Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A Non-Apology With Tears is still a Non-Apology

Text of Durbin Apology

I want you to know that the very first things out of Senator Richard Durbin's mouth is very telling:

“More than most people, a Senator lives by his words, words are the coin of the realm in our profession. Occasionally words will fail us and occasionally we will fail words.”

Durbin's admission is that the use of words is the stuff of a senator. How you coin them, even the nuances included in them, are extremely important, to a senator. Let me tell you Senator Durbin, words and how you use them are extremely important to logicians as well. You failed to mention a third failing: sometimes words fail to hide your true intentions.

I've included more of the text here for some analysis, however I also want to read all of your analyses as well. Here's the crux of his apology:

“Let me read to you what I said. ‘I have learned from my statement that historical parallels can be misused and misunderstood. I sincerely regret if what I said causes anybody to misunderstand my true feelings. Our soldiers around the world and their families at home deserve our respect, admiration and total support.’”

“Mr. President, it is very clear that even though I thought I had said something that clarified the situation, to many people it was still unclear. I'm sorry if anything that I said caused any offense or pain to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust, the greatest moral tragedy of our time. Nothing, nothing should ever be said to demean or diminish that moral tragedy.”

“I'm also sorry if anything I said in any way cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military. I went to Iraq just a few months ago with Senator Harry Reid and a bipartisan Senate delegation. When you look in the eyes of the soldiers you see your son and daughter. They are the best. I never, ever intended any disrespect for them.”

“Some may believe that my remarks crossed a line. To them, I extend my heartfelt apologies.”

The key word is "if." The word "if" denotes something that is conditional. It is not indicative of something actual. So, Senator Durbin's wordsmithing is really an acknowledgement that he feels badly for those that misunderstood him that he used words that caused them to misunderstand him. Huh? He was trying to be clear? Is this not the wimpiest apology? Would it also mean, Senator, that to those who didn't misunderstand what you said, you are not sorry?

It's one thing to acknowledge that what you said was one of the following: "totally untrue," "a deliberate and dastardly attempt to undermine the operations of the military cloaked in free speech," "seditious, treasonous, morale destroying rhetoric," or the hardest one of all, "I was totally wrong and I recant my previous statements and condemn them completely." Now, these would be statements that would be stuff of an apology worthy of respect.

But, no, we have here the standard "if" apology, which is no apology other than, "I'm so damn sick and tired of you idiots calling my statements into question. I am sorry that you didn't have the brains to accept what I said for I was very clear in what I was saying. If you took offense, I'm sorry (for your stupidity).

Now, for those of you who by my lack of sympathy and my total disregard for Senator Durbin's well scripted "non-apology" have been offended, if anything I said about the senator and his clever wordsmithing is offensive to you, I am sincerely sorry for your reactions.


At 8:03 AM, Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

I have a post today on remarks made by Republican Rep. John Hostettler. Bad remarks by anyone, no matter which party, are inappropriate, no matter what.

At 8:32 AM, Blogger Underground Logician said...

Thanks for the blog ad, however, your statement doesn't address the topic of this post, unless you want to say that Republicans are bad too.

The "if" apology is not an apology, it's not an admission of wrongdoing, it's not even substantively conciliatory. This form is a false apology; no matter on which side of the aisle you sit.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Scott said...

I think Durbin is attempting to try and quite his opposition without admitting he was out of line and completely wrong.

Like Hugh Hewitt said, I have been married long enough to know what a real and sincere apology is. Durbin was no where close.

At 11:41 PM, Blogger Underground Logician said...

Right on, Scott. By the way, welcome aboard!

I've been married for twenty-six years; I know by now how to apologize!

At 8:03 AM, Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

From your profile, you claim to be a Christan, and someone who is obtaining a Ph.D. in divinity. I am curious how you reconcile your faith, and religious beliefs with judgments you make about whether someone is making a proper apology.

At 8:54 AM, Blogger Underground Logician said...

First, my Ph.D. will be in Philosophy.

As to your curiosty, does my profile show that I am disqualified? An apology is the admitting that one is:
1. Wrong.
2. Admitting the damage done by wrongdoing.
3. A plan or statement that will show intent on how repair will be done.
4. Expressing sorrow for doing the the wrongdoing.
5. Repair the wrongdoing.

No "if" clauses count as apologies. Do you accept "if" apologies?

At 10:49 AM, Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

For someone who has a Ph.D. in philosphy, it is curious how some words and phrases have meaning to you and others do not.

I have a BA in Philosophy and an MA and a Law Degree. I am careful with my words. However, it does seem curious for someone who accepts neblous words like terriost and WMD and freedom, and then wants something specific as to what constitutes an apology.

As for your judgement of whether the words are an apology, that is a separate issue.

We can all spin to have something look and be the way we want it to be. I just question why these particular words somehow fall short for you.

At 10:54 AM, Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Forgot to add:

This kind of argument is an attempt to change reality, definition and thinking while we scramble to react.

I am just questioning what seems to be some inconsistent thinking from your side of the fence, which you are absolutely entitled to have, so long as you are aware of it.

Good day to you.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Underground Logician said...

For someone with a law degree, I would assume you can pick up details. First, in my profile, I am working toward a Ph.D. Haven't got it yet. So, you assume too much of me, for now.

As to your other comments and questions, if yousee that I lack the understanding of certain terms, illumine me. I'm always open to know the truth of things. I find it interesting though, that you have turned the topic of this blog into a discussion about me. Very clever.

So to bring it back to the topic at hand again, do "if" clauses in an apology constitute a bonafide apology?

I declare that it is not.

At 12:31 PM, Blogger mireille said...

Well, since YOU have declared it not to be, of course it must not be. Does your course of study in philosophy address humility at all?

At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I get out of the "apology" is that he's not sorry he said what he said. He's only sorry that some people regard him negatively now and wants them to think he's sorry that he offended them. He's not even acknowledging that he HAS offended some people. He's only willing to admit that some people may have misunderstood the meaning of his comments.

If we weren't all so stupid, we'd have understood what he was TRYING to say and he wouldn't have felt the need to "apologize" to us idiots in the first place.

At 4:23 PM, Blogger Underground Logician said...

Mireille: You have insinuated that I am arrogant. And, since it is YOU that have insinuated it, of course it must be true.

Tell me, since you are an expert in humility, how may I gain more? And feel free to let me into your vast reserves of experience, for I AM SURE that I could always use more, I just need to make sure I get it from the RIGHT person.

One more thing, when someone uses an "if" in their apology to you, are you so naive as to believe them?

At 4:26 PM, Blogger Underground Logician said...


Thank you for your comments, whoever you are!

At 5:08 PM, Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

I see your profile clearly now. You are a 47 year old Baptist Pastor who is working towards your Ph.D. As a pastor, I would assume that you would have some humility and be familiar with the concept of forgiveness. But truthfully, your posts and responses show instead a man with lots of anger, as directed towards myself and Mirelle, or anyone who seems to disagree with you.

It is difficult to reason with someone who refuses to hear anything other than his own words.

If you go to my mission statement in the blog it says that anyone can agree to disagree. For you, if we do not agree, you become angry and insulting. No thank you.

At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Always questioning said...

The understanding of apologies, humility, forgiveness, and disagreement appears to have become new topics here.

An apology does not have to be accepted in order for the offended person to be forgiven. The apology doesn't even need to be offered. Forgiveness is really for the offended, not for the offender.

Just because someone feels he/she is right doesn't mean he/she lacks humility. Also, just because someone doesn't agree with the other's point of view doesn't mean we need to question or attack his or her character, faith, or take guesses regarding his/her emotional state.

It's inappropriate, in my opinion, to respond to a suggestion or an accusation of wrongdoing by accusing someone else of doing the same thing (or worse). That doesn't bring forward a conversation of discussion or debate, it begins a finger pointing game.

At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if that is the case is it even proper for logician nto call durbins words a non-apology with tears?

At 8:02 PM, Blogger Underground Logician said...

Ah, madam, it was you that decided that the issue was not the topic at hand, but my inferior understanding. It was you that landed the first blow, asserting my ignorance as someone with a Ph.D. And, Mireille, an expert insight into my nature, has decide that lying within it is a great lack of humility.

You both have entered my blog as very rude guests. The fact that I have not responded as some mindless dolt to both of your ad hominem I'm sure has upset you both. It makes me wonder what your views of a Christian ought to be; someone who answers EVERY question like a good little idiot with a mind that is so open that it never shuts on anything?

Now, if you have nothing more to say about this subject, then we are finished.

At 9:22 AM, Blogger tshsmom said...

Personally, I think it sounds like a teenager's apology. Shouldn't our politicians be a step above this mentality?

At 11:34 AM, Blogger Underground Logician said...

Yes, it does sound like a teenager's apology!

As to coming from a politician, I highly doubt anything of integrity forthcoming. Generally, a politician is looking to acquire and maintain power. An apology given is usually carefully worded so as to save face for self, and appease the anger of the other parties involved.

There are times when apologies are not only unnecessary, they can be damaging. Take Karl Rove for example. Clarifying who he meant may be required, such as who believes in going light on terrorists. Siting sources from documented statements made by, statements made by Clinton or Kerry, etc. would bolster his argument. If he doesn't, one could say he could be guilty of hasty generalization. I know that Joe Lieberman and Zel Miller are great examples of Democrats who are in favor of the war on terror. However, they probably wouldn't fit into a "liberal" mindset either. So Rove may need to clarify. But, he shouldn't back down one bit from the substance of his statements; liberals are light on terrorists, NOT Democrats. I know Mr. Rove focused on liberalism.

If we speak the truth about things with no malicious intention, then no apology would be required. This book that is out about Hillary has some information that I don't see how it helps. I don't know enough to comment, but my gut tells me this crosses the line. Thanks for seeding my brain tshsmom!

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Underground Logician said...

Always questioning:

An interesting pen name! I hope you find answers! And hopefully from me, but that remains to be seen. I, too, am traveling through life, searching for truth.

In the best of worlds, it would be great if we all could stick to the arguments at hand (in a logical sense, not in a fighting sense). Unfortunately, sophistry abounds and is opposed to knowing what is true. This resistance to the truth show up in all sorts of techniques, which the common master, Logic, identifies as fallacies.

So, what you saw on display from Barbara from California and Mireille is the fallacy of ad hominem, a part of a family of fallacies that are called "fallacies of diversion." Appealing to my lack of education, which I admit, will be with me to the day I die, is irrelevant to the argument. Or the attack on my apparent lack of humility is irrelevant to the argument. These sincere yet rude people aren't willing to discuss what I posted. They want to turn the tables on me, and, I wouldn't let them. If they want to waste their time, they can find other blogs who'll gladly applaud their fallacious thinking. I will not waste my precious time responding, nor allow your time to be wasted reading their drivel.

At 3:00 PM, Anonymous Always questioning said...

Thanks, Underground. I've been following your blog for a short time. I enjoy the intelligent postings. I also like to see focused debate/discussion, and saw that some comments here were redirecting the conversation. My teenager does that when he doesn't want to hear what I'm saying.

At 3:48 PM, Blogger Underground Logician said...


Yes, yes, teenagers. I were one a long time ago! I just wanted to do what I wanted to. Then I would fit my logic around it (the common master doesn't allow for it. I wasn't smart...I just thought I was).

Well, we need to stick to the argument even though it looks like we're being a pain in the backside, right?


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