When Politicians Leave Their Talking Points, It Gets Ugly

The NYT had a hilarious article the other day about recent politicans’ gaffes and their hopeless attempts at damage control. Some good analysis of different kinds of apologies, too. And now, straight from Washington D.C.:

Senator Conrad Burns, Republican of Montana, said Wednesday that the United States confronts a “faceless enemy” of terrorists who “drive cabs in the daytime and kill at night.” Despite a hail of criticism on Thursday, Mr. Burns has not apologized for this remark as he did after complaining in July that a group of firefighters did not do a “goddamn thing” to stop a wildfire east of Billings.

Senator George Allen, Republican of Virginia, has been serially apologizing across Virginia since demeaning a man of Indian descent as “Macaca, or whatever his name is” at a campaign rally last month. Mr. Allen has been perhaps the most prodigious apologizer in what has been a spate of groveling across the political spectrum.

The contrite caucus includes Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans (who said he was “very sorry” after calling the site of the World Trade Center a “hole in the ground”); Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, (who asked forgiveness after a C-Span microphone caught him saying “you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent”); a Florida Republican Congressional candidate, Tramm Hudson (who might have sunk his campaign by saying that blacks were bad swimmers); and Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, a Republican, (after using the term “tar baby” not long after the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, deployed the same phrase, which some consider to be a racist epithet)….

Mr. Burns, the Montana senator, is both an accomplished apologizer and non-apologizer. He demonstrated as much in June when he joked that “the nice little Guatemalan man” working on his house might be an illegal immigrant. He has not apologized for the quip, as he once did after calling Arabs “ragheads.”

“I can self-destruct in one sentence,” Mr. Burns, a former livestock auctioneer, recently told supporters. “Sometimes in one word.”

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