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Sunday, Dec 10, 2017
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As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

WASHINGTON — "You can do anything," Donald Trump once boasted, speaking of groping and kissing unsuspecting women.

Maybe he could, but not everyone can.

The man who openly bragged about grabbing women's private parts — but denied he really did so — was elected president months before the cascading sexual harassment allegations that have been toppling the careers of powerful men in Hollywood, business, the media and politics. He won even though more than a dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct, and roughly half of all voters said they were bothered by his treatment of women, according to exit polls.

Now, as one prominent figure after another takes a dive, the question remains: Why not Trump?

"A lot of people who voted for him recognized that he was what he was, but wanted a change and so they were willing to go along," theorizes Jessica Leeds, one of the first women to step forward and accuse Trump of groping her, decades ago on an airplane.

The charges leveled against him emerged in the supercharged campaign, when there was so much noise and chaos that they were just another episode for gobsmacked voters to try to absorb — or tune out.

And Trump's unconventional candidacy created an entirely different set of rules.

"Trump is immune to the laws of political physics because it's not his job to be a politician, it's his job to burn down the system," says Eric Dezenhall, a crisis management expert in Washington.

Now Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, accused of assaulting teenage girls when he was in his 30s, is waving that same alternative rulebook.

As for Trump, the president is selectively aiming his Twitter guns at those under scrutiny.

He quickly unloaded on Democrat Al Franken after the Minnesota senator was accused Thursday of forcibly kissing and groping a Fox TV sports correspondent, now a Los Angeles radio anchor, during a 2006 USO tour.

Yet Trump has been largely mum as Washington Republicans try to figure out what to do about Moore.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump finds the allegations "very troubling."

Even in this charged environment, when every new allegation can produce screaming headlines, Trump may well be able to go his own way — and take a hands-off approach to Moore.

"Trump's base likes him when he's gratuitously ornery: Insulting war heroes, Gold Star families and the disabled have all been good for him, so what does he gain by strongly opining on Moore?" asks Dezenhall. "Nothing that I can see, so as a guideline, he doesn't need to do all that much."

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