Jewish World Review Feb. 20, 2004/ 28 Shevat, 5764

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports

On apologies | Justin Timberlake dragged his mom along as a prop and apologized at the Grammy awards for the wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl half-time extravaganza of body parts. It was the same apology that Janet Jackson, whose wardrobe and body parts fell victim to the malfunction, offered, "I am sorry if I offended anyone."

An apology should admit the wrong, to wit, "I am sorry. What I did was wrong. I violated the trust of millions of viewers of CBS. I left millions of five-year-olds with the impression that women wear Darth Vader death stars under their clothing."

The apology that is not an apology reflects our legalistic society.

Denials are not denials and admissions are not quite admissions. Parsing, legal jargon and technicalities consume remorse. I blame the Clintons.

During his 1992 ride on the marital infidelity mechanical bull, Mr. Clinton appeared on 60 Minutes and confessed, "I have caused pain in my marriage." This could mean that he failed to go by the local CVS to pick up the Dr. Scholl's pads for the wife's corns. A true apology is, "I am a dirt bag son of a bloodsucking aardvark who cheated on my wife and I don't deserve to live." Adultery apologies mandate groveling.

The Monica Lewinsky apology from Mr. Clinton: "I take my responsibility for my part in this." Let me try and understand this: You were having some form of sexual pleasure (definitions became an issue in the fracas) with a young intern in the White House and someone else has responsibility for it? Still, the media types labeled it an apology. I'm with Theresa Heinz Kerry on this issue. Catch your husband fooling around and you get to maim them. Will her sentencing guidelines hold firm now with husband #2 parsing busily?

The Clintons mainstreamed the non-apology that quells a media frenzy without admission of guilt. Gregg Easterbrook, of The New Republic, wrote the following while deriding the movie, Kill Bill. "Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence?"

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When many complained, Mr. Easterbrook wrote, "Of mangling words, I am guilty. To anyone who was offended I offer my apology, because offense was not my intent." Yet another apology for those offended, not an apology because his words were outrageous.

Mr. Easterbrook harbors ignorant stereotypes and should have apologized and agreed to go to sensitivity training that magazines such as the New Republic have foisted upon us through federal legislation because of their view that we are a nation of rednecks. Rednecks occupy highfalutin Manhattan magazine editorial offices too.

Dixie Chick Natalie Maines used classic non-apology drivel after her Euro soil comments that she was "embarrassed" about our president. Her Diane Sawyer interview:

MAINES: I think it came down to, it was...that it was in a foreign country and it was that it was an off-the-cuff statement, . . . The wording I used, the way I said it, that was disrespectful.

DIANE SAWYER: I hear something not quite...what? Whole-hearted ... MAINES: Really?...

SAWYER: ...when you talk about apologizing for what you said about the President.

MAINES: It's not because it's not genuine. It's because I'm on guard now, I feel regret for, you know, the choice of words. . . . Am I sorry that I asked questions and that I don't just follow? No.

Recently, while speaking at a fundraiser in Missouri for a Democratic candidate, Sen. Hillary Rodham Mt. Everest Clinton introduced a Mahatma Gandhi quote by saying, "He ran a gas station in St. Louis." Her pseudo-apology, "I have admired the work and life of Mahatma Gandhi and have spoken publicly about that many times. I truly regret if a lame attempt at humor suggested otherwise."

That was an ethnic slam and this is no apology. Mrs. Clinton is a redneck!

Apologetic reform is not on the horizon. The John Kerry intern story found him answering Don Imus's questions about an intern, alleged trysts while Mrs. Heinz Kerry was out of town, and various other cad behaviors. Massachusetts' most liberal senator issued a denial with all the solidarity of Jell-O nailed to a wall, "There's nothing to report, nothing to report, nothing to talk about . . . No." Ah, the indignation!

Brace yourselves, gang, the Clinton school of admissions, denials and apologies has a new graduate, and the mechanical bull of indiscretions and accompanying non-remorse is operational once again. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

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JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.

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