Thursday, May 01, 2008

Five Years On

A few months ago I wrote about the Eight Stage Morphing Apology, referring to a little song and dance that kicks in when somebody's trying to play down the severity of an event and maybe turn things around to work in their favour. It goes a little something like this:

1. I didn't do it.
2. You're oversensitive.
3. I have feelings too, and frankly, I'm a little bit hurt at your response
4. What...you thought I meant that? No. What I meant was...
5. Hey, I had a right to do that...
6. Maybe it's me who deserves an apology.
7. Are you still on about that? I think you're the one with the problem...
8. I messed up. Sorry. But we're cool, right? Everything's fine? Right?

The practitioner can leap from stage to stage in no particular order to see what works on their audience. Most people start with outright denial at stage one. Self-pitying types play with stages three, four and six. People who like to lay blame usually stick to stages two, five and seven.

The truly desperate will use all of them while squirting out a few tears (or they’ll confess to crying for hours, unseen and unverifiable) by the time they get to stage eight, where it becomes tempting to offer absolution simply to shut them up. This is, of course, their ultimate objective. Reinvention, misdirection, & let’s talk about something else. The best part is that you don’t have to be a living and breathing person to use the eight stages. Institutions do just as well with it, and with more momentum. See below.


Bannergate hemmed and hawed its way out of the White House for months after Bush’s precious photo op, each variation less convincing than the previous. By the time the National Review cleared its throat in 2004 to insist that Mission Accomplished only applied to the dump Saddam mission, not the war entire (and maybe we should all be a little more careful about what we print), it was obvious that everyone involved was feeling duped (or was really touchy about being accused of duping the masses). Today, even the Review has suggested a little Duck and Cover.

You don’t even need a punchline anymore. It’s better than ‘I am not a crook’ or ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman.’ The declaration of Mission Accomplished was sheer bravado, designed to appeal to the Never Apologize, Never Explain crowd. Editor and Publisher has a great piece today about how rosy things looked to some 5 years ago. But by the time you limp away from the comment, the bravado’s roar has crumpled into the paper tiger from which it sprung. The worst thing that a paper tiger can do is cause some collateral damage after accidentally setting itself on fire, which pretty much sums up US involvement in Iraq to date.

Was it worth the effort, or is it a debacle that makes Vietnam look like a backroad party after too much Purple Jesus? Make up your own mind. If you’re looking for validation, Unpartisan is running a tally of the coverage from outlets and left/right bloggers. Watch Dana Perino try to look mature in anticipating the snippy comments. Or just read the names of the dead from the Googled source of your choice. They’re long past spin or apology.


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Update: John McCain's saying that Bush shouldn't be blamed "for comments by members of his administration that exaggerated the prospects for success in Iraq in contradiction to the facts on the ground." The fact that Bush profited in political capital from these implied gains doesn't get mentioned. But since McCain also wants it know that Bush should be held responsible for bungling the early months of the Iraq war, he...well, read it for yourself, do your own followup.

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