MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now it's time for the Barbershop. That's where we gather a group of interesting folks to talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shape-up this weekend are here in studio with me in Washington, D.C., Mona Charen, syndicated columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, conservative commentator Gayle Trotter. She hosts the podcast right in D.C. From Radio Foundation in New York Danielle Belton, managing editor of The Root.
I think you know what we want to talk about. Both campaigns have stories involving leaked materials, but we have to start with the video posted by The Washington Post last night where Donald Trump is making vulgar comments about women. We have a clip that we can play, but you - as you would imagine, it has been edited. We bleep some of the sound. It still contains inappropriate language. Here it is.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DONALD TRUMP: I moved on her, and I failed. I'll admit it.
BILLY BUSH: Whoa.
TRUMP: I did try and [expletive] her. She was married.
MARTIN: So Donald Trump released a statement saying he regrets the comments he made in the video. Gayle, I'm going to start with you.
GAYLE TROTTER: Sure. We didn't learn anything new yesterday. These are intemperate remarks. We already knew that the candidate is vulgar and boastful, but I think the real question in looking at this is to understand why this campaign is different, why 2016 is different because this would have probably been disqualifying in any other year. But we look at who he's running against and we have to ask ourselves why is Hillary Clinton so disliked and distrusted that someone like Donald Trump can be running neck and neck with her?
MARTIN: I think the question I really have with you, Gayle, is I know that you are a person of faith. I know that you are a mother of six kids. I know that you care a lot about the culture and the environment that you are raising them in, so I think the question that a lot of people would have is you support him. How is it that you can support him given that he is so far out of alignment with what you otherwise espouse and believe in?
TROTTER: Right. Because no one is trying to make him pope. No one is trying to put him up for sainthood. I think sin is equally distributed against the political parties, and I believe that Donald Trump will not weaponize the federal government against nuns, bakers, candlestick-makers. So the difference comes down to policy between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and that's why I think this tape that was released yesterday, even though it's, you know, catnip for media, it's not going to change people's opinions about him because they've already factored into that his character in deciding in this binary choice who they're going to choose.
MARTIN: And it hasn't changed your opinion more to the point?
TROTTER: It changed my opinion in what way?
MARTIN: You're still going to support him.
TROTTER: I support his policy positions.
MARTIN: Mona Charen, what about you? I have to mention that you were part of a group of conservatives who wrote columns in The National Review back in February opposing Trump because you said that he's not really a conservative. I mean, you talked, though, a lot about some of these issues. I mean, you talked about the fact that his immodesty, his comments toward women. You said that who except a pitifully insecure person needs constantly to insult and belittle others, including or perhaps especially women. You know, so you were never supporting Trump. You're never going to support Trump. But does this change anything?
MONA CHAREN: Well, so what is at stake here, it seems to me, and why this is an important civil war that's going on within the Republican ranks is that while it is true that there are moral failings on all sides, the Republican Party used to be a party that claimed to believe that character was important, that character mattered. They said that again and again in the Clinton scandals, and for them now to suddenly completely abandon that standard even paying tribute of the hypocrisy is the tribute the vice pays to virtue famously. We've even abandoned that. We don't even have the decency to be hypocrites here. We just simply have so many Republicans, not all but so many Republicans have simply said, no, that whole character thing - never mind. It really doesn't matter at all. And that's a huge loss for the country.
MARTIN: What should happen now, Mona, though? If you were a person who - let's say you're like Gayle and you think that the Supreme Court, for example, you know - selecting a justice who is going to follow in his footsteps of (unintelligible) is the most important thing because that affects not just the president, but the future.
MARTIN: What do you do?
CHAREN: Well, everything a president does is going to affect the future. There are things that President Obama has done that are undoable, such as the mess he has made of Syria and the deal with Iran that cannot be just simply waved away with the stroke of a pen. So every act that a president takes has long-term consequences, not just the court. But to believe that, first of all, that the court is the only important thing, I think, is to miss the larger damage that Trump could do on many other fronts. But further, he's not trustworthy. The notion that you can believe that he's going to appoint people that are acceptable to conservatives is a prayerful wish, but it may not come true at all. There's no reason to believe him. He's so dishonest.
MARTIN: So what are you going to do, Mona?
CHAREN: I'm going to vote for Evan McMullin who is on the ballot in Virginia, an independent candidate who has actually gotten on the ballot in, I think, maybe 20 states so far and is a genuine conservative and an honest person. And in light of the disgusting choice of either Clinton or Trump, I'm going to vote for an unknown, but who is a man of honor and intelligent and conservative.
MARTIN: And even though you know he's not going to win because...
MARTIN: ...This is the first I've heard his name, and I think I'm a reasonably well-informed person.
CHAREN: (Laughter) Well, I'm glad that NPR can give him a little bit more attention.
MARTIN: Well, you know, Danielle, let me go to you on this - and can I just bring up another issue along with this? Which is that we mentioned that Donald Trump has apologized for his statements about women. But another thing that happened this week that he certainly - most certainly has not apologized for is that he made new comments about the Central Park Five. Now, this was a case involving a group of five young men who were convicted of raping a woman in New York Central Park in 1989 - terrible story.
The men were later cleared after DNA evidence proved they were innocent. Someone else had confessed. In fact, the person who confessed had been trying to confess for years because he knew he was responsible and that these young men were not. They - but this happened after they had served their full sentences. New York City paid substantial damages. However, in a statement to CNN this week, Donald Trump insists that they are still guilty. So, Danielle, I want to ask you why do you think there's such a difference in response to these two cases by him?
DANIELLE BELTON: Oh, my goodness. I mean, this just kind of - it's not so much that it's different in responses. I feel like in one case he was compelled to have to say what he had to say because the controversy had blown up so big around what he had been saying around women. But I feel like the Central Park Five case shows how he actually really feels about things, that he's unrepentant, like he may have said, you know, that he apologizes for what he said on that videotape.
But does he actually mean that apology? Like he looked so angry, and the fact that he can't admit that he's wrong with Central Park Five and they've been exonerated when the real, you know, man who abused and brutalized that woman came forward when the city of New York paid over $40 million to the Central Park Five for them being basically railroaded and coerced into confessing to a crime that they did not commit, and the fact that he can't see that he's wrong - when he paid the money to pull out a full-page ad, you know - when he added to the incendiary and the racially-charged atmosphere - I mean, it's just appalling. This is who he actually truly is. He is a unrepented person who says out-of-pocket things, who doesn't want to take accountability for what he says and what, you know, what kind of chaos he causes and it's just, you know - it's just disgusting.
MARTIN: Well, kind of hard to switch gears after that, but I will try because there is one other issue that I did want to raise with you which is that these WikiLeaks emails - that were released by WikiLeaks linked to Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta. The Clinton campaign has not verified their authenticity. They include excerpts of Clinton's past speeches to Wall Street firms. This all happened on the same day as the Trump video came out and just - in the time that we have left, you know, I apologize for making that hard turn from something that is actually profoundly emotional and affects a lot of people's lives and has really affected these young men's lives to this day, but I do feel it's fair to raise this other issue. Mona, do you want to start on it?
CHAREN: It's a funny year because the revelations in these emails about what Hillary spoke to Wall Street firms about - would be considered sort of mainstream, centrist Republican views, you know, on free trade and immigration and so forth. It's only this year that they are - first of all, they're out of step with the Democratic Party which has moved significantly to the left on these issues with Bernie Sanders, and they're out of step with the Republican Party which likewise has moved to the left, considerably, on these very same issues led by Mr. Trump.
MARTIN: Gayle, what do you think about it?
TROTTER: Well, the bottom line of this story is that Hillary Clinton said favorable things about banking to bankers, so it's really a non-event. And I don't think that this WikiLeaks story is going to change anyone who supported Hillary prior to this from not supporting her. And I think the same is true with this tape of Donald yesterday, that no one who supported Trump previously - who truly supported - now, we have a lot of Republicans in Washington, D.C., who are elected officials who are backing away from him now, but I would argue that they weren't with him at the beginning.
MARTIN: But it does matter though doesn't it? You don't think that these elected officials - because elected officials have things like organizations.
TROTTER: Right, right, right.
MARTIN: They have people who get people to the polls.
MARTIN: They have people who...
CHAREN: And for the people who were undecided it could be very pivotal.
MARTIN: Danielle, I'm going to give you the - maybe final word on this - might be - on these WikiLeaks disclosures. Is this resonating so far?
BELTON: No. Like, it's bad. You know, like it's basically her saying one thing and doing another, but that's just so commonplace just among politicians in general. It's like who cares? With what's going on the news right now and how sick this election has gotten and depraved, I, you know - I honestly - yeah. It didn't affect me at all.
MARTIN: When you say that it's gotten to sort of sick and depraved, what particularly comes to mind? I mean, it's true that, you know, in newsrooms it's true. I mean, I'm kind of - I hope I'm not revealing any secrets here - we do use this kind of language a lot to say, oh, my god, that's sick. But when you say that, what do you mean by that?
BELTON: I mean, I feel like Trump has just lowered the discourse so badly. I mean, here's someone who has said negative things about Muslims, Mexicans, women, black people who couldn't repudiate, you know, David Duke for the longest time, the things he said about Judge Curiel, the things about Miriam Machado, the fact that - I mean, this is someone who's a former spouse, you know, accused him of marital rape. And, like, this is the GOP - this is the candidate of a major political party. This is the GOP's, like, the top of their ticket. And...
TROTTER: But you remember...
MARTIN: Gayle - Gayle Trotter.
TROTTER: Vernon Jordan's friend - a friend of Bill Clinton he said that when he and Bill Clinton would go on the golf course, they would talk about the same thing that Donald Trump was recorded saying in the Access Hollywood.
MARTIN: Isn't there, though, a difference between...
BELTON: I mean, Bill Clinton is currently not running for president.
BELTON: And the reality is that Bill Clinton was charged with perjury...
TROTTER: But people on the left never had a problem with that.
BELTON: ...He was impeached.
TROTTER: It's hypocritical for people on the left to have a problem...
BELTON: He was impeached and charged with perjury.
TROTTER: ...With Trump saying this if Bill Clinton was saying and acting on these same things and he wasn't called out on it.
MARTIN: OK. But you would never in a million years have voted for Bill Clinton, so how can you - you're supporting...
TROTTER: And I'd say most of the media wouldn't vote for Trump.
MARTIN: All right. Well, that is Gayle Trotter She's the host of the podcast right in D.C. Mona Charen is a columnist - syndicated columnist. Her latest book is "Do-Gooders." Danielle Belton is managing editor of The Root. Thank you all so much for joining us.
TROTTER: Thank you.
CHAREN: Thank you.
BELTON: Thank you.
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