On a slow news day, I guess Billy Bush’s attempt to revive his career a year after the fact by joining The Resistance qualifies as news. Coincidentally, he’ll also be on Colbert’s show tonight to reintroduce himself as a newly Woke Bro who’s learned a lot about feelings after playing Trump’s snickering sidekick on the “Access Hollywood” bus in 2005.
One interesting detail in this op-ed is just how many other people were on the bus to witness Trump’s infamous “grab ’em by the p***y” soundbite. Have any of those people been identified and interviewed?
Of course he said it. And we laughed along, without a single doubt that this was hypothetical hot air from America’s highest-rated bloviator. Along with Donald Trump and me, there were seven other guys present on the bus at the time, and every single one of us assumed we were listening to a crass standup act. He was performing. Surely, we thought, none of this was real.
We now know better.
Bush spends the rest of the piece running through the sexual assault and harassment allegations against Trump and how he now realizes in the wake of Pervnado how important it is not to treat such things lightly. This tidbit is also new, though, and a window into Trump’s psychology generally:
Ten years later, I did speak up. Soon after Mr. Trump declared his candidacy, I let it be known on “Access Hollywood Live” that I thought this was an absurd idea.
In the days, weeks and months to follow, I was highly critical of the idea of a Trump presidency. The man who once told me — ironically, in another off-camera conversation — after I called him out for inflating his ratings: “People will just believe you. You just tell them and they believe you,” was, I thought, not a good choice to lead our country.
Yup, that sounds like him. As a summary of his spectacularly successful life, you could hardly do better.
Two points. One: Is this op-ed bait? What I mean is, is it an attempt to pick a *public* argument with Trump over the veracity of the “Access Hollywood” tape? I can’t help noticing that the paper it appears in, the Times, is the same outlet that reported this past week that Trump has repeatedly questioned whether the tape is authentic — in private. In public he’s been surprisingly circumspect about revisiting this subject, even at a moment when his tweeting about other subjects has gotten daffier and less restrained. The Times couldn’t get under his skin enough to get him to tweet something questioning whether the tape is real. But maybe Billy Bush calling him out on the op-ed page and on Colbert tonight can. A national debate over whether the tape is doctored will be a fine way to spend the news week as 2017 comes to its surreal close. And we *will* have that debate if Trump questions the tape publicly, as millions of people will swing around to back him up. “People will just believe you. You just tell them and they believe you.”
Two: It’s strange and unfair that Bush’s inane schmoozing with Trump on the tape about various women’s hotness led him to career ruin while posing no barrier to Trump becoming president of the United States. Revisit the transcript and you’ll see that Bush is guilty of little more than mindless dudebro-ism, cackling when Trump talks about grabbing women by the you-know-where and then whining to Arianne Zucker to give him and Trump a hug when they finally step off the bus. When that tape was made, America was still more than a decade removed from learning about any of the sexual assault accusations against Trump that might (might) have made Bush think better of egging him on during their bus chat. SNL made a joke two days ago about how Bush is actually “looking pretty good … right about now” by the standards of TV news in light of what we know about Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and Mark Halperin. NBC punted Bush off the network last fall to make a show of their supposed respect for women, and meanwhile they let Lauer continue to run wild in his “Today” playground for another year. When does Bush get a second chance?
Here’s Chuck Todd asking former Trump advisor David Bossie whether that’s Trump’s voice on the tape. Uh, yes, Bossie confirms.