Wednesday, February 21, 2018

When Will Trump's Life Catch Up With Him? Meet Rachel Crooks, An Ohio Legislative Candidate


Blue America didn't endorse Rachel Crooks because of her Trump saga. We endorsed her because she's running on a Bernie-like platform and seemed to us in a position where she could flip an Ohio state legislative seat from red to blue. The Trump saga will help her do that by bringing her some attention from the media. Like the Washington Post this week. Eli Saslow's story, date-lined Tiffin, Ohio, is powerful and compelling. and I hope it helps bring Rachel the campaign money she needs to get her platform out to voters in the 88th district (parts of Sandusky and Seneca counties). "There were 19 women in all," wrote Saslow, "who made public accusations of sexual misconduct, or 'The Nineteen,' as they had come to be known on T-shirts and bumper stickers. Most had come forward with their stories after Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015, and the experiences they described having with him spanned five decades. They claimed Trump had 'acted like a creepy uncle,' or 'squeezed my butt,' or 'eyed me like meat,' or 'stuck his hand up under my skirt,' or 'groped with octopus hands,' or 'pushed me against a wall,' or 'thrust his genitals,' or 'forced his tongue into my mouth' or 'offered $10,000 for everything.'"
In response, Trump had called the accusations against him “total fabrications” based on “political motives” to destroy his campaign and then his presidency. “Nothing ever happened with any of these women,” Trump tweeted once. “Totally made up nonsense to steal the election. Nobody has more respect for women than me!”

One woman accused Trump of assaulting her in the middle of a commercial flight after they met as seatmates in the 1970s. Another said it happened in a conference room during the middle of a job interview. Another, a journalist for People magazine, said Trump forced his tongue into her mouth as they finished an interview for a feature story about his marriage to Melania. The list of accusers included a reality-TV host, a runner-up on The Apprentice, a yoga instructor, an adult-film star and several women who had competed in Trump’s beauty pageants: a Miss New Hampshire, Miss Washington, Miss Arizona and Miss Finland.

And then there was Crooks, who had never been on reality TV, never drank alcohol, never met anyone famous until she moved from her childhood home in Green Springs to New York City in the summer of 2005. Nobody else in three generations of her family had ever seen the appeal in leaving Green Springs, population 1,300, but nobody else was quite like her: striking and self-assured at 6 feet tall; all-state in basketball, volleyball and track; the high school salutatorian and “Most Likely to Succeed.” She wanted to backpack across Europe, earn her doctorate, work in high-end fashion and live in a skyscraper that looked out over something other than an endless grid of brown-and-green soybean fields. “New York is where you can make things happen,” she had written to a friend back then, and a few weeks after graduating from college she persuaded her high school boyfriend, Clint Hackenburg, to move with her.

They rented a room in a cheap group house way out in Bay Ridge, and she took the first job she could find on Craigslist to pay rent, at an investment firm in Trump Tower called Bayrock. Her secretarial tasks were to make coffee, water the two office palm trees, polish the gold-trimmed mirrors, straighten the tassels on the Oriental rug at the entryway and sit at a mahogany welcome desk to greet visitors who came through the glass front doors.

She found the work mindless and demeaning, but all around her was the promise of New York. There was Oprah Winfrey, filming a TV show next to the two-story Christmas wreath in the main lobby. There was George Clooney, strolling past the office. There was Trump, an occasional business partner with Bayrock, standing right outside the glass doors every few days with his bodyguard as he waited for the elevator to take him back to his $100 million penthouse on the 66th floor. She remembered that sometimes he looked in and smiled at her. At least once she thought she saw him wave. “If you’re working in that building, you’ve got to at least meet him,” Hackenburg told her, and after five months Crooks finally got up from her desk and went out to say hello. It was early in the morning, and the office was mostly empty. She walked toward Trump, who she remembers was standing by himself in the small waiting area near the elevators. She held out her hand, intent on introducing herself not as a fan or as a secretary but as a business partner.

“Mr. Trump, I wanted to say hi, since our companies do a little work together,” she remembered telling him that day, and then, before she understood what was happening, she remembered Trump becoming the second man ever to kiss her.

“Fiction,” was what Trump’s campaign called her story when Crooks first told it publicly in 2016. “It is absurd to think that one of the most recognizable business leaders on the planet with a strong record of empowering women in his companies would do the things alleged,” the campaign said.

But Crooks’s version of that day was prompting more and more questions in her mind. Why did she sometimes feel as if he was still holding her in place? Why had she spent so much of the past decade recoiling from that moment-- back behind the receptionist desk, back inside of her head, back home to the certainty and simplicity of small-town Ohio? It was just a dreadful kiss, or at least that’s what she kept trying to tell herself to quiet the confusion that had grown out of that moment, turning into shame, hardening into anxiety and insecurity until nearly a decade later, when she first started to read about other women whose accusations sounded so much like her own. Kissed at a party. Kissed in a dance club. Kissed during a business meeting. Kissed while attending a Mother’s Day brunch at Mar-a-Largo. “For the first time, I started to think it wasn’t my fault for being clueless and naive, or for something I did wrong in seeming that way to him,” Crooks said in one of her first public statements about Trump in 2016. Maybe together with the other accusers their stories had power, Crooks thought. Maybe, if the accusations alone weren’t enough to hold Trump accountable for his behavior, the women could force the country to pay attention with better messaging and greater theatrics.

Late in 2017, Crooks agreed to join several accusers for television interviews and news conferences in New York. “A call to action,” the invitation read, because their goal was to demand a congressional investigation into Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct. Crooks wrote herself some reminders for effective public speaking: “Use detail and repetition.” “Make it personal.” “Focus on solutions.” She volunteered to speak first, squared her shoulders and then turned to face the cameras with the poise of the athlete she had been.

“By now all of you are probably familiar with my story,” she said before beginning it again. The 24th floor. His lips coming toward hers. His hands holding her in place until the elevator arrived to take him upstairs. “Feelings of self-doubt and insignificance,” she said.

“I know there are many worse forms of sexual harassment, but doesn’t this still speak to character?” she said. “I don’t want money. I don’t need a lawsuit. I just want people to listen. How many women have to come forward? What will it take to get a response?”

The response that came was waiting every day on Crooks’s computer, so one morning back home in Ohio she woke up and walked downstairs to her laptop. The front door was locked, the shades were drawn, and she sat next to the dog she had recently bought with hopes that a pet might help reduce her anxiety. She navigated to Facebook. “Good morning, Rachel!” read a greeting at the top of her page, and then she clicked open her messages.

Goal Thermometer“Very unbelievable story,” read the first. “Try and get rich some other way.”

“You ignorant, attention seeking cow.”

“Nobody would touch you, especially not Trump. You look like a boy. A gun to your head would be good for our nation.”

She had tried changing the privacy settings on her Facebook page and logging off Twitter, but there was no way to barricade herself from so much hostility. It came into her email inbox at the tiny college in Ohio where she worked as a recruiter of international students. It came when she walked her dog around the block or took her nephews trick-or-treating. “So may stares and weird comments that give me social anxiety,” was how she explained it once to a friend, because now each interaction required a series of calculations. Two thirds of people in Seneca County had voted for Trump. Ninety-four percent of Trump supporters told pollsters that their views were “not impacted” by the sexual harassment allegations against him. So Crooks wondered: Did the majority of her friends, co-workers and neighbors think she was lying? Or, even worse in her mind, did they believe her but simply not care?

“An honest, timeless, values-first community” was how one tourism slogan described Seneca County, and Crooks had always believed those things to be true. Her father had worked 39 years as a mechanic at Whirlpool and then retired with a decent pension. Her sister was raising four children in the same converted farmhouse where Crooks had grown up. Everybody in town knew her family-- four generations of Crooks clustered within a few square blocks-- so a local newspaper had interviewed community members about Crooks’s allegations against Trump. “A fine, wholesome young girl,” her high school volleyball coach told the paper, and that seemed to Crooks like the most Ohio compliment of all. But then the story ended and the comments began, and Crooks kept reading because she knew some of the commenters, too.

“I’m a friend of the family. She’s lying.”

“If he was going to make a move on a woman, it wouldn’t be her!”

“We know Trump has class, so why would he waste his time on some average chick like this?”

In her “values-first” community, it now felt to Crooks as if politics had become a fissure that was always deepening, the facts distorted by both sides, until even her own family no longer agreed on what or whom to believe. Her parents and sister supported her, even if they disliked talking about politics. Her grandmother, a staunch conservative, hugged Crooks after reading the original article about Trump’s harassment in the New York Times but then sometimes talked admiringly about Trump. Another of her relatives was often posting laudatory stories about the president on Facebook and dismissing many of the attacks against him as purely political, until one day Crooks decided to email her.

“Your candidate of choice kissed me without my consent,” Crooks wrote, and then she began to wonder whether there was some way to tell her story, or some piece of evidence, that could change her relative’s mind. During one news conference, she had asked Trump to release the security videotapes from the 24th floor that day, but he never responded. She had not heard from him, or anyone representing him, since she came home from New York. “What can I ever do to prove this happened and that it impacted my life?” she said.

Maybe the proof was the email she had sent to her mother, from the Bayrock office in New York, at 1:27 that afternoon in 2006: “Hey Ma, my day started off rough…had a weird incident with Mr. Trump.”

Or the email she sent a few hours later to her sister at 3:05 p.m.: “I must just appear to be some dumb girl that he can take advantage of… ugh!

” Or the email she sent a few days after that to another relative: “Ah yes, the Donald kiss… very creepy man, let me tell you!”

Or the recorded conversation between Trump and Billy Bush on an Access Hollywood bus late in 2005, months before Crooks says she met Trump by the elevators: “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women. I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

“By all means, have your opinions,” Crooks wrote to her relative instead, because more and more she believed no version of her story could bridge the widening divide.

“It makes me ill, to be quite honest with you... when my own family members not only vote for but publicly defend this person,” she wrote. “For my own sanity, I will not engage you further on this.”
She has an issues page on her campaign website. On healthcare, for example, she wrote "Access to healthcare is a right, not a privilege. I have never understood why two people going to the same doctor might pay vastly different amounts for the same service. It’s a broken system, and we deserve better. Especially because the opioid epidemic has taken hold of our state, and Ohio leads the nation in accidental overdose deaths. We can’t go back to a time when preexisting conditions held people back from receiving care-- from preventive services to life-saving treatments. And we need to maintain Medicaid expansion so that our neighbors and friends, regardless of their income, have access to health care. But we must take a step further and fix our system so it works for everyone."

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At 1:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The US of A no longer has a government of law. No portion of the government even follow the law anymore, ruling instead by the fiat of the executive order. That fool Obamanation wold have accomplished exactly nothing without them, and since they are so easily reversed, has accomplish exactly nothing with them.

It is thus with Trump. His only "accomplishments" are the reversals of just about everything Obamanation did. The "tax reform" which is going to crash the global economy was due to the leadership vacuum which exists at the top not being present to ensure that opportunists like McTurtle and Lyin' Ryan couldn't have their way.

Justice is imposed on the rest of us based exclusively on how the powers that be decide that day. One can't know from day to day what those whims will produce except bad outcomes.

I don't know that this nation will ever recover from this. I see it breaking up into a Balkans-style area of constant strife and warfare.

At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only way his life will catch up with him is when his aorta explodes from all the big-macs and fries. hopefully soon.

I would have to disagree with 1:59 wrt obamanation's accomplishments. They were many and sweeping.

He normalized torture by not prosecuting cheney's admin.
He normalized TBTF by refusing to do one stinking thing about it except make it worse.
He further normalized and made more extreme the corruption of the democrap party and aided/abetted their colossal ineptitude.
He further normalized racism by doing nothing.
He further normalized the ratfucking of labor by refusing to do anything in WI or anywhere else.
He multiplied the number of drone murders under cheney/bush by 3 orders of magnitude.
He refused to address vote fraud, thus further normalizing it.
He knew of and refused to do one thing about the Russian meddling.
He continued the bipartisan us/US practice of ratfucking any and all democratically elected governments that begin to lean toward socializing their own resources or allying with the wrong nations (Honduras, Ukraine...)

You get the idea.

Michael Moore once wrote that bill (fucking) Clinton was the most effective republican president ever. I wonder whether he would place obamanation first or second today.

At 7:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would update Moore's observation to make Obama the most effective Republican President over Clinton. Barry gave the GOP far more of their desires than Bill ever did, and tried to give them even more.


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