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The #TrumpTapes: Being (Very) Careful What You Wish For

Questioned about the Trump Tapes, VP candidate Tim Kaine said, “It makes me sick to my stomach.”

It’s the kind of hyperbolic thing we all sometimes say, and yet, on this occasion Kaine actually nailed my reaction.

On hearing Trump talk about “grabbing pussy” and about the apparent superfluousness of consent, it was the first time he actually summoned my bile.

As someone who believes Trump is absolute poison, I’d like the Access Hollywood recordings to be the final piece of “evidence” needed to stop anyone voting for him.

That said, the recording doesn’t feel uncomplicated for me. Neither does it feel okay.

In 2014, a scandal centred on another repulsive Donald: the then owner of the LA Clippers, Donald Sterling. Racist remarks he made during a private phone conversation were leaked and shared through gutter site TMZ.

Sterling didn’t consent to the recording.

In a column I wrote about that case, my contention was that we can’t condone this. That privacy needs to mean something, even for those racists spewing bullshit in their own homes.

I stand by this.

Across the course of this year’s election campaign, my side of politics has repeatedly betrayed values I thought leftie feminist libertarians actually cared about. Trump’s appearance for example, has too often been the crux of jokes. We can’t condemn how he abuses women all the while jeering at his hair/weight/skin. It’s not only mangy low-hanging fruit, but it’s hypocritical.

Equally jarring was “our” enthusiasm for the behaviour of the Lady Grey Jewellery folks. In August, Trump’s daughter Ivanka purchased a bracelet from them. Not only did the company send her back a letter thanking her for her purchase, but they noted that they were donating the sale proceeds to gun safety organisations; to the Clinton campaign.

And then they posted that letter on Instagram.

This is the politics we’re applauding? Where private purchases are exposed for public scrutiny? And all the while justified on the basis of us simply not liking the person? And there I was thinking we valued our freedom to purchase all sorts of deplorable enjoyables without public critique.

So it’s no surprise I’m uncomfortable with warrantless secret recordings. Two-party consent is a law in most places for a reason. Sure, we’ve seen Snowden and theoretically we know such privacy breaches are happening. In practice however, most of us blab without first framing our chatter for a later broadcast. No, we’re not all running for president, but equally I doubt any of us thinks a president is unentitled to a private conversation.

If I’m looking for a way to be okay about the release, I’ll point to the hot mic. While I don’t doubt that Trump thought his banter with Billy Bush was private – the whole thing just sounds all too dicks-out try-hard – he had a bloody microphone attached! He’s no babe in the woods, Trump considers himself – vocally! – as a celebrity, so he knows what microphones do. So if you’re going to talk about bitches and pussy then you’d want to make sure you’re not in the vicinity of a recording device.

I don’t feel sorry for him. He’s a scumbag. That said, I don’t like the precedent here. There’s enough on-the-record despicable content from Donald Trump to facilitate an informed Clinton vote. Let’s not muddy the waters by betraying our own politics and playing dirty.

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