Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why is it so hard for politicians to apologize?

Why is it so hard for politicians to admit they're wrong? And even harder for them to apologize?

I suspect they feel it might show weakness to voters if they apologize for doing something wrong. Maybe they think their opponents will capitalize on any apology and make a campaign issue out of it. Or maybe they're just so hardheaded, so full of the belief they can get away with anything, that they just refuse to say "I made a mistake" or "I apologize."

In North Carolina politics, it seemed to me the best way for Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper to end a dispute with a previous opponent was to admit his campaign ad was wrong or at least misleading and apologize to Republican Dan Boyce for the ad's assertion that Boyce's law firm was making an outrageous sum from a lawsuit it brought over the state's method of taxation. At one point Boyce would have settled the whole matter for a simple apology that it seemed to me he deserved. It would have been simple, cheap and quickly ended a lawsuit that ground on for eight years and for all I know still is tied up in court somewhere.

Now state Sen. A.B. Swindell, a Democrat, is refusing to retract, apologize for or admit any wrongdoing in his implication that his opponent this fall in a race in Wilson and Nash counties, Republican Buck Newton, is or was a druggie. In 1990, Newton was evidently mistakenly identified in a drug investigation in Watauga County and was to be charged on eight counts. News reports show that the charges were dismissed by a prosecutor after he learned of the mistake. The officer responsible for the mistake was later fired. But Newton's name remains on the public record as having been charged, and Swindell's campaign is spreading the word that he was once cited in the drug case. Swindell's justification for using that against Newton is that it's a matter of public record and he's telling only the truth as the record shows. But he does not include the complete public record information about an affidavit filed in court that there never was any evidence of  Newston's wrongdoing. None.

This is wrong. And it invites a continued low-level of political discourse in this state.

That's a pretty sleazy way to campaign against someone, because the implication is that, even if a mistake was made, Newton must have done something wrong to have even been charged. And Newton is justifiably hot about this -- angry enough to file a libel lawsuit against Swindell.

If Swindell has evidence that Newton sold or bought drugs, that's one thing. But to use a public record based on a mistake to defame a political opponent is pretty low. Swindell owes Newton and voters in his district an apology and a retraction. Given the usual practice of politics, I don't suppose an apology is forthcoming, but one certainly seems in order.


Anonymous said...

Because a majority of them are scum Jack. Jeeze, everybgody knows that.

Jack, you're pieces here show that you woefully out of touch.

Anonymous said...

Smear ads, Jack. My guess is an apology is less forthcoming for two reasons..they werent accidents and the possible legal ramifications of conceding the ads were erroneous should the other party sue.

Cant wait for the politician to run a clean campaign with a positive solutions based message! Still trying to figure out the Tea Party candidates but love the principles!

Anonymous said...


In a writing class by a Charlotte NEWS editor whose name I've forgotten, I learned a lot about the does and don'ts of writing and reporting. But one of the clearest was how easy it is to assassinate someones character just by mentioning something like, "..let's check so-and-so's police record.." The target of this libel probably doesn't have any record but the public gets a different impression.

The Little Rascals Day Center fiasco of the 1989 in Edenton is another example of how misguided people use the media to give credibility to the obsurded.

The most recent example of this is the UNC football scandal. Someone at the college said the tutor's contract wasn't renewed because she was "too friendly" with the players. There's no doubt the sorry person who made the statement knew the public would jump to a sexual thought. The spokesperson would have never made the statement if the tutor were a male.

A former NC governor is fond of pointing out that one vote more than 50% is a victory. This might explain why some politicians don't apologize. They know a swing of just two votes might change a victory into a loss.

Lyndon Johnson never apologized for the nickname "Landside Lyndon" that came from his dubious victory in his first house race.

Bottom line: Never believe a politician; even when he's right!

Anonymous said...

One might also ask why it is so hard for newspaper editors to apologize for their support and encouragement of NC Democrats all of these years. The Observer has strongly supported the democratic control of the county commission, the state house and the senate. Jim Black was one of their favorites, as was Parks Helms. One can go all the way back to the Bill Culp scandal, in which Culp was supported by the paper, until it was impossible to deny that he was a crook. I believe Bill James, who continues to be a favorite whipping boy, was soundly chastised for suggesting that Culp could be involved in wrongdoing. Do the editors feel no sense of responsibility whatsoever for the sorry state of ethics in this state right now?

Anonymous said...

Even I have no expectations that a politician would apologize for being slanderous toward his/her opponent. To do so would be evidence of character, integrity, decency, fair play; however, your comments are a pleasant reminder of greatly missed values of statelier times.

It seems in NC that our political system is so tired, wornout, manipulated and abused by self-serving politicians and appointees that we voters are left to the dregs on both sides of the aisle.

Thanks for your observations and opinions. Keep up the good work. Be viligant - be ever viligant.

Anonymous said...

What makes this sad case even worse is that A.B. Swindell and the NC Democratic Party sent out a SECOND flyer on Saturday repeating the allegations after they were made aware of the documents on public record showing the drug charges were a result of mistaken identity.

Jack is right that Swindell should apologize. Not only is he refusing to apologize, he is deliberately continuing to publish a known lie.

He might have been on his way to losing this election on the issues before this ugly episode. Now he most certainly deserves to loose.

Anonymous said...

The documents setting the record straight were as much a part of the public record as the papers reflecting possible wrongdoing. Swindell either deliberately ignored the corrections or did a remarkbly careless job of searching the record. That he continued to publish the libel demonstrates his malice, willingness to ignore the truth,and desperation. The question is is the lie more powerful than the antedote? He's assuming that it is, and principle and his integrity are of no concern.