Donald Trump, Stormy Daniels, and the Political Double-standard

As I warm up to the news this morning (or cool off to it, as the case may be), I can’t help but think back to the Bill Clinton / Monica Lewinsky scandal. I was five years out of high school during that one, and I remember the posture of both liberals and conservatives when the Starr Report was released on September 11, 1998 (what is it with that damn date?).

My girlfriend’s dad at the time was a full-blown Clinton-backing liberal, and at the slightest mention of the Lewinsky scandal, he’d fly into histrionics about how what two consenting adults do in privacy is nobody’s business – he really could care less, and thought that Bill Clinton’s behavior had no bearing on his presidency. I saw this view echoed in liberal-leaning news outlets; the only reason there was a scandal at all was because of the vast, right-wing conspiracy intent on removing Bill Clinton from office.

At the same time, I was working in HR at a small software company in Des Moines, Washington, and my boss was a Rush Limbaugh conservative. When the Starr Report was released, digital copies were passed out on 3.5″ floppy disks with righteous glee. This was the smoking gun! Bill Clinton is a liar and an adulterer, here is the proof! I received a copy with a dried, bloody thumb print dried on the label; it looked like it had been recovered from the hands of a dying secret-agent, maybe handed over while he breathed his last words: “The truth must be known…”

Fast forward to today, and the shoes are on the opposite feet. It is now the liberal left who are salivating over the Stormy Daniels story, their smoking gun in-hand, visions of impeachment dancing in their heads. If liberals applied the same standard they applied during the Lewinsky scandal, there would not be a story. All would be forgiven. But this is politics. There is blood in the water. Mingled with open hatred for Donald Trump, it is a potent cocktail. The sharks are circling – the same sharks that ignored Bill Clinton’s character back in ’98. The liberal double-standard is on display. Character and behavior only matter when they can be used as weapons against your political enemies. And, let’s not forget, Donald Trump’s alleged behavior took place years ago, outside the oval office.

Conservatives aren’t off the hook, either. Were they consistent, we would be seeing outrage equivalent to what we saw in ’98. Remember, it was about character then. The character of the President of the United States. In that sense, this current “scandal” is no different than the Clinton/Lewinski scandal; but this time, it is the Republican president, and conservatives are silent. This is the conservative double-standard.

Folks on both sides of the political isle know that Donald Trump has character flaws. We all knew going in, and many were very upset about it. I’m positive there’s dirtier dirt in Donald Trump’s past. There is a skeleton or two in everyone’s closet; maybe not the high profile type skeletons we’re dealing with here, but if our own behavior and character over time were open to examination by the entire world and available in a heartbeat, there are undoubtedly some unsavory things that could be said about any one of us.

If we had hard evidence that Donald Trump was the leader of a child prostitution ring running international business out of the oval office, this kind of news cycle would be justified. What we do have is a story about a guy having consensual sex with a porn star before he was in office, and then attempting to suppress that story in his run up to the White House. Name me one presidential candidate who hasn’t done their best to suppress less than savory details about their life, and I will hand you the keys to my oceanfront property in Kansas.

Nothing in this story is a surprise. Anyone surprised by this story has been living under a rock. I would personally like to see better character in the White House. I would also like to see consistency and fair standards applied to all candidates, but I’m not holding my breath. What I see today is the political double-standard, alive and well, more unhealthy than it has ever been. The schism in our country deepens, and self-righteousness abounds.

March for our Lives: Stop Exploiting our Children

In honor of March for our Lives, I thought I’d share what’s on my mind as I watch the coverage.

Every life affected by gun violence in schools, especially those lost, is tragic beyond description. The country is united in a desire to make sure that the violence and loss stop, here and now. Republican/Democrat, conservative/liberal, male/female, LGBTQ/straight. theist/atheist… There truly is no race, class or creed in the horror over what we have suffered due to gun violence, or the desire to put an end to it. Our hearts go out as one, in love for our children and our fellow human beings, and in a desire to protect every precious life, young and old. The thought of a school shooting sickens me. There is no moral argument, no evolutionary principle in favor of the willful and senseless taking of life.

I turned on the TV this morning, hoping to see a change in the political discourse that we have become accustomed to. I was disappointed, to say the least. Then I felt anger and another, different kind of sick.

I saw young, intelligent people expressing powerful emotion, and laying blame for tragedy at the feet of the NRA, the president, and inanimate objects (guns). I saw an ocean of youth raging at the powers that be. There is a righteous and justified anger moving about, and there should be.

What I did not see or hear was any clear policy recommendation, or discussion of what the majority of Americans believe we should do to protect our kids. Shouting “enough is enough” at a problem, and railing at the president, conservatives and the NRA does not get one any closer to a real solution. While it is good to see America’s youth engaging in political activity, what I saw today was exploitative. The March for our Lives has been a large, very carefully organized political event. The degree to which it helps lawmakers wake up to the need for non-partisan cooperation and legislation has yet to be seen.

We need to find common ground if we are ever to affect change. Most Americans agree that we should find ways to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. According to Reuters, 75% of Americans want armed guards at our schools (Reuters, March 22 2018). There is non-partisan agreement that anyone on the no-fly list should be kept from possessing firearms. So why don’t we start there? Start where we agree, find the best solution for enacting laws to enshrine the principles we agree on and work the political process. By all means engage our kids nationwide in the process of doing so. They cannot vote, but they can certainly use their collective intelligence to learn to examine the data and develop common-sense policy. Their voices need to be heard. They are the ones affected most directly by school shootings, and they fear for their lives. Let’s help them by getting our shit together – and instead of railing at each other from the opposite ends of the political spectrum, work together where we have common ground.

What sickened me today is that I saw our children used as pawns in a political game. Their fear, their pain, and their energy were organized and directed by people who want to advance partisan ideology. That is not fair. It robs kids of their dignity, and encourages the kind of emotional reasoning that will make it impossible to implement solutions.

Many of the young people at today’s march showed great courage in standing up and being heard. The clever ones will eventually see how they have been taken advantage of, and will be wiser for it.