Jewish World Review July 19, 2004 / 1 Menachem-Av, 5764
The lost art of
|APOLOGIES: A COMPARISON|
The empty apology |
"Today is a shameful day. It is shameful for me, for my family and for my beloved company and all of its employees and partners. What was a small personal matter became over the last 21/2 years an almost fatal circus event of unprecedented proportions spreading like oil over a vast landscape, even around the world. I have been choked and almost suffocated to death during that time." Martha Stewart, July 16, 2004
The perfect apology
"I take full responsibility for my own actions and for those of my administration ... As disappointed as I may be in some who served me, I'm still the one who must answer to the American people for this behavior. And as personally distasteful as I find secret bank accounts and diverted funds well, as the Navy would say, this happened on my watch." Ronald Reagan, March 4, 1987
"Mere words cannot fully express the profound remorse I feel for what our country is going through and for what members of both parties in Congress are now forced to deal with ... I understand that accountability demands consequences, and I'm prepared to accept them." Bill Clinton, Dec. 11, 1998
The grandmaster of the art of the non-apology apology was President Bill Clinton. Clinton understood that people have a natural affinity to the penitent man, but rarely forgive the truly guilty man. He spent a lifetime perfecting the non-apology apology: speaking in hushed, even emotional tones, while not actually admitting anything.
In fact, Clinton's non-apology apology about Monica Lewinsky was oddly similar to Stewart's. Where Clinton spoke of his affair being "unprecedented" and blown out of proportion by the media and prosecutors, Stewart spoke of a small affair being taken to "unprecedented proportions" by the media and prosecutors. Where Clinton spoke of the need "to repair the fabric of our national discourse," Stewart spoke of the need to "repair the damage wrought by the situation." The true meaning is not the words, but the gaps between the words: The real culprits were the prosecutors who caused this damage by pursuing them, not themselves.
For felons like Stewart, however, the inability to speak honestly and openly about mistakes can be fatal. After the government closed its case, it was clear that Stewart had to take the stand or be found guilty. The government had painted an image of a petty tyrant who did everything short of beating her subordinates with a riding crop. She would speak to TV personality Barbara Walters, but not to a jury. Stewart maintained the perfect appearance of a well-heeled defendant surrounded by celebrity friends such as Rosie O'Donnell and Bill Cosby. However, what the jury needed was to hear from Stewart, to have some reason to be sympathetic with her position.
Testifying would have required Stewart to reveal something she had resisted her whole life: flaws. There was a simple reason why she changed a key computer message: She was scared. It was the type of honesty that can derail a government case. It is not easy or neat or rehearsed. It is the type of messy and uninhibited display that would never make the pages of Martha Stewart Living.
Instead, last week we saw the same tightly constructed Martha Stewart, speaking Hallmark card lines about how "her heart goes out to [Judge Cedarbaum] and to everyone in the courtroom" while jealously withholding the one thing that she was never willing to share: the truth.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
06/21/04: The Supremes ducked a definitive decision in a ruling that raises questions about future child-custody issues
05/19/04: This roughhousing at recess must cease
05/04/04: A Peddler of Court Gossip May Pay the Piper
04/01/04: One angry Tyco juror does not make twelve angry men
03/23/04: When choice becomes tyranny
03/18/04: Valued bond between client, lawyer eroding
03/12/04: When Silence Isn't Golden: Martha Stewart's failure to testify holds a lesson for other celebrity defendants
03/09/04: Non-profits' executives avoid scrutiny, valid reforms
02/12/04: Reparations cause is coming up empty: Potential lawsuits destined to remain meritless in courts
02/03/04: Senate powder is the least of Congress' security concerns
01/29/04: Case of the Missing Evidence: Facts are often withheld from juries, which can lead to ill-informed verdicts
12/31/03: Celebrity is often its own best defense
12/27/03: U.S. soldiers lack best protective gear
12/17/03: Going for the gold in a competition of the corrupt
11/25/03: Will Malvo jurors spare life of young suspect?
11/11/03: The Black Tax: Of charlatans, crooks and victims and the reparations scam
11/04/03: Sniper case lacks appeal, public lessons of other cases
10/02/03: Is a soldier's life worth more than $650?
08/26/03: One justice wields too much power on today's Supreme Court. It's time to make the top bench much bigger
08/11/03: Don't let jobs grow on family trees
06/26/03: A Ruling That Only Goldilocks Could Love; We still don't know how much weight to give race in college admissions
06/24/03: 'Educating' Congress at the hands of lobbyists
06/12/03: Crooked arm of the law
06/10/03: Defense on lay-away
05/23/03: Innocence doesn't pay, either
05/15/03: A see-no-evil parole system
05/08/03: An American Gulag?
05/01/03: CUNY Law gives grads a cynical parting gift
04/22/03: Congress Must Send Spammers a Message
04/16/03: End Apartheid in the State Prisons
04/07/03: NBC's sacking of Peter Arnett over a critical analysis plays well in Baghdad
03/07/03: Rights on the Rack: Alleged torture in terror war imperils U.S. standards of humanity
02/25/03: How democracy could clear our snowy streets
02/11/03: Sanity and Justice Slipping Away
01/28/03: Quit horsing around, senator
01/14/03: Public Payroll: a Family Affair; Nepotism in Washington poses a threat to institutional integrity
01/09/03: DARPA and democracy
12/24/02: The 13th juror
12/19/02: Back to the admissions morass
12/10/02: Pro-Choice at Expense of Free Speech; NOW case against abortion protester may backfire
12/02/02: A cruel bait and switch for vets
11/15/02: Junk justice
11/07/02: OUR second-class soldiers
10/30/02: 'Quirin' revisited: The dark history of a military tribunal
10/22/02: Un-American Arrests: Mass detainments of the innocent may be the ultimate form of crowd control, but the tactic is unconstitutional
10/16/02: Reverse pawn shops? Broke state officials across the country have been looking for businesses to buy their assets at a fraction of their worth to pay for budget shortfalls
10/08/02: A legal tattoo hullabaloo
10/02/02: Gagged justice sets dangerous precedent
09/25/02: The Great Salmon Rose Caper
09/17/02: Reparations: A Scam Cloaked in Racial Pain
09/12/02: This country's hidden strength
09/04/02: 1st Amendment protects even the ugliest among us
08/28/02: A secret court goes public
08/20/02: I defended Ashcroft during his nomination; he's become a constitutional menace
08/07/02: San Francisco embracing states-rights
07/31/02: Who needs Jenny Craig when you can have Johnnie Cochran?
07/22/02: The meaning of justice and the madness of Zacarias Moussauoi
07/16/02: The President vs. the Presidency
07/08/02: How one woman's whims dictates the rights of millions
07/02/02: Just say 'no' to extracurricular activities
06/24/02: Missing Ted Bundy
06/14/02: DESTROYING A FAMILY TO SAVE IT
06/10/02: A comedy of eros06/14/02: 05/31/02: Beyond the 'reformed FBI' hype
05/23/02: Do we really need a Federal Marriage Amendment?
05/19/02: No "battlefield detainee" should leave home without a U.S. birth certificate
05/10/02: The perfect constitutional storm
04/26/02: 'Slave of Allah' wounds justice
04/12/02: The importance of being nameless
04/05/02: The adjusted value of justice
03/18/02: How Clinton got off: A law professor's take
03/11/02: Profiling and the terrorist lottery
03/05/02: Yes, Sharpton, there was a failure of justice
02/28/02: The Lay of the land
02/14/02: Living in constitutional denial
02/05/02: Legal Lesson for Afghanistan: War's Not a Slip-and-Fall Case
01/25/02: Sever "Jihad Johnny"'s ties to his homeland
01/21/02: "Out of sight, out of mind," but they're still prisoners
01/14/02: Your papers, please!
01/07/02: Prescription for disaster
12/18/01: Madison and the Mujahedeen
12/07/01: In the U.S., espionage crime is easy to understand but difficult to prove
11/19/01: What type of 'creature' would defend bin Laden?
11/19/01: Could bin Laden be acquitted in a trial?
10/28/01: The ultimate sign of the different times in which we are living
10/25/01: Al-Qaida produces killers, not thinkers
09/28/01: The Boxer rebellion and the war against terrorism
08/31/01: Bring back the silent Condit
08/27/01: Working out the body politic