CRAZY IS AS CRAZY DOES: It’s come to this? Again?
A presidential candidate for one of the two major parties of the most powerful nation on planet Earth is defending himself against multiple allegations of sexual assault by claiming his accusers were too ugly for him to attack?
Maybe I’m not dreaming, but I’d like to wake up.
By the time most voters go to the polls, it’s anyone’s guess whether the number of women claiming they’d been attacked by Donald Trump — now at 16 — will exceed the number of women who’ve come forward to accuse alleged date rapist/comedian Bill Cosby. That number is 60. Lost in the din of Trump’s televised admission that he can grab women wherever he wants and get away with it is his link with the now-disgraced Roger Ailes, the psychosexual predator whose dark genius gave rise to Fox News. Ailes was among Trump’s key advisors until dozens of former Fox employees recently came forth accusing him of sexual harassment. Even though Ailes qualified as the goose that laid Fox’s golden eggs, his behavior proved sufficiently egregious that even Fox had to cut him loose.
It’s worth noting that among Trump’s many accusers is his former wife Ivana Trump, who claimed under deposition he violently raped her after he’d underwent an unsuccessful scalp-reduction surgery at the hands of her plastic surgeon. Trump was allegedly enraged by the results, yanked out fistfuls of Ivana’s hair, pinned her arms to her side, and then forced himself inside her. During divorce proceedings, it should be acknowledged, husbands and wives say all kinds of things about each other that turn out not to be true. It should also be acknowledged that Ivana has since characterized this behavior as something other than rape. Trump’s reaction: First, he denied ever having had the surgery in question. Of the surgeon who allegedly did not perform the surgery, Trump had this to say: “He is a guy that is an unattractive guy.”
Republicans are learning the hard way that when you go to bed with dogs, you wake up with fleas. The shock and outrage now expressed by many in the GOP is a case study of too little, too late. In Santa Barbara, Republican congressional candidate Justin Fareed sought to distance himself from Trump’s radioactive fallout by announcing he’d never, in fact, endorsed the man. Yes, actually, Fareed did, but mostly by implication rather than affirmation. Fareed, however, was conspicuously silent about all the many outrages Trump committed prior to the hot-mike moment when Trump boasted of sexually predatory behavior. A few prominent Republicans did stand up to Trump when it mattered — John Kasich comes to mind — but only a few. If Fareed was not among them, he was hardly unique.
With the mass repudiation of Trump now in full swing, we can all feel good about ourselves for having dispatched the ogre under the bridge. Lost in the noise of moral self-congratulation, however, is much curiosity about the WikiLeaks dumps on Hillary Clinton. The leaks, though hardly a revelation, remind us how cozy Clinton is with Wall Street and how infinitely calculated her every gesture. Clinton’s response has been to question the authenticity of the documents. Their release, she said, is all part of a Kremlin conspiracy to elect Trump. Maybe. Or maybe Clinton, like Trump and his tax returns, should simply release her own documents to the public. It’s undeniable that Clinton has been the target of a vast misogynistic conspiracy. But it’s also the case her passion for secrecy — at times Nixonian — is cause for scrutiny, too. And am I the only one to find it interesting that the server of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was just severed by the government of Ecuador, where he’s holed up?
Closer to home, we have our own Wendy P. McCaw, owner and oligarch-in-chief for the Santa Barbara News-Press, staunchly marching to the jabbering music of the one-man band playing in her own head. To the extent perversity qualifies as individualism, McCaw gets the Ayn Rand medal of honor. I say that because McCaw and the News-Press have endorsed Trump for president. Contrary to what MSNBC’s ever-smirking Rachel Maddow proclaimed the other night, the News-Press is not the only daily newspaper to endorse Trump; it’s one of only two. Bizarrely, the other daily to go down the Trump sinkhole also happens to be a “News-Press,” only it’s from St. Joseph, Missouri. Unlike our version of the same, the St. Joe paper went to the bother of writing an editorial explaining the convolutions of its thought process when arriving at a conclusion that cannot be justified. Wendy P.’s essential existential posture to the universe, however, has always been “talk to the hand,” and she hasn’t deviated for Donald. No explanation is offered. Efforts by this paper and many others to contact the News-Press have been swallowed up by an ocean of silence, indifference, and contempt. It’s easy to speculate what a newspaper that wastes no opportunity to denigrate immigrants seeking to better their lives as nothing more than “Illegals” — as the News-Press insists on doing — might find in Trump, who famously started his presidential bid characterizing Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” a kindred spirit.
Mostly, it makes me really sad. Santa Barbara used to have a decent daily paper; now we have a ghost. Yes, it has some solid, conscientious reporters working there, but under McCaw, the News-Press dove down the garbage disposal of total irrelevance headfirst. The Meltdown that so infamously engulfed what was once upon a time one of the most powerful, significant newspapers in California took place 10 years ago. (But for the intercessions of former News-Press owner T.M. Storke, Franklin Delano Roosevelt might never have gotten the Democratic Party presidential nomination back in 1932.Without Storke, UCSB never exists, nor does Lake Cachuma ever get built.) Even if you know all the facts, it’s impossible to explain what happened to the News-Press — just that it did. In the past 10 years, Santa Barbara, like anyone residing in a haunted house, has been forced to learn to live with its poltergeists. There was a brief flurry of talk about a Halloween protest in front of the News-Press — an exorcism of sorts — in response to the Trump endorsement. But the organizers quickly gave it up; what, after all, would be the point?
In the meantime, political debates have emerged as the national bad drug of choice. In Santa Barbara, elected officials of both parties have reported playing a drinking game in which a shot is taken every time Republican candidate Fareed says “systemic change” or “moving forward.” At this rate, serious liver damage could be inflicted and Fareed could be declared a public health risk. To be fair, Fareed is forced to seek refuge in such boring buzz-speak, because what he truly believes about gun control, abortion rights, and fracking puts him violently at odds with so many voters. This puts him at a serious disadvantage with his opponent, Carbajal, who would be well served by telling voters less frequently how he served in the Marine Corps Reserves.
Okay, we get it.
Maybe that’s why Fareed felt such urgency to post Instagram photos of himself at this past weekend’s Stand Down event in Santa Maria, where about 600 down-on-their-luck veterans got shaves, haircuts, meals, new boots, pet care, and access to about 90 mental, dental, medical, and other service providers. Fareed is shown wearing a volunteer’s T-shirt. In the accompanying text, he states, “Enjoyed helping make this happen today.” I got contacted by an irate volunteer at the same event, who complained Fareed “didn’t lift a finger.” I spoke with County Supervisor Steve Lavagnino — who for the past five years has made the Stand Down event such a massive success — who stated Fareed was definitely not one of the event’s 600 volunteers, nor did he announce he was coming. Volunteers, he said, are trained what to do in advance and carefully assigned. “You can’t just volunteer the day of the event,” he said. Two attendees told me they saw Fareed schmoozing the crowd. I contacted Fareed’s campaign for comment. Fareed, in turn, contacted Lavagnino. He told Steve he’d been told the event needed volunteers, showed up, signed up, was given a volunteer T-shirt, and was asked to greet vets. Lavagnino said he has no proof that’s not true but remains mystified as to how it happened. Politicians on the campaign prowl are tolerated, he said, but just barely. In the future, he said, they could be banned entirely. Carbajal and 3rd supervisorial district candidate Bruce Porter — both veterans — also attended. Both, however, kept low profiles. Carbajal did post a photo on his Instagram but made a point to credit Lavagnino for putting on such a great event.
As Fareed likes to say in his TV commercials, “We’ll talk more later.” In the meantime, I’ll have another shot.