The elusive apology trap

Posted: Apr 16, 2004 12:00 AM

Why is it that the very same people who refused to demand an authentic apology from former President Clinton for actual felonies he committed demand a bogus apology from President Bush for something that was not his fault?

Nothing has come to light in the 9-11 investigative hearings implicating President Bush in the 9-11 attacks. Nothing has surfaced to indicate that his administration fumbled information, which, if used properly, could have empowered us to avert the attacks. I repeat: Richard Clarke didn't even allege otherwise.

Why won't liberals let this go? The answer, of course, is partisan politics. If the president's opponents can ensnare him in an apology trap, they can discredit him as a wartime leader.

The contrition seekers are not to be denied. One after another they lined up during the president's press conference Tuesday night, some indignant, some incredulous, some drippingly smarmy, but all in hot pursuit of those words the president simply refused to utter, "I'm sorry."

One questioner essentially accused Bush of possessing a character flaw that blinded him to his own mistakes. Another cited Richard Clarke's gratuitous apology to the 9-11 victims and asked whether the president shouldn't follow suit?

The president acknowledged that he wishes his administration had done some things differently prior to 9-11 but insisted they had no idea bin Laden was going to fly planes into buildings, especially on September 11, 2001. Bush reminded reporters that the person responsible for those attacks was Osama bin Laden.

I, for one, am gratified that President Bush declined the invitation to enter the liberal, New Age touchy-feely world of phony emotion, non-apology apologies and diluted accountability. An apology from President Bush would not advance the cause of accountability, but diminish it. It would be irresponsible of President Bush to accept blame for something he didn't do.

An unwarranted apology wouldn't help the victims' families. But it would help the perpetrators by shifting blame away from them. And it would help President Bush's political opponents -- at least they think it would -- who long for that one self-damning soundbite with which to hang the president. Such an apology would not lead us toward solutions to the problem but away from them.

If President Bush is responsible for some unannounced, elaborate murderous plot by America's enemies, then our government is responsible for all crimes, not the criminals who commit them (which, by the way, is not such a farfetched concept among the liberal elite).

And just think how dangerously arrogant it is for us, as a society, to assume we can prevent all crimes or all acts of war. It's the same type of mentality that generates moral indignation at President Bush, not our terrorist enemies, when we sustain wartime casualties in Iraq -- as if we are so invincible that we can fight casualty-free wars. We may be the world's sole superpower, but we are neither perfect nor impervious to attack or death. And we never will be.

The reporters berating Bush for an apology obviously see themselves as part of the intellectual and emotional elite, able to discern the refined nuance that points to the counterintuitive conclusion that the president is responsible for something he had nothing to do with, nor could have prevented.

Very few of these smug automatons have the faintest clue that far from possessing any superiority as to basic human thought processes, they do not think for themselves. They eschew independent thought, march in lockstep to the prejudiced liberal mindset that President Bush is a reprobate and doggedly ignore the facts that scream otherwise.

Consider their audacity and hypocrisy in seeking Bush's head for not doing enough against terrorism prior to 9-11, when they have opposed fighting terrorism aggressively both before and after 9-11.

The people now condemning President Bush for not combating terrorists prior to 9-11 through profiling, preemption, intelligence sharing, unilateralism and a warlike approach, are the ones who have repeatedly castigated the president for pre-emption, the Patriot Act, unilateralism and denying enemy combatants their civil rights.

If they are so determined to make someone other than Osama accountable, they need look no farther than themselves. Let them bask in their self-righteousness, and in the meantime, President Bush will tend to the vital business of leading this nation in the war on terror, which despite all this superfluous retrospection, continues to rage in the present.

Lord help us if our national security is ever entrusted to these handwringers or their preferred presidential candidate.