining, and noting that he also disparaged the women involved with his “good friend” and future wedding guest. He called Paula Jones, the Arkansas state employee who alleged that Clinton exposed himself to her in a hotel room she had been summoned to by the Arkansas Highway Patrol while he was governor, a “loser.” He also noted that Lewinsky was less hot than Marilyn Monroe, the screen siren and illicit lover of President John Kennedy, and at the time that was his only criticism of the affair.
Even some of Trump’s most loyal admirers think it better that Trump should stick to his attacks on Clinton’s family foundation, which raised a lot of money from countries and companies and various shady characters who had business before the Secretary of State which often turned out in their favor, but even that very legitimate issue leaves him vulnerable to counter-attacks. Trump has his own charitable foundation, which he doesn’t seem to have contributed much to over the past many years, and lately the press has happily reported that it was forced to pay a fine for a contribution to that Florida Attorney General who decided shortly afterwards not to join three other states in a suit against the seemingly fraudulent “Trump University,” along with other highly questionable activities. Trump’s admirers will point out that he was merely buying rather selling political favors, but the criticism of Clinton are still somewhat blunted in a way that those of other possible Republican candidates wouldn’t have been.
At least Trump fights, we’re told.

— Bud Norman

The Coming Months of Well-Deserved Mud

The seemingly certain nominees of both of America’s major political parties have already announced their intention to hurl all sorts of horrible accusations about one another’s low moral character over the summer and into the fall, and alas, almost every word of it will be true.
Both candidates have been in the public eye for several decades, and according to all the opinion polls are unfavorably regarded by the vast majority of the public, and at this point the only plausible argument for either of them is that the other is even worse, so there’s really nothing left to do but throw the plentiful supplies of mud. They could talk about the many serious issues facing the country, but that’s not nearly so entertaining to the public, and there’s no telling where either of them might end up on any of that stuff by Inauguration Day in any case.
The presumptive Republican nominee, self-described billionaire businessman Donald J. Trump, has quite characteristically bragged to The New York Times about his plans to insult his way to the presidency, and it seems a sound strategy. He has somehow managed to dispatch a large field of far more qualified and honorable candidates in the primary campaign by this method, and in the general election he won’t have to resort to outright lies and exaggerated irrelevancies to do it. The Democratic nominee is former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has disgraced each post with her corrupt and dishonest and downright sleazy ways, and her numerous ancient and on-going scandals and glaring failings as a human being are certainly something one should take into consideration when making her the putative leader of the free world. Still, the strategy entails certain risks.
Clinton and her equally corrupt and dishonest and downright sleazy ex-President of the United States husband are responsible for the coinage of the term “politics of personal destruction,” and in all their mostly-won battles they’ve rarely had a more target-rich terrain than Trump. The presumptive Republican nominee is a thrice-married and four-times-bankrupt casino-and-strip-joint mogul and former professional-wrestling and reality-show star who ran a scam university and vitamin-peddling scheme who has run several businesses into the ground and brags about the politicians he’s bought off and the married babes he’s bagged and mocks a guy’s physical handicap and cheats at golf, and all the scandals yet to come on both sides will often overlap.
Trump has rightly declared that Bill Clinton’s many tawdry sex scandals are fair game, and Clinton has already rightly responded that the equally tawdry sex life Trump has so often bragged about should also be considered. Trump might even bring up the at-this-point-little-known fact that Bill Clinton has been hanging around with convicted billionaire ephebophile Jeffrey Epstein, which well deserves wider attention, but Clinton can easily cite that pesky 2002 New York Magazine interview where Trump said “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” He can cite the shady nature of the Clinton’s family foundation, and she can cite the $100,000 donation he gave to it. He can damn the truly damnable lies she told in the aftermath of her disastrous toppling of the Libyan government, but she can note that his claims to have opposed that ill-fated missions are also damnable lies and if she insinuates that the never-take-blame and blatantly dishonest Trump would have resorted to the same mistruths we’ll have to give the devil her due. If Trump wants to go back in time he can recall how Clinton ruthlessly used her husband’s presidential power to railroad an honest public servant in the White House travel office to enrich her friends, and Clinton will surely make a celebrity of the humble widow that Trump’s lawyers tried to have evicted from home so he could build a parking lot for his limo. Trump is so sleazy he invited Clinton to his third wedding, and Clinton is so sleazy she accepted the invitation, and in a year that was supposed to have toppled our sleazy pop-cultural and political establishment this is what we’re left with.
All our previous assumptions about America having been shattered, we now have no idea how it will turn out. Such old-time media as The New York Times and The Washington Post will continue to be aghast at the moral rectitude of Trump, and continue for at least another four years to turn a blind eye to the vileness of the Clintons. Such new-fangled and self-described conservative media as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, who were once so aghast at the Clintons’ moral rectitude, will continue to turn a blind eye to the vileness that Trump actually brags about. By now none of them are much trusted by almost anyone, though, so we never can guess which one of those awful reality shows is going to be the big hit, so the race is hard to handicap. It might all come down to the racial and ethnic and class divisions that have been so thoroughly exacerbated after the eight years of “Hope and Change” that the last huckster brought us, and the inevitable brawls that have already begun, but that’s also hard to figure these days.

— Bud Norman