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Opening Arguments

Sorry words

Gov. Daniels is getting some props for the "simple, elegant and classy" way he apologized for remarks he made recently. At the opening of the I-69 Evansville extension, he had said that the world was divided into two groups, "builders and bellachers." That upset some people who thought the governor was being dismissive of legitimate concerns the highway. Some of them complained in letters to the Indianapolis Star. So the governor sent his own letter to the newspaper:

"Those who wrote to criticize a figure of speech I used at a recent I-69 ribbon-cutting were right to call me on it. I think it's accurate to say that at all previous times I have shown respect for the opponents of the highway, but my fondness for alliteration got the best of me on this occasion and I used a word ("bellyachers") that was wrong. I retract it with regret.

"Those who were present know that I wasn't even talking about I-69 specifically at that point, but rather making the point that any big idea or project is sure to attract a host of those eager to say why change shouldn't or cannot happen. But there must have been a hundred better ways to say that, and I apologize for not choosing one of them."

This is in contrast with the way Richard Mourdock reacted after he was pounded for his comments about rape and pegnancy:

Mourdock attempted to undo some of the damage with the classic politician's "apology." He said he was sorry if his comments had angered people who had misinterpreted them.

In other words, Mourdock said that he was sorry if he'd ticked people off, but, if they were angry, it was really their fault, not his.

I agree with the praise for Daniels. Of all the politicians I've ever met, he strikes me as one of the most "authentic," if I can cite that overused word. He says what he means and means what he says. I'm not sure I'd be quite so negative about Mourdock's remarks, though, or anybody else who uses the so-called "non-apology" apology. Those people aren't really apologizing or even trying to. Saying "I'm sorry you took it that way" is to reinforce what you said, not walk away from it. Mourdock spoke loosely and clumsily -- that was his part of the blame for the communications failure. But there can also be blame for the people who continued to be angry about one interpretation of the remarsk after Mourdcok made it clear what he meant to say.


Harl Delos
Thu, 12/06/2012 - 5:41pm

 A few days before the general election in 1988, John Mutz was in a radio interview, and the newsman asked him what he thought about his opponent.  He said something on the order of "You know, Evan Bayh is the kind of young adult we ought to be urging to public service.  He's squeaky clean, he's intelligent, he has common sense, and he's motivated by a desire to serve the public, rather than personal aggrandizement. I wish he was a Republican.  But he's awfully young.  He probably ought to be elected in another 4 or 8 years. Right now, though, he's too inexperienced to head the state."

I think that was one of the wisest statements I've ever heard from a politician. The polls said Evan Bayh was going to win, because Mutz had an unfamiliar name, and Birch Bayh had been a rather popular senator, so  Mutz was building the Republican brand as well as his personal brand.

The definition of "gaffe" in Washington is "accidentally saying what you mean".  Mourdock's picture ought to be printed right next to that definition.   The independents who determine the winner of elections didn't vote for Democrats this year so much as they voted against the pseudo-cons who don't realize how important log-rolling is to serving a constituency properly.