How not to apologize: Kerry as a sulking sibling

By Krista Kafer ( Anyone who grew up with a sibling knows how to make a non-apology. Mom or Dad demanded you apologize for making little sister cry. Though without any genuine remorse you had to say sorry or risk punishment. The non-apology worked like a charm.

There are several varieties of the faux apology:

Attack Non-Apology: “I’m sorry but she hit me first” says it’s her fault and I’ll do it again if need be.

Blame Non-Apology: “I’m sorry but she made me do it.” Similar to the Attack Non-Apology, this technique allows the speaker to take others down on the way.

Denial Non-Apology: “I didn’t do it but I’m sorry anyway.” Again, not sorry. Most likely guilty but not at all contrite.

Imitation Non-Apology: “I’m sorry you feel that way.” It looks like an apology but it really means I’m sorry I got caught or I’m sorry you’re making a big deal out of it.

Mistaken Non-Apology: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way.” Translation – I meant it when I said it but I didn’t know it would get me in trouble.

Pretend Apology: “I’m sorry.” This technique requires more guile. The key is to look remorseful (a tearful eye helps) even though one is planning to do it again, with pleasure.

All of these techniques are used to appear repentant without actually being so. A rhetorical tool devoid of sincerity (much like selective moral outrage faux remorse is popular among politicians particularly this campaign season.

Senator John Kerry used several mock apology techniques though without much success this past week. It all started when he said,

"You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and do your homework, and make an effort to be smart, uh, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.” That's the audio in its entirety, verbatim, the whole sound bite, period. Okay? Well...

Not surprisingly most Americans don’t like it when someone calls our service men and women stupid. People were (are still) mad. He had to do something. Like a sulking kid before an angry parent demanding an apology, Senator Kerry issued the first of the faux apologies blaming Tony Snow and Rush Limbaugh. Including the gratuitous weight remark about Rush Limbaugh, the press release read something like “It’s Snow and fatty Limbaugh’s fault.” Classic Attack Non-Apology.

He delivered his second faux apology in Seattle where he blended the Attack, Mistaken and Denial Non-Apology techniques. He was misunderstood – it was botched joke about the President not the troops. He then demanded the President apologize.

After much criticism and having to cancel election appearances for Democrats Senator Kerry committed his third act of mock contrition. Of the Imitation Non-Apology variety, the Senator said he was sorry people were offended. He then went back into attack mode.

Perhaps a Pretend Non-Apology in the beginning would have worked better. That or having some real respect for the men and women risking their lives for ours.