In a dramatic announcement on the passing of an historical epoch, Republican National Committee Chairman, Michael Steele, has declared that the Era of Apology is over. That’s right, the Apologiac Age has come to a close, according to Steele:
“The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over. It is done. The time for trying to fix or focus on the past has ended. The era of Republican navel gazing is over. We have turned the corner on regret, recrimination, self-pity and self-doubt. Now is the hour to focus all of our energies on winning the future.”
While it is encouraging to hear that Republicans will cease to gaze at their navels, that doesn’t explain how their new tunnel blindness with regard to the past will help them to win the future. It also doesn’t advance the argument that the Apologiac Age is truly over.
One argument against Steele’s hypothesis is that experts have been unable to identify the beginning of the Era of Apology. Despite rigorous searches, no apologies have been uncovered for any of the most profound failures of the last administration:
- Missing all of the warning signs prior to 9/11.
- Waging a preemptive war of aggression based on weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist.
- Permitting thousands to die in New Orleans due to incompetence and neglect.
- Politicizing the Justice Department by hiring and firing attorneys based on partisan affiliation.
- Diluting Constitutional rights through warrantless searches and the suspension of habeas corpus.
- Violating domestic and international laws against torture.
- Causing the collapse of the economy via deregulation, collusion with corporate cronies, and irresponsible spending and taxation policy.
The absence of any evidence that an Apologiac Age ever began inveighs heavily against the contention that it has now concluded. Conservative Apologiac theorists like Steele may seek to support their claim by pointing to the frequent apologies made by Republicans (including Steele) to Rush Limbaugh for having referred to him as an entertainer, or otherwise something less than the Republican Overlord. Or they may cite the apology made by Steele himself when, addressing the Wall Street bailout, he said we need to “own up, do the, ‘My bad,’ and move forward.” However, none of these apologies actually represent the Republican Party accepting responsibility for the tragedies it inflicted on this nation, and the world.
Moving forward was a primary theme in Steele’s Apologia speech. He seemed to be especially sensitive to the notion that Americans might linger too long on the failures of the GOP’s recent past. His message was simply to stop looking back. After all, he said, Ronald Reagan would never look back:
“Ronald Reagan always insisted that our party must move aggressively to seize the moment. He insisted that our party recognize the truth of the times and establish our first principles in both word and deed [...] So in the best spirit of President Reagan, it’s time to saddle up and ride.”
Steele, it must be noted, had to look back over twenty years to come up with that advice from Reagan against looking back. For Steele, looking back twenty years is enlightening, but looking back at the the last eight years is just rehashing the irrelevant. And everyone knows that if you’re looking to the future, the most inspiring analogy is one that includes saddling up your horse.
Steele is intent on peddling his theory on the end of Apologia. He even borrows Barack Obama’s inspirational message of change. But Steele is quick to point out that his version of change “comes in a tea bag.” Historians, I am sure, will spend countless hours trying to figure out what that means. And this may be the underlying brilliance of Steele’s strategy. If no one knows what you’re talking about, they can’t make much of an attempt to dispute it.
Thus, the introduction of the end of the Era of Apology, an era that never began, should quite sufficiently confuse the people, the Party, and most importantly, the press. At least for another week or two.