When the now-infamous Donald Trump-Billy Bush audio feed was released, my confidence in Trump all but evaporated. The conversation about kissing, groping and fondling women was worse than so-called locker room talk. It was vile, vulgar and inexcusable for a grown man.
But it didn’t end with the audio tape. After that came a barrage of sexual assault allegations from various women against Trump that drowned out any talk of substantive issues. No wonder his polls slid.
He was a stock looking for a bottom.
During the second debate, just days after the audio tape release, he did apologize, and he did get to some key issues. I thought his stock might be finding a bottom.
But then he re-hit the campaign trail with bizarre statements about being the victim of a Mexican billionaire, major media outlets and rigged elections. His stock continued to slide.
In the meantime, a boatload of Hillary Clinton emails leaked out. Of course, we learned of unscrupulous deals, official favors for cash and how one of her former undersecretaries at the State Department tried to make a deal with the FBI to protect her.
Granted, sex sells better than emails. But both of these presidential candidates are in a race to the bottom for the worst untrustworthy rating in political history. It would seem the public has come to believe, rightly or wrongly, that Trump is a skirt-chaser and Clinton is incapable of telling the truth.
For Clinton I don’t see redemption. She is a corrupt political operative of the worst kind. But for Trump I may see a way back. And his wife, Melania Trump, is a big reason why.
She gave some remarkable cable interviews this week, and she has me looking at the awful last two weeks in a somewhat different light.
Trump told CNN that her husband’s words on the audio tape were not acceptable. In even stronger language, she told Fox News, “Those words, they were offensive to me, and they were inappropriate. And he apologized to me. And I expect — I accept his apology. And we are moving on.”
I’ve only met Melania once, a few months ago at a funeral. For some reason, she recognized me. She came up, shook my hand and, if I recall correctly, thanked me for supporting her husband’s tax-cutting economic plan.
And then she turned her head and in a strong voice said to Donald, who was a few bodies away, “Look who’s here. Say hello.”
I was surprised and impressed by her political skills. She also had a certain strength and toughness that reminded me she’s a successful businesswoman.
When she told cable reporters that she accepted her husband’s apology, I think she meant it.
We really hadn’t heard from Melania Trump since these semi-scandals hit. She never showed up at that typical news conference — the wife dutifully staring up at that guilty-as-sin politician, playing the fawning bride beside the man who proceeds to lie through his teeth to the media.
When she repeated, “This is not the man that I know,” it reminded me that he’s not the man (SET ITAL) I (END ITAL) know. In meetings in his office or on his plane, he was always a serious, accessible, engaged businessman-turned-politician, wading through important policy issues as he learned his craft.
True enough, Donald Trump has said some indefensible things this campaign. Many of us who have supported him have said so, and we will criticize him again if it comes to that.
But then again, how is it that all these women spontaneously come out of the woodwork with unverified stories about Trump? Again, I like how Melania Trump handled it: with great civility under pressure, instead of viciously attacking these women, as Clinton once did to her husband’s accusers. Trump simply said, “All the allegations should be handled in a court of law.”
She correctly makes one think that this phalanx of accusations is planned and organized. If not, why hasn’t one accuser filed charges?
And she had one more thing to say — some advice for her husband: Get back to the issues.
Indeed, Donald Trump, if he is to regain his chance, must pivot back to economic growth, jobs, wages, Obamacare repeal, border security and destroying ISIS. Women, by the way, are just as worried about these issues as men.
It is doubtful that all this will be put to rest at Wednesday’s debate. But Trump has one last opportunity to apologize to the nation, just as he apologized to his wife. And then he can tell us how his plan to get America right again is far better than Clinton’s.
I want to thank Melania for starting me on the path of restored confidence in Donald Trump.