People seem surprised, for some reason, that the White House has not issued a public apology to Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain.
But they shouldn’t be. If there’s an implied mantra of President Donald Trump’s political life, it is this: Don’t apologize. For anything. Ever.
In this case, it would be for an aide’s leaked comment during a private meeting that McCain’s opposition to CIA nominee Gina Haspel doesn’t matter because McCain, who is suffering from brain cancer, is dying anyway.
It was an obnoxious comment about an American hero.
But it was not apology-worthy in Trump’s White House. In the pantheon of Trumpian insults, it barely registers.
The New York Times examines his apology record and suggests one reason Trump doesn’t apologize is that there is a feeling at the White House that President Barack Obama apologized too much.
There might be something to that, but Trump’s no-apology record extends far earlier than his time in the White House
He didn’t apologize during the 2016 campaign when he made fun of McCain for being a prisoner of war. Why apologize now?
He didn’t apologize to Mexicans, writ large, for calling them rapists, writ large.
He didn’t apologize to Megyn Kelly for a disgusting comment about women or retweeting that she was a “bimbo.” The closest he came to an apology was a “did I say that?” a chuckle and an “Ooh, OK, excuse me” when she confronted him about it.
“Not the most horrible,” he said. “Over your life, you’ve been called a lot worse,” he said to her during an interview.
He might back off. He might pivot. But don’t apologize. He didn’t apologize to Carly Fiorina for disparaging her looks in front of staffers. In fact, he defended himself, telling Sean Hannity he was being held to a double standard. He backed down during a debate when he said she had a “beautiful face” – a dubious compliment in that context.
But he didn’t apologize. Never apologize.
He didn’t apologize to Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz for saying his wife was ugly or for suggesting his father was involved in the Kennedy assassination.
He didn’t apologize for calling Haiti and African countries s***holes.
Trump is aware of the concept of the apology. He has tweeted about apologies during his time as president and a candidate – he’s demanded them from other people repeatedly. From Cruz to Hillary Clinton.
His frequently injured ego and demands for apologies were noticed by The Atlantic last year and they guessed apologies are like a contest for him. Getting an apology is like winning. Issuing an apology is like losing. Trump does not view himself as a loser.
Taking one of his demands for an apology at random, here’s a tweet from June 2017 directed at the entire news media.
“Fake News is at an all time high. Where is their apology to me for all of the incorrect stories???”
We could find two Trump apologies in recent history and they prove the rule.
The first is the most telling and it occurred during an interview in Davos, Switzerland, this year with Piers Morgan, who pushed Trump hard to apologize for retweeting anti-Muslim videos by the deputy leader of ultra-nationalist political group Britain First.
First, Trump pleaded ignorance about the group.
“I don’t know who they are. I know nothing about them,” Trump said. “It was done because I am a big believer in fighting radical Islam terror, this was a depiction of radical Islamic terror.”
But he ceded to an apology only if Morgan wanted one.
“If you’re telling me they’re horrible people, horrible racist people I would certainly apologize if you would like me to do that,” Trump said. “I am the least racist person that anybody is going to meet. Certainly, I wasn’t endorsing anybody.”
That’s not exactly a willing apology.
The only clear apology of his political career also came with caveats. It was incredibly scripted. It came at the end of the 2016 campaign when the “Access Hollywood” tapes leaked of him basically copping to assault, saying he likes to grab women “by the p—-” (his defense is that it was locker room talk and not a real statement).
“I said it, I was wrong and I apologize,” he said in a video statement released on his Twitter feed.
He said his campaign had changed him and promised to be better in the future, but also argued that the tapes were “a distraction from the important issues.” Then he turned the apology into a broadside against Bill and Hillary Clinton, against whom he was competing. And won.