Kellyanne Halperin Circus

For some reason, the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct scandal has succeeded where Donald Trump's open boasting about sexual assault failed, opening the floodgates for women to come forward and call out men who abuse their power to degrade and violate women. The latest to be called out is now-former MSNBC contributor Mark Halperin, who faces a raft of allegations that include what amounts to sexual battery.

One familiar ingredient to the Halperin story is that his behavior is said to have been an open secret among colleagues in his field, which has people looking back for signs. To that end, RawStory has flagged a clip from Showtime's “The Circus” in which it alleges Conway refused to hug Halperin.

I don't know about “refused,” but given the recent revelations, you could make a good case for skillful avoidance:

The inference, I suppose, is that Conway may have been in on the open secret, but it got me wondering how she has responded to similar circumstances regarding Donald Trump. Conway may or may not have known about Halperin, but she at least found out about Trump when the rest of us did.

There's not a whole lot to go on, but if body language is your thing, make what you will of this exchange of air-kisses at an inaugural event. Trump doesn't appear to be offering a hug, but Conway does fall victim to the Trump arm-yank:

At a senior staff swearing-in, Trump hugged Omarosa and Jared Kushner, but got only air-kisses from Hope Hicks and Conway:

But maybe Conway, an experienced political pro, just isn't down with hugging as a greeting for officials of a certain stature. Who knows?

Instead of relying on body language to gauge Conway's response to this sort of behavior, it's probably more useful to look at language-language. For example, this bit of sharing with Halperin's “Morning Joe” squad, which Conway did not specifically deny saying:

“She would get off the air, the camera would be turned off, the microphone would be taken off, and she would say 'Blech, I need to take a shower,' because she disliked her candidate so much.”

But if you don't believe Mika Brzezinski or Conway's non-denial, there was also this peculiar moment from debate night, right after Trump's boasts were revealed. Out of nowhere, Conway hesitated when asked if she was in Trump's campaign until the “bitter end.”

She told Matthews she was, then haltingly said “unless” and spent about a minute trying to dig her way out of that slip. Her explanation was very revealing:

MATTHEWS: You're worried about more shoes dropping.

CONWAY: I didn't say that. No, no, no. I've made a commitment. And I believe that he will be a much better president. [...] But I, I, I am committed not letting Hillary Clinton appoint the next three or four justices to the United States Supreme Court.

Conway cited a few other things, but I think her immediate reaction was the truest. Like Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Conway is extremely anti-abortion, and like a great many conservatives who would otherwise have nothing to do with someone who has said and done what Trump has, is willing to swallow a lot in exchange for the promise of an anti-choice court.

All of which raises the question why Republicans cling to Trump, rather than making way for a Mike Pence presidency. Pence is much more reliably anti-choice, much less likely to tweet us into a nuclear war, and more skillful on policy (a low bar, to be sure). The answer is that they're caught in a vise between the impeachment devil and the deep blue sea of Trump voters who will deny them their Congressional majorities.

That's why all of them, Conway included, are willing to do a whole lot more than hug Trump.

Watch Trump brag about sexual assault below.

Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.

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