It is impossible to pay attention to national news without being bombarded with the Stormy Daniels situation. For those just now exiting your underground survival bunker (and goodness knows there is good reason to go into one) Stormy Daniels is a porn star who is speaking out about her, uh, interaction with Donald Trump a number of years ago. But I have some questions.
My training as a courtroom lawyer is to take everything we know and to demonstrate to a jury how the facts lead inexorably to a single conclusion. Questions about the narrative usually indicate that there is something wrong with the narrative. When there are things that don’t make sense, perhaps there is another explanation.
I understand #MeToo. I understand that far too many women have been mistreated by rich and/or powerful men everywhere from New York and Hollywood to a small town near you. This would apply to some not-rich and not-powerful men too.
“Hi, I’m Stormy Daniels. I was just a girl trying to make my way in the world. I had a chance to meet with Donald Trump, a rich and powerful man. I thought he might be a mentor and help me make connections so that I could become more successful in what I do. But then he got me alone and forced himself on me. Now I am speaking out so that he gets what’s coming to him. #MeToo!”
This narrative (which I have completely made up) is something I would understand completely. Whether the man is Bill Clinton, Harvey Weinstein or Donald Trump, the narrative is all too familiar. Hasn’t this kind of occurrence been a staple of television and film plots for decades? The Lifetime Movie network could not exist without it. If this was actually the Stormy Daniels story I would understand it completely and you would be reading something else this morning.
My little example is, however, not the story. Ms. Daniels has gone to some lengths to make clear that 1) she was not taken advantage of and 2) this is not a #MeToo moment. So if we take her at her word, what is all this about?
Is it about whether a single-event tryst between a porn star and a married tycoon with a small child actually happened? She says it did and he says it didn’t. My guess would be that in most any survey 96.9% would believe her and not him. But if this is the issue, why is it big news? Don’t we all know that Donald Trump has been, for many years, a man with difficulty in moderating the use of his zipper? Good grief, the man has his own Wikipedia page devoted to the subject. There has to be more.
The idea that keeps popping into my mind is that Ms. Daniels saw a chance to combine Trump’s fun and her profit. Is it a stretch to imagine that she might have seen an opportunity to get some alone time with The Donald as something bankable? She claims to have kept the dress she was wearing, a move right out of the handbook in this post-Lewinsky era.
Could she have judged the time right to cash in when Trump was late in a presidential campaign? It seems to have been worth $130,000 by that time, which you have to admit is a pretty good return for something most people in her business do for a lot less.
But then it all changed. Who among us has not experienced buyer’s or seller’s remorse after realizing that a different decision would have been a better one? $130k might have sounded fine in the months before that crazy Donald Trump lost the big election. But maybe the deal did not feel quite so lucrative after he won it?
If this is what we have (and I remain open to other possibilities as other facts present themselves), the part I don’t understand is this: Why is nobody in the popular press digging into this most interesting part of the story? Is Ms. Daniels a very patient would-be blackmailer who sees a chance to cash in for a second time? Is she a shrewd businesswoman who is maximizing publicity? Is she more innocent than she lets on and has come under the influence of others who see a chance for fame and fortune? Or is this about a confused woman who really is a victim but who somehow can’t see or admit it? I can imagine several approaches to the story, all of them more interesting and newsworthy than what we are getting.
If we were to substitute Mitt Romney or Joe Biden for Donald Trump, everything would change, of course. Almost any other powerful political figure having a liaison with a porn star, even if almost twenty years ago, would be big news. Yuuuuge, even. But with Donald Trump as the leading man all of the really good stories involve her, not him. At least the Wall Street Journal has reported on facts which could indicate a payoff/cover-up, so at least there has been a smattering of legitimate news to come from these events.
Perhaps I am overthinking this and things are exactly the way I have described. And that the press at large hates the man so pathologically that the only purpose of this story is to obliterate life as Trump knows it. After all, Occam’s Razor suggests to us that the simplest explanation is usually the best one. But am I really so brilliant and insightful as to be the only one asking these questions? Anything is possible, I suppose. But I doubt it.
Photo Credit: Donald Trump photo is a work of the U.S. Government and is in the public domain. Stormy Daniels photo is © Glenn Francis, http://www.PacificProDigital.com and used in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Photos combined by the author.