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The tale of the president and the porn star may seem like a welcome, if tawdry distraction from the ongoing collapse of American democracy, but there's something deeper at work here, warns Charles Blow. No matter how much progress movements like #MeToo can make, they will always be hindered by our misogynist-in-chief.
Blow devotes much of his Monday column to what Melania Trump knew. He's less concerned about the infidelity, because on the outside, "we can never really know what understandings may exist in a marriage, unless the two parties within reveal it." Instead, Blow is disgusted by the fact that Melania knew exactly what she was getting into, all the way back to the night they met, when Trump was on a date with another woman:
According to GQ, 'He sent his companion to the bathroom so he could have a few minutes to chat up the model he’d noticed. But Melania knew of Trump’s reputation — which was immediately confirmed by the fact that he had come to the party with a date and was now asking for her number.' That's right. Melania knew.
Blow then details a brief timeline of Trump's terrible public statements about women, including his daughter Ivanka. In 2006, Trump commented on The View that his own daughter had "a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” Blow reminds his readers that Trump was "newly married to Melania, who will give birth to Barron just 14 days after his appearance on the show." The affair with Daniels began later that year.
Which brings us to present-day payoffs, corruption and the public reckoning over sexual harassment. "It's not clear to me," Blow writes, "if the money paid by Donald Trump’s personal attorney to Clifford, to prevent the disclosure of a sexual affair Clifford says she had with Trump, will be found in violation of federal campaign finance laws. Neither is it clear to me if the courts will allow Clifford to get out of her nondisclosure agreement."
That's a legal issue, while Trump's cheating is a personal matter. What's so troubling for the country is that the president's actions "[fit] into a pattern of behavior and a Trump worldview about women: that they are mere objects and opportunities, a reward owed to men of wealth, and that objections and protestations are invalid."
The situation is especially frustrating to Blow, if not all of us, because while powerful men are being held to account, the most powerful man of all has gone virtually unscathed. As Blow explains:
At the very same time that the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have given voice to women, and led to men being held accountable, particularly in the private sector, Trump has almost single-handedly aided in the numbing of America’s sympathies for women who speak up about the sexual exploits, misdeeds and assaults of elected officials.
When the president is spared blame, it undermines the hard work and sacrifices so many women have made to finally tell their stories.
Blow ends this week's column with an admonishment for all of us to do better, to look beyond the salacious revelations: "America, this is not about partisanship; this is about principle. Each of us must proclaim that this situation is over the line, that women matter, that their voices and their stories matter, that propriety, honor and character matter."
Read the entire column here.