Donald Trump: America's one-night stand

Story highlights

  • Haroon Moghul: Donald Trump's apology for sometimes saying 'the wrong thing' isn't likely to persuade voters
  • All his apology accomplishes is to take away the one thing he had going for him -- his bluster, Moghul writes

Haroon Moghul is a senior fellow and director of development at the Center for Global Policy. His next book, "How to be a Muslim," will be out in 2017. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)On Thursday night, Donald Trump did the unthinkable. Sometimes, he admitted, I say "the wrong thing." But Trump wants you to know he "regrets it ... particularly where it may have caused too much personal pain." At the end of the day, though, his apology doesn't matter. Not just because Donald Trump hasn't given us any reason to believe he means it, but because he's not the one who has to seek forgiveness.

We the people do.
    Haroon Moghul
    For an apology to be accepted, it's got to be clear what you're apologizing for. Trump never clarified. For an apology to be meaningful, we've got to know that the mistake you made doesn't disqualify you from the position you seek. But no adult should have to apologize for the kinds of things Donald Trump has said while seeking high office, because no adult should say those things.
    And, of course, for an apology to be accepted, it has to be sincere. If Trump was truly regretful, would he really appoint the chairman of the national moral deficit that is Breitbart News as chief executive of his campaign? Breitbart is a wasteland of Islamophobia, racism and vitriolic jingoism that, worst of all, lacks the courage of its nasty convictions. For all its supposed forthrightness, the alt-right spinelessly spins its ugliness as some kind of juvenile humor.
    From a strategist's perspective, though, Trump's apology isn't just unlikely to persuade. It's an admission of electoral impotence. Take away the political incorrectness, the long, rambling speeches that bring to mind manic episodes or, as The Intercept's Murtaza Hussain suggested, Moammar Gadhafi -- military intervention against whom, by the way, Trump also supported -- and what do you have left? The guy who thinks Obama isn't an American? Whose casinos bled cash? Whose personal fortune seems to fluctuate with his mood swings?
    All his apology accomplishes is to take away the one thing he had going for him: his bluster, which was bound to start wearing thin eventually. The real question is not whether Donald Trump is sorry. It's why it's taken us so long to make him feel he has to apologize, genuinely or not. In Trump's case, the effective cause might be his sliding poll numbers -- all of them.
    Just a few months ago, Trump seemed unstoppable.
    But after a disastrous feud with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the tide began to turn. He's come to resemble a drunkard stumbling through a minefield. Remember when he appeared to many to have encouraged someone to assassinate Hillary Clinton? And his just-departed campaign manager represented pro-Russian interests in Ukraine. Oh, and he insisted President Barack Obama founded ISIS (it's not often you see Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah reportedly agreeing with a potential American President on a matter of national security and foreign policy).
    There's only one way I can even begin to make sense of this.
    Donald Trump was our one-night stand.

    What happens at Trump Tower...

    You're going out with friends. You've dressed yourself up. You'll find someone, no doubt about it. But you hope you might find that special someone. Someone you could take home to your parents. Someone you could spend at least four years with. But the funny, smart, sexy folks are already taken, or being taken.
    Your confidence plummets even as your blood alcohol level soars.
    When hope is all but lost, you see him. Sure, he's technically orange, but you won't know that 'til you see him in natural light. He's wearing a red power tie. Some of your friends suggest caution, but they're just jealous. And anyway, you're not going home alone come what may.
    The rest of the night passes in a blur. You were wrapped around his finger. Obsessed with every word that came out of his mouth.
    But Thursday night must become Friday morning. That merciless iPhone alarm goes off. Waking up feels like passing through an event horizon. You rub your eyes in pained disbelief. Everything hurts. But there's bills to pay. A career to build. A retirement to pay for. Which is when you hear him snoring beside you. You'd forgotten entirely, and then, when you look over, you gasp.
    What the heck were you thinking? Take him home to your parents? You wouldn't introduce him to your neighbors, let alone allow him to appoint a Supreme Court justice. You can't even laugh about it, because then you'd have to admit to falling for his charms. You literally know nothing about him. Whatever damage he's done to your body politic remains unknown for now.
    Welcome to the morning after, America. Because yes. That just happened. We kind of sort of lost our minds for a year. We ceded control of our public space to a demagogue. The Republican Party was overrun, and occupied. Even though most Americans didn't vote for him, and a majority probably never supported him, he nevertheless defined our political cycle -- for the worse. We should forgive (ourselves), but never forget.
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    If anyone needs to apologize, it's America. To itself, sure. But to our Constitution, too, and to our history, to our veterans, to our minorities, to our heroes, to our Gold Star families, to our fellow citizens whom Trump maligned and mocked, to an electorate that deserves better, to everyday Americans whose grievances were hijacked, to the nations who pledged to defend us in the event of any aggression against us, and were told to buzz off, to longstanding allies and partners who were dumped on.
    To all of us, for falling for him for even one minute.