Shockwaves were sent throughout the political landscape on Thursday, August 18, when Donald TrumpDonald TrumpPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy Hannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump MORE did the impossible: he apologized for missteps and expressed regret for insults. "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. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues.”
Did somebody just see a unicorn?
Perhaps more remarkably, Trump has stayed on message. He has gone nearly a month now without insulting an ethnic group, attacking a fellow Republican, bragging that he is the Second Coming of Christ, or trying to ban a religion from entering the United States. Dare we say it, Trump has been … humble.
And America has taken note. After weeks of talk of how Hillary was going to win in a landslide, Trump has slowly but steadily risen in the polls, achieving near parity with Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe dangerous erosion of Democratic Party foundations The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat Left laughs off floated changes to 2024 ticket MORE. America is a deeply religious country and we never forget that the Bible praises Moses, the greatest of all leaders, with humility above all else: “And the man Moses was the most humble man who walked the earth.”
Meanwhile, in Clintonville, the exact opposite has happened. Hillary has fallen, and not because of pneumonia, something from which I wish her a complete and speedy recovery and excellent health.
Rather, Hillary’s stumble and near faint at the 9/11 memorial did something that I did not know possible: it made me pity her. As her legs buckled beneath her, any and all animus I may have felt toward her public posture and policies disappeared as my heart was filled with compassion and concern.
The woman who famously fired back at criticism for her failure to secure the Benghazi consulate, “What difference does it make,” who bragged about being the architect of a deal that would eventually fund the Iran terror government to the tune of $150 billion, and who bragged about being Obama’s “designated yeller” at Prime Minister Netanyahu, suddenly appeared frail, vulnerable, and weak.
It was a relief to see her just a few hours later looking bright and sunny outside her daughter Chelsea’s apartment and commenting on what a beautiful day it was in New York.
But while we wish Hillary every blessing for a full recovery and pray for her good health, the real threat to her candidacy is arrogance. On the actual Friday when she was diagnosed with pneumonia, she told the ultrarich at fundraiser that half of Donald Trump’s supporters are “a basket of deplorables.”
If defaming millions of American citizens she has never met as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic” is not arrogant then the word has no meaning. Perhaps this might explain the arrogance of not feeling accountable to the American people about the state of her health, and the arrogance of not even informing her campaign staffers that she was ill.
What a role reversal.
Donald Trump was the one being destroyed in the polls because of his perceived arrogance. It was arrogance that led him to declare that immigrants from Mexico are rapists. It was arrogance that had him demanding that all Muslims be barred temporarily from the United States.
It was arrogance that allowed him to stupidly fire back at gold star parents who had attacked him at the Democratic convention. And it was arrogance that prevented him from ever apologizing for his mistakes and taking responsibility for his missteps.
In all these instances Trump’s lack of humility exposed insensitivity and alienated huge swaths of voters.
But that very arrogance led to his collapse in the polls both nationally and especially in the battleground states.
To his credit, Trump seems to have learned the lesson that leaders must comport themselves with humility even as they project confidence and strength.
On June 22, I published an op-ed in The Hill titled, “Mr. Trump, strong men like you apologize.” In it I wrote, “Apologies do not come from weakness but from strength. The feeble man fears that an apology is capitulation, while the strong man knows that taking responsibility for an error is a sign of courage and conviction.”
I added a personal plea to Trump: “Win over your adversaries, Mr. Trump. Surprise them with graciousness and magnanimity.”
Many others called on Trump to do the same.
This campaign season has been defined by a desire on the part of the American people to hear candor and straight talk from their candidates, which explains the meteoric rise of Donald Trump and the unexpectedly strong showing of Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Briahna Joy Gray: Last-minute push for voting legislation felt 'perfomative' Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service MORE.
But let’s not conflate candor with brazenness or honesty with insults. Candidates who behave with insensitivity and tactlessness will ultimately be dismissed by voters.
If there is one thing that defines America, it is a core decency on the part of its citizens. Yes, we have had our sins and stains on our national soul, sometimes, as in the case of slavery, horribly so. But a desire to extirpate those sins, even at the costs of bloody civil conflict and marches and violence in the streets, is what distinguishes a nation that tries to live by what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”
With a dramatic drop in the polls Trump learned the hard way that Americans, for all our faults, will ultimately not tolerate a leader who tramples on rules of basic civility and decency. Now it is time for Hillary to learn the same.
I lived in Europe for 11 years and I know that Americans are perceived abroad as both brazen and brash. But the truth is that America is a nation that values humility and self-effacement in its leaders which is why it Ronald Reagan’s “Ah, shucks” warmth resonated so deeply with the American public, as did Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonPerdue proposes election police force in Georgia To boost economy and midterm outlook, Democrats must pass clean energy bill Could the coming 'red wave' election become a 'red tsunami'? MORE biting his lip and feeling our pain.
After her blue dress forced Clinton to admit to an improper relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Clinton initially told the country to go to hell. It was a private matter and none of their business. He cratered in the polls. But when he came back, apologized for his behavior, and asked the country for forgiveness, he left office with a 60 percent approval rating even after being impeached.
Though I am friendly with members of Trump’s family and know many people in his campaign, I criticized Trump for a public posture that violated what I considered the basic Jewish values of courtesy and respect. And I must therefore applaud the candidate for a solid few weeks of correcting the error and running a campaign that has substantively and legitimately criticized Hillary Clinton not for anything personal but rather undermining the integrity of the State Department with personal favors for Clinton Foundation donors, her policy of appeasing Iran, and not calling out Islamic terrorism for reasons of cowardly political correctness.
What Trump did so effectively the past few weeks was turn the tables and show us Hillary’s arrogance and her own refusal to apologize. Rather than express complete regret, she continued to deny that she had sent classified information on her unsecured personal server in direct contradiction of the FBI’s findings.
And whatever good the Clinton Foundation has done in parts of the world, especially in Africa, Hillary still refuses to apologize for the utter corruption of abusing the second highest office in the land to favor Clinton Foundation donors, or for raking in money from misogynists like Saudi Arabia and Hamas loving terror-funders like Qatar.
And that’s why Hillary’s stumble outside 9/11 might just have cost her the election. Not because her health situation may be serious, as I truly hope it isn’t. But rather because the pity she elicited in our hearts in seeing her frailty reminded us that it should have not required a health scare to humble Hillary and peel away an increasingly thick layer of what looks strikingly like something we Americans abhor: arrogance and contempt.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America” is the international best-selling author of 31 books, including “The Israel Warrior” which he will publish this month. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.