On careful review of the statements of Republican leaders — who have finally denounced Donald Trump after his stomach-turning and graphic comments about women came to light in a just-released 2005 video — a particular theme emerges.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape.”
Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C.: “… as the proud father of two daughters and the husband to the greatest lady I’ve ever met, it would be hypocritical of me to ignore these remarks.”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah: “My wife and I, we have a 15-year-old daughter, and if I can’t look her in the eye and tell her these things, I can’t endorse this person.”
Vice presidential candidate Mike Pence: “As a husband and father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the 11-year-old video.”
So all of a sudden his party gets it? When Trump was rushing to personally insult Hillary Clinton — whether it was her “look” or her stamina or what goes on in her marriage and why she is to blame — that was fine. Republicans were lining up for an “Attaboy.”
It took the mental image of their own child and/or spouse looking up to, or perhaps being in a room alone with, a man who casually chats about groping women against their will — labeled sexual assault in criminal codes — before GOP leaders could see the light and decide that harsh criticism, not lukewarm justification, was warranted?
And don’t forget, while some Republicans have called for Trump to step down or have said the man at the top of the ticket can’t count on their votes, others feel a stern talking to is sufficient as long as the candidate offers a sincere apology, something he’s so far proven unable to do. Or as Pence says, Trump still has an opportunity “to show what is in his heart.”
Everyone on earth pretty much knows by now.
No one can be surprised that the Donald Trump who called women all sorts of names is capable of the goings-on — on and off that bus. Trump’s non-apology apology that others did worse, and that that’s just the way guys talk, only reinforces what everyone already knew about the bubble of power and privilege he’s always inhabited and the wanton abuse that allows.
But at the risk of checking off a laundry list, and sounding as intense and repetitive as Democrat Tim Kaine in a vice presidential debate, the latest Trump revelation isn’t even the most disturbing thing he has said and done. Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, ignored, glossed over, or misrepresented all the Trump quotes Kaine threw at him.
But they haven’t gone away.
When Trump mocked or maligned the disabled, Mexican-Americans, Muslim-Americans, African-Americans, veterans and others, where was all the righteous concern, including from self-professed and proud Christian Mike Pence?
This trend, the lack of empathy for the other, with the other defined as anyone who doesn’t live upstairs or next door, has been an exclusionary part of our national character for a while. And it has blossomed this presidential election year.
In that vice presidential debate, Pence dismissed complaints that Trump labeled undocumented Mexican immigrants as “rapists” as “that Mexican thing.” When Pence went on to say that racism is primarily a problem because people insist on talking about it, including, one would assume, his “friend” South Carolina Republican Tim Scott who has spoken about being racially profiled, Kaine was rendered momentarily speechless. However, those weary of discussions of inequality and bias in policing and society at large probably agreed with Pence, and the calm GOP No. 2 was judged to have won the debate on style points.
Just this week, while the new Trump revelation has GOP leaders in a panic of self-preservation, the candidate’s doubling down on his shameful part in an infamous miscarriage of justice received scant coverage. Trump, to CNN, asserted the guilt of the Central Park Five, five black and Latino teens convicted of assault and rape charges in a tabloid-ready 1989 New York City case — despite DNA evidence to the contrary, despite a settlement by the city, despite a confession by a different man, one who went on to rape and murder when the teens were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned and police closed the case.
“The fact that that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous,” said Trump, an opinion that also again shows his disrespect for the court system that vacated the convictions. And not a peep from the Republicans who are now howling, not Pence, for whom there is no racism, and no solution save “law and order” and “stop and frisk.”
Who can feel sorry for Republican leaders, when they knew what they were getting all along, with Trump’s smears of those he considers weak, the races and classes of people it was not in the party’s interest to speak to or protect?
Few had the courage to stand in the way of the Trump train, until it knocked on the door and their daughters answered.
Roll Call columnist Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and The Charlotte Observer. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.