Once again, our President-elect has chosen to create a spat and escalate it to a media-saturating battle in the culture wars, or, more accurately, a battle between Trump and anyone who criticizes him directly or indirectly.
As everyone now knows, Mike Pence went to a performance of Hamilton, after which cast members addressed him from the stage and expressed the desire that the new administration should work “on behalf of all of us”.
It was an unprecedented and inappropriate calling-out of an audience member, true. But it comes after an unprecedented and inappropriate Trump/Pence campaign. Everything has been changed now, and it wasn’t the Hamilton cast that changed it.
Pence behaved with dignity and, one might say, a bearing appropriate to the highest office in the land. He listened to what was said, smiled, and left. That, for anyone who may have forgotten, is what’s known as being “presidential”.
Trump, on the other hand, immediately dropped what he was doing up in his tower (filling out his cabinet with white men) to take to the Twitter once more. He demanded an apology from the cast. Then he belittled them for not being able to memorize their lines – typical made-up Trumpian nonsense which he deleted shortly after posting .
This is the opposite of being “presidential”, something even many Republicans now acknowledge. It is exactly the kind of behavior Trump has repeatedly engaged in that signals he will use the office not to work on behalf of us all, as the Hamilton cast hoped, but to work against those who criticize him.
To underscore this mission, Newt Gingrich, one of Trump’s strongest supporters, said about the Hamilton furor, “President-elect Trump is signaling that he will fight for his team and his policies”.
Exactly the problem. “His team” should be all Americans, not just those who admire him. Save the fighting for our enemies, not your critics. Unfortunately, this is not anything new for Trump. It’s who he always has been. What you’ve seen is what you’ll be getting.
One thing that has become clear, though, is that when Trump says or does something for which an apology might be warranted (in this case, inexplicably accusing the cast of the most successful production in recent theater history of not being able to read lines), he does not apologize. He never apologizes. He simply deletes the thing for which he might apologize and, presto, it never happened.
Conversely, Trump is constantly demanding apologies from others, or threatening to sue them, or both. He is perpetually aggrieved. Looking at the first few pages of a quick google search of the term “Trump demands apology”, you can get the idea.
Trump has recently demanded apologies from:
Et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum.
To be fair, other Republican presidents never apologized either, and Republicans often accuse Democrats of apologizing when they shouldn’t, and of thereby diminishing our great country. This may explain Trump’s appeal to his admirers, but it doesn’t explain his actions. His refusal to apologize is not a republican trait or strategy. In fact, many have pointed out that Trump is hardly a Republican at all.
No, the Trump case is unlike anything we’ve seen before. In the first place, Trump can’t go a day without doing something which cries out for apology, so the sheer volume of transgressions is new.
But mainly it’s Trump himself. He’s simply unlike anyone who has reached this level before. Many who voted for him see his intransigence and bellicosity as great strengths. Many who are reviled by him think the opposite. Can Trump be the president of both groups, the president of all of us?