A few things you’re unlikely to read elsewhere: Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy — and Americans’ ability to choose their next leader — is being destroyed by a sequence of events way too well orchestrated to be coincidental.
This is not about the billionaire’s qualifications or disqualifications to move into the Oval Office, his braggadocio, his awful manners, alleged sexual harassment, crass behavior, ostentatious wealth.
Americans have had unsavory political leaders before, most recently Hillary Clinton’s charming unfaithful hubby, who, among other things, received oral sex from an intern in that same revered office. And then lied about it to authorities.
This is about Americans being politically manipulated quite cleverly, something people do not appreciate, if they’re allowed to be aware of it. Recent events could be a movie called “Wag the Dog – Again.”
Let’s consult the autumn timeline: A few days before the first presidential debate last month, The New York Times says it received anonymously some select pages of Trump tax returns from a generation ago.
They’re extremely tempting for media exploitation because Trump has declined to release tax returns, which isn’t required but has become routine. If you want media to chase anything, tell them they can’t have it. They can’t help themselves.
These tax pages, which the newspaper claims arrived in an unmarked envelope, showed a huge Trump business loss. Yes, it’s illegal to release personal tax information. But recall the IRS selectively crippling conservative nonprofits during President Barack Obama’s re-election bid in the 2012 cycle by stalling their applications.
The president professed outrage then to match public outcry. Investigations followed. The once-respected FBI said it was stumped, could not find anything worth prosecuting in a federal agency selectively going after a president’s political opponents in an election year. End of story.
So Trump taxes re-entered the media news stream.
Then, two days before the Oct. 9 debate an “Access Hollywood” tape gets leaked with awful audio of Trump boasting crudely about using his wealth and celebrity to successfully grope and kiss women at will.
This endlessly replayed tape, which relies on the thrice-married Trump’s reputation for crudeness and affairs, caused widespread disgust and gave some Republicans cover to un-endorse the GOP nominee. All of which helps Clinton.
Now NBC, which employed Clinton’s daughter at a salary far beyond her experience or talents, has possessed this terrible tape since 2005. It was suppressed throughout Trump’s highly successful run hosting 186 episodes of “The Apprentice,” which was on — Oh, look! — NBC.
The network that was so shocked over Trump’s professed indiscretions has replaced Trump as “Apprentice” host with another media celebrity and adopted Republican politician, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who once announced his gubernatorial candidacy on NBC.
Four days after the video leak, a growing string of women separately, but coincidentally, found the will and strength to break their sometimes decadeslong silence to publicly declare they too had been groped and kissed by Trump.
Trump has vehemently denied these allegations. He’s apologized for his sexual boasts, which he claimed never really occurred. But that put him on defense, which he kept playing. And which the media kept covering.
All this continued to submerge Clinton’s own scandalous troubles. Using hacked information from an unidentified source, WikiLeaks released thousands of Clinton campaign emails. They revealed disdain for Roman Catholics, secret links with journalists, collusion with the family foundation and against other Democrats, duplicitous political positions, campaign infighting and devastating evaluations of Clinton’s talents by her own campaign chief.
Let’s see, which story do you think would draw maximum interest — combing through thousands of pages of stolen documents revealing an unpopular, untrustworthy Democrat proving why she’s unpopular and untrusted? Or obnoxious TV celebrity accused with perfect timing of sliding his hand up women’s skirts, just as he had boasted on tape?
None of this addresses the truth of these charges. Clinton has often said female victims of sexual predators should be believed by default. Unless it seems they’re accusing her husband. She attacked them.
What this sordid chapter does address is a pattern of perfectly timed video embarrassments against Clinton opponents. Obama, now her staunch proponent, once faced a series of leaked videos of his preacher’s racist, anti-Semitic sermons.
They did not derail his candidacy in 2008. This year’s version —about a onetime Clinton friend, donor and longtime Democrat turned Republican — seems likely to be more effective.
Andrew Malcolm is an author and veteran national and foreign correspondent covering politics since the 1960s. Follow him on Twitter at @AHMalcolm.