Category Archives: Op-Eds

No, I Don’t Really Care Much About Donald Trump’s Sex Life. Here’s Why.

English: This photo depicts Donald Trump's sta...
English: This photo depicts Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In October of 2016, Wall Street Journal article claims, Donald Trump’s lawyer paid $130,000 to buy the silence of Stephanie Clifford, better known to viewers of adult films, at any rate as “Stormy Daniels.” Daniels, it’s alleged, was set to tell the story of a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump on Good Morning America and in Slate.

Now-president Trump and Daniels deny (through the attorney) both the encounter and the alleged payoff, but as I write this In Touch magazine now claims to have the true scoop. In 2011, the magazine claims, Daniels described the encounter in an interview and passed a lie detector test to substantiate her story.

Pretty juicy, I guess … but is anyone really surprised? Does this particular story tell us anything we didn’t already know about Donald Trump? More importantly, does it tell us anything we didn’t already know about Donald Trump before the 2016 presidential election?

Trump has been married three times. His second marriage was to Marla Maples, with whom his affair while still married to his first wife, Ivana Trump, had been covered in excruciating detail in the American press.

Around the time of the alleged payoff to Daniels, a tape of Trump from before the alleged encounter (and from around the time he married Melania Trump) came to light in which Trump was heard bragging about his pursuit of a married woman and that “I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything  … Grab them by the …”

I’m sure you can fill in the blank there, which is pretty much my whole point: Is this latest bit really informative?

By Election Day — November 8, 2016 — everyone who wanted to know the truth about Donald Trump’s sex life, marital foibles, etc. had received a crash course on them.

And then America voted.

Case closed.

Those who voted for Trump believed his denials (and will presumably continue to disbelieve them no matter how many breathless exclusives follow this one), or voted for him in spite of what they knew (and would likely do so again), or just didn’t consider the issue important (and probably still don’t).

Those who voted against Trump because of their perceptions of how he treats women or how honest he is when it comes to, among other things, marital vows can feel smug and affirmed, I guess, but their minds were likewise already made up and are almost certainly going to stay made up.

As American philosopher and psychologist William James is (perhaps apocryphally) said to have noted, “a difference which makes no difference is no difference at all.” The addition of the Stormy Daniels story to the legend of Donald Trump is that kind of difference.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Two Modest Proposals for Choosing Better Presidents

RGBStock White House

In a recent column, I noted that if Oprah Winfrey runs for president in 2020, she will be at least as qualified for the office as the incumbent, Donald Trump, was when he announced his 2016 campaign.

They’re both billionaires of similar net worth — her self-made, him not so much.

They’re both former television personalities — her the long-time host of a top talk show and builder of an attached media empire, him a “reality TV” shock jock. And so on and so forth.

The feedback I’ve received runs from the “no way” of Trump supporters to the “yes way” of Trump haters, with a healthy portion of people who consider neither of the two even remotely qualified for the job and wonder if the world is going crazy.

So, let’s talk about qualifications for the presidency. The US Constitution lists three: A prospective president must be at least 35 years old, be a “natural born citizen” of the United States, and have resided within the US for 14 years.

But, of course, many people want more than just those three things in a president, and I guess I can’t blame them. Unfortunately, what people — at least the people who pick major party presidential nominees — usually seem to want is a sitting or former governor or US Senator (or, occasionally, a victorious general). They want “political experience.”

I disagree. America’s fifty governors and 535 members of Congress seem to constitute the worst possible pool from which to select a president. Their collective record of corruption, incompetence, scandal, etc. is probably an order of magnitude worse than the record of any 585 randomly selected regular Americans. Seldom a day goes by without some politician getting caught with his hand in the till, or texting photos of his junk to random women, while passing monumentally stupid laws and running up $20 trillion in debt.

Secondly, if you think American government is moving in the wrong direction, well, guess who’s been moving it that way? These are the people trying to run our lives, and doing a terrible job of it. Political power attracts narcissists, sociopaths and megalomaniacs.

So, why not change the way we pick the president? I have two ideas, either one or both of which would improve the situation.

First, I suggest a constitutional amendment disqualifying any man or woman who has previously held elected office from running for president. A candidate could run for Congress or governor now or for president later, but not both. That should get rid of a lot of the scheming and opportunism associated with a political “career ladder” leading to the Oval Office.

Secondly — and, yes more severely — why not select the president by lottery? Just draw a random Social Security number, make sure the  person meets the other qualifications, and inaugurate him or her. Short of eliminating the office, random selection of the president seems like the best way to safeguard our liberties from people who want the job  … and who therefore should never be allowed within a mile of it.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Oprah for President? Why Not?

Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama...
Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama at a rally (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Cecil B. DeMille Award is an honorary Golden Globe recognizing “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment,” first bestowed (upon its namesake filmmaker) in 1952. On January 7, Oprah Winfrey, the first African-American woman to receive the prize, accepted with a rousing speech that has fans calling for a 2020 presidential runCNN Money reports that friends say she’s “actively thinking” about it.

Just a few short years ago, the idea of a president without prior experience in political office was nearly unthinkable. Prior to 2016, the last major party nominee, let alone president, with no political resume was Dwight D. Eisenhower, who, you may remember, whipped Hitler in World War Two.

And then came Donald Trump.

Like Oprah, The Donald is a billionaire and a former television personality. It seems that being a sitting or former state governor or US Senator (or general) is no longer a requirement for the top slot in American politics (the only president ever elected from the House of Representatives was James Garfield in 1880).

Apart from what one might think of his actual tenure in office, it’s far from obvious that Trump is more qualified than Winfrey for the post.

He’s a billionaire. She’s a billionaire.

He inherited wealth generated by sweetheart government housing contracts and managed to parlay it into larger wealth by leveraging political favors and massive debt, fleeing his failures  the bankruptcy wolves neared their doors.

She’s the child of a poor single mother in Mississippi who turned her high school radio gig into Chicago’s, then America’s, top-rated talk show and successful careers in writing, publishing acting, and film production. She became the richest African-American of the 20th century and the world’s first black female billionaire in the world.

Prior to Trump’s presidential campaign, there’s little doubt which of the two was more politically influential. Trump occasionally addressed politics with off-hand one-liners and feints toward running for office, fairly obviously as a way of building his personal business brand recognition rather than as a serious approach to issues or policy.

Winfrey, on the other hand, consciously spent decades establishing herself as an opinion leader on issues ranging from acceptance of LGBTQ Americans to the US invasion of Iraq to animal cruelty. She turned out tens of thousands of rally attendees — and likely hundreds of thousands of voters — for Barack Obama in 2008, probably making possible his victory over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries.

She also enjoys an advantage in the Democratic Party to the extent that she doesn’t seem to have dragged herself and others through the mud in the 2016 party in-fighting. She’s likely more popular at the party’s center than Hillary Clinton, and nearly as popular as Bernie Sanders on all but its furthest left fringes.

In my opinion, Oprah would beat The Donald like a drum in a presidential contest. I disagree with both of them on too many issues to vote for either one, but I relish a contest to which representatives of the failed political establishment aren’t invited.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY