How leaders talk

Sally Jenkins writes about sports for the Washington Post. I gather that, like many sportswriters these days, she would rather write about politics. And why not? Her work meets the low standard of punditry at the Post.

Today, Jenkins has a column called (in the print edition) “No leader says things like that in locker room.” Her argument is that although athletes do make lewd, Trump-style comments in the locker room, the athletes who are most respected by their teammates do not. She quotes a football players to that effect.

I hope Jenkins is right, but I’m not persuaded. Mickey Mantle was the leader of the New York Yankees. According to his teammate Jim Bouton, The Mick led his teammates on “beaver shooting” expeditions, including visits to hotel roofs where they engaged in voyeurism.

Maybe the locker room has been radically transformed since Mantle’s day. Or maybe Jenkins found a handful of anti-Trump athletes who would give her the quote she was looking for.

Trump, in any event, is not running for locker room leader. He’s running for the office held for eight years by the spouse of his opponent. What does Bill Clinton talk about in the most analogous setting to the locker room that he frequents — the golf course?

According to Clinton’s close friend Vernon Jordan, they talk about “p***y.” That’s what Jordan told Mike Wallace during an interview on 60 Minutes.

The kind of talk Trump and Clinton indulge in is deplorable. But it should not be considered disqualifying in a president.

The acts Trump said he engaged in — and the acts Clinton has credibly been accused of by several women — are a different matter. The important question is whether Trump has committed the acts of sexual assault he described to Billy Bush.

When pressed during the debate, Trump said he hasn’t. The denial occurred in this exchange with Anderson Cooper:

Cooper: For the record, are you saying that what you said on the bus 11 years ago, that you did not actually kiss women without consent or grope women without consent?

Trump: I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for women than I do.

Cooper: So for the record, you’re saying you never did that?

Trump: Frankly, you hear these things. They are said. And I was am embarrassed by it. But I have respect for women–

Cooper: –Have you ever done those things?

Trump: — And they have respect for me. And I will tell you, no I have not. . . .

(Emphasis added)

Is Trump’s denial truthful? I don’t know. But unlike with Bill Clinton, no woman to my knowledge has yet accused Trump of sexual assault. Maybe this will be the next “October surprise.”

In any event, this sad fact is beyond dispute: at least one political leader, the dominant one of his era, talks the way Trump did to Billy Bush.