Donald Trump is the candidate who is so rigid in his perverted self-righteousness that he doesn’t “like to have to ask for forgiveness.” He says he has never even sought forgiveness from God, the divine author and inspiration of his favorite book, from which he struggled to name a favorite verse.
But Trump actually expressed some “regret” last week, saying:
“Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain.”
Precisely what does Trump regret?
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Does he regret his comments on Megyn Kelly and the issue of blood coming out of her “wherever”? Does he regret retweeting messages calling her a bimbo?
Does he regret attacking a Gold Star family?
Does he regret making fun of one of my colleagues with a disability?
Does he regret comparing Ben Carson’s temper to the incurable pathology of a child molester?
Does he regret suggesting that Ted Cruz’s father associated with John F. Kennedy’s assassin?
What, exactly, does he regret? There are so many things from which to choose.
I don’t believe, even for a nanosecond, that he regrets the personal impact of what he has said on anyone besides himself.
I believe that he only regrets that what he has said has not worked well for him in the general election portion of the campaign. That is the difference between regret as an act of public contrition and regret as an expression of personal disappointment in one’s own flagging fortunes.
I believe that Trump regrets that, as Lindsey Graham put it last week, “People are getting pretty nervous about our candidates because he’s in a death spiral here and nobody knows where the bottom is at.” Trump’s “regret” is just a cynical ploy to set a bottom and bounce back.
But it will take more than the 75-plus remaining days of this campaign to disassemble what it took 70 years of his life to build.
He is who he is.
This fragile narcissist, who is a sort of bottomless pit of emotional need and affirmation, is easily injured by even the slightest confrontation.
He is a man who has said of himself, “I have no friends, as far as I’m concerned,” as he joked that it would be easy to get big money out of politics. But that claim is worrisome, a thing that only a bully would say.
Yes, he can work a crowd, work a screen and work a Twitter account. He can channel anger, hatred and bigotry and give it a voice and face and standing. He can make bombast feel like bravado. He can lower discourse and raise the rabble.
He has the gifts of a grifter.
The problem is that, at the moment, those gifts are proving to be woefully insufficient as he continues to face horrible polling results and other Republican officials begin to reek of fear, panic and impending peril.
Furthermore, his team is being remade in the fourth quarter, as reports of corruption begin to swirl. Last week his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, resigned after The Associated Press reported:
“A firm run by Donald Trump’s campaign chairman directly orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling political party, attempting to sway American public opinion in favor of the country’s pro-Russian government, emails obtained by The Associated Press show. Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, never disclosed their work as foreign agents as required under federal law.”
The report continued:
“The lobbying included attempts to gain positive press coverage of Ukrainian officials in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press. Another goal: undercutting American public sympathy for the imprisoned rival of Ukraine’s then-president. At the time, European and American leaders were pressuring Ukraine to free her.”
This email controversy, coming from the same campaign trying to make hay of Hillary Clinton’s email controversy. Oh, the irony.
Trump thinks of himself as a great man – that is the premise of his entire sales pitch, that America has faltered and can only be made great again by the Midas touch of his tiny hands – but if current trends continue and he suffers a staggering loss on Election Day, his ego will be forever injured as he is assigned to history not as a great man but as a great disaster, a cautionary tale of what comes of a party that picks a con man as its frontman.
Trump’s recitation of regret wasn’t so much a ruthless Saul to Apostle Paul transformation as an inverted Jekyll and Hyde monstrous illusion.
There is something rotten at the core of this man that no length of script or turn of phrase can ameliorate.