OPINION: White House should be held to the same standard as USC

Shideh Ghandeharizadeh | Daily Trojan

After the indictments of U.S. President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the national dialogue has been swirling with one question: Did the president commit a crime?

The answer to that question is obvious, even if issues of campaign finance and foreign collusion have been momentarily overlooked. Trump absolutely did commit a crime: sexual assault.

In 2005, a then-59-year-old Trump was sitting in the back of a bus at the Access Hollywood studio, stirring up crass conversation with “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush.

The future president said, with remarkable candor, that he is automatically attracted to beautiful women, that he cannot control himself when he is around beautiful women and that because he is a successful man, he can get away with grabbing women “by the p-ssy.”

After the tape was released, several women close to Trump at the time confirmed that he touched their genital areas without consent.

Grabbing anyone by their genitals without consent amounts to sexual assault, a crime that deserves punishment whether it is committed by a groundskeeper or the soon-to-be leader of the free world. Despite outrage from commentators, voters, legal experts and politicians of both parties, Trump was elected president one month after the tape was released, defeating Hillary Clinton, the first woman to obtain a major party’s nomination. Sixty-three million Americans didn’t view sexual assault as a disqualifying trait.

As damning as Trump’s own words were, there is the possibility that Trump wasn’t telling the truth on that bus. Perhaps Trump was so hungry for Bush’s admiration that he made up a story about being a sexual predator. If this is the case, Trump’s credibility as both a truthful man and a viable moral agent is questionable. If Trump was willing to falsely implicate himself in an attempt to entertain Bush, why should the American people believe he’s telling the truth when he denies collusion with the Russians in order to maintain his presidency? Either the president is sexually violent or he’s a misogynistic liar. Either possibility suggests he is a criminal.

It is disheartening to see a president’s confession to sexual violence take a back seat in the national dialogue. It hurts to see that few care enough to remain outraged about this specific wrongdoing committed by Trump, but it also hurts that critics simply do not have time to dwell on it due to Trump’s tsunami of unethical leadership decisions.

By stacking up individual atrocities, Trump has effectively diluted the severity of his wrongs in the court of public opinion, effectively rendering each charge docile. It’s hard to hit a moving target.

Sexual assault signifies an evil entitlement that is unacceptable at any level of society. Either Trump holds that entitlement or he has no grasp on the necessity of truth. When considering the 18 women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct, including several accusations of sexual assault, and Trump’s history of lying to his constituents, it seems that both cases are most likely true.

A disturbing parallel arises when considering USC in the context of this Trumpian nightmare. USC has adopted an aggressive approach to sexual misconduct (at least in cases where the Los Angeles Times gets involved), leading to stricter enforcement of its existing policies. It pains me to say this, but the executive branch of the federal government is now held to a lower moral threshold than USC, one of the most scandal-plagued schools in the country.

It is also striking to note that if the USC Office of Admission, or any office of admission for that matter, were to discover a tape of one of their applicants proclaiming their entitlement to grab another person’s genitals without consent, that applicant would be rejected outright. From that, it is fair to surmise that currently — from at least a moral standpoint — being a student at USC is a more selective position than that of our country’s commander-in-chief. This is not something to be proud of.