Culture

The Porn President

(Reuters photo: Jonathan Ernst)
It takes a Wolff to know a wolf.

President Trump is a master of changing the subject. Stung by Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, Trump held an open negotiation on immigration with congressional leaders in order to showcase his executive mettle — and then went on to provide a slow day’s worth of headlines when he voiced his contempt for tropical “s**tholes” and their would-be emigrants. Scatapalooza was a fun news cycle, but it immediately was surpassed by pornapalooza.

That yellow redoubt of anti-Trump tabloid muckraking known as the Wall Street Journal reports that Donald Trump paid Stephanie Gregory Clifford, better known by her stage name, Stormy Daniels, $130,000 in hush money to keep quiet about a sexual encounter with Trump while he was married to his third and current wife, Melania. The White House denies the adultery but not the payment.

Adultery is hardly a novelty for Trump, who carried on a very public affair with the woman who would become his second wife while still married to his first. Indeed, an underappreciated quirk of Trump’s curriculum vitae is that it was this tabloid sex scandal that provided the foundation upon which he built his brand as a playboy bon vivant in the Hugh Hefner tradition. He has boasted of pursuing married women and conducting affairs with them, and, while the president usually speaks like a simpleton, he brings a purple oratorical flourish to the question of adultery: “I moved on her like a bitch,” he says of Access Hollywood’s Nancy O’Dell. “But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything.” Trump, whose admirers regard him as the embodiment of the alpha male, went on to say he took her . . . furniture shopping.

Bold move, badboy.

Trump sold himself as a nationalist-populist. What Trump is, in fact, is the porn president.

Melania Trump, asked whether she would have attached herself to Donald if he weren’t wealthy, scoffed at the question and frankly acknowledged the transactional nature of their relationship: “If I weren’t beautiful, do you think he’d be with me?” Trump, for his part, has been equally frank at times about the instrumental role Melania plays in his life: She’s a good advertisement for his brand. “When we walk into a restaurant, I watch grown men weep,” he said. It is worth keeping in mind that the Third Lady was an employee of Trump’s modeling agency before their marriage. Business is business.

Trump appreciates the power of fantasy. Con artists sell their too-good-to-be-true stories with such great ease because people want to believe them. The eagnerness to believe is what make’s a con artist’s mark a mark — the mark always participates in his own deception. Bernie Madoff ripped off a lot of well-off and financially sophisticated people and institutions who really should have known better than to trust his unwavering above-market returns, but they wanted to believe. Every basically literate person who goes to Las Vegas knows what the odds are, that past results are no guarantee of future returns, and that the stripper isn’t really in her last year of nursing school and doesn’t really think you’re a really interesting guy.

Trump appreciates the power of fantasy. Con artists sell their too-good-to-be-true stories with such great ease because people want to believe them.

Pornography works in precisely the same way. It is an invitation to insert yourself into the fantasy of your choosing. (The migration of pornography to the Internet has made all sorts of data about our sexual fantasies readily available, and the results are not encouraging.) And that is the secret to Trump’s success both in marketing and in politics — which are, in the end, the same thing. With his phony gilt Louis XV chairs, his casinos and beauty pageants, and his succession of prom-queen-jerky paramours, Trump has spent his career performing, and the role he has chosen is that of a poor man’s idea of a rich man. He went so far as to create an imaginary friend, John Barron, to lie to the New York press about his sex life. He claimed, falsely, to have been involved with Carla Bruni, a fantasy the former first lady of France publicly ridiculed. He boasts in his memoirs about his involvement with “top women,” writing: “Oftentimes, when I was sleeping with one of the top women in the world, I would say to myself, thinking about me as a boy from Queens, ‘Can you believe what I am getting?’”

Who is “you” in that sentence? Marks. The people to whom he wants to sell ugly polyester ties and third-rate condos, with his name on the building in big gold letters.

Small world: I was at the Adult Video News conference in 2014 when Stormy Daniels was inducted into the pornographers’ hall of fame. Her charms are not what you would call subtle, but pornography is not a subtle business. It’s as subtle as Donald Trump’s gold-plated toilet and his psychotic comb-over. It’s as subtle as “s**thole” countries and “grab ’em by the p***y.”

And that’s the only part of this story that rings false to my ear: It is difficult to imagine Donald Trump paying a porn star to keep quiet about having sex with him.

Putting her on a billboard would be more in keeping with his character.

READ MORE:

How Trump Influences Conservatives

’Tone’ and ‘Style’ Are the Least of Trump’s Problems

Trump’s Good Month

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