This week in Washington, the big political stories centered on sex — one with an unfortunate lack of specificity, the other offering all too many details.
After days of rumours that Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s pick for the open Supreme Court seat, was facing an allegation somehow related to sexual assault, his accuser came forward and told her story to the Washington Post. Christine Blasey Ford shed her anonymity and said Kavanaugh had attempted to rape her when they were high school students. She remembered how the event occurred, she said, but not exactly when or where. These details are important, but it seems we’ll never know what exactly happened at a suburban Washington house party sometime in the summer of 1982.
We know a lot more about a sexual encounter that took place in 2006 — though most of us would rather not know and the details aren’t necessary to help settle a matter of national importance. Stormy Daniels’s book Full Disclosure won’t hit stores until October 2, but the most disgusting disclosures are already public as of this week. ‘Stormy Daniels shares XXX-rated details of her alleged affair with Trump in new book,’ the CNN.com headline blared. The first line of the piece was a disclaimer that hardly seemed necessary after that: ‘This story contains graphic sexual imagery.’
Daniels is the porn star who alleges she had an affair with Trump a dozen years ago, just after his son with his wife Melania, Barron, was born. Trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, has pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the $130,000 in hush money he paid her on Trump’s behalf right before the 2016 presidential election. The nondisclosure agreement she signed is so null that she not only describes the relationship in her book — she describes the member which with she had the relationship.
‘His penis is distinctive in a certain way, and I sometimes think that’s one of the reasons he initially didn’t tweet at me like he does so many women,’ CNN quotes Daniels writing in her book. ‘He knew I could pick his dick out of a lineup. He knows he has an unusual penis. It has a huge mushroom head. Like a toadstool.’ She went on to liken it to the Mario Kart video game figure Toad. ‘I lay there, annoyed that I was getting fucked by a guy with Yeti pubes and a dick like the mushroom character in Mario Kart.’
It was then that I realised why some of my colleagues had been discussing a Nintendo franchise in the office earlier that day. I came a bit late to the news: I was catching up on the day’s political stories as I ate dinner blocks from the White House. I didn’t manage to finish the meal after that.
On the bright side, I thought, I don’t have children, who might have caught the reporting on CNN or the many other outlets that ran with what might not have even been the most salacious story of the week. Who would want to explain to them why adults were suddenly so interested in the cute and colourful character who’s as lovable as he is loyal?
I wasn’t alone. ‘Our nation has reached a disturbing pass when the mass of allegations and evidence swirling around our president requires parents in every part of the country to clutch the TV remote for fear that some news about the highest official in the land will reach their children’s ears.’
Oh, wait. That statement was actually made in 1998. Gary Bauer, then the president of the socially conservative activist group the Family Research Council, was writing about then-president Bill Clinton and the details that were leaking (no pun intended) about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, such as the existence of a semen-stained blue dress and the president’s predilection for acts involving cigars. Bauer continued, in words that have already come to haunt him after his support of Donald Trump: ‘The seamy facts under public discussion are shameful enough. But fascination with this story should not be allowed to obscure the deeper lesson these incidents impart. That lesson is this: Character counts — in a people, in the institutions of our society, and in our national leadership. In character is destiny. Our founders believed and set down in their own words that only a virtuous people could remain free.’
Gary Bauer hasn’t said a word about being worried in 2018 about what children are hearing on television about ‘the highest official in the land.’ He has tweeted about the Kavanaugh accusation, though, claiming that Democrats haven’t ‘really cared about women.’ He was so upset about the salacious details being reported about Bill Clinton in 1998, though, that he expressed sentiments similar to those in his article at a speech at the Christian Coalition convention that year: ‘I walk around my home with the TV remote in my hand for fear that [my children] will come in the room when a story about the president comes on. [Thanks to Clinton] our kids have been taught that fidelity is old-fashioned, that adultery is the norm. This [sex scandal] is the equivalent of a cultural oil spill.’
Fellow evangelical leader Pat Robertson was just as angry about what children might be learning from the Lewinsky scandal. At that same conference, he declared that Clinton had ‘debauched, debased, and defamed’ the presidency. He too has remained silent on the details everyone in the country was reading about this week.
In a 1998 letter to his group’s millions of members, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson wrote that Clinton’s affair had ‘brought humiliation on himself, his family and our nation.’ His emotional appeal has particular resonance now, doesn’t it? ‘Why aren’t parents more concerned about what their children are hearing about the President’s behaviour? Are moms and dads not embarrassed by what is occurring? At any given time, 40 per cent of the nation’s children list the President of the United States as the person they most admire. What are they learning from Mr Clinton? What have we taught our boys about respecting women? What have our little girls learned about men? How can we estimate the impact of this scandal on future generations? How in the world can 7 out of 10 Americans continue to say that nothing matters except a robust economy?’
Dobson, like his fellow Christian supporters of Donald Trump, has said nothing about what ‘children are hearing about the President’s behaviour’ this week. He did tweet this on Friday, though — maybe it’s something of a secret mea culpa: ‘Dear God, no matter our family’s circumstances, let us never waver from our charge as parents! Please forgive us for so often failing our children and You. Help us to be worthy of Your trust in us to lead and love our kids. Amen.’