Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Kompromat Takes Down Trump

His gross foibles are an easy target, but isn’t the election about more?

By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
The Wall Street Journal
October 12, 2016

Republican voters knew Donald Trump was a philandering playboy before they nominated him—one of the many reasons choosing him was a mistake.

Philandering is a standard part of the process by which a wife is traded in for a younger one, which Mr. Trump did twice. No secret tape is necessary. In one of his memoirs, Mr. Trump boasts of the “very happily married and important women” who supposedly succumbed to his improbable charms.

Still, talk about importing Russian methods (i.e., “kompromat”) into the U.S. election, with the tape leak, tax leak and the stagy cameo by the aggrieved beauty queen. Then came the Obama administration’s formal accusation on Friday of Russian meddling in the political process. This seemed less aimed at warning off Russia than at underscoring a Democratic talking point that Mr. Trump is a Russian agent.

For the sake of America, the election better be a blowout, because otherwise “rigged” will be the cry from Breitbart and the rest of the pro-Donald media.

Mr. Trump, with his glaring deficiencies and vulnerabilities, was always going to be the most stringent possible test of whether it’s plausible for anybody other than a career politician to get elected president. And yet the tape fuss is hard to grok from a certain perspective.

The American people twice elected Bill Clinton knowing he was a compulsive womanizer. His party put him up for re-election in 1996 despite the apparent knowledge of many senior members that he had conducted a sexual liaison with a 22-year-old White House intern. Even today, his presidency is remembered fondly by the American people. His wife who stuck by him through serial infidelities is now riding his long-term coattails to the White House.

The only difference is that Mr. Trump has not spent considerable private and public resources covering up his indiscretions, because he didn’t treat them as indiscretions. They were a selling point of his public persona.

To Trump voters and the undecided, nothing changed in the past week. If you supported Mr. Trump or were thinking about supporting Mr. Trump, you were already discounting his marital history, his flamboyant lifestyle (advertised repeatedly on Howard Stern’s radio show), his bankruptcies, his use of real-estate-friendly tax loopholes.

You supported him, presumably, because of his stance that the globalization megatrend has been managed with scant concern for its effect on American workers. Yet Trumpism may surprise us by turning out to be less a death cry of the working class than a harbinger of its reappreciation. Our guess is that computers will struggle to competently perform physical tasks long after many species of office drone have been put out of business. If so, grievance can rally a rising class as easily as a sinking one.

The kompromat attack on Mr. Trump clearly has its orchestrated elements—witness the readiness of Mrs. Clinton’s media allies to follow up her mention of the offended 1996 Miss Universe in the first debate. Witness the media’s seamless leap to treat the infantile sex banter of two man-babies on an upholstered bus as the equivalent of “sexual assault.”

A precedent for such orchestrated sandbagging naturally comes to mind. It was the Obama campaign and Chicago Tribune’s manufacture of divorce-related scandals to drive his two most formidable opponents, one Democrat and one Republican, out of the 2004 U.S. Senate race.

Mrs. Clinton spoke of having private and public stances on issues in one of her Goldman Sachs speeches. She should have mentioned a third principle: Democrats run on character assassination, as Mr. Obama also did against Mitt Romney, rather than frankly own up to a rent-seeking, social-engineering, Big Government agenda that voters reject when it’s presented plainly to them.

With his debate performance the real-estate developer didn’t revive his presidential hopes but showed he can remain a populist icon on which future media ambitions can be built. Mr. Trump, we’re likely to find, doesn’t actually plan to lose the $100 million he claims to have spent on the race. (He is not stupid.)

Mrs. Clinton deserves kudos for her jaunty aplomb under difficult circumstances. NBC is in an interesting position, having sat on a tape in its possession for 11 years on which Mr. Trump was unwittingly recorded mugging for an apparently appreciative NBC TV personality. The network claims it was victim of a leak. When do first-class news organizations leak their scoops to their competitors?

NBC was Mr. Trump’s partner in “The Apprentice.” It must have thousands of hours of outtakes. Let’s hear it all, NBC, the stuff that makes Mr. Trump look good, bad or indifferent, in the name of balance. Otherwise, perhaps the network would like to register as a pro-Clinton PAC.

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