The most overused adjective of the 2016 presidential election cycle so far has got to be the term “Outsider.” The media is thoroughly infatuated with the notion of alleged outsiders dominating the campaign season and crushing their “establishment” rivals. It’s a stark turnaround from their prior position that political neophytes (i.e. President Obama) are unqualified to assume leadership roles in government.
These outsiders have been granted broad leeway to do and say things that ordinarily would sink any other campaign. And in today’s environment the most admirable response when caught making a formerly fatal faux pas is to double down and, by no means, apologize. Notable among the remorseless on the right is Donald Trump who has insulted Latinos by calling them criminals and rapists; dishonored veterans by saying that POWs are not heroes; pretends to be pious while insisting that he doesn’t have to ask for forgiveness because he never does anything wrong; and displays blatant misogyny aimed at any woman who challenges him. In all of these, and many other, incidents he has refused to apologize or even acknowledge that his words or actions may have been inappropriate or hurtful.
But Trump is not alone. Many of the Republican candidates are guilty of this. Mike Huckabee refused to apologize after a despicable and insensitive Holocaust reference that Obama’s deal with Iran “will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.” Ben Carson never apologized for likening ObamaCare to slavery. Jeb Bush repeatedly used the pejorative term “anchor baby” without lament (which he got from Trump). In the last presidential race Mitt Romney actually published a book titled “No Apologies.”
So it is rather disingenuous now for Republicans, and most of the media, to be obsessed with whether or not Hillary Clinton will apologize for having used a private email address. In just the past week she has been asked this question by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and again by the Associated Press. She responded that she was sorry that the subject was so confusing and expressed regret that she hadn’t decided to use separate emails, but since she did nothing wrong or illegal there was no other reason to apologize. She told the AP that “What I did was allowed. It was allowed by the State Department. The State Department has confirmed that.” These responses were then relayed to the rest of the media that continued to play up the same angle.
It’s interesting that every time a Republican refuses to apologize for their actions they are hailed as people of strong character who stand by their principles. The GOP voters drool all over themselves with ever-expanding esteem for their unyielding commitment. They are venerated for refusing to buckle under to pressure by those who would have them show remorse or even sympathy for those they malign. But when Clinton has the audacity to dismiss the need to apologize, and offers a rational explanation for her stance, she is assailed as arrogant, imperious, or out-of-touch.
This is emblematic of the right’s hypocritical approach to pretty much everything political. Inexperienced candidates are considered a threat to the nation, unless they are inexperienced Republicans like Trump or Carson. Wealthy candidates, like Clinton, are elitists who can’t relate to the common citizen, unless they are wealthy Republicans like Trump or Bush. Religious candidates like Jimmy Carter are belittled and demeaned, unless they are religious Republicans like Huckabee or Cruz. And this goes on and on with other matters including education, military service, and business experience. In every case Democrats are criticized for the same things for which Republicans are praised.
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Personally, I’m a fan of apologies. It shows humility and maturity and the temperament to be able to admit one’s mistakes. People should get credit for apologizing, not criticism. But in the current political environment apologies are taken as signs of weakness. And that’s why Republicans and the press are so adamant about extracting one from Clinton. They want to portray her as weak. That’s the trap. The problem is that if she resists she is portrayed as obstinate and arrogant, but if she complies she is tagged as a spineless wimp. It’s a lose-lose proposition for her alone. Because the GOP can still refuse to apologize for anything and still get applause from the media and right-wingers who go through life with blinders on.