Donald J. Trump has been flaunting the crass, bigoted and boorish sides of his personality since the day he launched his campaign in June 2015. Again and again, he delivered off-the-cuff remarks that were deeply offensive to one group after another, leading pundits to say he'd finally sunk his improbable and unorthodox presidential candidacy — and again and again Trump survived.
But the release Friday of an 11-year-old tape in which Trump is recorded boasting about groping beautiful women — because "when you're a star, they let you do it" — has produced a stampede of defections by prominent Republicans from his cause. Some have urged Trump to step aside in favor of vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, a course Trump has said "will never happen in a million years."
It's nice to see members of the party that Trump is wrecking, bull-in-a-china-shop style, cast off the willful blindness that kept them from seeing the real-estate mogul for the disaster that he is. But one has to wonder what took them so long — why the sexually predatory braggadocio struck a nerve somehow missed by the xenophobic comments about Mexicans, the calls for religious discrimination against Muslims, the blithe comments about arming more countries with nuclear weapons and blasting Iranian vessels out of the water, and the musings about abandoning NATO allies — to name just a few of Trump's more outlandish comments.
Besides, it has been obvious for months that Trump — in addition to his shocking ignorance of domestic and international affairs, his bigoted attitude toward racial minorities and his hair-trigger temper — lacked respect for women and often viewed them primarily as sex objects. That impression wasn't dispelled by elaborate attempts by the Trump campaign and Trump's daughter to portray him as an executive who encouraged women employees.
Yet some of his most eminent supporters — including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — have continued to support Trump even as they condemned the behavior revealed in the tape, which Ryan said "sickened" him. This continued clinging to a discredited candidate disserves the party and the country. Better late than never, these leaders need to repudiate a man who never should have been awarded the nomination in the first place.
It was last August that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly reminded Trump during a Republican debate that he had described some women as fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals. Trump later proved the point of Kelly's question by complaining that "there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever."
The tape made public by the Washington Post showed Trump not only engaging in crude talk but boasting about sexually assaulting women (and in terms so unusually profane for a leading public figure, many newspapers considered them newsworthy enough to abandon their usual policies against printing lewd language). It's inconceivable that Ryan, McConnell or even Pence could give Trump a pass for such misconduct and recommend that the voters put such a morally compromised candidate in the White House.
Their condemnations mean little unless they rescind their endorsements.
As they've done throughout his campaign, Trump and his defenders have sought to deflect attention away from the latest revelation by attacking his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Their latest angle is to talk up Bill Clinton's sexual misdeeds and the way "Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims," as Trump put it in a videotaped "apology." But Bill Clinton isn't running for president; Trump is. And it's ridiculous to suggest that her approach to women and their issues is anything like Trump's.