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This is not the October surprise

Daniel Serwer

October 13, 2016



Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump apologized yesterday for NATO’s 1999 bombing of Serbia:

The bombing of Serbs, who were our allies in both world wars, was a big mistake…Serbians are very good people. Unfortunately, the Clinton administration caused them a lot of harm, but also throughout the Balkans, which they made a mess out of.

For someone who has found it difficult to apologize for anything, even his avowed practice of sexually assaulting women, this is pretty rich. Why would he do it?

First and foremost is that the bombing was carried out pursuant to orders from Bill Clinton. Trump is trying hard to run against the former president, one more clear sign of his disdain for women. There are days Trump concentrates his fire far more on Bill than on Hillary, or on Hillary only to claim that she was an enabler of Bill’s affairs. Women who feel themselves victims of their husbands’ misbehavior aren’t likely to appreciate that, but Trump could care less.

Just as important is the Serb presence in mid-western states, especially Ohio. Trump has been slipping in the polls there and no doubt figures Serb voters, who have already lined up in his favor, will appreciate his latest foray into the Balkans. Trump seems to have an insatiable appetite for appealing to people already slated to vote for him, rather than reaching out to independent or undecided voters, never mind women and minorities. All the above are abandoning him in droves. The Albanians and Bosniaks likely to be offended by the apology are concentrated in states already regarded as “safe”: Albanians in solidly Democratic New York and Bosniaks in mostly Republican Missouri.

Some have suggested that the apology is one more bit of evidence of Russian influence. It might be so. But I think the first two explanations are more than sufficient.

No doubt this apology will be heavily covered in the Balkans and please some people no end, while infuriating others. But both factions should understand that it will attract precious little attention in the United States, where the Balkan interventions of the 1990s are largely forgotten, and no serious effect on the outcome of the election, which if held tomorrow has a 90% chance of deciding in favor of Hillary Clinton. If there is to be an October surprise that affects the outcome, other than the several we have already survived, it isn’t going to be this.



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