Given all the outrageous things that Donald Trump has done and said already, why has he got into so much worse trouble for dirty remarks about women taped more than ten years ago? He gets away with dog whistle politics but not, seemingly, with wolf whistle ones. Some might say this is because of political correctness; or because his evangelical supporters, while not necessarily offended by his violent views, disapprove of his lewdness; or both. But my theory about sex scandals in politics is that they are not, strictly speaking, about morality. They are tests of how the accused man (or, much more rarely, woman) behaves when attacked. Does he seem odious or contrite, arrogant or charming? If he lies, does he do it beguilingly? It is a test that Bill Clinton, though famous for his charm, failed when he angrily denied having sex ‘with that woman’, Monica Lewinsky. He seemed nasty and mean spirited, as well as untruthful. But the enormous power of the presidential office carried him through, just. Mr Trump does not have that power, and he too seems nasty. He may be right that the Clintons’ behaviour makes a darker story than his own, but he seems so horrible when he says it. He has not emerged as a much wickeder man than last week, but as someone it really is impossible to like or respect.
This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Notes, which first appeared in this week’s Spectator magazine.