Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a campaign speech in Charlotte on Aug. 18. (Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)
By Editorial Board,
DONALD TRUMP, you may have heard, reshuffled his staff and began sending signals that he would be more presidential. That was not a few days ago — it was four months ago.
As the candidate closed in on the Republican nomination, Mr. Trump’s new national campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, assured Republican National Committee members that the billionaire had been playing a “part” and would soon adopt a more balanced “persona.”
The promised pivot did not happen, of course. Now Mr. Manafort is gone after another personnel shake-up, and Mr. Trump and his new staff are again signaling a pivot.
“Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing,” Mr. Trump said Thursday. “I have done that, and . . . I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain.”
It’s unlikely Mr. Trump can suppress his instinct to bully and disparage over the remaining 81 days of the presidential campaign. It’s certain he would not do so over four years of a presidential term. His record to date leaves no doubt about his character — confirmed even Thursday, when he immediately undercut his supposed apology by adding, “Sometimes I can be too honest.”
Too honest about what?
Was it too honest to insist that “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, even after fact-checkers debunked the claim? That President Obama may not have been born in the United States? That the Obama administration wants to accept 200,000 under-vetted Syrian refugees? That Mr. Obama “founded ISIS” and Hillary Clinton was the “co-founder”?
Was it too honest to mock the physical disability of a reporter and then deny having done so?
Is it too honest for Mr. Trump to claim that he “can’t” release his tax returns when, in fact, he simply does not want to?
And which wrong statements does Mr. Trump regret? That a federal judge cannot oversee a fraud case against Mr. Trump because of that judge’s Mexican heritage? That Carly Fiorina would lose because she is not physically attractive, or that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly may have asked him a hard question because she was menstruating? Does he regret his depictions of other women, recalled by Ms. Kelly, as “ ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs’ and ‘disgusting animals.’ . . . You once told a contestant on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees”?
Was it a “wrong thing” to say that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — who endured more than five years of torture in Vietnam, refusing early release in solidarity with fellow prisoners — is “not a war hero” because he was “captured”?
Was it wrong to insult a fallen war hero’s parents, Ghazala and Khizr Khan? To suggest that they and every other foreign-born Muslim should never have been allowed into the country because of their faith? To disseminate an anti-Semitic graphic, with a Star of David over a pile of cash, and then deny it was anti-Semitic?
Is it honest to claim that climate change is a hoax?
Was it a “wrong thing” to argue that the United States should torture suspected terrorists and kill their innocent children?
Is it honest to claim to be the law-and-order candidate when you have wished to see protesters punched and “carried out on a stretcher”? When you suggest the election is being “rigged” and that “Second Amendment people” may rise up if you lose?
Is it honest to defend a campaign staffer who manhandled a reporter and then called that reporter “delusional”? To call Mexican migrants rapists? To glorify yourself as a great philanthropist while taking credit for other people’s donations?
Is it honest to spread bizarre conspiracy theories — that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was involved in assassinating John F. Kennedy, that Ms. Clinton killed Vince Foster, that vaccines cause autism, that Antonin Scalia was murdered?
No pivot could undo the damage of this campaign or erase the bigotry and lies that have fueled it.