Yes, Stormy Daniels is a real issue

WH: Trump not aware of Stormy Daniels payment
WH: Trump not aware of Stormy Daniels payment


    WH: Trump not aware of Stormy Daniels payment


WH: Trump not aware of Stormy Daniels payment 02:00

(CNN)Two questions here, as the Stormy Daniels story swirls into another news cycle: Does the President's personal life, much less this one's, really matter? And what would've happened on Election Day in 2016 if voters knew then what they might soon find out directly from Daniels?

The answers here are strictly subjective. But the second one is more interesting. One subjective take is that, no, it would have made absolutely no difference. I'd bet a lot of people agree. And that a lot of those people, for that reason, think the story should be ignored or treated as trashy gossip.
But that's missing the bigger issue. Whether or not one approves of Trump's alleged behavior, or thinks the efforts to keep it hush-hush affected the election, it's most certainly relevant to our politics. Even in this seemingly endless, dense thicket of news, we should be able to hold these competing ideas in our heads and not fall to pieces. (Or feel required to smash those who don't agree to pieces, metaphorically, on Twitter.)
On Capitol Hill, leading figures on both sides of the aisle have — for vastly different reasons — dismissed the story. House Speaker Paul Ryan, asked on Thursday if he thought allegations of hush money payments were a big deal, shrugged and said, "I haven't put in a second of thought into this. It's not on my radar screen." A day earlier, Sen. Bernie Sanders, on Instagram, suggested it wasn't a "real" issue. "There are other things going on besides Trump's alleged affair with a porn star," he wrote.
    Sanders isn't wrong. But there's more to it.
    The case for caring goes like this. If the legal allegations -- about the non disclosure agreement, etc. -- are true, then a close personal ally to and legal representative of the President lied and actively deceived a woman in an effort to advance or protect Trump's political prospects. It doesn't say much for Trump and his pals' treatment of women and less for their regard for federal law.
    At a time when the White House is under fire for its apparently laissez-faire ethics standards, it seems especially weird to dismiss this story as a distraction. If anything (and, if proven) it offers some unique insight into how Trump and his close allies operate.
    Much the same goes for Trump and the Russia probe. Do I, personally, expect that it will be revealed that Trump himself conspired or colluded with Moscow to hack or disseminate emails from the Clinton campaign and DNC? Probably not. (We will find out soon enough.) Politico's Blake Hounshell, in his "Confessions of a Russiagate Skeptic," makes the case pretty succinctly. Along those lines, I'm also skeptical that Russia ultimately swung the election to Trump. (Not a popular opinion these days!)
    But to suggest that the investigation, and Trump's increasingly hysterical reaction to it, is a waste of reporters' time and ink, is folly. The result, despite how Trump clearly views it, is almost beside the point. The issue here is the integrity of the process. They are not, however, entirely inextricable.
    Again, it's important -- even in these helter-skelter times -- not to confuse our desire to see a given story lower down on the list of priorities with believing (and insisting) that, no, it's not a story at all.
    And with that, have you read the latest on Trump, Cohen and Stormy?