Lessons for Trump in week of public apologies

By Ann McFeatters

Tribune News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. — We certainly are learning the power — and necessity — of saying, “I’m sorry.”

When United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz at first failed to apologize to the Kentucky doctor dragged, bloodily, off a flight for which he had paid and been seated, national outrage was immediate.

Three passengers gave up their seats without incident when the airline told them to leave to accommodate four crew members; the doctor, David Dao, protested, saying he had patients he needed to see. Dao ended up being treated at a hospital in Chicago, not at his Kentucky office.

Munoz infamously said Dao and the other passengers had been “re-accommodated.”

What a word!

I can hear precocious students mockingly noting that they don’t want to be “re-accommodated” by their parents or teachers.

When United’s stock price plummeted, Munoz began apologizing, oozing regret, promising such an unsettling scenario would never happen again.

(Advice to the penny-wise and pound-foolish: If United had offered reasonable compensation to take a later flight, such as $1,350, there quickly would have been seats available, and United would not have had one of its worst weeks ever.)

Then came Sean Spicer, beleaguered White House press secretary. Trying to justify the administration’s limited attack on a Syrian airfield after Syria killed dozens of its citizens with nerve gas, Spicer said that Adolf Hitler did not “sink” to using chemical weapons.

Since that is patently untrue — millions of Jews and others were gassed under Hitler’s demand — Spicer agonized for four hours and then sincerely apologized, probably saving his job. He was especially remorseful that his remarks caused pain to Holocaust survivors during the solemn week of Passover and Easter.

If only his boss, the president, would learn the refined and vital art of expressing sorrow for being wrong.

Donald Trump has put the nation’s capital in chaos after falsely accusing former President Barack Obama of committing a felony by ordering a wiretap on Trump Tower. The FBI, the CIA and members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, are 100 percent certain that’s untrue.

But Trump does not know how to say, “I’m sorry.” He thinks it would make him look weak. Really, though, it takes courage, backbone and character to make a heartfelt apology, admitting you said or did something wrong.

Rarely a day goes by in this crazy administration that Trump does not say something that is not true.

The other day he told a group of CEOs at the White House that consumer confidence had grown to 93 percent since he took office. First of all, it’s not in percentages, it’s an index. The index is 93. It was 113.7 the month before Trump was elected. And it has been steadily going up since the 2008 recession.

At the same meeting, Trump said he had created 600,000 jobs since he took office on January 20. In actuality, 307,000 jobs have been created since he’s been president.

In a healthy economy, there should be at least 250,000 new jobs each month, and last month there were only 98,000. Also, presidents don’t create jobs, although they all take credit when the news is good. All the regulations Trump insists he has cast aside have not yet had an impact, for good or ill.

When Trump tweets or says something that is false, the truth never quite catches up. Winston Churchill said that a lie gets halfway around the world before truth has as a chance to put its pants on.

Half a million Syrians are dead and millions have been displaced in a horrific, 6-year-long civil war. Trump is re-evaluating whether to intervene and punish Russia for aiding and abetting Syria. (Trump campaigned vociferously on not intervening and for making amends with Russia.) But when Trump ordered 23 Syrian planes destroyed, he was bombing both the Syrian government and Syrian rebels and angering Russia. If there’s a strategy here, it’s incoherent.

Also, North Korea is threatening to use its nuclear weapons, and the United States says it may act pre-emptively. This is one of the most dangerous, unpredictable periods since the Korean War armistice well over half a century ago.

Trust in this White House is lagging, and that is worrisome. A (sincere) Trump apology for the pointless uproar over his lie about Obama wiretapping his campaign and a (sincere) commitment to truth would help.

Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at amcfeatters@nationalpress.com.