To say one thing and mean its opposite is a special skill of the politician. No other creature is as practiced at leaving a certain impression without actually having said anything, and leaving plenty of room for deniability – and, of course, the kind of “clarification” that effectively becomes obfuscation.
When politicians are caught in misdeeds, they give non-apologies that sound contrite but that, upon closer examination, neither admit what was done nor express regret for it. Politicians do not make mistakes; rather, “mistakes were made.” The passive voice leaves the identity of the mistake-doer a mystery.
Likewise, politicians do not apologize for any actions. Instead, they apologize for “the hurt that these actions may have caused.” It is for the sadness and anger engendered that the politician is sorry, because they hurt his public image. He is not sorry for what he has done, for he will not even admit to that; he is sorry he got caught, and that people are now mad at him. And to save face, the politician often blames the scandal on a conspiracy by his ideological opponents to discredit him.
The ultimate evasive maneuver is for the politician to announce, “I take full responsibility for this,” and then proceed to fire a few staffers, but remain in office himself.
The summum bonum of the pure politician is self-preservation. His job is not to serve the public good or to accomplish policy objectives. His goal is to stay in office. His aim is to hold on to power.
I have thought of these phenomena often in the last few months as bishops, not just in the United States but around the world, have found themselves accused of various crimes and failings. To name just a few (this is far from being a uniquely American phenomenon):
- recent reports from the Netherlands and Germany show decades of many bishops covering up abuse by thousands of priests;
- a horrific story of systemic abuse at a school for the deaf in Argentina is emerging;
- and, to have several kinds of clerical malfeasance distilled into one person, Cardinal Maradiaga in Honduras faces allegations of financial impropriety, of covering up for his auxiliary who has resigned after his pattern of homosexual behavior was exposed, and of allowing a culture of sexual corruption to take hold in the nation’s seminary.
And similar events could be listed from Chile to Ireland to Australia and places in between.
Read more at The Catholic Thing