In the Age of Trump, it often seems that powerful, entitled men have taken to imitating the behavior of the great man himself: forcing themselves upon reluctant women (and sometimes girls), relying upon their power and money to protect them from the consequences. So go ahead and grab them, boys, because “when you’re a star, they let you do it.”
Maybe you could even let them touch your Super Bowl trophy — assuming that illegal Asian immigrants working 15-hour shifts in West Palm Beach “massage” parlors would have any idea what it represented. Apart from “big, strong me,” compared to “little, insignificant you,” that is.
Not a subtle message, actually.
“It’s unbelievable but apparently true,” comments feminist author Amanda Marcotte. “America’s intensifying wealth inequality has created a class of hyper-rich men who act like cartoon villains.”
She’ll get no argument from me. Trump hardly invented such practices, although he surely embodies them.
See, if women threaten to tell, there’s always a Michael Cohen around to bribe them into silence. And if things go seriously wrong, a randy billionaire can avail himself of the services of an Alan Dershowitz or Kenneth Starr — the brilliant advocates revealed last week as the brains behind convicted sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s secret sweetheart deal with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of Florida.
Think about it: the eponymous puritan scold behind the Starr Report (largely written by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh), humiliating Bill Clinton for his sweaty sexual sins. Then in 2008, Starr helped to arrange what a federal judge called a “calculated plan by the prosecutor” to allow billionaire financier Epstein to serve a mere 13 months in a private Palm Beach jail he left daily to visit his office, while keeping the arrangement secret from the teenaged girls who’d been his victims. (Not notifying them was the illegal part.)
Miami-based U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, it’s reliably reported, “did not want bad publicity for Epstein, they did not want other perpetrators exposed and/or they did not want the victims to object.”
Acosta currently serves as President Trump’s secretary of labor.
Kenneth Starr, of course, subsequently went on to greater glory as president of Baylor University, where he distinguished himself by running on the football field in cheerleader garb before being removed in 2016 for helping cover up sexual assaults by football players.
Anyway, what a cast of characters: Kenneth Bleeping Starr, the perpetually indignant Alan Dershowitz, a Trump Cabinet secretary, and Epstein himself: a sleek, billionaire sex offender jetting about in his private airplane (which cynics dubbed the “Lolita Express”) with pals like Trump, Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew.
I ask you: If we can’t have televised congressional hearings about a scam like that, what’s the point of paying taxes?
But enough raillery. Back to the Super Bowl trophy and its humiliated owner, Robert Kraft: business tycoon, philanthropist, owner of the New England Patriots and longtime Trump crony. His company donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration; he’s a frequent guest at Mar-a-Lago, the very fattest of cats.
Humiliated, because until he asked his chauffeur to drive him from his $29.5 million Palm Beach mansion for a couple of furtive visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, a strip mall “massage” joint in nearby Jupiter, Florida, Kraft was a well-respected (if not universally beloved) man.
Now, at age 77, he’s the punchline of a national joke. His seemingly inevitable election to the NFL Hall of Fame has been delayed indefinitely; he may never live to see it. I know: boo hoo-hoo.
The legal penalties are derisory for somebody of Kraft’s wealth. He and a couple of hundred other men (less prominent billionaires among them) are charged with misdemeanors. Fines of up to $1,000 and no jail time are the likely outcome — not much worse than a speeding ticket.
Indeed, the mystery is why a person of his means would frequent a sad-sack joint like Orchids of Asia. At $79 for an hour’s entertainment, if you’ve got the price of a modest lunch at a Palm Beach restaurant, they’ve got to let you do it — whatever it is you want these powerless victims of human trafficking to do.
And smile while they’re doing it.
Local cops have persuasively depicted the women as victims of a cynical, corrupt industry. “These girls are there all day long, into the evening. They can’t leave, and they’re performing sex acts,” a Vero Beach officer told The New Yorker. “Some of them may tell us they’re OK, but they’re not.”
Marcotte thinks it’s about the sadistic exercise of power. “At a certain point,” she writes, “it’s about being able to inflict cruelty.”
Absolutely. But it’s also about the many powerful men who are emotional cripples: incapable of experiencing the love of mature women they know first as the dearest of friends — the only form of sexual intimacy worth having.
IMAGE: Attorney Kenneth Starr speaks during arguments before the California Supreme Court in San Francisco, March 5, 2009. REUTERS/Paul Sakuma.