As sex scandals topple the powerful ... Why not Trump?
“You can do anything,” Donald Trump once boasted, speaking of groping and kissing unsuspecting women.
Maybe he could, but not everyone can.
The candidate 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 thick of the 2016 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. “When you have a Mount Everest of allegations, any particular allegation is very hard to get traction on,” says political psychologist Stanley Renshon.
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.
Long a bane to establishment Republicans, Moore is thumbing his nose at calls by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP members of Congress to drop out of the campaign, and accusing them of trying to “steal” the race from his loyal insurgents.
As for Trump, the president who rarely sits out a feeding frenzy 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. McConnell and company have zero interest in welcoming an accused child molester to their ranks nor in seeing their slim 52-48 Senate majority grow even thinner should Moore lose to Democrat Doug Jones in a special election Dec. 12.
Trump did support moves by the national Republican Party to cut off money for Moore. But he hasn’t said whether he still backs Moore’s candidacy.
Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, pressed repeatedly on the matter this week, would say only that Trump “thinks that the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their next senator should be.”
As for the allegations against Moore, Sanders said Trump finds them “very troubling.”
As for Franken, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway told Fox News that Trump had merely “weighed in as he does on the news of the day” when jabbing at the senator.
But Trump’s broadsides at Franken served as an open invitation for critics to revisit his own history of alleged sexual misconduct.