Saturday, April 28, 2012

Not Always An Apology

Apologizing has become routine in American politics.       What are commonly, if incorrectly, termed "apologies" are sincere to varying degrees.   They range from an admission of wrongdoing to a proclamation that he/she is sorry if "anyone" was "offended."

Most of these fall somewhere between a full statement of regret and a complete avoidance of any responsibility.     Still, there are discernible differences, as demonstrated by two "apologies" heard this week.    

In February, then-active candidate Rick Santorum, reacting to the President's recommendation that everyone pursue post-high school education or training of some kind, told a tea party audience in Troy, Michigan

Not all folks are gifted in the same way.       Some people have incredible gifts with their hands. Some people have incredible gifts and ... want to work out there making things. President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.

Having advocated roughly what the President had, Santorum was roundly criticized for calling the President of the United States a snob, grossly misinterpreting the President's words, or allegedly demonstrating an insufficient regard for higher education.     However, recently this exchange occurred on Piers Morgan's CNN talk show:

MORGAN: Of all those, which is the one you most regret looking back?
SANTORUM: The snob one, because I misread his comment. I thought he said everybody should go to college. And it was…what I had read was someone’s interpretation of what—and I just used that as a fact. That it was factually incorrect.   That's the one I feel bad about.  

Santorum said "I misread his comment" and he repeated as fact something which was "factually incorrect."      One tipoff to Santorum's sincerity was his decision not to  emphasize (or even mention) the impact upon others.     A speaker can be wrong even if no one took personal offense and emphasizing the feelings of others is a slick way of avoiding admitting that one simply made a mistake.    It rests the virtue of a statement not on one's actions but on the response of others to it.  

Santorum displayed another near-sure sign of a genuine apology.       Paradoxically, it lay in his avoidance of the word "apology."    Using the term is a sure way of getting the media to refer to a statement as an apology without the speaker ever admitting to having done anything wrong.

And so it is with Monica Crowley.        Hearing that Sandra Fluke is engaged, President Nixon's speechwriter on Thursday tweeted "To a man? 'Sandra Fluke Announces Engagement.'"      Later that day, responding to criticism, the ever-classy Crowley tweeted "I love exposing the Left's total lack of a sense of humor."
Later yet on Thursday, Crowley tweeted  "Regret my tweeted question caused a stir.    I certainly & unequivocally apologize to Sandra & anyone else I offended. Not my intention.”

Worse yet, Mediaite- seriously- contended in so doing Crowley had "apologized."        Worse yet still, the Center for American Progress, via ThinkProgress, reported she "has issued an apology to Sandra Fluke."

Hardly.      The twit regrets only the reaction to her initial tweet- that it "caused a stir."    She doesn't even acknowledge anyone specifically who could have been offended, choosing instead to offer the generic, meaningless "anyone else I offended."     Crowley thus refused to acknowledge anyone who might have been offended, nor that there was any reason someone could have been offended.    While her intention to was to ridicule, offending someone in the process was an additional benefit.     It would be similar to  "Sorry I ran you over with my car.   Not my intention."   Or better yet, "I apologize to anyone I might have run over.    Not my intention."

While the media rushes to label virtually any follow-up to an offensive remark an "apology," actual retractions are relatively rare.     Consequently, these few statements of sincere regret ought to be applauded and recognized as unusual demonstrations of integrity by public figures.

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