PUBLICATION: Los Angeles Times

August 3, 2011

A sorry lot, indeed

By Paul Slansky

After death and taxes, the next surest thing is that the discovery of sexual misbehavior by a public figure will be instantly followed — as New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is merely the latest to confirm — by a public apology: ” … so sorry … deeply sorry … profoundly sorry. … ”

Of course they’re sorry! They’re sorry they got caught, and now the fun has to stop, and they’re being publicly humiliated, and their spouses have to stand up there grimacing — think about how hard it must be to be forgiven for that — and on top of that they might even lose their jobs. Who wouldn’t experience pangs of regret?

But how sorry would they be if they hadn’t been caught? Remorse, one feels certain, would be the furthest thing from their minds. So the apology extorted by such circumstances is by definition meaningless, a perfunctory bleat of contrition designed to buy some time while the damage is assessed. It is never eloquent and never as memorable as the acts being repented. But for apology aficionados, it is that very combination of trite mea culpas for often lurid deeds that makes it all so satisfying .

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