‘I Think He’s a Very Dangerous Man for the Next Three or Four Weeks’
In Politico Susan Glasser and Michael Kruse write:
Back in early March, Politico Magazine brought together five Donald Trump biographers for a conversation over lunch at Trump Tower. At the time, the country was just beginning to grapple with the reality that the presidential nominee from one of the two major American political parties stood a good chance of being a real estate mogul and entertainer. Wayne Barrett, Gwenda Blair, Michael D’Antonio, Harry Hurt and Timothy O’Brien knew him better than anybody, had studied him more than anybody, had written an aggregate 2,195 pages in books.
So much has happened over the past seven months: the crackpot conspiracy theories, the rageful late-night Twitter tirades, the surges and slides in the polls, an onslaught of investigative reporting that painted him as a racist, sexist, selfish, uncharitable, lying predator. So we thought it was time, especially in the wake of “grab them by the pussy,” for an emergency reconvening of the Trumpologists.
In a conference call on Monday with Barrett, Blair, D’Antonio and O’Brien, the biographers were unanimous in their assessment of what we are seeing: They are not surprised. Trump is who they thought he was. This, they said, is not a show. It is not an act. This is the man they wrote about. In 1992. In 1993. In 1999. In 2005. In 2015. This is a man who has been one of the most famous people in America for going on 40 years. Only now, though, are many people, finally, really, getting to know Donald John Trump.
He is, the biographers said, “profoundly narcissistic,” “willing to go to lengths we’ve never seen before in order to satisfy his ego”—and “a very dangerous man for the next three or four weeks.” And after that? “This time, it’s going to be a straight‑out loss on the biggest stage he’s ever been on,” one biographer predicted. And yet: “As long as he’s remembered, maybe it won’t matter to him.”
Susan Glasser: First of all, I’m super grateful to everybody for this, what we’re calling, “The Emergency Session of the Trumpologists.” Not only has a lot gone on since our first conversation back in the spring, but the last three days since the release of the Trump tape, the second debate and the implosion of the campaign has really, I think, led us all to want to talk with the people who spent the most time studying and thinking about Trump. What does he do in his paramount moment of crisis? Help us to make sense of the sort of tumult unfolding around us.
Michael Kruse talked to a few of you for a very good piece he did yesterday, trying to take this into account, and he made the point that, on the one hand, this seems all totally unprecedented in American politics; on the other hand, it seems somehow utterly predictable in the context of the personality of Donald Trump. I thought that was a good starting point for this discussion today. Let the emergency session begin.
Michael Kruse: So this past Friday when you all heard the hot mic tape from the gossip show bus, were you surprised?
Gwenda Blair: No.
Michael D’Antonio: Raise your voice if you were surprised.
Blair: Yeah. I don’t think any of us were surprised.
Kruse: Why not?
Wayne Barrett: Well, I would have to say that “grabbing by the pussy” was a little surprising to me. You know, thrusting his tongue down whatever mouth was available wasn’t much of a surprise, but “grabbing by the pussy” was not something I had anticipated.
Timothy O’Brien: I think he’s always been a skirt chaser. I guess, you know, in that context, it didn’t surprise me. I think he’s always boasted about the things that he’s the most insecure about, which is his wealth, his intellect and his sex appeal. And, you know, he’s held James Bond and Hugh Hefner out as role models. And I don’t think that’s evolved for him much since the age of 12.
Glasser: But James Bond didn’t have to force himself on women. So my question for this group is: Is he merely a foul‑mouthed guy, or is it possible that he is acting on these words in some way, that he is somehow aggressive or violent toward women?
Barrett: They talk about this as if this is locker room bragging, and really, I was in a lot of locker rooms and I never heard anything like this. Men don’t brag about forcing themselves on women. They want to paint themselves as desirable, and, you know, he doesn’t look like a stud here. He looks like a predator. I’ve never heard men talk this way. This is boasting of something that shows your own weakness. It shows, you know, that a woman doesn’t want you; whereas, most boasts in these kind of scenarios are about women who do want you.
Blair: I think that’s a super important distinction. I haven’t hung out in locker rooms, guys, so I’ve got to take your word for it. But my impression is it’s more like, “Women, you know, couldn’t wait to have me,” not that “I was able to force myself on her.” But, also, the frame of mind that women are objects, which, I mean—this just in, that’s not new, but the degree to which that permeates everything, I think, is stunning.
O’Brien: And then that they’re objects that are there for his taking because he’s a predatory personality…
Blair: Dominating, an alpha male and having a woman as arm candy. She’s just arm candy.
Glasser: Did any of you spend time actually talking to any of the women who went out with him or had sex with him? I mean, did any of these accounts ring true for any of the actual reporting that any of you have done? . . .
And see also Michael Kruse’s Politico article “Why Donald Trump Can’t Back Down.” From that article:
In his lascivious comments during a few foul-mouthed minutes on a bus, followed by a pair of combative, largely unrepentant “apologies,” the GOP nominee has presented since late Friday afternoon a concentrated collision of the characteristics that have defined his life and career. Addiction to publicity. Penchant for lechery. And an obstinate refusal to change tone or back down—even in the face of overwhelming pressure.
Trump’s strategy always is that if he’s hit to hit back harder. That has a fatal flaw: If he is hit by something stronger, hitting back harder (e.g., with a lawsuit) may trigger events that will crush him. If he does sue the NY Times for publishing highly credible reports of Trump doing things that he has specifically said he does, then that leads to legal discovery, and what that will reveal will almost certainly not be to Trump’s credit.