Philip Kennicott writes an excellent essay on political apology for The Washington Post. This is a must-read for anyone following the controversy over Sen. Trent Lott’s recent statements. For more on political apology, see my essay on Bill Clinton’s 1998 White House prayer breakfast speech.
UPDATE (9:30 a.m.): Howard Kurtz asks, “Et tu, Mr. President?” More interesting than that silly question is this observation:
The problem is that Lott has sided with some questionable characters, never been a big proponent of civil rights measures and seems incapable, at least for the moment, of eloquently denouncing the segregationist legacy of his state.
The question of eloquence is an interesting one. Kennicott’s essay mentioned above and my study of apology demonstrate the necessity of eloquence in apology, i.e. to be believed you must get the words right; it must sound like contrition and transcendence. Lott needs to repudiate his segregationist leanings. Bush offers an example in his rebuke of Lott:
Every day our nation was segregated was a day that America was unfaithful to our founding ideals.
Mickey Kaus suggests this quote is worthy of Bartlett’s. I agree. What if something like this came out of Lott’s mouth while facing television cameras (instead of phoning it in to FOX and CNN)?