- - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Donald J. Trump had barely met Rowanne Brewer Lane when he asked her to change out of her clothes.”

Oh, boy, readers of The New York Times imagined when they picked up their newspaper and read that opening line of a story of the latest on the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Here comes good stuff: hot, leggy models getting out of their clothes, sex, lust, bodice-ripping, pretentious pawing, maybe drugs and damnation, aggressive coupling and runaway desire under the palms at Mar-a-Largo, the Trump estate in Palm Beach.

At long last, the lowdown on the Donald.

Umm, well, not quite. There was indeed a poolside party at Mar-a-Largo, though this one was 26 years ago, and the leggy model did “change out of her clothes.” The host had invited her to join his other guests in the pool, and when he learned she hadn’t brought a bathing suit he sent her to a dressing room where she could find one. What happened next could only have shocked Grandpa and Grandma Grundy, the authors of the newspaper’s exclusive, writing under pen names Michael Barbaro and Megan Twohey. (Gramps and Granny Grundy can’t be too careful.)

The Donald was 44 years old on that distant day and in the midst of his first divorce. His ego was on the line, and anything might happen. He was fragile, vulnerable, libido-driven. That sometimes happens to a man in such circumstances, and this would be a sensational account of a man “crossing the line” in his conduct with women, reported in the spirit of the famous detective, Sgt. Friday: “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Alas, the facts turned out to be not nearly as exciting as promised. Miss Brewer Lane took the Donald’s invitation to borrow a bathing suit and join the other guests. “I went into the bathroom and tried one on,” she recalls. “It was a bikini. I came out, and he said, ‘Wow!’ “

That’s the explosive three-letter word that men have been known to use at the sight of what Damon Runyon called a doll, attired in a bikini. That’s just what a bikini was designed to do, which is why many young women can’t wait to get into one. The ladies loved the “wow!” in those antique times before Gloria Steinem in a Playboy bunny suit exposed the appetite of the rabbit in men. Many women like to hear such male admiration even today, though some, intimidated by the prevailing feminist sensibility, are reluctant to admit they do. This particular Trump guest sounds like one who didn’t mind.

“For some reason Donald seemed a little smitten with me,” she recalls of their first meeting. “He started talking to me and nobody else.” On that day he followed the rules of flirtation in the stylish way the Grundys couldn’t understand. Their account was intended to illustrate Mr. Trump’s appalling treatment of women, which the authors describe as “degrading, impersonal, performed.” The newspaper called his introduction of Miss Brewer Lane to his guests on that day — “a stunning Trump girl” — as a “debasing face-to-face encounter.”

She doesn’t agree, she told Fox News the next day, and was enraged by the newspaper’s account. She felt neither degraded nor offended, and describes the Donald as kind, generous and thoughtful, “a gentleman,” and she intends to vote for him. Not all women share her view of the candidate, not to put too fine a point on it, and there are ample examples of his less than gentlemanly behavior, but it’s easy to agree with her that The New York Times was eager to go Donald-hunting, and felt “the need to do something to make him look bad.” Mr. Trump and the media have well-known ill feelings toward each other, and many reporters and editors are frustrated that nothing they write or say has brought him down. He can expect more stories like this one, but few are likely to be so obvious in intent.

Donald Trump is not a subtle man. He has made enemies of lots of women with boorish behavior, with ugly epithets and insults. But The New York Times added nothing new to the mix but its own frustration and an example of what campaign coverage is likely to be, rife with anger, innuendo and snark. The two reporters offered the usual boilerplate in defense. “We really stand by our story,” they told CNN News, “and we believe we quoted her fairly and accurately and the story really speaks for itself.” Well, it certainly does do that.

Summer’s on the way, and soon the sight of young women in bikinis will decorate the land and provoke the “wow!” factor. Not every man will avert his eyes. The New York Times, beware.

Suzanne Fields is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.

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