In the past few weeks we have been treated to a flurry of national apologies. Foul and foolish deeds of various degrees of severity have been owned-up to across the fruited plain. It is a paradox that, in this permissive age, there’s nothing America loves better than a heartfelt mea culpa; particularly when uttered by the rich and famous. No transgression, save those committed by conservatives, is ever too grave that the big heart of America cannot forgive; that is, after the suitable five minute period of sackcloth and ashes is observed.
Our media were especially zealous in their desire for admissions of guilt from George W. Bush, but few if any materialized during his two terms. Little did they suspect though, that their thirst for presidential self-recrimination would be slaked only weeks into the Obama Administration. But not to worry, they soon had other confessions on which to hang their hats in their never-ending attempt to prove that whatever it is, “everybody does it.”
First there was the curious case of Tom Daschle and his attempt to implement national health care as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. After the discovery that he had run afoul of the taxman, and despite President Obama’s assurance that he was “absolutely” sticking with him, Daschle was out on his ear in less than a week. In a statement that was eerily reminiscent of his days as Senate Majority Leader and profoundly descriptive of the nation’s recollection of that era, he said that the whole mess had left him “deeply embarrassed and disappointed.”
This was followed by President Obama’s acknowledgement that his push for Daschle’s nomination was a mistake and that he too was rueful. Especially since his desire to bring “change” to Washington was being interrupted by his own ineptitude. In the kind of eloquent statement that makes the media swoon in adoration, the leader of the free world admitted that he “screwed up.” And they called Ronald Reagan “the great communicator.”
A few days later, Obama apologized for his pick of Judd Gregg, who in turn apologized for having second thoughts about serving as Commerce secretary in an administration whose plans include trading Capitalism for Socialism. Perilously close to suffering the double disgrace of losing his census and trusting Democrats to keep his Senate seat safe, he cut bait and ran. Symptomatic of the effect that his short time with Democratic apologists had on his brain, he explained, “It was my mistake, obviously, to say yes, it wasn’t my personality.”
But help was on the way for Barack Obama and his distressed cabinet in the form of fallen sports heroes. It seems that swimmer Michael Phelps’ indiscretion had much more far-reaching effects than those of the U.S. president. An international sports official went so far as to claim, “To a certain extent, he let down the world.” Phelps must have agreed, since he issued two apologies; one to the Chinese and another to the rest of us.
But this Phelps might have a future in politics after he’s done in the pool. Showing a truly Clintonian talent for rationalization he explained, “I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me.” And youthful exuberance was also to blame according to the Alex Rodriguez confession, in which he claimed that he was “young and stupid” when he began using steroids at the age of 26. Pretty interesting claims in a country where in some states girls as young as sixteen are judged mature enough to obtain abortions on their own. But hey, at least these boys pay their taxes.
As with most public apologies in today’s America, none of those issuing them will suffer any real consequences for their transgressions. Tom Daschle will return to the private sector, adding substantially to his tax liability; Judd Gregg will return to his Senate seat, thankful for his escape from the “hope and change” squad; Phelps will do whatever it is that Olympic swimming stars do for their three years out of the spotlight; and hopefully, A-Rod will lead the New York Yankees back to the World Series.
And President Obama will retain the fawning adoration of his media worshippers: after all, as Robert Gibbs — the greatest and most erudite press secretary ever to grace the White House microphones — said, “Nobody’s perfect.”