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    Ann Rostow: Billy Buddy

    By Ann Rostow

    Billy Buddy

    Do you know what scene bothered me the most in the Access Hollywood tape? It’s when Billy Bush asked the actress Arianna Zucker to give Trump a hug, and then demanded one for himself, even though they had just met. Basically, she had two options: gracefully give a light embrace or interject a cool thread of hostility and awkwardness by saying no or turning her back. I suppose there’s a delicate third option that involves a clever joke—warm spirited—said with a laugh that allows everyone to carry on. But who can pull that off on the spur of the moment?

    The woman had a split second to respond. She basically had no choice but to suffer through smarmy hugs from horny strangers. And don’t forget that the cameras were rolling, putting her even further on the spot.

    And for what purpose did Bush manipulate her into providing such an intimate greeting? We know from the prior discussion that he was doing Don a favor, wing man-style. He was giving him a few seconds of up close and personal with their smoking hot hostess. He was doing a little bit more than “playing along.”

    Watching the plodding 60-ish white guy drool over a woman half his age who obviously hadn’t the slightest interest in him was grotesque and infuriating. As for the peppy preppy Bush, with his manic conspiratorial laugh and his enabling strategies, he was mainly a sycophant, but he was certainly fluent in so-called “locker room banter.” Today, Bush seems genuinely embarrassed by his frat boy antics, but it’s the facilitating sidekicks like Bush who do almost as much damage as the real predators like Trump.

    As many people have pointed out, this was not “locker room banter.” There’s a line between banter and sick talk. “Woah, she’s hot!” is on one side and, “I’d like to rape her,” is on the other. No, Trump didn’t go that far, but he crossed the line and Bush stayed right with him, egging him on. What if Bush had gone a little quiet or had just said “hmmm?”

    What if he had treated that actress like a co-worker rather than a piece of ass? It might not have stopped Trump, but it would have helped.

    The fact is, many women deal with forced hugs, irritating comments and handsy clients all the time and they rarely complain. Why? Because these gestures—rude and intrusive as they are—are on the low end of the scale as far as sexual assault goes. It’s hard for a woman to prosecute an actual rape and nearly impossible to get justice for the kind of pussy grabbing that appeals to Trump. So how does a woman confront the guy who uses a hug as an excuse to push up against her body? The answer is that unless she wants to make a scene, she doesn’t. And the guy, in Trump’s words, “can get away with it.”

    Billy Bush might not have been a full-fledged pussy grabber, but he was in the same ballpark and playing for the same team. When guys like this realize they are part of the problem, we’ll make some progress.

    Moving On … Or Not

    I could go on about that tape for a long time. Among other things, it’s fascinating that this exchange has generated more of an outrage than the hundred other crazy things we’ve seen and heard from Trump. I mean it was bad, but surely not unexpected. There’s something very Rick’s Cafe about it. (I am shocked, shocked!)

    Then there’s the weirdly sexist reaction from all the politicians who spoke of their wives and daughters, as if they needed a personal tie to a female in order to condemn her mistreatment. They seemed like manly protectors rising up against violent threats to their families, and it was in that paternalistic role that they attacked him. As my observant wife pointed out, they condemned Trump because, finally, they themselves were his targets! Not Mexicans, not Muslims, not even women per se; but married white American fathers whose wives and daughters were in jeopardy.

    And while we’re on politics, I’m tired of hearing people say that it’s time to talk about the “issues” and stop focusing on all of these distractions and sideshows. That’s like a student standing up in a lecture hall during a full on riot and insisting that we continue with chapter twelve. We have never had an election like this. We have a lunatic with no credentials going nuts several times a day, and you want to focus on what? Tax policy?

    I don’t think so! Particularly when it’s clear by now that Trump does not have what you would call a “policy” on anything.

    Oh, speaking of “twelve,” I have to mention that at least half of the Trump supporters who spoke about the fall of 2005 tape kept calling it a “twelve-year-old tape.” Am I missing something, or is it now 2016? That makes it an eleven-year-old tape, if anyone cares. No one does, but that’s my point. Why did so many people go out of their way to add one year? Was it ordained from Trump Tower?

    Finally, what the hell has happened to Rudy Giuliani? I never liked him that much, but I never hated him either. Now he’s turned into a monster. It’s like one of those movies where people eat something or their bodies are invaded and they look the same but eventually you realize that they have … changed.

    By the way, I just proofed the last two sections and had to delete about a dozen exclamation marks. I don’t like them and use them only rarely, but my subconscious had littered them all over. I basically screamed at you for the first half of my column. Taking a deep breath now.

    Back to the Issues

    I feel like the student in my analogy who wants to talk about chapter twelve. I actually have “same sex marriage in Australia” on my list even after I’ve promised so often to steer clear of that morass. But just as I start to research the latest Down Under comes news that Trump is psychotically tweeting nasty things about Paul Ryan, calling him and his fellow GOP “traitors” worse than Hillary Clinton. He is unravelling and I find it hard to look away.

    It turns out that the Australian parliament will not call for a non-binding public referendum on marriage equality. (I know that I wrote that this was a likely outcome some weeks ago. Well, that was true, or as Trump would say, “I was right.”) Our side is basically happy about this, because a non-binding vote serves little purpose and indeed might stir up a divisive debate on settled issues of gay rights.

    On the other hand, the status of marriage equality remains in limbo, with some speculating that same-sex marriage will go nowhere for the next few years, and others are certain that Parliament will itself make marriage equality the law of the land in a free vote, um, sometime soon. I have no feeling for Australian politics and I have no idea what will happen.

    Give Peace a Chance

    I don’t have much of a feeling for Columbian politics either, but I was surprised a couple weeks ago when the country voted against the peace deal that was to end a half-century old civil war. I mean, who votes to continue such a conflict? I paid only scant attention, but I had the impression that, like Brexit, the vote was laden with complicated cultural freight.

    Fast forward and I stumble over a headline that linked homophobia to the peace deal vote. Say what? That was pretty intriguing, but I still managed to sidestep what appears to be a complicated subject until the President of Colombia won the Nobel Peace Prize. Now I think we’re obliged to examine the situation there because otherwise, what’s the point of the Nobel Prize? It’s there, in my view, to hook the rest of us and force us for a brief minute to focus on a poem or a bosun or a country.

    So. There’s been a festering conservative backlash brewing in Colombia in the wake of a number of forward thinking developments, including several that have benefited the GLBT community. In April, the high court legalized marriage equality. Last summer, Gina Parody, the progressive education minister, advanced a gay friendly set of policies that included a controversial student manual. The government has legalized marijuana, and, of course, tried to peacefully end a rebellion that has continued since the 1960s.

    Needless to say, conservatives have not been pleased, and nor were they happy to see none other than Gina Parody take charge of the campaign to ratify the peace deal. Like the xenophobes of England, the nay-sayers cut off their noses to spite their faces, in this case rejecting their initiative that will send their president to Oslo. Unlike the Brits, who will face the consequences of their actions for decades, the Colombian voters will not block peace for long. This seems to be a nasty eruption, a protest statement against change that will have little significance in the long run.

    That’s Not So Gay

    It’s interesting when our issues intersect with the larger political environment, don’t you think? And how interesting is it that this has to be one of the least gay presidential campaigns we’ve seen in years? We’re not even talked about between the lines. We’re just last year’s news, period.

    I had “LGBT” on my debate bingo card the other night, and I got nothing. Not even “gay.” No mention. No one cares. No one even asked the insufferably unctuous Mr. Religious Freedom Mike Pence about the antigay law he and his buddies were obliged to undo a year or so in Indiana.

    And some of John Podesta’s hacked emails revealed that Hillary’s staff immediately realized that her explanation to Rachel Maddow for supporting the Defense of Marriage Act was so much hogwash. At the time she claimed that Bill thought it was acceptable to pass DOMA in order to forestall a federal constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. In fact, the push for an amendment came many years after the 1996 passage of DOMA. According to the hacked information, aides worried about the faulty excuse, and wondered whether to walk it back, but just moved on because no one really noticed. (I did! I did! I was right!)

    I’ve always thought Hillary should have just admitted that it was 1996, for God’s sake. No one supported marriage equality. That anti-marriage position was wrong, but it was almost universal. After all, even the Human Rights Campaign tried to run as hard as possible in the other direction, insisting that the gay community had no interest in marriage and that the topic was a red herring.

    Hey, who thought up the nicknames for the Russian hackers? One is cozy bear and the other is similar. Fancy bear! I just looked it up. They sound adorable. Did the Russians make up the names? Is it a mistranslation? I imagine Fancy Bear late at night with an ascot and beret leaning jauntily on a jewel-tipped cane on a Manhattan sidewalk. Cozy Bear is lying on the couch under a quilt watching NCIS with a little pot of honey in his paw.

    What Dreams May Come?

    So, they may not mention us by name this year, but I’ll tell you where we’re going to have an impact. North Carolina, that’s where. I’m sure that much will depend on the erratic behavior at the top of the ticket, but the governor’s race seems to me to be a straight up vote on HB2, the anti-gay and anti-trans bill that has turned Tarheel State politics upside-down since last March. North Carolina also has a close Senate race, but it’s really Governor Pat McCrory who has put his reputation on the line here. I want him to go down.

    I confess, in fact, that these evenings I put myself to sleep by imagining election night. I imagine the top of the hour, the election result music, and the states on the board turning blue. I think of that nice photo of Hillary in the pink jacket, with her bright eyes popping up over the outline of Ohio, or North Carolina or Florida. I imagine the Senate turning blue. Then I start to dream about the House and slumber happily away.