When the now-infamous Donald Trump/Billy Bush audio feed was released, my confidence in Donald Trump all but evaporated. The so-called locker-room conversation — about kissing, groping, and fondling women — was worse than locker room. It was vile, vulgar, and inexcusable for a grown man.
But it didn’t end with the audio tape. After that came a barrage of sexual-assault allegations from various women against Trump, drowning out any talk of substantive issues. No wonder his polls slid.
He was a stock looking for a bottom.
In the second debate, just days after the audio-tape release, he did apologize, and he did get to some key issues. I thought his stock might be finding a bottom.
But then he re-hit the campaign trail with bizarre statements about being the victim of Mexican billionaires, major media outlets, and rigged elections. His stock continued to slide.
Of course, in the meantime, a boatload of Hillary Clinton e-mails leaked out. We learned of unscrupulous deals, official favors for cash, and how one of her former undersecretaries at State tried to make a deal with the FBI to protect her.
Granted, sex sells better than e-mails. But each of these presidential candidates is in a race to the bottom for the worst untrustworthy rating in political history. It would seem the public has come to believe, rightly or wrongly, that Trump is a skirt-chaser and Clinton is incapable of telling the truth.
For Hillary Clinton, I don’t see redemption. She is a corrupt political operative of the worst kind. But for Donald Trump, I may be seeing a way back. And his wife Melania is a big reason why.
Melania Trump gave some remarkable cable interviews this week, and she has me looking at the awful last two weeks in a somewhat different light.
Melania told CNN that her husband’s words on the audio tape were not acceptable. In even stronger language she told Fox News that her husband’s remarks were “offensive to me and they were inappropriate. And he apologized to me. And I accept his apology. And we are moving on.”
I’ve only met Melania once, a few months ago at a funeral. For some reason she recognized me. She came up, shook my hand, and if I recall correctly, thanked me for supporting her husband’s tax-cutting economic plan.
And then she turned her head and in a strong voice said to Donald, who was a few bodies away, “Look who’s here. Say hello.”
I was surprised and impressed at her political skills. She also had a certain strength and toughness that reminded me she’s a successful business woman.
So when she told cable reporters that she accepted her husband’s apology, I think she meant it.
We really hadn’t heard from Melania since these semi-scandals hit. She never showed up at that typical news conference, wife dutifully staring up at that guilty-as-sin politician, playing the fawning bride beside the man who proceeds to lie through his teeth to the media.
And when she repeated, “This is not the man that I know,” it reminded me that it’s not the man I know. In meetings in his office or on his plane, he was always a serious, accessible, engaged, businessman-turned-politician, wading through important policy issues as he learned his craft.
True enough, Donald Trump has said some indefensible things this campaign. Many of us who have supported him have said so, and we will criticize him again if it comes to that.
But then again, how is it that all these women spontaneously come out of the woodwork with unverified stories about Trump? Again, I like how Melania handled it.
Under pressure, with great civility, instead of viciously attacking these women, as Hillary once did to her husband’s accusers, Melania simply said, “All the allegations should be handled in a court of law.”
She correctly makes one think this phalanx of accusations is planned and organized. If not, why hasn’t one accuser filed charges?
And Melania wasn’t done. She had one more thing to say, some advice for her husband: Get back to the issues.
Indeed, Donald Trump, if he is to regain his chance, must pivot back to economic growth, jobs, wages, Obamacare repeal, border security, and destroying ISIS. Women, by the way, are just as worried about these issues as men.
It is doubtful that all this will be put to rest at Wednesday’s debate. But Trump has one last opportunity to apologize to the nation just as he apologized to Melania. And then he can tell us how his plan to get America right again is far better than Hillary’s.
I want to thank Melania for starting me on the path of restored confidence in Donald Trump.
Larry Kudlow is a senior contributor at CNBC. To find out more about Larry Kudlow and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com