By Sam Tarr
October 9 2016: The Massasoit Tribune
Republican nominee for President Donald Trump, has run a campaign full of controversy and seemingly inescapable moments of scandal. It seemed every week more stories filled time on cable news and space on front pages, each time Trump being able to move on and stay level in the polls.
But after Friday night’s reveal of a hot-mic video, and the immediate fallout, it seems that the Trump campaign may have found a scandal it cannot put behind them.
It was shaping up to be a rather unremarkable week in the 2016 Presidential race. Two damning articles, a Vice Presidential debate, and a natural disaster was doing little to change the trajectory of the two campaigns.
The Associated Press reported Monday, from multiple sources, that Trump was “lewd and sexist” on the set of reality show “The Apprentice.” Sources said Trump openly rated women, both cast and crew, based on their appearance, along with several other instances of inappropriate conduct.
Trump issued a denial and seemed to be escaping once again, from another damaging story.
The story came in the wake of a poor debate performance and in a New York Times story about his $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax return. The article showing that it was possible for Trump to have avoided paying income taxes for up to 18 years.
Trump and surrogates like Rudy Giuliani, did not deny the claim, even saying that if it were true, it only proves the Republican nominee is a “genius.”
Mike Pence’s professional demeanor during Tuesday night’s Vice Presidential debate, afforded him a much needed win, if only on style points. Hurricane Matthew began dominating the news cycle, ravaging Haiti and bearing down on Florida.
For the moment the campaign seemed to be stabilizing after a challenging weekend.
That was until the Washington Post revealed a recording it acquired of Donald Trump talking with “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush on a bus while Trump was arriving for an appearance on the soap opera “Days of our lives.”
In the video Trump speaks in vulgar terms about a married woman he “moved on” but failed to seduce. The two then talk crudely about “Days of Our Lives” actress Arianne Zucker, who is waiting for them outside.
“Your girl’s hot as s***, in the purple,” said Bush on the tape, referring to Zucker.
“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says. “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.”
Trump boasts that, in his view, his star-status allows him to make sexual advances without consent.
“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said. “You can do anything.”
“Grab them by the p***y,” Trump said. “You can do anything.”
The tape sent shockwaves through the campaign, news and social media, as well as Washington. The backlash started immediately and played out continuously throughout Saturday. The Trump campaign immediately issued a statement.
“This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course-not even close.” The statement then offered and apology “if anyone was offended.”
It was largely deemed insufficient and Trump released a video statement, calling the video a “distraction.” He expressed regret briefly and then finished the 90 second statement by signaling an attack on Bill and Hillary Clinton.
“Bill Clinton has actually abused women,” Trump said in the video, “and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.”
“We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.” Trump said.
Trump signaling this intended line of attack for Sunday’s second debate, while condemnation began pouring in from across the country.
The Democrats immediately seized the moment. Harry Reid, senate minority leader of Nevada, said it was a “moment of truth for Republicans.”
“It is time for every Republican elected official in this county to revoke their endorsements of Donald Trump and state that they will not vote for their party’s nominee, who has been caught on tape bragging about routinely sexually assaulting women,” Reid said in a statement.
Hillary Clinton on Twitter called the video “horrific.” Her Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine in a post of his own said, “It makes me sick to my stomach.”
The 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who vocally opposes Trump’s candidacy wasted no time condemning current Republican standard bearer.
“Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.”
Defections within the GOP were not far behind.
It started in Utah with Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Governor Gary Herbert withdrawing their support. Utah senator Mike Lee and Colorado congressman Mike Coffman both called for the Republican nominee to step aside.
The New York Times reported that by mid-Saturday at least 21 Republican Trump-supporting members of congress have retracted that support. The list includes several high profile members including South Dakota senator John Thune, New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte, and Arizona Senator John McCain. McCain previously expressed support while facing a close reelection battle.
“I thought it important I respect the fact that Donald Trump won a majority of the delegates,” McCain said in a statement, saying these latest revelations “make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan tried to distance himself from Trump as well. Ryan disinvited Donald Trump from a campaign event scheduled Saturday, the day before the second presidential debate. Mike Pence was scheduled to appear in his place, but later pulled out.
Pence, who some observed as not aggressively defending his running mate during the vice presidential debate, issued his own statement of condemnation.
“I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them,” Mr. Pence said. “We pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night.”
The debate, which was already leaning into the do-or-die territory for the Republican nominee, is certainly there now. CNN’s Anderson Cooper will moderate Sunday’s town hall style debate and will certainly have Trump answer for this latest controversy.
Clinton will also likely be tasked with answering for the latest WikiLeaks findings muddled in the fallout of the Trump tape.
A trove of e-mails released late Friday, include excerpts from Clinton’s Wall St. speeches. Officials in her campaign flag these excerpts with tags such as “CLINTON ADMITS SH IS OUT OF TOUCH” and other that the campaign viewed may be problematic if found.
The speeches, the release of which were pressed by challenger VT Senator Bernie Sanders, were a hot topic in the Democratic primaries. But it appears that once again a damaging event for the Clinton campaign is struggling to break into the news cycle amidst the chaos of the Trump campaign.
Trump stayed defiant however, spending Saturday bunkered down at Trump Tower in Manhattan. He appeared briefly to wave to cheering supporters, but decided not to have any formal campaign appearances. He did speak with Robert Costa of the Washington Post via phone. Costa reported on Twitter that Trump addressed the increasing calls for him to step aside.
“They’re not going to make me quit and they can’t make me quit” Trump said. “I’ve never quit in my life… I can give you my word that I’m never leaving.”
Mitt Romney stood in the Las Vegas sun, at a rally of supporters for congressman Joe Heck. Those supporters began heckling and booing Heck, while he disavowed Donald Trump.
The question may not be whether or not Donald Trump’s campaign for President survives this latest scandal. But whether or not the Republican party can survive a defiant and determined Donald Trump, disinterested in its salvation.