President Trump does not believe that people — that white men like himself — should have to apologize for their public displays of misogyny or racism. But this isn’t simply because he doesn’t want to give ground to critics out of stubbornness or a fear of displaying weakness.
Rather, the refusal to apologize for these things is itself a political statement, even a statement of values. And you can bet that many of his supporters hear it in precisely this way.
.. This once again displays Trump’s seething contempt for his own voters’ intelligence.
.. He has also complained that aides publicly admitted mistakes earlier this year over their handling of allegations that former White House staff secretary Rob Porter was emotionally and physically abusive toward his two ex-wives. “You should have never apologized,” he told a group of communications aides, according to two people. “You don’t ever apologize.”
You don’t ever apologize, even for failing to perform due diligence on a very senior administration official’s repeated alleged incidents of domestic abuse. But why don’t you ever apologize?
.. Trump and his advisers debated whether he should do a TV interview and reiterate his apology. His advisers handed him language in which he would admit that his vile language (which included boasting about grabbing women by the “p—y”) was “not acceptable for a president.”
But Trump exploded. “I can’t do this,” he raged. “This is weak. You guys are weak.” Once elected, Trump even took to suggesting that the voice on the tape wasn’t his.
.. Trump refused to admit error, and even doubled down, after falsely claiming that “thousands and thousands” of U.S. Muslims had celebrated 9/11.
Then there’s Trump’s birtherism. After spending years spreading the racist conspiracy theory that the nation’s first black president didn’t belong in the White House because he isn’t American, Trump finally admitted the truth. But he falsely blamed Hillary Clinton for hatching the claim and took credit for forcing Obama to reveal his birth certificate, like a sheriff who had thrown a perp against the wall and shaken loose his papers.
.. Trump views racial discord as a positive — the more of it, the better. The whole point is deliberate provocation, both out of genuine racist conviction and the belief that it tightens his political bond with his supporters. Trump pardoned racist Joe Arpaio as “a way of pleasing his political base.” He revived his attacks on football players for protesting racism because this “revs up his political base.” After Trump deliberately stoked racial discord after Charlottesville, Stephen K. Bannon subsequently said it would be a political winner for the president.
Billy Graham met every President from Truman to Trump, but he was particularly close to Richard Nixon, an intimacy he came to regret when the Watergate tapes became public and Nixon was heard repeating anti-Semitic remarks that Billy had made to him. In 2011, Billy Graham admitted that this closeness was an error. “Looking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn’t do that now,” he told the magazine Christianity Today... When I asked Graham if there was a lesson in his father’s regrets, he brushed off the question, and told me the story of his dad’s reaction to Nixon instead. “He was hurt by President Nixon, and things that Nixon said, when, like the Watergate tapes, he never heard President Nixon cuss, use profanity—so that was a shock to him, and he felt a little bit betrayed by that.”.. Later, with Graham seated next to him, Trump warned of the stakes for Christians if Republicans lost in the midterms. “They will overturn everything that we’ve done, and they will do it quickly and violently,” he said. Later, by phone, I asked Graham what he thought of this rhetoric about “violence” from the left—didn’t it seem far-fetched to him? Graham defended Trump, invoking the Cold War era, when Christians faced persecution in the Soviet Union and other Communist countries. “I do agree, to some degree,” he said. “The Democratic Party is moving very quickly toward socialism, and I know what socialism does to the church.”.. Graham has also been criticized for his relationship with Vladimir Putin, which began before Trump took office. Putin’s anti-gay legislation aligns with Graham’s views, and, in 2014, Graham wrote, “In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues. Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.” In 2015, Graham spent forty-five minutes with Putin in Moscow, discussing the persecution of Christians and what evangelical Christianity actually entails, Graham told me... He told me that he didn’t think Trump should have gotten “more aggressive” with Putin. “I don’t think that’s the way you get things done,” he told me. Graham has repeatedly denied the possibility that Trump colluded with the Russians to win the 2016 election, and is only slightly more circumspect on the issue of Russian interference. When pressed on the issue, he said, “I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know. But I do know that the United States has interfered in many countries’ elections. We’ve interfered in Iran, with the Shah. We interfered in Vietnam and put our own people in. We did this in Korea. And President Obama did this in Israel.” Graham, who is also a strong supporter of Benjamin Netanyahu, was speaking about President Obama’s alleged support for the more liberal Israeli opposition during the 2015 election. This is one of the many conspiratorial half-truths that Graham has levelled as criticism against Obama. He has also supported outright lies, including the spurious accusation that Obama wasn’t born in the United States... And Trump’s moral failings are old news, he told me. “Well, you take American Presidents in the past. Bill Clinton wasn’t the first man to have an affair in the White House,” Graham said. “We’re all flawed, and the Bible says we’re all sinners. And the Bible tells us that God sent his son to take our sins, to die for our sins. And America needs a heart transplant. And we need to put our heart and faith and trust in Jesus Christ, because every politician—I don’t care who they are, what party you put in there—they’re flawed men or flawed women.”“Do you think that President Trump really wants to turn the nation to God?” I asked.
“No,” Graham told me. “No. That’s not what he’s trying to do, no.”
.. “People think I’m closer to Donald Trump than I actually am, ” Graham said. “I haven’t seen Trump since my father’s funeral.” He didn’t want to go to the White House dinner, he told me, preferring to spend time with his family. “But people told me if I didn’t go it would look like a snub.”
.. “Can you imagine if the majority of the school board were controlled by God-fearing Christians?” he asked, continuing with a treatise on how secularism was no different from Communism, how abortion was murder, and how same-sex marriage was a sin against God.
Baron Cohen’s targets in his Showtime series, “Who Is America?,” are the élites, in the broadest sense of the word: nice upper-middle-class Southern conservatives, a contemporary-art curator, Senator Bernie Sanders. He has filmed N.R.A. hacks voicing support for giving guns to kindergarteners, Republican politicians reading utter gibberish off a teleprompter and making asses of themselves in ways imaginable and not, and the art curator earnestly discussing fake art made of apparently real excrement by a fake ex-convict.
Every segment of every episode is designed to leave the viewer feeling not so much appalled—something a sentient being in today’s America experiences many times a day—as finally enlightened: the ultimate explanation for what’s happened to us is that everyone is a moron.
.. Most recently, a hypothesis has emerged, laid out by Ryan Broderick at BuzzFeed, that Q is, in fact, an elaborate lefty prank intent on duping conservatives into following cockamamie theories. If this is true, Q is a cousin, rather than a mirror, of Baron Cohen.
.. September 11th gave rise to truthers, the election of Barack Obama brought forth the birthers, and school shootings enabled Alex Jones.
.. The QAnon message to its followers is that someone is in charge, that reality is knowable even if it is convoluted—and that someone, reassuringly, knows much more than you do. The Q theories acknowledge that the state of the country is awful, but they promise that the insanity is temporary because the great leader is conjuring order from chaos.
.. Baron Cohen’s message is equally clarifying. He demystifies power to an unprecedented extent. He shows that idiocy and incompetence are all there is. Here, the person who knows everything is Baron Cohen himself—and because we viewers are in on the secret, it makes us feel competent. The state of the country is, as in Q’s theories, horrifying, but also temporary, because these buffoons can’t possibly stay in power. We, the more intelligent people, will somehow prevail.
.. “Who Is America?” may appear as if it exposes evil, when really Baron Cohen is exposing the extreme flexibility of social norms. What the art curator, the nice Republican couple, and most of Baron Cohen’s politician targets have in common is their willingness to humor a visitor.
Omarosa Manigault’s forthcoming memoir and her allegations that Trump is a racist who habitually tosses around anti-black epithets. The Guardian reported that Manigault, in her book, says that she looked into rumors that there were tapes of “Apprentice” outtakes that allegedly include Trump using the word “nigger” and that, although she never tracked them down, she became convinced that they existed.
.. a contract proffered by Lara Trump for a fifteen-thousand-dollar monthly payment that Manigault believed amounted to hush money.
.. a period of gradual awakening to Trump’s bigoted outlook. Even after leaving the Administration, she offered the nonsensical hedge that Trump is “racial” but not racist—a position that is roughly equivalent to being human but not Homo sapiens.
.. Her realization about Trump’s outlook appears to have emerged at some point during her book deal. That’s not a gradual awakening, it’s a glacial, self-interested one.
.. His personal history yields an impressive greatest-hits collection that would include him
- beginning his Presidential campaign by conflating Mexicans with rapists and later stating that
- Judge Gonzalo Curiel should not preside over the Trump University fraud suit because of his Hispanic heritage. Trump
- asked a friend of Karen McDougal, the former Playmate with whom Trump had an extramarital affair, if she liked “big black dick.” There is also, of course, the matter of
- the Justice Department accusing the Trump family firm of discriminating against African-American renters in the seventies (Trump settled the suit without admitting guilt),
- his racist public assault on the Central Park Five, and
- his use of birtherism to propel himself into national politics. In a more recent spree,
- he questioned the intelligence of Representative Maxine Waters, LeBron James, and the CNN host Don Lemon—each of whom is black—and (again) assailed African-American football players.
In matters of
- race, as well as
- character, and
the public either already knows what it needs to know or intractably believes what it wishes to believe. Omarosa Manigault’s book is unlikely to change the balance of either.