Dayton? El Paso? Old news. As a media event, the death of Jeffrey Epstein eradicated all previous outrages.
And why not? This story has everything. A rich guy connected to rich and powerful men. Teenage sex slaves. A mysterious death. And did I say he was white?
Epstein’s death triggered a tsunami of stupid. Nobody knew anything, but everybody knew everything. Of course it wasn’t suicide. He was on suicide watch! (He wasn’t.) Could his cellmate have killed him? (He had none). Was it Hillary Clinton with a pizza? The Mossad? And that photo of Epstein, dead, on a gurney — no way was that Epstein’s ear! I read exactly one snappy line, on Twitter: “If you’re surprised that Jeffrey Epstein killed himself, imagine how surprised he must have been.”
Murder or suicide? We’ll never know. Oh, there will be an investigation, and the government will release the results, but ever since the Warren Commission convicted a miserable loner as the sole assassin of the president, Americans who can read without moving their lips haven’t believed the official story of anything.
It’s no mystery why people are furious about Epstein. The victims deserved to face this monster in court. And to hear a judge sentence him to life in an isolated ward of a federal prison. And for him to assuage their trauma with his millions.
I was a journalist for 40 years. I have an affection for facts and truth. So include me in those who are angry that Epstein is dead. But now that I’m a novelist and playwright, I’m angry about something else: Epstein died without an exit interview. To confront your darkness in court, to have your assets taken, to be denied access to your addiction, to know your only hope of better treatment is to implicate others — this is the stuff of 21st-century Shakespeare. I would love to have written that story, that play, that movie.
Jeffrey Epstein denied us — and himself — that catharsis. He died disgraced, but I don’t think a moment of insight preceded his death. However it happened, death was an escape for Jeffrey Epstein. In that sense, he got away with it.
I wanted to write the final chapter of the Epstein story for another reason: The story is bigger than Epstein. It’s about men, very powerful men, toxic men, men who never hear the word “no.” You’ve seen the list. Surely there are more. For now, two names stand out: Bill Clinton and Donald Trump.
Depending on your politics, fury about those presidents is a big driver of the outrage over Epstein. Especially Trump. The line about him — “Everything he touches, dies” — is true. But Trump goes unpunished. And with Epstein dead and in the absence of incriminating tapes, all accusations that he too was pleasured by one of Epstein’s victims become just her word against his. So the view from here is that the rage and frustration about Epstein’s death has a big component of rage and frustration about Trump. Robert Mueller, the great white hope, faltered. Nancy Pelosi shows no appetite for impeachment, not that a single Republican would support her. Many surely prayed that Epstein would bring Trump down. But now it looks like justice for Trump is delayed until the 2020 election.
The dramatist in me sees a scenario that, I like to think, has occurred to Trump. He loses the election. He refuses to leave the White House, and marshals have to remove him. The Southern District of New York indicts him on federal charges. A judge, citing his wealth and his plane, declares Trump a flight risk and sends him, manacled, to the same jail where Jeffrey Epstein died. And there, in a jumpsuit that matches his hair, Donald Trump gets to have the first long think of his life.