The president was asked at least four times at his press conference whether he wanted to take the opportunity to apologize for the 9-11 attacks. It was the press corps in full baying mode .
Apologies and blame are the themes of the week. On apologies, let's be aware that many are pure theater. Richard Clarke's recent apology for having failed to prevent 9-11 is Exhibit A. The import of the rest of Clarke's testimony was that he was the lone hero pushing for action who was ignored by his less farsighted colleagues. It was quite a performance. He apologized, but at the same time made it clear that, as far as he was concerned, he was the only one with nothing to apologize for.
President Clinton was good at apologizing -- but only for things that others had done, not for his own wrongdoing. He apologized, on behalf of the United States, for having supported dictators during the Cold War, for slavery and for racism. He never expressed contrition for failing to handle the terrorist threat, being snookered by the North Koreans, coddling Yasser Arafat or his many other missteps.
One questioner at the press conference allowed as how it was the word around town that the Bush administration "never admits a mistake." Well, this may have some truth to it. But, ahem, look who's talking! These are the same folks who brought you the story of 170,000 precious artifacts looted from the Iraqi National Museum under the noses of U.S. Marines. It turned out there were only about a dozen. Oops.
These are the people who warned us of the terrible Afghan winter and warned that our troops would face the same fate as those of the Soviet Union and Great Britain. These are the same people who declared that the Afghanistan campaign, three weeks on, had become a Vietnam-style quagmire. It was on the front page of The New York Times.
These are the also the people who brought you Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley. Kelley is the former star foreign correspondent for USA Today who was recently fired for fabricating stories.
Well, everybody makes mistakes, but members of the press are particularly arrogant and unwilling to confront them. The New York Times has finally appointed an ombudsman, but only in the teeth of strenuous objections from the staff.
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