Trump’s tape troubles

The conversation he had on a leaked tape with a show host was damning, but Donald Trump will fight on.

Donald Trump spent most of Saturday sitting in his apartment in Trump Tower surrounded by friends, family and supporters.

He should have been in Wisconsin, bathing in the love of the large crowd that turned out to see him, enjoying campaigning with the most senior Republican in the country; a man who at one point “wasn’t quite there yet” when it came to backing his party’s Presidential nominee.

But the campaign trail with all its long hours and endless flights and petty frustrations can be an addictive thing; the energy from the crowds, the confirmation that your views are shared by thousands. 

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Sitting in the apartment wouldn’t do. So Donald Trump took a walk. A short walk sure, but out among his supporters where they could snap selfies, chant USA and roar him on. Three minutes was enough for him.  He punched the air and walked past the security and back inside his building.

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And maybe in that moment, it was enough to convince Donald Trump to go on.

There had been calls for him to go, demands he step aside. There were counsellors who told him he must consider his options.

The outrage was real. The conversation he had on tape with an entertainment show was damning. He spoke of women in the most demeaning of terms. He talked about how he would prepare to kiss them, even if they didn’t want to. Some would call it sexual assault. Many did.

It was crude, brash, vulgar and obscene. It was what critics have said that Donald Trump is.

Republicans who had supported him condemned the language. Others, such as Mitt Romney criticised the actions.

Leaked 2005 recording revealing sexist comments made by Donald Trump prompted anger from fellow Republicans [Reuters]
Leaked 2005 recording revealing sexist comments made by Donald Trump prompted anger from fellow Republicans [Reuters]

Even his vice presidential choice, the man who had stoutly defended him at his own debate, said he could not “condone or defend his remarks”. And with that Mike Pence essentially left the campaign trail for 48 hours, leaving his boss to clean up his own mess.

It was, said a significant section of the Republican Party, time for him to step aside, put the party and the country first and leave the Presidential race.

But Trump has got as far in this process through listening to his gut. He believes it steered him to success in business and took him to victory in the primary campaign. He believes he connects with people the way his Republican rivals could not; the way that politicians do not. 

Those closest to him said he watched the endless coverage of the scandal on TV on Saturday with a mixture of emotions. He watched those he had defeated call for him to go. 

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For many the decisions were political. Trump was probably going to lose anyway. The polls told them that. 

Trump tweeted. Of course he tweeted. First he told the world it had been an “interesting 24 hours”. And then he reaffirmed the news leaking from interviews he’d done with a number of newspapers; he was staying the race and he would “never quit”.

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Instead he turned his attentions to the second presidential debate in St Louis. The first one drew an audience of 84 million people, the most watched Presidential debate in American history. Now, because of the scandal, people were predicting that record would be smashed.

The businessman had to decide how he would appear. Would he be contrite, apologetic and try to move beyond his vulgar words? Or would he be aggressive, confrontational, believing Hillary Clinton was reviled by Republicans and others could be convinced to abandon her side if only they saw the true threat she posed to the country. No matter. The election is still a month away. Who knows what could happen, what could leak, what new scandal on both sides could appear. 

With those thoughts in his head, Donald Trump took a walk on Saturday.

And he saw he still had support. There were people who didn’t mind the clouds or the rain, their devotion unaltered.

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The pundits, the media might tell him he was finished. But they had been wrong before. Repeatedly.

Donald Trump may be defiant. But he is damaged. 

His performance at the town-hall-style debate will finally make up the minds of many if they can continue to support him.

The stakes have never been higher. The past 48 hours have been ugly.

Trump will fight on. The debate will decide how many are by his side.   

Source: Al Jazeera