WASHINGTON — “Shaming,” the modern if tedious trend of shaming the shamer for criticizing anyone, has rendered us incapable of making rational judgments or speaking freely.
If this seems too strong an indictment, consider that “the porn star and the president,” a pairing made necessary by current events, is no more shocking a phrase than, say, horse-and-carriage, which in an earlier time, some may recall, went together like love-and-marriage. Or vice versa.
Thus, about 22.1 million of us settled in during Sunday night’s family hour to watch “60 Minutes” and hear what Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, had to say about her alleged affair with President Trump.
While children may have been diverted elsewhere, it’s a given that most school-aged youngsters by now have likely heard of the porn star, just as children a generation ago learned about oral sex from a previous president. I remember vaulting for the mute button when my then-8-year-old son would enter the kitchen while I watched the news. Despite my best efforts, he became well-versed, if somewhat misinformed, by classmates eager to fill him in.
This reminds us that indecency isn’t new to the White House. And though Bill Clinton was clearly guilty of sexual misconduct, it is Trump who brought a porn star to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Not literally, since the alleged “affair,” which sounds more like a transaction, took place about 12 years ago. In fact, Trump allegedly met with Daniels in his Lake Tahoe hotel room, where she said she proceeded to spank his fanny with a rolled-up magazine bearing his face on the cover.
Oh, what naked wit.
The media, naturally, will be blamed/shamed for emphasizing these events, which would be a fair point if not for the $130,000 paid to the porn star to keep her memories close to her corset. The money/payoff, which was paid by Trump’s lawyer 12 days before the election, could possibly be viewed as an undisclosed campaign contribution that far exceeds the allowable $2,700.
Meanwhile, the porn star gets the attention she obviously seeks, her protests notwithstanding, while the nation hardly blinks, betraying little concern that an “adult entertainment actor” — the insisted-upon title for a person whose principal purpose is to facilitate her audience’s onanistic gratifications — is mainstreaming herself into our homes in the middle of dinner.
This is reality, but we’re not supposed to notice lest we be Twittered to death for that worst of all offenses — “shaming. “
So be it. I’m not ashamed to be appalled by this sleazy saga. Nor am I ashamed to lay blame squarely at the president’s feet. Yes, I am judging, as I wonder whether anyone is taught anything anymore about proper conduct. As I write, I can hear one of my father’s frequent refrains: “Catalina, if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas” — usually his not-so-subtle way of suggesting that the boy I was currently excited about wasn’t up to family standards.
This president’s behavior isn’t up to the standards we have a right to expect from the man or woman we elect to lead the nation. This is the shame and the travesty Trump has perpetrated upon the office he holds. Who cares about Stephanie Clifford, really? She’s a self-professed businesswoman who never walks away from money, according to a lengthy New York Times profile. She said she had sex with the future president, basically because she’d gone to his room with him and, well, who is she to say, “No”? She also said she’s not a victim, so don’t look for her on the #metoo roster.
She also accepted $130,000 from Trump’s lawyer to keep silent about their entanglements. She signed the don’t-tell contract. Now, because the attorney and not Trump signed the contract, she wants out. Why? Probably for reasons near and dear to Trump’s own heart — to keep her brand in top billing and, presumably, whatever compensations follow.
Clifford, no dummy, may be credible and even likable. If true that a stranger threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011, as she claims, and if true that this person was representing Trump, as she implied, then we learned something new — for what it’s worth.
Far more newsworthy and valuable would be if we learned that making judgments about others, as well as ourselves, is essential to a society hoping to produce new generations of Americans who aspire to higher values than those recently on display. That so many among the family-values cohort betray no offense at the porn star and the president — or rationalize looking away — is the real shame.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.