Vanity of vanities, all is vanity

Donald Trump has gotten himself into a pickle by issuing hush money payments during his presidential campaign to (at least) two bimbos he bedded years ago. Thinking this over again and again, I keep coming back to the question I wish to raise here: Why?

Why, that is, should Trump, or his political handlers, have thought such payments advisable in the first place? After all, when you stop to think about it, all of his current legal troubles, real or looming, seem to stem from these payments which were entirely unnecessary.

Donald Trump is one of the most recognizable figures on the planet. His name and public persona are world famous, and have been for decades. And one thing everyone has always known about Trump is that he is an incurable skirt-chaser and lowbrow womanizer; or, to use a somewhat aggrandizing term, he is a playboy.

Therefore, the fact that he has had multiple relationships with cheap tarts is hardly a secret or a “delicate matter.” He has boasted of his marital infidelities for years, spoken of his earlier sexual escapades as his “personal Vietnam,” and talks freely (in certain contexts) about hitting on married women, unmarried women — frankly, any women. (Remember when he said on television, with Ivanka sitting beside him, that if she weren’t his daughter, he’d probably be dating her? — now that’s creepy.) Not only that, but of course his boasting and indiscreet behavior are an important part of his public image as the man who has it all, or can at least have anything he wants.

So then he runs for president of the United States, selling himself (he is always selling himself) as “Donald Trump, the great American rich man who can have anything he wants, and who this time wants the presidency.” His cult grows and grows, until he is an unstoppable juggernaut in the Republican primaries. And then, in the general election, running against the most unlikable Democratic candidate of all time (except to Trump, who just a few years earlier called her his friend, praised her tenure as secretary of state, and said she would make a great president), he won the support of tens of millions of Americans who, just like his core of primary cultists, knew exactly what he was, and loved (or at least tolerated) him for it. That is, his supporters — the men and women who actually voted for him in the general election — all knew very well that he was Donald Trump, the character they had known about for years, and one of the things they knew very well about him was that he was on his third wife, had cheated repeatedly on all of them, and had probably never met a convenient roll in the hay he didn’t like.

And yet…and yet, during the final stages of his presidential campaign, having built a huge following of Trumpanzees who, as he said himself, wouldn’t abandon him if he shot a man on Fifth Avenue; having secured the support of most of the major “Christian conservative leaders,” all of whom had sworn to stand by him and justify absolutely anything that might be revealed about him, even to the point of comparing him to Old Testament “chosen ones” who also had flawed pasts; and having achieved all of this not by hiding from his past identity as Donald Trump, reality TV self-promoter, “deal-maker,” and playboy, but by highlighting it — having gotten this close to the grand prize precisely by being Donald Trump and proud of it, with everything that entails, he somehow decided it was necessary to try to pay a couple of floozies not to talk about their flings with him years before, as if any of his supporters would have been surprised by this revelation, let alone disturbed by it.

As if he would have lost one single vote over something so unalarmingly, amusingly, even admirably “Trump.”

“Wow, he slept with a real porn star! That’s our man!”

“Oh (grinning), he’s such an uncontrollable alpha male — but that’s the kind of attitude that makes him the only man who can drain the swamp!”

“Darn it, I wish he didn’t have so little respect for his wives, but of course that was in the past when he was a private citizen — he’s a political man now.”

I have no doubt whatsoever about my hypothesis that he wouldn’t have lost a single vote over such a (by Trump standards) meaningless revelation. And if the story had come out during the campaign because the babes shot their mouths off, Trump could easily have turned it to his advantage with his fans by saying, “Yeah, but that was a long time ago, as you can tell by looking at them now — I like them a little younger and prettier, you know.”

Instead, he thought it best to try to shut the women, and the story, down by paying them to keep quiet, and doing so through indirect channels so as to cover his tracks, thus creating the scandal he faces now. And be clear about this: The scandal is not that he slept with a porn actress and a Playboy model — everyone just accepts that about Trump — but that he made these hush money payments through his lawyer and others, secretly, as a way of covering up the affairs, thereby supposedly trying to influence the election results in a way that violated federal campaign law. In other words, what his opponents have on him is not the affairs — no one cares about that sort of thing with Trump — but the possibility of criminal activity in trying to hide the affairs.

In short, affairs are not a problem for Trump, even at election time, since the only people who would pretend to care about that are people who would have voted Democrat anyway. On the other hand, breaking a federal law could be a very big problem, regardless of what the voters think.

So why would he do it? Why take that chance when there was nothing to be gained thereby, and so much risk involved should he get caught?

Here is my best guess at an answer, taking into account all of the above, in addition to some other things we non-cultists all know about this great alpha male:

During the early weeks of the Stormy Daniels story that never had to be a story, the “porn star,” in interviews, spoke with somewhat cheeky dismissiveness about Trump as a lover. In fact, the tidbits I’ve read seem to indicate that the whole thing was rather, shall we say, disappointing from the point of view of promoting the Trump mystique.

And that, I have to surmise, is the real reason Trump was compelled to pay hush money to these women. He was not concerned about the “scandal” of having had flings with sexy starlets — after all, he’s Donald Trump — but rather about how anything the women might say about him in a public setting, especially when pushed for it by Trump-seeking missiles in the news media and the late night talk shows, might be personally deflating of his playboy prowess, his alpha maleness, his big red neon Trumpdom. 

For if there is one other thing we non-cultists all know about Trump, it is that he is childishly insecure about his reputation. His image is his life and his livelihood, and his image is all about being the man who can out-man anyone else in the room. He stalks and threatens anyone who questions his strength and virility on any level. He beats down those who question him publicly with crude insults, bratty nicknames, and hateful basic-vocabulary epithets. He is, when push comes to shove, a wee man whose greatest fear appears to be the danger of someday being exposed as a wee man, i.e., a bigly fake. 

The worst embarrassment for a pop star is to drop his microphone in mid-performance and have his singing continue to blare through the speakers, thus exposing his lip-syncing to the fans. Likewise with the pop star Trump; I assume, since it served no electoral purpose, and risked exposing him to legal jeopardy down the road (as in now), that his primary reason for paying off those women was to stop them from saying anything about his manhood that might embarrass him in front of his fans. 

And I’ve just realized something. Donald Trump is such a ridiculously hyperbolic caricature that one’s most serious observations about him, such as this one, tend to come off sounding like jokes, whereas one’s most flippant remarks about him will always sound to others like gravely earnest attacks.

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