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Do not allow the Trump audio tape to distract from what is really at stake this year

Normally we would see the lead-up to a presidential debate as focused almost entirely on the considerable buzz surrounding the event itself, but in this most unusual of election years featuring the most atypical of candidates, it’s necessary to look more closely at one aspect that has dominated the discussion before the candidates even arrived in St. Louis for tonight’s town hall forum.

As of last Friday many people, including myself, were talking about the potential impact of Hurricane Matthew Trump apologyon this year’s presidential race.

Instead there was another kind of storm that struck and it had nothing to do with wind and rain.

Jonathan Swan of The Hill reports, “Donald Trump's presidential campaign was plunged into an explosive new controversy on Friday as audio was released where the Republican nominee makes lewd comments about trying to have sex with women.

“The audio, first obtained by The Washington Post, was apparently recorded in 2005, while Trump was on a bus with former ‘Access Hollywood’ host Billy Bush. In it, Trump is heard talking about trying — and failing — to have sex with an unnamed woman. He had been married to his wife, Melania Trump, for a few months at the time.”

Since the story is already a few days old, I won’t bother going over what Trump said. It wasn’t good, even if it was uttered 11 years ago. In terms of the lasting effect on the presidential race, it might as well have been 11 days or 11 hours ago.

Simply put, stuff like this wipes Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” remark right out of the front part of people’s minds and gives them an excuse to opt out of voting for Trump next month. The #NeverTrumpers are in their full glory right now.

Naturally, Hillary took advantage of the situation, tweeting, “This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president.”

Like allowing a criminal such as herself to become president is any less “horrific”. Pfft.

In essence what Trump said isn’t any different or worse in kind than what her hubby Bill Clinton has been accused of voicing throughout his public life, but as of now we don’t have any audio tapes depicting Clinton actually saying these types of things. We only have the deposition testimony and media interviews of numerous women who’ve sworn that Big Bubba Bill actually did what was depicted on the Trump video tape -- and the media ignores them.

If anything, if Trump were a Democrat, they’d all be defending him now and championing all the positive things he’s done for women in the past. And there are many, many positives that Trump has done for women in his companies.

In response to the fury, Trump expressed genuine regret early Saturday morning, the first time I’ve actually heard him verbalize the words “I apologize.”

Jonathan Easley of The Hill reports, “Donald Trump released a video after midnight Friday apologizing for lewd 2005 remarks caught on a tape that have plunged his campaign into chaos less than 48 hours before the second presidential debate.

“Trump was also defiant in the video, saying while his words were foolish there is a ‘big difference’ between them and former President Bill Clinton's ‘abuse’ of women in the White House. He also called the discussion surrounding his comments a distraction.”

Here’s a link to the video. In it, Trump also admits that campaigning for president has changed him. I believe it’s true – that Trump has changed -- and let’s hope so. These aren’t things that should be discussed in any setting, let alone on a bus with lots of people around. It makes you look like a slime-ball to talk like that…it makes you look like Bill Clinton himself.

In his video response, Trump correctly notes that all of this is a distraction from talking about the real issues. Indeed it is. If nothing else, the bus audio recording and the “shocked” reaction stemming from the Democrats simply invites everyone to start talking about the respective candidates’ sex lives instead of discussing issues like immigration, jobs and fighting terrorism.

It also restarted talk about Trump “stepping down.”

Jordain Carney of The Hill reports, “Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) became the second Senate Republican to call on Donald Trump to drop out of the presidential race, calling the GOP nominee a ‘distraction.’

“’I respectfully ask you, with all due respect, to step aside. Step down, allow someone else to carry the banner of these principles... rather than weighing down the American people,’ Lee said in a video posted to Facebook on Friday night.”

(Note: There have been many more GOP defections since Carney’s article was published.)

With Mike Pence’s incredibly strong debate performance last Tuesday night, I must admit, the notion of Trump deferring to his running mate at this point is not an unattractive proposition. But I highly doubt Trump would do it (he himself said there’s “zero chance” he will quit), having come this far already.

There have been a whole host of other Republican bandwagon jumpers in addition, most if not all of which having some connection to the Republican establishment which seems solely preoccupied with preserving the status quo of unchecked Muslim immigration, open borders, endless spending and crony government.

And in post-tape polling, the overwhelming majority of Republicans want Trump to remain at the top of the ticket.

The real question here is whether it’s possible for Trump and the Republican Party to steer the conversation back to the issues after this. Incidents that took place years ago have hijacked the dialogue away from today’s pressing matters to comments and events that happened so long ago that they have little relevance now other than to color Trump’s character even further.

A choir boy he’s not. That’s nothing new to anyone in America. But no one is going to be signing up Bill and Hillary for membership on the church council either.

Trump wouldn’t be hired as someone’s pastor or marriage counselor. But his policies and the people around him still make him a much safer bet than the Democrat nominee who would be facing criminal charges right now if she didn’t have her pal Barry Obama in charge of the Justice Department. Let’s not forget Hillary Clinton is far from clean herself, and from many accounts is a much different (and worse) person away from the microphones than she is in front of them.

The tragedy in all of this is the country might have to endure years of someone as vile as Hillary Clinton as president because of episodes that have zero connection to one’s ability to function in the office of the presidency. Quite frankly, if the Democrats insist that sex lives are “private,” why is it different with Trump?

Even his wife forgives him. In a statement, Melania Trump said, “The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me. This does not represent the man that I know. He has the heart and mind of a leader. I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world."

Time will tell whether the sensationalism will stop and Americans will see the choice for what it is: conservative and Republican policies versus liberal Democrat policies.

They hypocrisy of the Democrats marches on. With that as the backdrop, let’s see how the debate turns out.

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