October 8, 2016

Trump Apologizes

Readers no doubt know that The Washington Post released a blockbuster video yesterday that shows GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump bragging about his harassment of and disrespect for women. (See first video below.) When I first saw this disgusting video, I was unsurprised. It has been clear to every decent American that Trump is a lying, male chauvinist pig, in addition to being an insensitive and ignorant son-of-a-bitch. Apparently, however, this latest revelation went too far for Republican Party leaders. The video made it all-too-clear that Donald J. Trump is the General of the Army of the Republican War on Women. That revelation is simply too blatant and too dangerous to paper over. Party leaders are contemplating their next move. Some have suggested that Trump should step aside; some have even suggested that, to protect his own reputation, Pence should step aside.

Trump initially issued one of those familiar non-apology apologies—if anyone was offended, etc. It quickly became apparent that this insincere statement would not do, and that that Trump had offended a large fraction of the electorate. To save his scalp, Trump later issued the following video statement:

In his statement, Trump is clearly and carefully reading from a teleprompter, a skill he is notoriously bad at. Someone suggested that his “apology” seems like a hostage video. His style of delivery does not suggest sincerity or engender confidence.

“Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. (An AP story earlier in the week suggests otherwise.) Trump tries to minimize the significance of the offending video by calling it “more than a decade old.” He continues, “I said it; I was wrong; and I apologize.” Notice that he doesn’t apologize to anyone in particular—not to women in general, not to particular women, and not to the American people. Moreover, he apologizes only for what he said, not for the treatment of women that he admitted to in the initial video.

After 21 seconds of the 91-second video, Trump’s contrition is over. He lapses into a campaign ad, repeating his dystopian view of the country. His travels have changed him, we are told, and he pledges to be a “better man”—not a high standard. “I will never, ever let you down,” a not very compelling promise under the circumstances.

He cannot resist attacking “Hillary Clinton and her kind,” who “have run our country into the ground.” This is typical Trumpian misdirection. (Think of his one-sentence dismissal of his years-long birther campaign, which was preceded by an interminable plug for his new Washington hotel at a recent press conference.) The video controversy is “nothing more than a distraction”—one he desperately wants to go away—from more important issues. Issues like Bill Clinton’s infidelities and Hillary’s having “attacked, shamed, and intimidated his victims.”

I cannot understand why Bill Clinton’s infidelities are blameworthy, but Donald Trump’s are not. In any case, Bill Clinton is not running for president, and his failings, whatever they might be, have nothing to do with Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Moreover, Hillary’s verbal barbs directed at her husband’s “victims” are exactly what we would expect for any self-respecting wife who truly loves her husband. They are not evidence, as are Trump’s statements and behavior, of a hostility toward women generally.

In short, Trump’s attempted apology is a disaster. He should have admitted that the video was legitimate, taken responsibility for what he said and for the behavior he described, and pleaded for forgiveness. Any attempt to justify himself or to blame others for “greater” sins (any sins, for that matter) should have been omitted from his statement. The apology should not have morphed into a campaign ad.

What should the GOP do? I think the answer is clear. It should disavow its ticket, cease all political activity in favor of that ticket, and admit that Hillary Clinton will be (and should be) the next President of the United States. The GOP should instruct electors pledged to Trump/Pence to instead vote for Clinton/ Kaine in the Electoral College. Nothing less is honorable.

I am not holding my breath.

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