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Home Essay The Prez and the showgirl

The Prez and the showgirl

by Marie Yuvienco

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

 

The bad puns are flying low and fast as the pants are coming down. The pants belong to Donald Trump, who was caught with his pants down—I warned you the puns were bad—after he was sued by an actress named Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the name Stormy Daniels, who alleges that she engaged in an adulterous relationship with him in 2006.  It’s anybody’s guess how Trump will weather the storm now that he is in the eye of it, or how soon the storm will pass—I told you the puns were flying low and fast—or how today’s submission could easily have bannered the alternative title “The Lady and the Trump,” but if tabloid editors are seized suddenly by fits of inspired alliteration or wordplay, who can blame them?

All stories of philandering politicians have a built-in element of sleaze, but the Trump affair goes far and beyond because Ms. Clifford is nobody’s definition of a lady in the traditional sense of the word. I did mention that she was an actress of tempestuous repute, but what I failed to mention was that, as an actress, she dares cross boundaries for her art.  She is no Sarah Bernhardt or Eleonora Duse, definitely, but as Stormy Daniels, she has appeared in such classics as Witches of Breastwick (2005), Camp Cuddly Pines Powertool Massacre (2005) and Busty Beauties 2 (2002)—the latter implies that there must have been a Busty Beauties 1 which potentially makes her the star of a lucrative franchise.  Okay, she works in porn.  I heard she’s awful good, though, the Meryl Streep of her industry, which says a lot because Donald Trump thinks Meryl Streep is the most over-rated
actress in Hollywood anyway.

Showbusiness and politics may not seem like a natural fit, but when the two get in bed literally, the implications are mighty especially at the presidential level.  When Ferdinand Marcos embarked on his own Hollywood love affair, the actress he cozied up to was this starlet named Dovie Beams.  She was a D-list actress at most, a Nashville-born dreamer who appeared in D-movies like 1977’s The Kentucky Fried Movie, which should give you an idea of the scripts she was being offered. The affair generated its share of bad puns—one book referred to her as Marcos’ “lovie-dovie”—but it became notorious after she divulged during an exit press conference—apparently, she was hounded out of the country by minions of Imelda Marcos, who just lost it after she discovered the affair—secret tapes of her secret trysts with the dictator, replete with moans and creaking bed springs and an unplugged version of her lover croaking Pamulinawen, his favorite Ilocano song. I was barely three when this happened and I am sure that millennials generally do not know about this slice of their nation’s history, but given today’s mores, they’d find the whole thing, well, totes adorbs, as they like to say.

Of course the most infamous White House-Hollywood hook-up of all-time would be that between John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe.  That’s bombshell news because unlike Beams and Daniels, Marilyn Monroe was a major, major star, virtually a demiurge, as she was once described, and not just a mere legend.  Even then, the affair, like all marital infidelities, was hushed up because everyone recognized that adulteries were, at heart, sordid.  As a rule, mistresses would keep quiet and certainly the husbands would deny, deny, deny, even when caught in flagrante delicto.  Donald Trump and his lawyers attempted to keep this honored tradition alive by trying to buy Stephanie Clifford’s, a.k.a. Stormy Daniels, silence, through a nondisclosure agreement, to the tune of $130,000.

In a sign of how much mores have changed, a dalliance that almost brought down Bill Clinton in the late nineties registers as hardly more than a blip in the reality show that is Donald Trump’s presidency.  In the old days, meaning two years ago or so, a President caught with his pants down not with his wife would have incited howls of hypocrisy and unfitness for office.  Not with Donald Trump.  I do not think it is due to the times they are a-changing:  I think it’s more because it is impossible to think any less of this President.

Donald Trump is credited with bringing the White House to unprecedented lows—one can hardly imagine that possible after Richard Nixon and Watergate—but he shrugs off this achievement with an aw-shucks  if-I-shot-someone-dead-in-the-middle-of-Fifth-Avenue-I’d-still-get-elected modesty.

We are not trying to pass judgment here, merely trying to demonstrate how fluid morality is.  Legality is another matter.  Right now, Stormy and her lawyer is trying to overturn the confidentiality agreement in a California court; they contend that the agreement, in which Trump tried to hide behind the porn name “David Dennison” (Stormy, on the other hand, was “Peggy Peterson”), was invalid because he never actually signed it.  A plausible argument, yes, except that there has already been performance:  Stormy had accepted the hush money which, it turns out, was funneled through a shell corporation set up by Trump’s personal attorney.  A binding contract is one thing, but if morality and legality sometimes contradict, it is only because they are being litigated in different courts, one of law, the other of public opinion.

As the famous saviour Jesus H. Christ once said, Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone.

 

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