Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Apology That Never Was

It was an instant classic.

Admittedly, that's akin to "controlling their own destiny," a common sports remark. If one could control her own destiny, it wouldn't be destiny. And if it's instant, it's not a classic.

Still, Cindy Hyde-Smith pulled off a reasonable facsimile. Headline writers for PoliticoUSA Today, Reuters, TIME, and CBS News- which thought it an actual apology- were fooled, though NBC News was not.  The incumbent Mississippi senator, locked in a runoff campaign against Democrat Mike Espy, was viewed on Twitter gushing of a cattle rancher and supporter "if he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be in the front row."  She was asked at a debate

Senator Hyde-Smith, the video in which you referenced a public hanging has received criticism and attention. You have released a statement in which you say that any attempt to turn it into a negative connotation is ridiculous. What is the positive connotation and are you willing to explain or apologize tonight?

In what had all the elements of the quintessential non-apology, the incumbent responded

For anyone that was offended by my comments

This is a standard line in the fake apology with three dodges: "For anyone" is a refusal to acknowledge the specific individual(s) or group(s) she has insulted.  "By my comments" is avoiding acknowledging there was something specific that was inappropriate. (Being human, everyone has made appalling, unspecified, "comments" at one time.)  "Offended" is (though unrecognized) a de facto attack upon the subject of the remarks. It is not enough for a remark not to be "offensive." If it is insulting, that's bad enough.

There was no ill will, no intent, whatsoever in my statement.

An intent to insult is not a prerequisite for offending or insulting.

And you know in 20 years of service of being your state senator, your Commissioner of Agriculture, and your US Senator, I have worked with all Mississippians. It did not matter their skin color type, their age, or their income.  That's my record. There has never been anything, not one thing, in my background to ever indicate I had ill will toward anyone.

Well, not quite. In a piece featuring the Senator's hometown, Will Bunch slams "one of Hyde-Smith's first acts during her first term in the Mississippi Legislature in 2002, which was to unsuccessfully push a bill to rename Highway 51 running through Brookhaven as Jefferson Davis Highway, in honor of the slave-owning president of the Confederacy who had no specific tie to Brookhaven."

I've never been hurtful to anyone. I've always tried to be kind to everyone.

Never hurtful and always attempting to be kind, Cindy Hyde-Smith is unlike anyone who has ever lived, save for some guy who himself was hung two centuries-plus ago.

I also recognize that this comment was twisted and it was turned into a weapon to be used against me, a political weapon used for nothing but personal and political gain by my opponent.

As Espy noted, those "twisted" comments came directly out of her mouth.  The real sin, Hyde-Smith alleges, was not her comment but repetition of the comment as "a political weapon." Additionally, the "recognize" was a nice touch, suggesting that this is less an opinion than understanding what her wise constituents know.

That's the kind of politics Mississippians are sick and tired of.

If Mississippians are "sick and tired" (a phrase we voters are sick and tired of hearing from political candidates) of such racialized politics as Bunch describes, Phil Ochs may still be right about them. Hopefully not.

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