This week we consider White House apologies.
You’re probably thinking we will be finished rather quickly.
There has been great excitement in your nation’s capital about the White House’s sort-of apology because President Obama did not go to France for the big rally against terrorism and in support of free speech and, well, France.
Obama did go to the French embassy in Washington after the odious murders of French journalists and hostages to sign the condolence book.
But, said his people, the White House failed to realize the march in Paris would be a big deal and several dozen other world leaders would attend along with 1.5 million people. “I think it’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile” than the U.S. ambassador, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
In other words, an oops moment, although officials were quick to point out that not going was not actually Obama’s decision. It didn’t even get to him. Somebody else decided on his behalf.
I don’t know about you, but if I were offered a free trip to Paris and in return I had to show support for free speech and opposition to terrorism, I would be miffed that somebody else decided I shouldn’t go and didn’t even let me decide for myself. But, hey, that’s the quirkiness of this White House.
At any rate, this brought up the issue of how often the current White House apologizes.
Last month Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist who was paid at least $400,000 to advise the White House on health care, apologized for calling the American people “stupid.” And insisting deception was essential for passage of Obamacare. So, technically, the White House didn’t apologize but it certainly forced its old associate Gruber to say he was sorry.
Last October Vice President Joe Biden had to apologize to the leaders of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates for suggesting they had supported Islamist militants in Syria. Spokesman Earnest explained, “The vice president is somebody who has enough character to admit when he’s made a mistake.”
Actually, Biden has shown a considerable amount of character in numerous apologies for past gaffes.
Last June the deputy White House national security adviser apologized to top Democratic senators for failing to notify them that Obama was releasing suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay to secure the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who at that time chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she was told the failure was an “oversight.”
“It’s very disappointing that there was not a level of trust sufficient to justify alerting us,” she complained. Democrats had earlier opposed such a swap.
You see, the U.S. does not deal with terrorists except when it does.
Obama personally obliquely has apologized for the burning of Korans by U.S. troops, the IRS targeting of some conservative groups, tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone, hurting Democrats seeking re-election by the poor rollout of Obamacare, the cancellations of health insurance he said wouldn’t happen, insulting art history majors, firing USDA employee Shirley Sherrod and displacing an Army couple’s wedding so he could play golf in Hawaii.
It almost seems that this is the “I’m sorry, so sorry” administration.
But we’re not the only country that apologizes. Last year on the 200th anniversary of the burning of the White House by British soldiers, the British embassy tweeted about “commemorating” the event with a cake, noting “Only sparklers this time!”
The embassy apologized. The defense was that the burning now is humor fodder. When British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Obama, the president referred to the British soldiers in 1814 as having made quite an impression: “They really lit the place up.” Cameron did not apologize but responded, “I can see you’ve got the place a little better defended today. You’re clearly not taking any risks with the Brits this time.”
In true apologetic mode, the White House recently urged the public to accept “our apologies” when its website was under reconstruction and went blank. Some thought a new section might be added: Apologies. Didn’t happen.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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