© copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

“I was wrong.”  “I am so sorry.”  These few words strike terror in the hearts of those that most need to say them.  Today, Hillary Clinton comes to mind.  The New York Senator forgets, or perhaps needs to remember how an apology affects a relationship.  The Senator may wish to reflect on what happened to President Bush and his Republican “right.”  In this last midterm election, incumbents audaciously chose to stay the course. American citizens decided to drift off.  Missus Clinton may look at her own life.  We all have a history that illuminates and offers insight.

Former First Lady Clinton might realize that once voiced, repentant phrases expressing reflective, remorseful, sorrow evoke empathy.  Those that receive our sincerest apologies acknowledge that we understand their woes.  Frequently, people feel as though they are understood when another person recognizes their pain.  People are able to forgive reflective souls that relent and authentically say “I was mistaken.”  “I am to blame.”  
I learned long ago that only the strong are open, honest, and vulnerable.  Individuals that admit to their wrongdoing are truly Honorable.

Far and away the biggest stumbling block to apologizing is our belief that apologizing is a sign of weakness and an admission of guilt.  We have the misguided notion we are better off ignoring or denying our offenses and hope that no one notice.

In fact, the apology is a show of strength.  It is an act of honesty because we admit we did wrong; an act of generosity, because it restores the self-concept of those we offended.  It offers hope for a renewed relationship and, who knows, possibly even a strengthened one.  The apology is an act of commitment because it consigns us to working at the relationship and at our self-development.  Finally, the apology is an act of courage because it subjects us to the emotional distress of shame and the risk of humiliation, rejection, and retaliation at the hands of the person we offended.

All dimensions of the apology require strength of character, including the conviction that, while we expose vulnerable parts of ourselves, we are still good people.
© copyright 1995 Sussex Publishers, Incorporated.

Persons that refuse to claim culpability rarely recognize their role in interactions.  However, these same persons often claim, “You need to take responsibility.”  ‘Tis true; we must for they never will!  They are too weak.

The cowardly are busy blaming.  They justify and intellectualize their rational deeds, never accepting that there is no absolute “good” or “bad.”  Life is gray, though never gloomy if we share our selves, our indiscretions, and our sorrow.  All is a lesson.  What we think is reasonable is, momentarily.  As we allow ourselves to learn, we recognize that nothing is solely sweet or sour.  Shades and flavors dominate the complexities of life.

What we believe, say, do, feel, or are, whether it is considered sensible or not, is valid.  Our visions are correct at the time we have them; yet, later we may discover we were wrong.  So, be it!  With more information, we evolve, or we can, if we are open to change.  Often our own transition is our greatest challenge.  It certainly is for Hillary.  

If we cannot or more accurately, will not, concede that we were too frail, uninformed, scared, or silent then we plainly become indigent, insolent, intractable, and obstinate.  Again, I refer you to Senator Clinton, or President Bush, or [fill in the blank.]  Preferring to be “right” and correct is beneficial, if we think that being considered self-righteous and sanctimonious is favorable.

Nevertheless, the feeble among us are frequently found in the highest of offices.  The axiom says, “Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  When any of us thinks we are invincible, time and circumstances will surely tell us, we were wrong.

Americans, actually, humankind admires valor, and yet, struggles to understand it.  Thus, we witness as we often do, fallen heroes.  Currently, we have Hillary, the heroine.  We are perhaps witnessing her demise.

Clinton Gives War Critics New Answer on ’02 Vote
By Patrick Healy

One of the most important decisions that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton made about her bid for the presidency came late last year when she ended a debate in her camp over whether she should repudiate her 2002 vote authorizing military action in Iraq.

Several advisers, friends, and donors said in interviews that they had urged her to call her vote a mistake in order to appease antiwar Democrats, who play a critical role in the nominating process.  Yet Mrs. Clinton herself, backed by another faction, never wanted to apologize — even if she viewed the war as a mistake — arguing that an apology would be a gimmick.

In the end, she settled on language that was similar to Senator John Kerry’s when he was the Democratic nominee in 2004: that if she had known in 2002 what she knows now about Iraqi weaponry, she would never have voted for the Senate resolution authorizing force.

Yet antiwar anger has festered, and yesterday morning Mrs. Clinton rolled out a new response to those demanding contrition: She said she was willing to lose support from voters rather than make an apology she did not believe in.

“If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from,” Mrs. Clinton told an audience in Dover, N.H., in a veiled reference to two rivals for the nomination, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.

Her decision not to apologize is regarded so seriously within her campaign that some advisers believe it will be remembered as a turning point in the race: either ultimately galvanizing voters against her (if she loses the nomination), or highlighting her resolve and her willingness to buck Democratic conventional wisdom (if she wins).

At the same time, the level of Democratic anger has surprised some of her allies and advisers, and her campaign is worried about how long it will last and how much damage it might cause her.

“Some of her many advisers think she should’ve uttered the three magic words — `I was wrong’ — but she believes it’s self-evident that the Senate Iraq resolution was based on false intelligence and never should’ve come to a vote,” said Richard C. Holbrooke, the former United Nations ambassador and an adviser to Mrs. Clinton on foreign policy.

Navigating the antiwar anger, and toughing it out for 11 months until the primaries, is now perhaps Mrs. Clinton’s biggest political challenge.

Indeed, in many ways at this stage, Iraq has overtaken her and other candidates’ campaigns, as was evident yesterday as she rearranged her schedule to appear briefly in New Hampshire before returning to the Senate for a debate on Mr. Bush’s war strategy.

The American people are clamoring for her act of contrition.  They want her to apologize to admit that she was wrong; yet, she is stuck in the blame game.  The onus will not be hers.  The Senator stands on the senate floor and offers reproach.  Bush blundered.  Congress miscalculated.  Missus Clinton was only following their flawed lead.  She huffs and she puffs; she may blow her own house down.

Perhaps, the New York State Senator forgets her husband and his necessary act of admission.  Might she remember how his popularity waned?  Yes, he remains well-liked today; however, had he not confessed his “sins” his destiny would have surely been different.  Posturing did not work for him.  It is not serving Senator Clinton well.

Missus Clinton, please recall; in the same way that your marriage was harmed, and your heart was broken by Bill’s actions and apparent lack of repentance, your own reactions and reluctance to confess is hurting your relationship with the voters.

While President Clinton is still popular, he is not trusted as he once was.  His own complacency clouded his legacy.  His smugness reeked of insecurity.  Your similar stance is straining your campaign.  Clinton constituents are trembling.  Terror is striking in the hearts of Hillary supporters.  Senator Clinton, it seems you fear appearing less than stalwart.  Possibly, the idea of apologizing or admitting you were wrong leaves you weak in the knees.  Transgressions certainly cause voters to pause.  However, the electorate is willing to empathize, or at least they have been in the past.  The last election might suggest the constituency tires when a representative refuses to apologize.  

Hillary, pursue as you might, and please ponder.  Are admissions of wrongdoing truly harmful or do they create healthy connections?  Of course, the choice is yours, just as it was in 2002.  I can only quietly advise from afar.  In my mind, an apology is golden.  You might consider words of compunction.  These could embolden a questionable campaign.  Hillary, are you willing to be strong, vulnerable, and open to scrutiny or will you continue to stay the course?

Perchance Senator Clinton considers her newest tactic best.  If you cannot find the strength to apologize, then fabricate a strategy, regain your footing, and solicit support.

Clinton urges Iraq pullout in 90 days
The Sydney Morning Herald
February 18, 2007

US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the early front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has called for a 90-day deadline to start pulling American troops from Iraq.

The wife of former President Bill Clinton has been criticised by some Democrats for supporting authorisation of the war in 2002 and for not renouncing her vote as she seeks the US presidency in next year’s election.

“Now it’s time to say the redeployment should start in 90 days or the Congress will revoke authorisation for this war,” the New York senator said in a video on her campaign web site, repeating a point included in a bill she introduced on Friday.

If the Senator builds this bridge, will the public walk across it? Has the Former First Lady found her way to an ’08 win?  Proposing a pullout could be the path towards the Presidency.  Missus Clinton might be able to avoid those words of contrition.  I wonder again; will this steadfast woman emerge without a scar or perhaps, the public will forever await her apology.

Right or Wrong, I apologize for any errors . . .

  • Clinton argues ending Iraq war more important than her 2002 vote, By Holly Ramer.  Associated Press.  Newsday.com  February 17, 2007
  • Voters seek clarity on Clinton Iraq vote. MSNBC News.  February 12, 2007
  • A Voter Rebuke For Bush, the War And the Right, By Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei.  Washington Post. Wednesday, November 8, 2006; A01
  • pdf A Voter Rebuke For Bush, the War And the Right, By Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei.  Washington Post. ?Wednesday, November 8, 2006; A01
  • Hillary: Bill lied to me about Monica,  Scotsman.com.  June 5, 2003
  • On Apology, By Aaron Lazare.  Oxford University Press.
  • Behind the Apology: It’s Not What You Think, By Ellen Langer.  Psychology Today.  January 2000
  • Go ahead, say you’re sorry – psychological aspects of apologies, By Aaron Lazare Psychology Today.  January- February 1995
  • Clinton Gives War Critics New Answer on ’02 Vote,  By Patrick Healy.  The New York Times.  February 18, 2007
  • pdf Clinton Gives War Critics New Answer on ’02 Vote,  By Patrick Healy.  The New York Times.  February 18, 2007
  • Clinton Admits to Lewinsky Relationship, Challenges Starr to End Personal ‘Prying’, By Peter Baker and John F. Harris.  Washington Post.  Tuesday, August 18, 1998; Page A01
  • Stay the Course? What Course? By Eugene Robinson.  Washington Post.  Friday, June 16, 2006; Page A25
  • pdf Stay the Course? What Course? By Eugene Robinson.  Washington Post.  Friday, June 16, 2006; Page A25
  • Clinton urges Iraq pullout in 90 days.  The Sydney Morning Herald  February 18, 2007

    Betsy L. Angert

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