Donald Trump apologized late last night for his now infamous secret audio discussing among other things, sexual assault and groping back in 2005 when he was a “celebrity.” Trump admits that he was wrong and pledges to do better but then pivots and goes on the attack. He changes the 90 second apology and tries to go after Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton for Mr. Clinton’s infidelities and Mrs. Clinton’s responses to the incidents.
Many candidates have had moments like Mr. Trump is having today. Mitt Romney had one in 2012 that did damage to his campaign (but that is not why he lost). Candidate Bill Clinton faced a similar firestorm in 1992 during the Gennifer Flowers revealations (without social media fortunately for his sake) and most famously, Barack Obama, in 2007 was nearly swallowed by the sudden discovery that a former church pastor, preached sermons heavily influenced by James Cone’s Black Liberation Theology.
It is Mr. Obama’s handling of his moment in 2007 that exposes how Trump’s apology is so misdirected and insane. Where Trump went aggressive and attacked others in his apology (or statement), Barack Obama used his moment not just to critique his own choices but to speak on the issue itself and expand the conversation on the particular topic. Race and racism in the U.S. was placed before the public to consider by Mr. Obama in the context of American history and it became a moment where the public had to mostly respect his knowledge, contrition, and humility regardless of what occurred.
Trump could have done something similar on sexism, patriarchy and women but he didn’t. He simply doubled down on Hillary Clinton, his opponent, and a woman, and her husband, as if they are the issue. Trump doesn’t seem to understand that he described “sexual assault” in the audio. The audio also suggests and exposes a society where sexual assault on women by men occurs a lot. Mr. Trump could have condemned what he did and condemned groping and sexual assault of this nature in all instances but he didn’t. He could have also condemned the notion that women are sex objects first in society but he didn’t. The conversation narrowed; it didn’t expand.
But fact is, Donald Trump is completely lost on this issue on so many levels. He again demonstrated he lacks the temperment of a normal human being in the most basic of situations. He is not just inexperienced in the political arena; he doesn’t care to abide by the basic and decent modes of conduct in society related to race or sex. The secret audio is what he is.