by G Gavin Collins
For regular viewers of the 2016 US presidential race, coarsened by a now nine-month long Trumpian assault on political decorum and language, the only truly shocking thing about Mr. Trump’s most recently leaked comments, this time from all the way back in 2005, was that he deigned to apologise. Perhaps it was the realisation by the Trump campaign that apart from the mob who continue to support him, more measured minds found the revelation that one of the two candidates for the highest office in the land thought it acceptable to “grab” the genitalia of random women just a tad off-putting.
Whatever the reason, there he sat last Friday, displaying as much contrition as his heavily powdered face would allow, mournfully eyeing the camera, ready to confess his sins before God and the television audience of every Hooters restaurant south of the Mason-Dixon line – truly a reformed man! In typical Trump fashion, however, he made sure to deflect at least some of the blame, this time informing the camera that, “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close”. How reassuring. It would no doubt be fruitless to remind Mr. Trump that he is running against Mr. Clinton’s wife, and not the seedy ex-President. By the time Mr. Trump had concluded his remarks, it was not even clear if there had been an apology at all.
In a sane and decent society, Trump’s comments would automatically have disqualified him from the presidency; what is left of the Republican Party would have banded together to ex-communicate him from its ranks, the private news networks would have refused to televise any further presidential debates featuring Mr. Trump, and he would have shuffled offstage to tweet alone in relative obscurity from his palatial apartment atop Trump Tower – a blasphemy against good taste in its own right.
Alas, all the ineffectual Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, could muster was to reconsider his support of Trump, no doubt until the course of the political winds can better be ascertained. The television networks sank to new lows in their reportage – Sean Hannity, a popular conservative television host, even went so far as to justify Mr. Trump’s shortcomings by reminding his viewers that King David of the Old Testament had hundreds of concubines, and on Sunday Mr. Trump managed to bluster his way through the second debate.
There is no indication that the Republican Party will pull the rug out from Mr. Trump at this late stage. That they have had ample opportunity to distance themselves from him in the recent past is without question. There was that time, for instance, when Mr. Trump labelled the majority of Mexican Immigrants rapists and criminals, that time he mocked a disabled reporter, that time he alluded to the size of his genitalia during a nationally televised debate, that time he mocked the menstrual cycle of Fox News Host Megyn Kelly – also during a live television debate, et cetera, ad nauseam. For each of these tasteless remarks, Trump offered no apology but, curiously, his support grew.
The fact is that Mr. Trump’s supporters do not want to see him apologise. They want him to attack the establishment and everything ‘it’ stands for. If this means an occasional assault on public decency, then so be it. Even the Evangelical Christian wing of the Republican Party, who make a great fuss about standing for Christian virtue in civil society, have been perfectly content to endorse Mr. Trump and invite him to their places of worship.
But all of Trump’s sins must not excuse the part that Mrs. Clinton has played in widening the political divide and fuelling this resentment. The Trump-like apology of Mrs. Clinton in the wake of her email scandal, and her stubborn refusal to take responsibility for her own actions – including her failure to release the transcripts of the six-figure speeches she gave to America’s leading financial institutions, are unacceptable. Realistic solutions and serious political debate are sorely needed in the United States, and that requires a public that holds candidates to a higher standard – and yes, even forces them to apologise.