09/10/2016 7:31 AM IST | Updated 09/10/2016 8:19 AM IST

How The Republican Party Is Belatedly Trying To Shield Itself From Trump's Toxic Fallout

This late awakening of the Republican Party to the reality of its nominee for President is hogwash

Mike Segar / Reuters
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Reno, Nevada, U.S., October 5, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

I have to eat my words. I said in this very space that being Donald Trump means never having to say sorry.

And now the Donald has done that most un-Donald of acts. He has apologized. No ifs and buts about it.

"Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize."

Those "words" he is referring to, of course, are the 2005 lewd remarks about women he would like to pass off as locker room banter. Remarks about bedding married women, grabbing their crotches, about moving on them "like a bitch." Trump sounds more like sexual predator than Roadside Romeo. And it's come at the worst possible time for him – right before Debate No. 2 when Debate No. 1 found him trying to defend his sneering comments about a Latin American beauty queen. His white women support base already teetering uncertainly just got served a body blow. According to the International Business Times, Hillary Clinton's advantage over Trump among women was as low as 5 per cent before the first debate. After the first debate, as Trump hectored and interrupted, her advantage soared as much as 20 points.

The Republican party is in an uproar. Some have withdrawn their endorsements. Paul Ryan, the House Speaker disinvited Trump from a joint campaign rally saying "I am sickened by what I heard today. Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified."

But here's the rub: The Republican Party is finally "sickened" by what they heard? When Trump was talking out of the blood coming out wherever of anchor Megyn Kelly that was not sick enough? When he was mocking a disabled reporter's hand gestures that was not sick enough? When he was talking about Mexican rapists that was not sick enough? When he was saying "Look at that face" while talking about Carly Fiorina that was not sick enough? When he was disparaging Khizr Khan and Ghazala Khan, bereaved parents of a fallen American soldier, even that was not sick enough.

This late awakening of the Republican Party to the reality of its nominee for President is really hogwash. Trump did not say anything that really surprised anyone, not after a campaign that's played fast and loose with racism, sexism, vigilantism and xenophobia. The Republican leadership has decided they do not want to risk their white women support base by passing this instance off as another case of Trump being Trump. "He alone bears the burden of his conduct and he alone should suffer the consequences," said John McCain. This is not about the Republican Party bravely rebuking its standard bearer out of a sense of decency. It's entirely about a party trying to save its own butt and shield its other candidates in races across the country from any Trump toxic fallout.

And Trump being Trump wants to claim that if he's bad, Bill Clinton is worse.

"Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close," he protested petulantly as if that excused him. It's an old boys club of rogues. He has been threatening that the race will get nastier long before this latest revelation and this might spur him to throw as much Bill Clinton as he can at Hillary Clinton in the hopes that some of it might stick. Hillary clearly will be made to pay for Bill's sexual record in Trump's book. Trump infamously toyed with the idea of inviting Gennifer Flowers, the former Bill Clinton mistress from decades ago, to the first debate to try and embarrass Hillary Clinton. And while his supporters think his decade-old comments should not be held against Trump today the same statute of limitations cannot apply to the Clintons.

It's just that Trump's sexism is cruder than his running mate's or surrogates. He's the vulgarian but the polite Mike Pence actually has the policy record to back up his misogyny writes Katha Pollitt for The Nation. Pence co-sponsored a bill that would have redefined rape as "forcible rape." He pushed a law in his state that would ban abortions for disabled fetuses and require women with miscarriages to arrange for burial or cremation of the fetuses. His state Indiana's laws are so stringent they resulted in a 20-year sentence for Purvi Patel for a late self-abortion which she claimed was a stillbirth.

And then there's garden variety sexism. Quizzed about reports that Trump has paid no taxes for years, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani told ABC "Don't you think a man who has this kind of economic genius is a lot better for the United States than a woman?"

The likes of Paul Ryan doth protest too much when they claim to be shocked by Trump's vulgarity. What's more shocking is something Trump said in private in 1995 is moving them to act as opposed to all the things he said in public in 2016.