On Apology

I'd rather vote for this thing than Mitt Romney. (So would Rush Limbaugh.)

I’ve read more headlines with the words ‘DOUBLE DOWN’ in them this year than I ever have before – except, perhaps, during the flurry of press coverage in those magical few months after KFC debuted their Double Down sandwich. To be honest, I miss those days – simpler times when doubling down, in the popular consciousness, meant you either had the biggest balls at the blackjack table or a really terrible case of the meat sweats and impending gas.  

Now it seems like everywhere I turn somebody is doubling down on something in a non-sandwich oriented way. Michele Bachmann doubling down on her allegations of a nefarious Muslim conspiracy deep inside the United States government, Geraldo Rivera doubling down on the idea that young black men wearing hoodies are totally asking to get shot, Harry Reid doubling (and subsequently, like, tripling and quadrupling) down on his claim that Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes since Drumline was in theaters… It’s what happens when unimaginative print journalists cover obstinate dickhole politicians.

In gambling, doubling down means that you’re putting everything on the table. In fast food, doubling down means you’re about to eat a sandwich made entirely out of meat. And in politics, it looks like doubling down means that you said something shitty that got a lot of attention, and you’re so dead set on not apologizing for it that you just keep saying it until Kim Kardashian goes somewhere in a bikini and the media forgets that you said it in the first place.

The other day, Mitt Romney attacked President Obama over a statement sent out by the staff of the US embassy in Egypt in which they apologized for an inflammatory American anti-Islam video. As Romney put it, the statement constituted Obama sympathizing with people who were attacking the United States, per the president’s supposed habit of, “going around the world apologizing for America.”

When it came out that Romney was not only wrong (as usual) but also politicizing a wave of violence that killed four American diplomats, Romney doubled down on his statement, arguing that, “When our grounds are being attacked, and being breached… the first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation. And apology for America's values is never the right course.”

So Mitt Romney isn’t going to apologize for attacking the president for apologizing for America, even though the apology in question didn’t come from Obama but rather a bunch of embassy staffers who were legitimately scared that they were about to get stormed by an angry mob, which happens from time to time in that neighborhood.

Here, by the way, is the sniveling capitulation of American values that President Obama/the US Embassy in Cairo made on Tuesday:

“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims -- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

What a bunch of fucking pussies, am I right? They may as well have just fashioned the American flag into a pair of short shorts and taken a dump in the Liberty Bell. Condemning religious intolerance and reaffirming our dedication to free speech as a tool for rational and mature discourse – who do you think we are, fucking Canada or something? Jesus Reagan Ayn Rand Glocks for everyone!

But overlooking the fact that Mitt Romney is holding Obama’s feet to the fire for something he didn’t say, why are anybody’s feet being held to any fire in the first place? It’s not like they were apologizing for freedom, or muscle cars, or private enterprise – they were apologizing for blatant racism and religious intolerance, which I thought 21st century society had agreed were bad things.*

*Offer void for homosexuals in the South and Midwest.

I mean, what the fuck is so bad about apologizing, anyway? Is the prevailing wisdom in politics that it’s a sign of weakness to admit that you made a mistake? Call me crazy, but if I had to decide who I wanted to have access to about 5000 nuclear missiles, I’d much rather it be the guy who’s got the sack to tell the world he made a mistake than the guy who will gladly ignore common sense and every fact that gets in his way if it means he gets to be right.

I don’t think that President Obama should go around the world and apologize for America – fortunately, he’s never done that. But when I see how indignant people get at the very idea that someone would go to a foreign country and apologize for something America has done, I start to get worried.

Look, I seriously love America – and not just on the Fourth of July and 9/11, but every damn day. It’s a fucked up country that has way too much Florida, but it’s my country and I’m proud of that. But with that being said, the idea that we have nothing to apologize for is crazytown bananapants. Vietnam, Iraq, Iran-Contra, Guatemala 1954, Chile 1973, secret bombing campaign in Cambodia – these are just off the top of my head.

This idea that it’s somehow un-American to apologize for America creates a culture which assumes that our country is infallible, which is basically nationalism, and since I go to great lengths not to use the N-word on the Internet, I’ll just say that nationalism has a way of escalating quickly.

I’m not saying that the United States needs to go around begging forgiveness from every other nation on Earth. I just don’t think we should look at apology as a failure. Apology is a key part of diplomacy, and as far as foreign policy is concerned I think diplomacy works a lot better than shooting people.

That’s yet another subject where Mitt Romney and I disagree – in the course of his doubling down, Romney criticized Obama’s foreign policy by saying, “Ever since FDR we've had the capacity to be engaged in two conflicts at once, and [Obama] said no, we're going to cut that back to only one conflict."

You heard it here first – according to Mitt Romney, two wars are better than one. “Blessed are the peacemakers” apparently doesn’t apply in an election year. 

Truman Capps suddenly has a stronger-than-usual craving for fried chicken and bacon.