This foul year 2020 taketh a lot more than it giveth. But when it giveth, we have no choice but to savor it, because who knows when it’ll happen again?
One of the most psychologically difficult aspects of processing the Trump presidency—besides all the crime, hate, cruelty, and grift—is the fact that most of the legal and ethical transgressions on bold display never result in any real form of punishment for the perpetrator. “Ah, nevertheless,” as the old Twitter joke goes.
I’ve been practically crawling out my skin with desire to see the shameless kleptocratic looters and malignant misogynists of this four-year-long American crisis face some kind of retribution for what they’ve done. I am, as the kids might say, completely horny for justice.
At the beginning, I went big; I craved a full-on Don Jr. perp walk, his sweaty hobo clown face unable to disguise his fear amid the flashbulbs. Then I modified it a bit, settling on maybe Mary Louise Kelly interviewing Mike Pompeo as he heads out of the courthouse on his way to begin a short sentence in a minimum security prison. Now I’ve almost learned to be happy with Hogan Gidley having his mic cut off during an interview with Hallie Jackson, or Sean Spicer hosting his own sad little podcast wherein he interviews contestants who were recently eliminated from Dancing with the Stars, a show that nobody watches on purpose. Payback famine has made me less picky.
But this week, a glimmer of hope that retribution may be in sight for Trump’s misogynist boosters, as yet another small nest of Trumpian gadflies experienced something akin to consequences.
Former New York Observer Editor-in-Chief Ken Kurson is the latest guy aligned with a malignant misogynist president who—surprise!—possibly turns out to himself be a malignant misogynist. Kurson is a dear friend of Jared Kushner, the participation trophy husband of self-anointed woman-helper Ivanka Trump. On Friday, Kurson was taken into custody for allegedly cyber-stalking his ex-wife and a few other people he blamed for the breakup of his marriage. (Sounds like he gave his ex-wife plenty of reasons to leave him that didn’t require other people’s help!) He did the same thing five years ago, during the aforementioned divorce.
Kurson also allegedly installed spyware on an acquaintance’s computer and filed false misconduct reports with their employer. In a statement to The New York Times, Kurson’s lawyer defended him by saying that he was, among other things, “a gifted writer.” (A regular William S. Burroughs, this one.) “Ken will get past it,” the statement concludes. Oh, thank goodness. We were all worried about Ken.
Up next we’ve got Elliott Broidy, exactly the kind of guy who would be on the “do not fuck” list if we women could only get our shit together and unionize. Back in 2018, the raid on Michael Cohen’s offices revealed a plot involving Cohen, Broidy, and “David Dennison” (Donald Trump’s alias, used when paying off Stormy Daniels to cover up the extramarital sexual encounter they’d had right around when his wife Melania had given birth to his youngest publicly known child, Barron).
Cohen had arranged a $1.6 million payment to another nude model, Shera Bechard, in exchange for her silence over a sexual affair she’d had with Broidy that resulted in her becoming pregnant, and the subsequent abortion that Broidy allegedly encouraged. At the time, a lot of people with stronger stomachs than I pointed out that it seemed awfully fishy that Donald Trump’s lawyer would be making hush money payments to a woman whom Donald Trump’s friend allegedly impregnated, using the alias that Donald Trump used to cover up a different affair with another woman.
That whole thing kind of went away, as individual turds in the shitstorm of the Trump era tend to do. But then, this week, Broidy got nailed for acting as an unregistered foreign agent, attempting to meddle in the investigation into an embezzlement scheme involving a Malaysian investment fund, in addition to other skulduggery involving then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (remember that little worm?) and Rick Gates, an absolute all-star when it comes to doing crimes (he pleaded guilty on the small matter of committing conspiracy against the United States).
Broidy faces a maximum of five years in prison. Would it have been more narratively satisfying if the hush money payment would have been the thing to put him away? Maybe. But I’ll take it.
And, because these things happen in threes, there was a third Trump sycophant to recently trip over his own dick: former America’s mayor-turned-movie star Rudy Giuliani, who this week made his debut in Sacha Baron Cohen’s new Borat film, playing the role of pervy interview subject who starts rummaging around in his pants as a Bulgarian actress posing as a journalist bends over in a hotel suite.
Giuliani didn’t know he was being pranked and couldn’t have played more into the filmmakers’—ahem—hands: the scene is the climactic moment in the film, and now the personal attorney of the president appears to be a dirty old man who can be fooled by a set of false eyelashes and some deliberately over-the-top flirting from a young comedian with a foreign accent.
Why didn’t Trump’s team try to get out in front of this when the footage was taken? Don’t they know that surreptitious film of a questionable sexual encounter is like the Chekov’s gun of political scandals? An ill-advised hand-in-pants encounter with a foreign journalist thwarted by an enormous man in lingerie? I’m sure that’ll never come up again! True, it’s not jail. But hey, I’ll take it.
The Republican Party of 2020 has no principles beside agreeing with Donald Trump. Some wide-eyed pundits have bemoaned Trump’s seeming moral inconsistencies and lack of coherent political approach, but it’s actually pretty simple. The Trump philosophy is to act like a huge asshole all the time, in every circumstance.
If you want to guess what Donald Trump will do given a hypothetical scenario, ask yourself: What would the biggest asshole in the world do? That’s Trumpism. Often, the biggest asshole in the world will hurt something that is vulnerable and nearby.
Trump has no cohesive world view, no coherent approach to solving problems, no moral code. But he will leap to the defense of a man who is accused of hurting women, provided that man has demonstrated sufficient loyalty to Trump, who is, like I’ve noted, first and foremost an asshole.
So long as an associate demonstrates sufficient loyalty to his particular brand of assholery, Trump will stand up for them. From men who beat their wives, like former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who resigned after both of his ex-wives alleged that he’d abused them, to men like Brad Parscale, Trump’s former campaign manager who was arrested last month after a domestic violence incident at his gaudy Florida home, to men like Steve Bannon, accused of domestic violence by one of his three ex-wives, to men like Trump’s original nominee to be secretary of labor, Andrew Puzder, whose wife appeared in disguise on Oprah Winfrey’s show to discuss the alleged abuse she’d suffered, to men like perpetual hanger-on Corey Lewandowski, who denied physically harming women when there was footage of the incident, to men like would-be-oops-maybe-not Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, whose complicated and tragic family history involved him interfering to keep his son out of jail when his son allegedly beat his own mother with a baseball bat, to men like speechwriter David Sorenson, who allegedly put out a lit cigarette on his ex-wife’s skin. Trump even boosted Roy Moore, accused teen molester, in his ultimately failed bid to win an Alabama Senate seat.
The last four years have made a pretty good case that the old adage “the arc of history bends toward justice” might just be a pretty lie we tell ourselves so that we don’t spend our lives in a state of perpetual panic. The arc of recent history, at least, bends toward entropic nonsense, and rarely are the people who suffer the most the ones who most deserve it. How can anybody live with that knowledge? It’s not that nothing matters, it’s that the degree to which things matter and the consequences of bad actions are dealt out in a way that feels deeply unfair.
I’ve started to think about real-world consequences, like a game of Russian Roulette we’re all playing with fate. Some of us are playing with more chambers than others. A child of wealth and privilege can spin and spin his nearly infinite chamber and pull the trigger over and over again, knowing that the likelihood of his ever meeting the unlucky chamber is virtually nonexistent. A person on the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum might only get one chance to fuck up before his life is totally ruined. And so it feels ever-so-gratifying when the Rudy Giulianis of the world, the Elliott Broidys of the world, the Ken Kursons of the world, suffer. I don’t enjoy how happy it makes me to know that Brad Parscale cried when he was getting arrested. Enjoying this feels like an ugly little prize. But it’s something. At least, god of chaos willing, until November 3.