On November 3rd, 2005 the Washington Post published an editorial penned by the former North Carolina senator, John Edwards, titled, “I was wrong.” Getting ready for another Presidential run, Mr. Edwards knew he would be sharply criticized for his vote and defense regarding the war on Iraq. In efforts to temper the push back, the former public official inked an article citing his misjudgment, lack of experience, flimsy information from the security community, horrible executive leadership, and poor temperament as reasons for drumming the beat towards another ground invasion in the Middle East.
Going forward, the Senator vowed to listen to his inner conscious, pray to God, and loop in his wife and close adviser with every major decision he would make as President. Yet, we should have all been wary of Senator Edward’s apology.
Mr. Edwards was known as being an ambulance chaser during his days as a North Carolina prosecutor (John-John once sued the company he defended 6 months prior), started attending Church once he started running for office, and later documents proved that his marriage was merely political. In the Ed Halperin’s book, “The Game Changer” the author reveals the Senator’s wife, Elizabeth Edwards, actually was okay with the return of her cancer, because in her words it, “Would give us a bump in fundraising against that cunt, Hillary.”
All along, those who knew this North Carolina native, knew he was a snake oil salesman and his apology was as flimsy as Teflon. Largely ignored by the mainstream media, Mr. Edward’s old law firm partners spoke up repeatedly about his bad behavior prior to his meteoric rise. As a bigger red flag, not one of his old colleagues voted for him in ANY of his elections.
Yet, it seems these days, everyone is trying to copy the Senator’s playbook for forgiveness. Every time you turn on the TV you see a corporate press conference, a Hispanic Trump supporter, and Justin Bieber (Yes, I’m a Belieber) profusely apologizing. More often than not, they’re often apologizing for the sake of apologizing.
Elton John’s 1976 tune “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” has merit in today’s world. Regardless of race, religion, or gender, human beings have always struggled with apologizing. Human psychologists attribute this to the fact that we are naturally guarded and, regardless of how humble and secure we are, most people loathe being wrong and/or being chastised for their actions.
Efforts by human beings to acknowledge their mistakes and turn over a new leaf are usually a good thing. However, there are enormous negative implications to society quickly accepting apologies from celebrities, corporations, politicians, or anyone with enormous power. Excessive apologists make it tougher to decipher the noble public figures who made one off mistakes from those who are natural goons.
In June 2015 when Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, put forth his “Race Together” initiative urging baristas to discuss the issue of race and equality with their customers, his efforts were widely met with anger and skepticism. While this initiative may have been one of the worst corporate “socially responsible” plans ever, no one could reasonably accuse Mr. Schultz of being tone deaf to the important equality and social mobility issues of our time. As a Seattle native, Mr. Schultz was always an outspoken advocate of promoting diversity in the workplace, fought shareholders in order to provide part time worker’s access to healthcare, and recently put forth efforts to expand higher education opportunities for his employees.
African American civil right author Tanehasi Coates argues, in reality, it wasn’t anything Schultz did that triggered this enormous backlash. The Atlantic Magazine writer notes, “Howard actually had all the right ideas. African Americans have long felt highly uncomfortable in “white” places, because they feel they can’t have the conversations they want. Ultimately, the black population have become so skeptical of politicians and business owners, because they’ve offered them countless proposals of understanding their struggles, yet these proposals ended up being corporate empty gestures.”
Hollow gestures also cripple the progress in society in other ways. With the advent of greener and electrical cars, we will no doubt see auto companies make countless mistakes in an earnest effort to build a quality vehicle. Unfortunately, recent reports documenting Volkswagen’s two decade long effort to cover up EPA violations will make costumers sheepish of buying a new type of vehicle upon discovering even further scandalous behavior.
But as average dudes or dudettes, what should we do to make sure to pinpoint the actual crooks in society?
Long time consumer advocate and two term Presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, says it’s pretty simple. Known as the man who forced automakers to install better seatbelts after uncovering the numerous safety hazards in American made cars Mr. Nader suggests a few things. He believes that when public figures put out an apology, we should scrutinize past deeds, assess their current character, and see what they do following their apology. This old-ass hippy proclaims, “You can easily tell if someone is full of it. If they’ve always had a history of deceiving you and were never known as a person with good character. Secondly, you want to see if they are making consistent steps towards correcting their mistakes. If a corporation or politician continues to act in the same manner then you know they are still deceiving you.”
And he’s right. Long before last month’s scandal, Volkswagon had years of dodging EPA check-ups, consistently received poor consumer ratings, and regularly failed to adequately respond to customer feedback. A September 2015 Bloomberg article shows Volkswagon shareholders meetings became more secretive over time, because the usual complaints came up and the usual bullshit answers were given.
As we head into the thick of 2016 Presidential campaign season, it’s hard not to look back at Mr. Edward’s fall. It’s incredibly easy to chastise the Southern Senator, but many of us ordinary citizens are also responsible for propelling this Juris Doctor to the national stage. I, in fact, was one of them.
Yes, long before I was a Belieber, my 18 year young, Berkeley Birkenstock wearing, Bob Marley poster owning self, thought John Edwards would be a solid Commander-In-Chief. I was moved with his narrative centering on “Two Americas” where he argued that our nation would become a society with either very rich or very poor people (Note: this is kind of happening #justsaying #iapologizeido).
Nonetheless, it was my responsibility to look into his past and realize he never cared nor mentioned any anti-poverty measures before his second Presidential run. I should have read those interviews with people who knew John where they warned us about how heartless he was, and I also should have realized that President Barack Obama was always the best candidate in the 2008 election.
Going forward, I promise to engage in the mind numbing process of watching all the Presidential debates, reading up on the candidates’ positions, analyzing their character profiles, and always admitting when I was wrong about my top choice for Commander in Chief.
But folks, regardless of what I find out about my boy Bernie or dear friend Hillary, I still won’t vote for a Republican this year. I’m sorry.