Coming to Washington for the first time this week, Stormy Daniels jumped into the deep end. The adult film star stopped by Politics & Prose, a bookstore that serves as Washington’s 92nd Street Y, to be interviewed by Sally Quinn, the famous Washington Post reporter and widow of its Pulitzer Prize-winning editor Ben Bradlee, about her book "Full Disclosure."
It was an odd mashup of performers and setting — imagine Sean Hannity interviewing George Soros at Burning Man — and an even odder audience. The last time this big a group of tweedy liberals and moderate Republicans had shown up at this gathering place in these numbers was for Chilean writer and intellectual Isabel Allende.
Singularly unusual was that the 6 p.m. event was Daniels’ first stop of the night. Her main reason for coming to Washington was for her second gig at a downtown strip club.
Daniels had come to Politics & Prose to sell books — she’s so busy with her family and other job, it was only her third author's event — but it wasn't so clear why such a large group had lined up to hear her. Curiosity or the enemy of my enemy doesn’t seem enough to justify standing in line for an hour to get in. Quinn flicked at one explanation when she promised she would be getting to the “Trump parts,” after asking Daniels about her previous life, justifying the delay by noting that her encounter with the president consumed “only two minutes out of her life.”
As Quinn started at the beginning with the absent father, the neglectful mother, the neighbor who raped her, Daniels gave readers a pass to open their books to Chapter 3 for what they came for — the request to be spanked, the quick, lackadaisical performance, the two-in-one shampoo-conditioner he brought with him to treat his hair.
The hypocrisy of it all, listening respectfully to Daniels when not too long ago, many of these same people hated on anyone who would dare to bring up Bill Clinton’s dark side. They agreed with James Carville’s claim that if you “drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.” That was a reference to Paula Jones, who sued the former president for sexual assault, and a warning to anyone else thinking about doing so. That was nothing compared to the shaming West Wing staffers conducted, reducing Monica Lewinsky, a twenty-something who thought she was in love and loved, to a crazed erotomaniac who stood in the pouring rain screaming to be let in to see an unwilling president.
But now we are here, after waiting for hours, to see a woman who admitted she didn’t have a “cool answer” for why she went to visit Trump in his hotel room at Lake Tahoe. She’d hoped for a good meal that never came, not a man in black silk pajamas showing her a magazine with his picture on the cover as a prelude to something more. The rest is the history of hush money paid and denied, a transaction that ended with lawyer Michael Cohen turning into a prime witness in Robert Mueller’s probe and that brought hundreds of people out to hear about it.
So exactly what is the source of Daniels’ appeal? The facile answer is that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But it’s also a story of authenticity, that elusive quality politicians pay consultants large sums to learn how to fake. A natural, offhand candor has given her the ear of women, from Carville’s trailer park to #MeToo and LGBTQ advocates, and feminists (The New York Times contributing editor Jill Filipovic called her a “hero”) along with 800,000 Twitter followers. She hasn’t been swatted away like Lyin’ Ted, Liddle Marco and Rocket Man. The nickname Horseface didn’t stick.
That may be because, in other circumstances, Daniels would be part of Trump’s base. She has the up-from-the-bootstraps success Trump loves, proud that with discipline and organization, she rose to the top of her profession — work she gets shamed for doing publicly while many doing the shaming consume her work privately. Offend her, offend them.
And so Ms. Daniels came to Washington, not like Mr. Smith of the famous movie, of another genre of film. She was here for her well-paid night job. At 7:15 p.m. on the dot, she rushed off to the Cloakroom, a club near the White House. Quinn, who'd bought a ticket, followed her. We live in unusual times.
Margaret Carlson is a columnist for the Daily Beast. She was formerly the first woman columnist at Time magazine, a columnist at Bloomberg View, a weekly panelist on CNN’s "Capital Gang" and managing editor at the New Republic. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.