What is perhaps most remarkable is that it was not leaked earlier. (Indeed, those who have worked on The Apprentice have indicated that there is lots more on tape that is of a similar tone).
The reason why it is so striking is that there were sixteen other Republican presidential candidates in the field (of varying viability, but sixteen nevertheless).
Sixteen candidates who could have done opposition research on the man whose views are not simply conservative but dangerous. (One might even say not even conservative). Sixteen candidates who could have done opposition research on the man whose demise now might be responsible for a landslide election for their opposing party at multiple layers of government.
Some view it as being in bad taste for primary candidates to eat their young rather than rising up in the interest of coming together in a show of party unity for core values (e.g., limited government, low tax rates, social conservatism). Indeed, looking too negative can be unappealing to the voters watching on television (though one might say that those watching presidential primary debates are likely the stronger partisans who are more likely than the average American to enjoy political theater). And running a primary campaign is a challenge. You want to set yourself apart from the field of candidates. You want to highlight your experience as well as any policy disagreements that you have with your co-partisans. But you also don’t want to damage your party to the point of hurting in November and ceding ground to the opposing party.
Some in the Republican primary were keen on attacking one another’s positions and temperament, sometimes seeking to prove who was the truer conservative. But there were at least as many cases of them saying that they shouldn’t be going after each others jugulars but rather ensuring a Hillary Clinton defeat on November 8.
There are some things that Trump has said and done on the campaign trail itself. He has mocked a disabled reporter. He called for a ban of Muslims. He said Mexicans are rapists and criminals. He said that Judge Curiel could not be unbiased because of his ethnicity. He said that African Americans are all in poverty and don’t have anything to lose by supporting him. He tweeted about a non-existent sex tape between the hours of 3am and 6am.
But there are things that vastly preceded this campaign, whether his old undeleted tweets, his ex-wife Ivana’s allegations of rape (to which Mr. Trump’s lawyer erroneously said that spousal rape was impossible), the many charges of harassment and objectification of women, the tape with Billy Bush that has led to the current fallout, and the potentially hours (days!) of footage of him that did not make the cut for The Apprentice, which was indicated in Seasons 1 and 2 producer Bill Pruit indicated in a tweet reading, “As a producer on seasons 1 & 2 of #theapprentice I assure you: when it comes to the #trumptapes there are far worse. #justthebeginning.” And that does not even get to Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns even amid the revelation of a couple pages of a 1995 return indicating that he lost nearly a billion dollars amid a robust economy, potentially allowing him to avoid taxes for up to 18 years.
So the question is, what were the Republican candidates doing in the fall of 2015? The emphasis on his nonpayment of taxes would not have sat well with the voters and might have reduced his chances in the early primaries and caucuses, after which it became all but impossible to catch up with his delegate count. The revelation of this tape prior to January would have led to Trump’s demise, likely resulting in Marco Rubio garnering the nomination (and likely win).
Part of the issue was that in such a crowded field, Trump had less time in the spotlight and thus less time to make comments that would be disqualifying. And in an era of more punditry than solid investigative journalism, there is inadequate accountability in contemporary politics and politicking.
Party loyalty can come in many forms. It can come in the form of taking what is viewed as the high road and not going negative. It can also come in the form of loyalty to ensuring a candidate who will best serve the party, and keeping out of contention those who would be damaging, even when that means going negative.
Prediction for 2020: There will be a lot of mudslinging.