During a rally on Thursday in North Carolina Donald Trump did something truly shocking: he (kind of) apologized!
"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," Trump told the crowd. "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."
That vague expression of contrition shocked the political press, who have spent the last year following a candidate who seemed physically incapable of showing any kind of remorse for his actions. Until now, the conventional wisdom had parked itself at the conclusion that Trump lacked some basic human mechanism that makes humility or personal growth possible. And even though it required moving the bar so low that it was practically subterranean, the candidate finally seemed ready to acknowledge that parts of his campaign message were offensive.
The celebration was short-lived.
On Friday morning the Trump campaign released its first national TV ad, with a message and appeal that can only be described as classic Trump.
"In Hillary Clinton's America, the system stays rigged against Americans," the ad begins, cutting directly from an image of election day voting lines to shots of Syrian refugee camps and border patrol agents making arrests. "Syrian refugees flood in. Illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes get to stay, collecting Social Security benefits, skipping the line. Our border open, it's more of the same, but worse."
While the ad stops short of saying Mexicans are rapists or calling for a ban on Muslim immigration, its ominous shots of young tattooed men being arrested while using the offensive term "illegal immigrants" sends a clear message: Trump wants to continue his strategy of dehumanizing undocumented people and refugees in order to stoke people's fears.
The ad's claim about Social Security benefits speciously suggests that undocumented people are taking benefits away from American citizens. In reality, undocumented people subsidize Social Security by paying into the system without receiving benefits.
Whatever his "regrets" about his language are, the ad signals that Trump is going to continue to vilify immigrants and refugees.
The Clinton campaign has already responded to what they called Trump's "teleprompter regret."
"We learned tonight that his speechwriter and teleprompter [know] he has much for which he should apologize," a Clinton spokesperson wrote in a statement. "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."