The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    Michael Maiello's picture

    Do You Have The Right to Secrets?

    The world is not consistent on this point, but I think I've been pretty reliably of the belief that people's consensual and private romantic entanglements really aren't anybody else's business, absent naked hypocrisy on the issue by people in public life. That way, I can forgive Bill Clinton and John Edwards their affairs and not so much Newt Gingrich, who is a public scold and worse.

    Donald Trump doesn't fall into the category of moral scold. Extra-marital affairs have been part of his public persona since the 1980s. Carrying on with a pornographic film actress or Playboy model is on-brand.  As such, I'm not all that interested in it beyond the fact that the details are amusing and might embarrass a man who I don't like.

    Then there's the issue of non-disclosure agreements. NDAs have been abused by powerful businesses and individuals for a long time.  They have certainly been used to cover up behavior that most people would agree is illegal, but that has been settled for cash. At their worst, they allow the perpetrator of bad acts the ability to pay off victims while preserving their reputation and the position of power that allows them to go on and abuse other people under the same terms. I suppose the flip side is that at their best they allow somebody accused of bad acts to definitively settle the dispute outside the gaze of public court proceedings, which is undeniably good for people who are either falsely accused or where wrongdoing is ambiguous.

    While there are some interesting issues around the Stormy Daniels NDA, including whether or not her lawyer was really representing her interests in negotiating the pay-off and whether or not the lawyer's payment to Daniels is an in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign, the essence of the issue is really that two adults had a consensual affair and that one pair the other to keep quiet about it. This doesn't seem to be an abusive NDA.

    From an entertainment standpoint, I'm all for the details, er, leaking, it's probably worth considering that in any other context we would view the kinds of things Daniels is talking about (intimate photos, details of kinks and behaviors) as the kind of thing one ex just doesn't bring up in public about another. Heck, just a few short years ago we were passing laws in order to shutdown websites where spurned lovers posted nudes of their exes.

    I joked about this on the Twitter, expecting some noodly thinkpiece site like Vox to come out with an article condemning Daniels for threatening revenge porn against the President, but the more I think about it the more it seems like that's a more relevant issue here than the NDAs.

    All that said, I can't help but watch the comedy unfold.


    Editing to add: There is one way I can get comfortable with a "Go, Stormy! Go!" stance, which is that, according to "Fire and Fury," Trump has used other people's sexual secrets against them in his business and social dealings.


    OK, secret taxes, secret affairs, secret meetings, secret deal$, secret back channels, but not so secret videos? Where's the red line..?

    Jesus! I spent 500 bucks on this tape.


    The two minutes involved Trumpo speaking on some stage about how he never met a woman who made charges against him.

    Oh, yeah....and his butt hanging out on the golf course.

    All good points Michael. Ordinarily I'd not care much about a politician's sexual peccadillios and I'd defend the republican if it were Romney as I did when democrats made ridiculous attacks for mere verbal slip ups like "folders full of women" or his lack of knowledge of air density and how it relates to windows in airplanes. But in extremis with a person like Trump while the affair with Daniels might be a mere peccadillio he's guilty of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. I pretty much don't care how he's taken down. Normal means that would have destroyed any other candidate don't seem to work with him.

    Decades ago I read an interesting sci-fi book about a hacker extraodinaire who went on a facebook type site and asked the people to vote on whether all information abour anyone held by anyone should be open to be accessed by everyone. The argument was that the government and corporations all had that information which they used against us, we all should have it so we know everything about those with power. I wish I could remember the author as I'd like to reread it. It was to the best of my recollection remarkably prescient as this was before there was an internet and even personal computers.


    "Used other people's sexual secrets against them in his business and social dealings."


    i rise to object that this rather anodyne description fails adequately to convey Trump's 11 on a loathsome scale of 10 in this regard.  


    He is described as especially relishing the practice of phoning a friend while his wife was in earshot of the speaker phone, and then inviting the friend both to fantasize about infidelity and/or entertain Trump's denigration , or maybe worse, coarse appreciation, of  the listening wife.


    He is scum.

    Well, of course he's scum.  And, yes, that's the part of F&F I was referring to.

    Fuck. That. Motherfucker. I don't see how you can write this puece and not reference that son of a bitch bringing Bill's accusers to sit front row in a debate. And how many abusive lawsuits he's brought to cover his abusive business practices. Nor the "publishing" deals his cronies sign with girls to *NOT* publish anything.

    I'm fine with privacy, but the law is not rich people's bitch. He uses the law to hide his transgressions, then attacks those who've done much less. Relly, Michael #FAIL on this one.

    And BTW, there's open speculation due to wording that part of this payout involved an abortion - another huge piece of hypocrisy considering the evangelicals' curious backing of this asshole.

    I don't see how you can write this puece and not reference that son of a bitch bringing Bill's accusers to sit front row in a debate.

    Agree that Trump is a scumbag and hypocrite. Whole thing with Stormy Daniels still looks like a consensual affair between adults, though, and in any other context we'd probably object to one party of an affair threatening to publicly release videos and photos of the other unless we had darned good reason to believe a crime was committed.

    On the other hand, I won't shed too many tears for Trump if this is the petard of his hoisting.

    Yes, the same as when they prosecuted Cisneros and John Edwards. I didn't much like Edwards, and I hated how he dissolved his opportunistic poverty vehicle, but affairs are affairs. Same with wide-stance and the guy who took a walk in the Appalachians - kinda lost souls.

    But Trump wields his superiority and any privilege and outrageous bending of all rules including threats and lawsuits as a full-on weapon, so no, no liberal allowances here. Plus his bit of walking in on underage girls and other bullshit and bragging about it heightens the disgust. So one time it was consensual - often it wasn't.

    Ah, the stormy winds of karma.

    Countries have laws. People have standards . In both cases, ideally ,they ought to be consistent.   But obviously that's far more important for countries. 

    If your personal standards mean it's OK with you  when some married  co workers start an affair , that should color your reaction when Gary Hart does. 

    "Color" not determine.

    Clearly  how we apply  personal standards  will vary depending on other factors.  " He's a son of a bitch but he's our son of a bitch."  But waiving them completely  because it doesn't suit you to apply them to  Bill - or Donald -probably means they're really not "standards."   Something else . A  whim?

    But so be it. If it's OK with the Evangelicals for Donald to grab any snatch , it's their nickel.  Of course it'll mean we'll pay a little less attention to their  whi  opinions on other matters.

    Not that they'll care.



    Strikes me after reading the comments on your piece how Trump is simply a very difficult example to use to apply the lesson or rule you are trying to apply. I happen to agree it's a very important one. that we shouldn't get into politician's personal lives, for precisely this reason: we reap very bad results by treating them like celebs and role models! I loathe that so many of my fellow citizens do the politics of personality thing with their voting habits.

    All that said now, the problem in this particular case, we get all messed up! it's the narcissism stupids. There is no separating private/personal he ran as a celebrity! Before that, he pumped his own p.r. brand as a "player" with the wimmim for decades. He still pumps a brand every day. Within that brand females are objects to him: beauty pageants one of his favorite things. The kind of brand that celebrity gossip news tends to dis now.

    All's fair in celebrity gossip land, that's the thing Michael. That's how that game is played. That's the profession they have chosen. They are the Greek pantheon of good bad and inbetween characters of our age, which serve as allegorical characters for people to discuss the human condition, that's the role of celebs in contemporary culture, we get to discuss their personal lives as examples.

    This is not a real politician we are dealing with, it's a celeb.By his own choosing, he went after the celeb role his whole life, still does every chance he gets. 

    It's unfortunate that even before he was involved, we mix celebrity and politics so much. Now with him, this goes over the top. What I am thinking now: bring it on, pile it on, go way way over the top, do Monica Lewinsky times 10, till people are so sick of it that they are finally cured? And they really really want to vote for a professional government person who actually wants a job of governing and not a job as a celeb or even a role model for the children.

    All's fair in celebrity gossip land, that's the thing Michael. That's how that game is played. That's the profession they have chosen. They are the Greek pantheon of good bad and inbetween characters of our age, which serve as allegorical characters for people to discuss the human condition, that's the role of celebs in contemporary culture, we get to discuss their personal lives as examples.

    Now I'm imagining Ledo telling the Crete press that she has a fresco of Zeus as a swan and she's going to go public with it, NDA be damned.

    If this whole thing was just about Trump having an affair years ago, I'd agree with you.  It isn't.  The cover-up is deeply concerning, and is showing with each passing day what Trump and his attorneys have been and still are willing to do to squash anything that could hurt him.  Why they believe this particular thing is worth such an effort, I don't know, but it's got them on their heels.  If McGahn hadn't gone to such extremes to pay her off at the last minute (which makes this a political, not just personal, issue) her story wouldn't have gone much further than it had, and would have been just added to the pile, but he did.  Reports today indicate that a Trump Org. lawyer got in on the arbitration - oops.  Why all this?  Why her?

    It also raises obvious questions about who else have they paid off, and for what reasons?  Too many questions, Michael, spurred by too many actions within the Trump orbit to call it none of our business.  As long as he has the big chair, he needs to answer them.

    And on a personal note?  I'm loving that this "porn star" is proving to be the woman with the balls to fight back with wit, style and the kind of bring-it-on attitude that Trump can appreciate.  And fear.

    YES, IF PETER is out there in his personal MAGA reality, where Warmers, Environuts, Clintonites and the Deep State exist executing evil hoaxes and conspiracies....


    TRUMP is the biggest hugest snowtlake in history....!!

    Schadenfreude is a helluva drug.

    We may get our fix soon ...

    I find this so depressing, so of course I thought I should share the gloom with you cheeky:

    Americans Are Partisan About Everything — Even Sex Scandals

    By  and  @

    Views about President Trump’s relationship (or lack thereof) with adult film actress Stormy Daniels are split along partisan lines, according to a Huffington Post/YouGov survey released this week. Seventy percent of Democrats found credible Daniels’ account of an extramarital affair with Trump in 2006, while just 11 percent of Republicans said the same. And if Trump did have an affair with Daniels, 82 percent of Democrats said it would have been immoral, compared with 54 percent of Republicans.

    Perhaps because Daniels is in the news, along with other alleged affairs by Trump, just 26 percent of Democrats (vs. 67 percent of Republicans) agreed that “an elected official who has committed an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.”

    I’m recording this as exhibit No. 3,519,099 in our “partisanship is a helluva a drug” file. The two parties both seem to be reversing the views they had two decades ago — when a president of the other party was in the White House and faced accusations of affairs and misconduct. [....]

    If you ever decide to move to another country, please don't forget to shoot me an email, I might follow. 

    Bang bang.

    But possibly depends on the meaning of the word "moral" is.

    Also depends on the wording of the survey. A private moral failing would prevent public service? Wow. I don't even think a *public* immoral act prevents fulfilling public and professional duties. Maybe this is partly fallout from #MeToo as well, who knows. I always figgered when the revolution came I'd be first up against the wall. Just had hoped it'd be for something weightier than "yelled at children" or "forgot to recycle".

    Also interesting that TehDonald feels his rightto NDA privacy extends to hispublic activity, though I thought we knew he required this over a year ago.

    And seems d-i-v-o-r-c-e is trending among Republicans, though not clear if due to immorality and infidelity, or to protect family assets from legal penalties. Until debt do we part.

    I understand people will get their sexual thrills one way or another, and while we like to think of a sex scene in a thriller at the movies as different from a XXX porn film as different from a sometimes lover on the side as different from paying a hooker, they're all different gradations of looking at Playboy. It more comes down to partbers' expectations/agreements/blind eyes than it does what some preacher says. I can't imagine Jesus caring, aside from how prostitutes are treated. But it's rather galling for the Jesus Party to swing from hyper-rigid "morality" to anything goes permissiveness in the case of their leader - I'm sure if their daughters were pulling tricks to get tickets for high-priced concerts or make it thru grad school, their concern for the finer points of morality might return. Of course taking money from Russians and trying to steal an election via gerrymandering and voter repression and thieving a Supreme Court pick thru highway robbery are just other examples of Ghouls Gone Wild.

    Bang bang.

    So what are the rents like over there? Huh?

     Maybe this is partly fallout from #MeToo as well,

    Good point. I've seen a lot of the revisionist history of Monicagate, including the big essay by Miz Monica herself where she admits that many years of therapy have convinced her that she was a victim of sexual harassment. Rather than being a Christine Keeler-type-predator of a powerful man, empowered by confidence in her sexual appeal. (Don't get me wrong, I was beyond horrified by what happened to her, but if I was her, I'd be blaming the vast right wing conspiracy and Paula Jones, and to a lesser extent, Linda Tripp. Anyone would need therapy after what happened to her. But to me, had it been none of the public's business, as the case should have been, she wouldn't have suffered any more psychological damage than Judith Exner did.) All of it so turned me off that I didn't want to post on it.

    As I said, it depresses me that people are making this political.  I know Michael shares my proclivities that liberals be overall libertine as well and is upset that it seems that's changing. That's why I posted the poll link here.

    Heck, I still haven't gotten over the gay libertine world of many of the friends of my youth succumbing to all wanting a big wedding, white picket fence and 2.5 children. I can't give up the idea that it's an overreaction to the AIDS crisis and they are still in mourning....

    From the way Bronx is going, it could be a long-term saver, maybe half or more, but depending on how much they destroy US currency, may not matter.

    And #MeToo here hasn't quite carried the liberal in to meet the libertine. Still waiting to catch up. In other words, it's still everyone's business, only no up side or quasi-empowerment :(

    I'm not surprised that people act like this. Tribalism is a helluva drug.  The sad part is that the media participates, when it should be a mitigating institution.

    When evangelicals give mulligans for infidelity and paying off a porn star, it makes them heathens like the rest of us.

    Well, mulligans are built into being an evangelical, but usually the part about "asking forgiveness" in a humble fashion is key to getting a 2nd and 3rd chance. Ain't seen none of that from the boaster-in-chief.
    Here's how it's supposed to go:

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