This isn’t about fitness for the presidency. This is about basic human decency.
As Emily Crockett writes, Donald Trump’s leaked 2005 conversation with Access Hollywood’s Bill Bush isn’t merely lewd or colorful. It is an explicit description of sexual assault, and of Trump’s comfort with using his power to take what he wants, and to harm others.
“When you’re a star,” he says, “they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
This isn’t an observation so much as a threat. It comes as Trump sees Arianne Zucker, an actress waiting to lead him to a set.
“I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump tells Bush. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”
The audio is devastating. It elicited Trump’s first apology of the campaign.
“This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago,” he said. “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.”
The apology is perhaps the most telling part of all this. Trump doesn’t think what he said was so bad. He thinks it’s ... normal. He thinks it’s how men talk in locker rooms. He is sorry if anyone was offended.
This is not normal. This is not how men speak in locker rooms. And the problem here is not that someone, somewhere, was offended.
The problem is if the rest of us are not offended.
At long last, have we no decency?
After the audio broke, I saw some on Twitter quoting Joseph Welch’s famous comment to Joseph McCarthy. “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
But the question isn’t whether Trump has any decency. We’ve known for some time that he doesn’t. The question is whether we have any decency — whether we will elect this man, or even come close to electing this man, knowing all we know about him.
Here is the compliment I can pay Donald Trump, and I pay it with real gratitude: He never hid who he was. Perhaps he lacked the self-control, or the self-awareness, but whatever the mechanism, he never obscured his cruelty, or his misogyny, or his greed, or his dishonesty. He is not a clever demagogue but a crude one.
He mocked a disabled reporter while the cameras were rolling. He accused his opponent’s father of conspiring to kill John F. Kennedy. He attacked the parents of a fallen war hero. He retweeted white supremacists. He accused a judge of bias because of his “Mexican heritage.” He directed the world to watch a nonexistent sex tape of a woman he body-shamed a decade ago. He lies, constantly, fluently, and shamelessly. He insults his opponents with schoolyard nicknames while retweeting slavish sycophants.
Trump knows nothing about policy and has learned nothing about it. He has incited violence at his rallies, joked about the assassination of the Democratic nominee, and casually thrown the NATO alliance into doubt. He has proven himself a man of little discipline and less grace, incapable of either forgiving or forgetting, and completely unable to control his own reactions. He believes only what he wants to believe, trusts only the polls that show him ahead, listens only to the people who flatter his ego.
He has done all this in public, and he has done all of it repeatedly, almost gleefully. If we elect him, there will be no excusing our actions to future generations, no pleading ignorance in the face of threat. It was all here. It was all obvious. It will all be visible to our children, and to historians.
Trump told us who he was, showed us who he was, again and again. The test here is not of his decency, but of our own.