Dennis Prager: Don't Judge Trump By Private Remarks That Are Exactly The Same As Who He Is Publicly
Dennis Prager, of the Prager Institute, devoted time out of an existence that is finite to relitigate the 2016 presidential election, specifically the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape. In case we need to remind you, Donald Trump was caught on a hot mic boasting about how he could sexually assault women with impunity because he was a celebrity. The Washington Post obtained the 2005 recording and released it shortly before the election. The true October surprise was that Republican voters didn't care, and Trump won anyway.
Now, it's 2020. Trump is impeached. Yet the injustice of Trump's first of so very many bad news cycles is still fresh in Prager's mind. He declared this week during a "fireside chat," while in the presence of an innocent beagle, that we shouldn't care what people say in the privacy of an "Access Hollywood" bus.
PRAGER: My point is not Trump. My point is not what he said. My point is this. I don't care what people say privately nor should you. That is not an accurate indicator of a person's character.
Prager is a white heterosexual male, so he's probably heard his friends at the country club "privately" smear people because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. He doesn't think this detracts from their "character" because their comments don't personally diminish him. Most importantly, their offensive statements don't reflect how they view Prager as a person. It's very easy to say "Bob's a good egg despite his private racism and misogyny" when you're not directly affected. Contrast this with how conservatives believed Barack Obama's "bitter" comments were even worse because he made them at a "private" fundraiser. They claimed he was talking trash about small town Pennsylvanians to wealthy
gay people San Franciscans. It's as if they understood that talking about people behind their backs is "an accurate indicator of a person's character."
(Conservatives in 2008 also believed an imaginary recording of Michelle Obama going full George Jefferson, also in private, would've ended their long, national nightmare before it even started. Roger Stone pushed that rumor on Fox, which should teach you that fucking with Michelle will eventually land you in prison.)
It's a shocking concept but Trump isn't like Martin Luther King or John F. Kennedy. They were flawed men privately whose public behavior and actions inspired us greatly. There is no significant difference between "public" and "private" Trump. Neither wears a tie correctly. He calls countries he finds demographically unpleasant "shitholes" in closed door meetings and insults the recently deceased at public rallies attended by (so he claims) billions of people. He makes gross comments about "grabbing women by the pussy" in "private" (it was technically a workplace) but he also publicly insults victims of sexual assault to a cheering crowd of assholes.
Guys like Prager probably hang out regularly with guys like Trump. Their big issue with the president is that he doesn't zip it in public so Republicans can just close their eyes and imagine he's Mitt Romney. What's infuriating about the "everyone is as awful as Trump in private" argument is that conservatives recoil at the concept of "rape culture" or that white supremacy defined America's founding. Conservatives hate it when women claim they can never fully trust men, but the "Access Hollywood" tape -- with "amiable" Billy Bush chuckling along with Trump -- sort of proves their point.
Evangelist Dwight L. Moody put it best: "Character is who you are in the dark." Donald Trump, however, lacks character whether the lights are on or off.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).