By Bonnie K. Goodman
Republican nominee Donald Trump delivered a different kind of campaign rally in Charlotte, N.C. doing something he repeatedly said he does not do, express regret. On Wednesday evening, Aug. 18, 2016, Trump spoke from scripted text at the Charlotte Convention Center, coming as close to an apology as he ever has on the campaign trail, saying he regrets if what he said during the campaign caused pain. Trump’s remorse comes as he shook up his campaign leadership in an attempt to jump-start his flagging campaign.
Speaking to supporters in North Carolina, Trump admitted, “As you know, I am not a politician. I have worked in business, creating jobs and rebuilding neighborhoods my entire adult life. I’ve never wanted to learn the language of the insiders, and I’ve never been politically correct – it takes far too much time, and can often make it more difficult to achieve total victory.”
Continuing, the GOP nominee expressed remorse, “Sometimes, in the heat of the debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words, or you say the wrong thing. I have done that, and I regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues.”
Throughout the campaign, Trump has made controversial remarks that could be deemed insulting and often sexist and racist. Since the convention, the GOP nominee has seen a backlash partly for his war of words with the Kahns, the Muslim parents of a Gold Star soldier killed in Iraq in 2004, and claiming President Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton founded terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS. Those and other missteps have cost Trump at the polls both nationally and in battleground states, where Clinton now leads.
This is the first time Trump has ever come close to apologizing, something he said in the past he never does. Last year told radio host Don Imus “I like not to regret anything.”Then this year he expressed, “You do things and you say things. And what I said, frankly, is what I said. And you know some people like what I said, if you want to know the truth. Many people like what I said. You know after I said that, my poll numbers went up seven points.”
Even after the post-Democratic convention controversy with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, Trump stated, “I don’t regret anything.” Speaking to Washington, D.C. television station WJLA, the GOP nominee said, “I said nice things about the son and I feel that very strongly, but of course I was hit very hard from the stage and you know it’s just one of those things. But no, I don’t regret anything.”
The GOP nominee, however, is trying to reboot his campaign, changing its leadership, promoting his pollster and former adviser Kellyanne Conway as campaign manager and Breitbart executive Steve Bannon as campaign CEO. Trump is also beginning his general election ads and visits flood-ravaged Louisiana with his running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence. The campaign’s new direction aims at emphasizing his “authenticity.”
Trump also used the speech to attack rival Clinton’s honestly. Trump vowed to be truthful to the voters, saying, “I’ve traveled all across this country laying out my bold and modern agenda for change. In this journey, I will never lie to you. I will never tell you something I do not believe. I will never put anyone’s interests ahead of yours.” Continuing, Trump said of Clinton’s ability to be honest, “So while sometimes I can be too honest, Hillary Clinton is the exact opposite: she never tells the truth. One lie after another, and getting worse each passing day.” Trump asked the audience, “Aren’t you tired of the same old lies and the same old broken promises?” The GOP nominee also pointed out, Clinton “has proven to be one of the greatest liars of all time.”
Trump blamed the media because they focus and overanalyze his every word on the campaign trails rather than critical issues relevant to voters. The GOP nominee accused, “The establishment media doesn’t cover what really matters in this country, or what’s really going on in peoples’ lives. They will take words of mine out of context and spend a week obsessing over every single syllable and then pretend to discover some hidden meaning in what I said.”
Trump said the media should focus on the issues rather than him, indicating, “Just imagine if the media spent this much time investigating the poverty and joblessness in our inner cities. Just think about how much different things would be if the media in this country sent their cameras to our border, or to our closing factories, or to our failing schools.” Trump is also proud of upsetting the party’s establishment. Telling supporters, “I am glad I make the powerful a little uncomfortable now and again – including some powerful people in my own party. Because it means I am fighting for real change. I am fighting for you.”
Trump’s speech at the Charlotte Convention Center, was primarily a pitch to African-American voters, who represent a large “voting bloc” in North Carolina. Championing minorities Trump said, “Those who believe in oppressing women, gays, Hispanics, African-Americans and people of different faiths are not welcome to join our country,” and he promised to “reject the bigotry of Hillary Clinton.” Telling them, “If African-Americans give Donald Trump a chance by giving me their vote, the result for them will be amazing.” Trump started his rally reaching out to the victims of the floods in Louisiana, saying, “We are one nation. When one state hurts, we all hurt. Our prayers are with the families who have lost loved ones, and we send them our deepest condolences.”
The Clinton campaign had a field day with Trump expressing regret, mocking him and his regret as a campaign invention. Clinton spokeswoman Christina Reynolds issued a statement, which read, “Donald Trump literally started his campaign by insulting people. He has continued to do so through each of the 428 days from then until now, without shame or regret. We learned tonight that his speechwriter and teleprompter knows he has much for which he should apologize. But that apology tonight is simply a well-written phrase until he tells us which of his many offensive, bullying and divisive comments he regrets — and changes his tune altogether.”