ANY other politician would be in serious trouble.
Yesterday, Vanity Fair published explosive claims from Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who said he had heard Mr Trump repeatedly use racist language before becoming president.
“Black people are too stupid to vote for me,” Mr Trump supposedly said during the 2016 election campaign.
Mr Cohen described comments the president had made about an African-American Apprentice contestant, Kwame Jackson, who made the final two in the reality show’s first season.
“He said, ‘There’s no way I can let this black f***ing win,’” Mr Cohen told Vanity Fair.
Another time, Mr Trump and Mr Cohen were driving through a “rougher neighbourhood” of Chicago.
“Trump made a comment to me, saying that only the blacks could live like this,” Mr Cohen said.
Mr Cohen was not a particularly credible person to begin with, and his relationship with the president has soured considerably in recent months, so take his claims with a healthy dose of scepticism.
But here’s the fascinating thing. This report about Mr Trump allegedly using racist language has barely been noticed. Another politician’s career would be in jeopardy, whereas Mr Trump is facing no blowback at all.
It’s merely the latest example of Mr Trump’s unique ability to survive controversies that would sink his rivals.
On multiple occasions, the president’s critics have deluded themselves into believing he has done something outrageous enough to destroy him.
1. The Access Hollywood tape
Exactly a month before the 2016 election, the Washington Post published leaked footage and audio of Mr Trump chatting to TV host Billy Bush.
Mr Trump could be heard bragging about kissing and touching women without their permission.
“I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything,” Mr Trump said.
Many pundits believed it was a fatal moment for Mr Trump’s campaign.
Even some Republicans, including future White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, suggested he drop out of the race and let another candidate take his place.
You could tell the situation was serious, because Mr Trump took the very unusual step (for him) of publicly apologising, even as his supporters defended the tape as “locker room talk”.
A few weeks later, he won the election.
2. His very first speech
Most experts gave Mr Trump little chance of winning the Republican nomination, let alone beating Hillary Clinton. He was treated as a joke candidate; someone doomed to fail miserably.
His famous speech at Trump Tower announcing his candidacy only reinforced that view.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said.
“They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with them. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Two years later, he is using similarly incendiary language to describe a caravan of migrants moving towards the Mexican border. Mr Trump claims “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” are among the group, and has implied some of them are terrorists.
He has also fuelled the conspiracy theory that a wealthy Democratic donor, George Soros, is secretly paying the migrants in an effort to hurt him politically ahead of the midterm elections.
Such comments still spark outrage, but Mr Trump’s critics long ago lost hope that his racially charged rhetoric would backfire.
3. Insulting a war hero
When his candidacy was still fairly young, Mr Trump took a shocking swing at fellow Republican John McCain, a Vietnam War veteran.
“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured,” he said.
Mr McCain, who died of brain cancer in August, was shot down over Vietnam in 1967 and taken to a gulag, where he was brutally tortured.
When he was offered early release because of his father’s position in the US military, Mr McCain refused to leave before his fellow prisoners, instead subjecting himself to more torture.
In the decades afterwards, he became a respected senator, and was the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2008. But when Mr Trump mocked his record, it did nothing to dent his support.
4. Spreading conspiracy theories
Mr Trump was always able to get away with a certain degree of rudeness towards his political opponents. He loved to label them with degrading nicknames — think “Little Marco”, “Crooked Hillary” and “Lyin’ Ted”.
But most incredibly, he was never punished politically for spreading conspiracy theories about his rivals.
Mr Trump spent years peddling the thoroughly debunked lie that his predecessor, Barack Obama, was not born in the United States. At one point he claimed private investigators he had deployed to Hawaii could “not believe” what they had discovered.
He attacked fellow Republican Ted Cruz by implying his father Rafael was linked to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Mr Trump suggested the Clintons had been involved in the death of a former aide, Bill Foster, despite the official conclusion that he had committed suicide.
During a presidential debate, he spread the theory that vaccines could cause autism.
I could keep reeling off conspiracy theories for a while here. Mr Trump loves them, and the crazier they are, the better. But it has never hurt him.
5. Conning people
While Mr Trump was claiming to be a man of the people, parts of his questionable business record started to emerge.
One of the shadier examples was Trump University, a school that promised to teach its students the secrets Mr Trump had used to get rich.
“He’s ready to share, with Americans like you, the Trump process for investing in today’s once-in-a-lifetime real estate market,” one ad for the school said.
Thousands of students accused the president of fraud, saying he had lured them into signing up for expensive courses that turned out to be worthless.
His rivals, such as Senator Marco Rubio, accused Mr Trump of being a conman. He proceeded to beat Mr Rubio comfortably in his own state.
After winning the election, Mr Trump quietly settled the fraud case for $US25 million.
6. Feuding with the family of a fallen soldier
Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son Humayun was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq, spoke out against Mr Turmp’s idea to ban Muslims from entering the United States at the Democratic National Convention.
“If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have even been in America,” Mr Khan said of his son.
“He vows to build walls and ban us from this country. Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution?”
He held up his own, pocket-sized copy of the document.
“You have sacrificed nothing, and no one.”
Mr Trump took exception to the Khans’ criticism, and promptly broke one of the iron-clad rules of politics — never attack a fallen soldier’s family.
“Who wrote that? Did Hillary’s script writers write it?” Mr Trump said.
“I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard.”
He also implied Mrs Khan had stood silent on stage, leaving her husband to speak, because of her religion. She later said she had been invited to talk but was too upset.
When he became president, Mr Trump quickly tried to implement a watered-down version of the travel ban.
7. The Comey saga
Mr Trump is still under investigation for potentially obstructing justice by putting pressure on, and later firing, FBI director James Comey.
The sacking was the catalyst for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to be formed. Some of Mr Trump’s enemies even called for his impeachment.
This one could still come back to haunt the president, but given more than a year has passed without any consequences, it’s fair to say he has escaped unscathed for now.
8. Insulting hurricane survivors
Mr Trump came under fire for jetting off on a golf trip after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, while the mayor of the island’s biggest city, San Juan, pleaded for more help.
“I will do what I never thought I was going to do — begging. Begging anyone that can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy,” Mayor Carmen Cruz said.
Instead of asking whether he really could do more, Mr Trump took it as a personal attack on him and lashed out at Ms Cruz, who at the time was sleeping in a shelter because her house had been wrecked and was spending her days wading through floodwaters trying to help survivors.
He framed it as an attempt by his political opponents to shame him.
“The mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” the president said.
“Such poor leadership by the mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”
Puerto Rico is a US territory. So just to be clear, that was the president of the United States attacking American disaster victims for wanting too much of his help. He felt he was the true victim.
George W. Bush’s insufficient response to Hurricane Katrina was politically devastating. Mr Trump’s treatment of Puerto Ricans has cost him nothing.
9. Sexual assault accusations
After the “grab ’em by the pussy tape” emerged, a dozen women came forward to accuse Mr Trump of sexual misconduct.
For example, Jessica Leeds claimed he had groped her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt during a flight.
Jill Harth said Mr Trump forcibly kissed her, groped her breasts and grabbed her genitals. She described it as “attempted rape”.
Natasha Stoynoff told People magazine Mr Trump pushed her against a wall and forced his tongue down her throat.
Multiple women described his weird habit of entering changing rooms at beauty contests while contestants were half-naked.
To be fair, Mr Trump isn’t the first president to get away with creepy behaviour. There were credible allegations against Bill Clinton — even putting aside the ugly Monica Lewinsky affair — and Democrats defended him for years.
Still, few politicians could survive a dozen accusations.
10. The Stormy Daniels affair
Mr Trump had an affair with porn star Stormy Daniels while his wife Melania was at home with his newborn son. Then he paid off Ms Daniels during the election campaign to keep her quiet. When the details of that pay-off started to emerge, he lied about it.
Can you imagine anyone else walking away from that story without any repercussions?
Infidelity is a tough topic. Many politicians have survived despite having affairs. But attempts to cover up those affairs are usually disastrous.
11. All the lies
Mr Trump lies so habitually that it is difficult to point to any one instant as the one that should have doomed him. But many in the media have long been baffled by both the degree of his dishonesty and the fact that nobody seems to care.
Just this week, the president casually told his supporters at a rally that only three per cent of asylum seekers in America showed up for their court dates. The real figure is 76 per cent.
Before the election, to pick an example at random, he blatantly lied about his support for the Iraq War, claiming he had opposed it from the very beginning.
The poor sods at the Washington Post have been trying to track every lie Mr Trump has told as president. Their tally currently stands in the thousands.
People expect politicians to be dishonest. But usually it annoys them. With Mr Trump, many still insist he “tells it how it is”.
He once insisted he could shoot a man on New York’s 5th Avenue and his supporters still wouldn’t abandon him. I’m starting to think he was right.