Tag Archives: apologies

Denial Sends A Different Message Than Trump Thinks It Does

In yesterday’s post, I described Donald Trump’s obsession with Barack Obama, and the way his resentment over Obama’s clear superiority drives so much of Trump’s embarrassing behavior. I attributed that obsession to Trump’s racism–a racism displayed once again in his appalling tweets telling four Congressional women of color (three of whom were born in the U.S.) to go “back” to “their” countries .

His racism explains a lot, but Trump’s personal deficits and appalling immaturity also contribute to his disastrous Presidency.

Charles Blow recently focused on that immaturity in a column titled “Trump Detests Apologetic Men.” He began by describing Alexander Acosta’s public “explanation” of his recently revealed sweetheart deal with pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

It remains to be seen whether Acosta’s news conference performance will save his job. As The New York Times reported, “Mr. Acosta’s appearance before cameras was seen as a crucial test of whether he will keep his job, with an audience of one as President Trump watched and weighed a decision.”

But that’s the thing that stops you: For Trump, this isn’t about the charges or the children. For him, this is about how men perform denial. In the mind of the misogynist, a man’s word is the weightiest thing in society, even when he’s lying. One’s test of survival and prosperity isn’t what you say, but how you say it. It isn’t what you do, but how you defend or deny it.

As Blow notes, it isn’t the facts of this or any other case, that matter to Trump.

It doesn’t matter if you attack the country Trump is sworn to defend, as Russia’s Vladimir Putin did, if you are “extremely strong and powerful” in your denial.

It doesn’t matter if you are accused of giving the order to hack up a Washington Post columnist’s body with a bone saw, as the Saudi Crown Prince is.

It doesn’t matter if you are accused of sexual impropriety, assault or rape — Brett Kavanaugh, Rob Porter, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes. Just deny, deny, deny. Admit nothing.

If a man strongly, passionately denies something, then he has performed his function, he has risen to — or descended to — the moment.

The column included a quotation from Trump that reveals his utter inability to understand the way in which his behaviors are seen by normal, adult persons:

According to Bob Woodward last year, Trump talked about a “friend who had acknowledged some bad behavior toward women.” When counseling that friend on how to respond, Trump said, “You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women.” Trump continued: “If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead. That was a big mistake you made.”

In Trump’s world, apologies and punishments are for the weak. They are for losers.

Of course, that’s the exact opposite of reality in grown-up land. People who refuse to admit their mistakes, who refuse to own their own errors–who refuse to apologize when they’ve misbehaved or even inadvertently offended someone–are actually seen (accurately, I would argue) as immature and insecure.

That’s because defensiveness is childish. It is children who react to accusations by denying they did whatever it was, or by insisting that whatever was said or done was right and the accuser is wrong, no matter the evidence to the contrary. Children must be taught to recognize that everyone makes mistakes, and that people will think better of them, not worse, if they own their behaviors.

People who’ve actually grown up know that it is evidence of maturity to say “I was wrong. I’m sorry” when an apology is indicated.

Of course, some people never do grow up. There’s a reason people so often compare Donald Trump to a third-grader, and it isn’t just his vocabulary.



Sticks and Stones

I largely agree with Matt Tully’s “take” on Andre Carson’s controversial words in this morning’s Star. As Tully notes, Carson has been a substantive, hard-working legislator who has steadily gained stature, and the language he employed was unnecessary to and a distraction from the points he was trying to make. “Why,” Tully asks, did Carson deviate from his usual civil demeanor?

I agree with Tully that this was out of character and unfortunate. I also have a possible answer to his question “why?”

If I were an African-American Congressman who’d been spit on, who had watched the country’s first black President demeaned from the first day he was elected, who had seen the racist emails, the “clever” signs with watermelon patches on the White House lawn, the posters at Tea Party gatherings showing Obama as a witch doctor–if I had heard colleagues on the floor of the U.S. House ask for “proof” that the President was born in the USA, and political figures supported by the Tea Party call for repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Rand Paul)–if I had heard Rep. Peter King compare a settlement of the discrimination lawsuit by black farmers to “reparations”…..well, I could go on, but I’ll stop there–I might address the motives of these people in less than civil language.

The Tea Party spokesmen who are demanding an “apology” insist that only a small fringe is responsible for the racist signs at their rallies. Perhaps they are right–but I must have missed their calls for those people to apologize.

A lot of people who are well-meaning and not racist will excuse the bile and excessive, irrational hatred of the President by comparing it to Bush hatred. The problem with that comparison is that most of us who came to detest Bush really were reacting to his behavior in office. Most of us were agnostic about him early in his tenure, as polling from that time reflects, and if you asked us why we were so angry with the administration, most of us could give you a long list of policy decisions with which we strongly disagreed . In contrast, the venom directed at this President began before he even assumed office.

I had a recent conversation with a woman who self-identified as a member of the Tea Party, and asked her why she hated Obama. “He’s a socialist,” she told me. Leaving aside the fact that Obama’s “socialism” would have placed him in the middle of the Republican party back when I ran as a Republican, I asked her for an example. “Obamacare,” she said. I asked her if she was aware that “Obamacare” was pretty much the same program advocated by Bob Dole and actually enacted in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney. She refused to believe me. “Ok, what other evidence of Obama’s socialism is there?” No response. “What other proposals/policies has he advocated that you disagree with? “He’s a socialist, and he’s Muslim and he wasn’t even born in this country!”

I know there are Tea Party people who aren’t racist, aren’t hysterical, and who have genuine policy differences with the President that they can articulate. Unfortunately,they aren’t spending their time trying to weed out the folks carrying banners with the “N word” or those self-identified Tea Partiers who post to this blog (I spam them) to argue that Obama wants to give all “our” tax money to lazy drug-using mothers who have children so they can live on welfare.

None of this excuses the use of uncivil language. But it sure goes a long way toward explaining it.