Apol­o­gize, then blame some­one else

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - OPINION -

WASH­ING­TON — I am sorry. I am sorry that so many peo­ple have been mak­ing in­sin­cere apolo­gies. I has­ten to add that I am not to blame for th­ese ter­ri­ble apolo­gies, but I re­gret them deeply, all the same.

Chris Christie is ter­ri­bly sorry that his staff

COM­MEN­TARY lied to him about things they did with­out his knowl­edge, and he feels re­morse that the par­ti­san me­dia are tar­get­ing him with a witch hunt.

Bob McDon­nell is re­ally sorry that an overzeal­ous fed­eral prose­cu­tor is go­ing af­ter him for do­ing per­fectly le­gal things.

And Glenn Beck feels just aw­ful that peo­ple were so “frag­ile” that they al­lowed his rhetoric to tear the coun­try apart.

Lis­ten­ing to the non-apolo­gies and fin­ger-point­ing brings to mind Ge­orge W. Bush’s long-ago vow to change a cul­ture that says “if it feels good, do it; if you’ve got a prob­lem, blame some­body else.”

That didn’t hap­pen, I re­gret to say.

Christie’s prob­lem is the fault of MSNBC, McDon­nell’s prob­lem is the fault of the U.S. at­tor­ney, and the dam­age caused by Beck is the fault of the peo­ple who lis­tened to him — and be­sides, he says, he didn’t have a choice.

Christie at least be­gan with a nom­i­nal ac­cep­tance of re­spon­si­bil­ity. Even as he pleaded in­no­cence in the bridge scan­dal — “I’m telling you: I had noth­ing to do with this” — he ac­knowl­edged that, at least in the tech­ni­cal sense of be­ing New Jersey’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, “I’m ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble.” But this changed on Jan. 18, when his of­fice is­sued a state­ment say­ing the mush­room­ing scan­dal was the fault of the lib­eral me­dia.

“MSNBC is a par­ti­san net­work that has been openly hos­tile to Gov­er­nor Christie and al­most glee­ful in their ef­forts at­tack­ing him,” the state­ment said. It also said the bur­geon­ing ac­cu­sa­tions of in­tim­i­da­tion by Christie’s ad­min­is­tra­tion mean “par­ti­san pol­i­tics are at play here.”

Ul­ti­mately, the scale of the Christie ad­min­is­tra­tion’s wrong­do­ing will be sorted out by a fed­eral prose­cu­tor. But, as McDon­nell made clear on Tues­day, a fed­eral prose­cu­tor is just another per­son who can be blamed for one’s own trans­gres­sions.

The for­mer Vir­ginia gov­er­nor, in­dicted along with his wife days af­ter leav­ing of­fice in a cor­rup­tion scan­dal in­volv­ing gifts from busi- ness­man Jon­nie Wil­liams, is­sued a state­ment say­ing he would “pre­vail against this un­just over­reach of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.” Said McDon­nell: “I deeply re­gret ac­cept­ing le­gal gifts and loans from Mr. Wil­liams, all of which have been re­paid with in­ter­est.” He then went on tele­vi­sion to say “I did noth­ing il­le­gal for Mr. Wil­liams in ex­change for what I be­lieve was his per­sonal friend­ship and his gen­eros­ity.”

Uh-huh. The “gen­eros­ity” in­cluded a shop­ping spree for the first lady at Os­car de la Renta ($10,999), Louis Vuit­ton ($5,685), and Bergdorf Good­man ($2,604), a $50,000 loan with­out doc­u­men­ta­tion, $15,000 for his daugh­ter’s wed­ding, the use of a va­ca­tion home and Fer­rari, the Rolex in­scribed “71st Gov­er­nor of Vir­ginia,” the hot-tub cover, the deck stain­ing, a Cape Cod va­ca­tion, yacht char­ter and golf out­ings. By to­tal co­in­ci­dence, the bene­fac­tor al­legedly got help with state sci­en­tific re­searchers and sup­port at var­i­ous com­pany events — in­clud­ing a prod­uct launch at the gov­er­nor’s man­sion.

But McDon­nell, who gal­lantly re­jected a plea deal that would have spared his wife, blames the feds.

This brings us to Beck, who last Tues­day night went on his for­mer net­work and told Megyn Kelly that, be­fore Fox News dropped him in 2011, “I made an aw­ful lot of mis­takes ... I think I played a role, un­for­tu­nately, in help­ing tear the coun­try apart.”

Ya think? The nightly Nazi metaphors, the rou­tine race-bait­ing and spon­sor­ship of con­spir­acy the­o­ries and apoc­a­lyp­tic vi­sions that, it ap­pears, drove some to des­per­ate vi­o­lence? But hold on: Beck said the real trou­ble was that he “didn’t re­al­ize how re­ally frag­ile the peo­ple were. I thought we were kind of a lit­tle more in it to­gether.” In a fol­low-up in­ter­view on his online net­work, the Blaze, he fur­ther ab­solved him­self, as­sert­ing that “there’s no way that I could have done it any dif­fer­ent than I did.”

Beck is noth­ing if not adapt­able. He was a pony­tail-wear­ing lib­eral be­fore he saw a com­mer­cial open­ing in con­ser­va­tive talk ra­dio. Now that an im­prov­ing econ­omy has cast doubt on his end-times vi­sions, he’s re­cast­ing him­self again. Last week, he un­veiled a new mis­sion state­ment for the Blaze: “We tell sto­ries of love and courage where the good guys win.” He de­voted a ra­dio show last week to “three clas­sic Frank Si­na­tra songs you need to hear.”

And now we’re sup­posed to be­lieve he’s gen­uine? I’m sorry. Fol­low Dana Mil­bank on Twit­ter, Mil­bank.

DANA MIL­BANK

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