In December 2010, I was a guest at a cocktail party in Washington, D.C. for incoming Republican members of the House of Representatives. I had lost my own congressional race in Illinois, but had made enough friends among fellow GOP candidates that they graciously allowed me to join the festivities.
Inside, there was excited talk about the new Tea Party class, about fixing Washington, about finding places to live in high-rent D.C. And there was also talk about women — that kind of talk.
Some of the new members, many of whom had spent the day surrounded by young, attractive, ingratiating, dressed-to-the-nines female would-be staffers, wondered aloud how they were going to avoid the temptations of being surrounded every day by such creatures.
The details do not matter: suffice it to say the language used was not that much better than the newly-surfaced lewd chat that Donald Trump had with Billy Bush on a live mic, eleven long years ago.
Not every man talks that way about women. But plenty do — in the locker room, on the golf course, and on Capitol Hill. I was once taken aback when one congressman praised my wife’s looks, in rather lurid terms.
Some of the same Republicans are beating a disgraceful retreat from Trump, acting as if they have never heard such language before.
Lewd talk is bipartisan. Elections are about choices, and the choice on the Democratic side is not Pope Francis, but the Clintons. Bill not only had oral sex with an intern in the Oval Office, and lied about it, but has faced repeated accusations of sexual assault. Hillary has done her part by attacking Bill’s accusers, calling them “bimbo eruptions.”
Perhaps the most glaring case of hypocrisy is that of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In his bodybuilding days, Schwarzenegger was notorious for — and proud of — his many exploits with women. In his 1977 autobiography, Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder, Schwarzenegger recalled how he had once treated women as “sex objects.” (He said his views had changed.) When he ran for governor, he faced questions about a 1977 interview in which he recalled rough sex with a woman at a California gym: “Everybody jumped on her and took her upstairs where we all got together,” he had said.
As governor, Schwarzenegger not only cheated on his wife, Kennedy scion Maria Shriver, but impregnated the housekeeper.
Yet on Saturday, The Terminator joined the chorus of critics bashing Trump, telling fellow Republicans that it was their “duty” to “choose your country over your party” when they voted.
Sen. John McCain, whose own treatment of women was a topic of concern in the 2008 election — dating strippers, alleged affairs, rumors that he used the “c-word” towards his wife — withdrew his support for Trump on Saturday. And 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, who was accused of leading a “war on women” and ridiculed for his statement about “binders full of women,” slammed the Republican nominee (again) for a statement made long before Romney eagerly sought his endorsement in 2012.
Other Republican leaders are demanding Trump drop out of the race. The Republican National Committee has withdrawn its mailings for Trump. Chuck Todd of NBC News reported Saturday that right now, “it’s every Republican for themselves.”
They are worried that Trump’s 2005 comments — made when he was a businessman, TV star, and private citizen — will be the next Todd Akin moment, when Republicans let Democrats saddle them with one odd comment about abortion in 2012. Then as now, Republicans compounded the damage by treating a media controversy as a “crisis.”
It is worth asking whether this panicked mob has the rudimentary courage required to stand up to the Islamic State, or Vladimir Putin, if they cannot bear the pressure of a manufactured “October surprise.”
If they are willing to lose the country — for that is what may be at stake — over a decade-old joke, they might deserve to lose.
And if Trump wins regardless, look out: he will have done it on his own.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.