Sunday, 9 October 2016

Boastful men in locker rooms

This is of course prompted by the report of Donald Trump, US Presidential Candidate, making boastful remarks in a 2005 recording about how he was able to grope women he fancied as much as he pleased. Our own Nigel Farage's defence of what Mr Trump said has tipped me over the edge on this. Locker-room banter indeed. I don't know of any man in my circle who would boast like Mr Trump did. Maybe my crowd is unusual. Maybe a lot of men with girls on their mind do indulge in off-colour talk about what they'd like to do with the tarty ones they know. Well, that's a lot of unpleasant men, then, all of whom deserve a smack in the face. And that includes Donald Trump and Nigel Farage.

In the 2005 recording Mr Trump was speaking in a professional setting to a media person, and not in some bar after too many drinks. He was being himself, expressing the power of his personality, and the kind of thing he could get away with because he was Donald Trump. I suspect he may have exaggerated a little, wanting to make out that he was 200% male and one hell of a regular guy - a powerful, charismatic person who could mesmerise women into submission. And it didn't matter whether this was as much in his dreams as in real life. It was the sort of man he claimed to be. And there was even then, eleven years ago, ample evidence that he regarded himself and his business projects as unstoppable. If a man can do whatever he wants, in the business sphere or his private life, he is likely to take his behaviour beyond ordinary limits, and not worry what people might think. So I am very inclined to accept his 2005 boasts as authentic.

Could he have changed his attitudes towards women in the last eleven years? Is he just the same in 2016? More recent statements in the course of his Presidential campaign suggest not. I see him as an old-school misogynist, capable of charm but in fact contemptuous of women in general, and not the kind of person I would be eager to meet.

In contrast I'd be glad to meet Bill Clinton. I dare say that he too still considers himself a man whose immediate desires should override the constraints of his marriage, and that it would be a challenge to keep him under control in a private face-to-face situation, but there is a difference between him and Donald Trump. Bill Clinton has been wounded and scarred. His behaviour was very publicly exposed. He was confronted with his misdemeanours, humiliated, made to apologise to the American People, and (I am sure) forced to strike a private deal with his wife. A sequence of whiplashes like that might well have taught him a lesson he cannot forget, and he could now be a man chastened. Of course Hilary did not emerge from it unscathed. She paid too, very heavily, both personally and politically. It made her drop eight years behind in the race to the White House. I'm very glad that Barack Obama was able to have a crack at being President and show that Black America could get there. That was magnificent. But Hilary would have been the first female President, and I'd like to see her get there now in that special capacity. From this side of the Atlantic, her womanhood and apparent intelligence seem the best things about her, and they trump her rival's redneck qualifications.

The second of the Donald Trump/Hilary Clinton TV head-to-heads takes place in a few hours' time, and it promises to be vicious. I imagine Mr Trump will defend himself vigorously, and challenge Mrs Clinton to speak up for her husband. To my mind, that will be a curious thing to do, amounting to a miscalculation. Bill Clinton's actions are on record as facts beyond dispute, enshrined in the Starr Report and other sources. They speak for themselves, and can't be denied. They were not Hilary Clinton's own actions. She was the wronged and angry wife who was publicly let down. She bore that with dignity. She still does. And it's my belief that she put Bill on a tight leash, and he is still on that leash, because she cannot have him involved in any modern indiscretions that might threaten her own political career. I think she can meet Mr Trump's salacious insinuations, if he makes them, with the steady gaze of a woman who has been through a private hell because of a man's high-handed disregard for her feelings. Mr Trump would score if Bill Clinton were in the studio with him. But it's Hilary. And we would see a self-confessed womaniser attacking the chief victim of another man's misbehaviour. Not edifying.

But should I even comment on a political campaign in a foreign country? Probably not. Except that the US Presidency, above all others, will set the dominant tone in world events; and eveyone in Britain feels the prevailing wind that blows from across the Atlantic. We want it to be a fair wind, not a foul one.

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