The Sycophant and the Sociopath

Donald Trump specializes in spectacular breakups.

First there was Ivana. Then there was Marla. Now comes trouble in paradise with Kim.

.. This time, it wasn’t just lust, betrayal and secrets splayed across Page Six. This time, it was in Congress, part of an investigation that could lead to legal jeopardy for the Trumps or impeachment for the president.

.. In his testimony, Michael Cohen called himself a “fool” when it came to Trump. “I ignored my conscience and acted loyal to a man when I should not have,” Cohen said. A fool for love, held in thrall by Trump. How could anyone be held in thrall by such a sleazy goofball, much less offer to take a bullet for him or make 500 threats on his behalf?

.. “It seems unbelievable that I was so mesmerized by Donald Trump that I was willing to do things for him that I knew were absolutely wrong,” said Cohen in his “Goodfellas” accent, adding that being around the “icon” was “intoxicating.”

“Mr. Trump is an enigma,” Cohen said. “He is complicated, as am I.”

Actually, Trump is simple, grasping for money, attention and fame. The enigma about Trump is why he cut off his lap dog so brutally that Cohen fell into the embrace of Robert Mueller and New York federal prosecutors. Trump is often compared to a mob boss, but Michael Corleone would never turn on a loyal capo, only on one who had crossed him.

The portrait Cohen drew of Trump was not surprising. It has been apparent for some time that the president is a con man, racist, cheat and liar. (See: Jared Kushner security clearance.)

What was most compelling about the congressional hearing was the portrait of the sadistic relationship between the sycophant and the sociopath.

Why Not Mike Pence?

our first openly Hefnerian president gets impeached

.. If Trump were impeached and removed from the White House, the presidency would devolve to precisely the kind of man whom much of pre-Trump religious conservatism insisted that it wanted in the Oval Office: an evangelical Christian family man with a bluenose’s temperament and a boring Reaganite checklist of beliefs.

.. evangelical leaders currently fretting about Trump’s political position would face a case where doing the consistent thing — namely, returning to their Bill Clinton-era position that character counts in presidents and using illegal means to conceal gross infidelities are impeachable offenses — would actually deliver something closer to what they claimed to want, not so very long ago: not a liberal in the White House, but President Mike Pence.

.. We do not have a parliamentary system where party leaders fight internal battles and get replaced by their internal rivals on the regular; instead, we elect a quasi-monarch, whose removal seems as traumatic as a regicide. And thus party loyalists tend to identify with their leaders the way royalists identify with their kings, and regard the prospect of impeachment not as an opportunity for a change of leadership but a revolutionary threat.

.. Sure, making use of Donald Trump to keep Hillary Clinton from being president is a fascinating flourish by history’s Author, but the idea that the Almighty might use a porn star to make Mike Pence president represents, if anything, an even more amazing miracle.
.. So anyone interested in looking for the hand of God in history should probably welcome that miracle’s arrival
.. That God is using Trump not as an agent of his good work but as a kind of ongoing test of everyone else’s moral character seems like a not-unreasonable inference to draw.

.. And for those same religious conservatives to pass up the chance, preferring a scorched-earth battle in defense of priapism, would be a sad confirmation of the point that a beloved Christian author made many years ago: The doors of hell are locked on the inside.

Save the Phony Weinstein Outrage, Republicans

Trump is more consistent. He is a pig in public as well as behind closed doors. In 1992, New York Magazine reported that he said the best way to deal with women is to treat them like excrement, though he used a more vulgar term. He has followed his own advice. His first wife, Ivana Trump, accused him of raping her in a fit of rage. (She later denied that the events she’d recounted were rape “in a literal or criminal sense,” but stuck to the underlying story.)

.. He owned beauty pageants and, by his own admission, would barge into changing rooms to ogle the naked contestants. The makeup artist Jill Harth said that he tried to rape her. Multiple women have accused him of groping and sexual harassment.

.. Somehow, in the wake of the Weinstein revelations, the president’s supporters appear to believe they hold the moral high ground. Donald Trump Jr. — a man who once said that women who can’t handle workplace sexual harassment “should go maybe teach kindergarten” — has been tweeting about Weinstein incessantly.

.. For the past 11 months, many feminists have been reeling from the defeat of the first female major-party presidential candidate by a predatory misogynist. The confirmation that a hugely powerful man who is supposed to be on our side is just as bad as Trump is shattering.

.. Yes, Ailes had to leave Fox News after charges that he’d demanded sexual favors from women in exchange for professional opportunities. But in the aftermath, conservatives did not ostracize him. Instead, Trump defended Ailes and defamed his accusers, then brought him on as an adviser

 

The Hollywood Conspiracy of Silence

It’s nearly impossible to believe the big stars who say they didn’t know about Harvey Weinstein’s revolting acts.

Accepting the 2005 Oscar he won for gaining a few pounds and being tortured in Syriana, George Clooney made the case for Hollywood as America’s moral conscience:

.. How can Clooney, Meryl Streep, and their peers continue to claim America’s moral high ground when they simply shrugged at what was going on with their pal Harvey Weinstein?

.. Pitt had once threatened to give Weinstein a “Missouri whooping” after the producer sexually harassed his then-girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow in the 1990s.

.. Another Ocean’s buddy, Matt Damon, personally called up Sharon Waxman, then a New York Times reporter, to intercede against a story that would have been unflattering to Weinstein.

.. Did Damon also never talk to Pitt on the set of the Ocean’s movies? Or on the set of The Departed, which Pitt produced and Damon starred in? Or maybe in between takes on Happy Feet 2, in which Pitt and Damon played a zany pair of gay crustaceans?

.. Entertainment reporters, tending to be both a) in awe of their subjects and b) unschooled in Washington-style spot-the-loophole weasel talk, haven’t quite nailed down what either of them knew.

.. “I did five or six movies with Harvey. I never saw this. I think a lot of actors have come out and said, everybody’s saying we all knew. That’s not true. This type of predation happens behind closed doors, and out of public view.” “I’ve never seen any of this behavior — ever,” Clooney told The Daily Beast.

.. Of course Damon and Clooney never saw the misbehavior. When Weinstein wants a tête-à-tête with Ashley Judd in his bathrobe, Damon and Clooney aren’t going to be invited along. The question is, did they know what Weinstein was up to?

.. “I had no idea that it had gone to the level of having to pay off eight women for their silence, and that these women were threatened and victimized.” The comment seems to be limited to “these women” — the eight who were paid off. Like a politician, Clooney is answering a question nobody asked. Did he know Weinstein was inviting actresses to business meetings that turned into bedroom meetings that turned into sexual overtures with career implications?

.. Could news of such revolting acts really never have reached Clooney’s ears? It seems more likely that Clooney was part of a conspiracy of silence.

.. Movie Clooney is very interested in exposing the pernicious actions of oil companies (Syriana), chemical companies (Michael Clayton), TV hucksters (Money Monster), McCarthyism (Good Night, and Good Luck), and the masterminds of the first Gulf War (Three Kings). Real-life Clooney plugs his ears when people in Hollywood gossip about a subject that has evidently been a hot topic of conversation since Pauly Shore was considered a movie star. Weinstein’s habits were such an open secret they were joked about on 30 Rock and at an Oscar press conference.

.. Power, to Streep, is someone like Weinstein, someone who could cast her or not cast her, possibly even influence the hiring decisions of others. And Weinstein’s skill in campaigning for Oscars is unparalleled. He was widely credited for winning her a third Oscar for The Iron Lady, notably by Streep herself, who said in her acceptance speech, “I want to thank God — Harvey Weinstein.”

.. The message could hardly be more clear to them that Weinsteinian behavior is simply the price that must be paid.

.. “Evans wanted to be an actress, and although she had heard rumors about Weinstein she let him have her number.” Would Streep have us believe that aspiring actresses still in college knew more about industry players than she did?

.. Think of all of the hundreds of actresses, and thousands of other industry people, Streep has worked with over the years. None of this ever came up?

.. For Clooney or Damon or Pitt or Streep to pick up a phone and call a reporter to speak about Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behavior all these years would have taken a minimal amount of guts. It could have cost them gigs, or awards. The Weinstein debacle has implicated more or less everyone in Hollywood who knew about the abhorrent behavior and remained silent, which must mean just about everyone in Hollywood.

From now on the leading Hollywood personalities deserve nothing but derision when they pretend to be courageous truth-tellers. They are neither.