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Being a Public Servant Means Always Having to Say You’re Sorry

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Recently it’s Jesse Jackson. He’s apologizing for having said, “Barack, he’s talking down to black people,” a comment that was picked up on an open mike during a break from taping Fox & Friends, though a cruder remark of his was bleeped.

Breaking from pattern, George W. Bush is saying he’s sorry today. It’s about what someone else has done: an American soldier who pierced fourteen holes in the Quran during target practice. To be fair, our president did admit to being wrong once and called LA Times reporter Peter Wallsten to apologize for having teased him about wearing dark glasses at a Rose Garden press conference, explaining he wasn’t aware the journalist has Stargardt’s disease, which affects vision. There’s no explanation for Bush’s lack of vision.

Obama, too, is publicly saying he’s sorry—that he had his family appear on television—but this is a regret, as opposed to an apology. Both he and McCain have, however, expressed remorse that they’d used the word “wasted” in relation to our troops in Iraq. Jimmy Carter, too, apologized to a Jewish audience that he’d sounded like an apologist for suicide bombers in his book. Being a politician means always having to say you’re sorry … except in the case of our present administration.

It may be time for colleges to add a course in apologizing for poly sci majors. Much of the curriculum should address how to respond when your embarrassing sexual exploits have been revealed. The formula in play is: a remorseful apology + wife at side = hope it’ll go away. There is no shortage of public figures well equipped to teach that class.


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