I'D JUST LIKE TO APOLOGIZE TOmea culpa his way around Africa, read Newt Gingrich's new humble pie of a book, and listened to the pope say "oops" about the Holocaust. My fault if I ever doubted the wisdom or intelligence of any of you guys.
I'm so glad I discovered apologies. I mean, I knew they worked around the house -- when accompanied by gifts of jewelry. (I'm going to buy the world some earrings. And if I don't I'll be really ashamed of myself.) But what I didn't know about apologies is how the public hungers for them, how they bring joy into the lives of others. I used to do any evil thing I wanted, and I didn't care if it caused hurt feelings or global warming, as long as I got attention. I can't believe how self-centered I was. Now I just say I wish I hadn't done those things, and a delighted public hangs on my every word.
And, in the future, if I hurt others' feelings or warm up the globe some more, I don't even have to keep quiet about it. I can tell everyone. And I'm not rubbing it in. I'm becoming a better person, like David, Bill, Newt, and John Paul II.
I'm very excited about becoming a better person. Not only do I get a lot of attention, but it's cheaper than paying damages or replacing the earth's oxygen supply. At first, I was worried that becoming a better person through apologizing would mean inventing new evil things to do and my wife wouldn't let me. I was being silly. I apologize. There are all sorts of terrible deeds that were done ages ago to people who've been dead for years. I can apologize for those. There's nobody around to tell me to stuff it. And, while the men who actually sold slaves and killed Indians burn in hell, I can enjoy jazz and soul food and buy a summer place on the Vineyard without being attacked by Narragansetts. (Some people claim apologies are empty!)
I can also apologize for general things that cannot be blamed on a specific individual -- such as me -- but that a specific individual -- such as me -- an get credit for regretting. I apologize for racism, sexism, and religious bigotry plus discrimination based on age, physical ability, and whether you're wearing little, lacy items under your three-piece suit. I apologize for poverty, crime, social injustice, damage to the Amazon rainforest, and inhumane treatment of farm animals. I apologize for certain harsher aspects of Hammurabi's Code and El Nino.
But a good apology needs a personal touch. So I apologize for being a right- wing journalist. I apologize for the vicious, hurtful things I've written, especially the true things. Those must have really hurt, because I'm a truth- telling sort of fellow. The fact that I'm apologizing proves it.
Note how everything David Brock has to say is now believable. Although I don't know where David Brock comes off thinking he's so vicious and hurtful. Teasing Anita Hill? There's a slow-moving target for a mudball. Finking on the president's sex life? Move the fielders inside the baselines. Easy out. Then Brock cuddles up to Hillary like she's Piglet in Winnie the Pooh. When I get game in my sights, it's pork chops, it's bacon, it's scrapple. I aim the rifle of Philippic, load with bullets of calumny, and pull a trigger of pure bile. (Which reminds me, I apologize for assault weapons.)
Reputations lie slaughtered all around me. I am bloodied to the eyes with the gore of partisan journalism. I have something to apologize for -- not like that Bill Clinton in Africa repenting slavery. As if. The Clintons couldn't afford shoes. When Bill wants to make amends he should say he's sorry for 300 years of chicken thieving, blind-eye moonshine, and cars up on blocks in the front yards.
Don't go getting above yourself, Bill. My family had property. We were people of substance in the antebellum days. We didn't happen to own slaves because we were in Illinois, but that was an oversight. I'll do the apologizing around here. And let me take this opportunity to apologize to Native Americans, again, for stealing their land. Excuse me. I promise to lose at blackjack in one of your new casinos.
Bill Clinton does have one thing going for him, and saying "pardon me for the way it's behaving" should keep him busy for the rest of his life. But who cares? He's a lame duck, he's married to Piglet from Winnie the Pooh, and the only friend he's got left is David Brock. Who wants an apology from someone like that? Not for nothing does the common wisdom hold that "It takes a big man to apologize." And forget it, Newt. Going off your diet won't work. Talk to the pope -- sin's the ticket.
Yes, sin -- glamorous, macho sin -- I've decided that's the secret of the perfect apology and becoming a better person. Nobody would read St. Augustine's Confessions if the saint had spent his youth attending meetings of the Carthage High School Good Government Club.
The great apologist has to have lived large and wild. If he's going to kiss the world's boo-boos and make up, he'd better plant some bruises first. A master apologizer has to be a Lord Byron, a Rick in Casablanca, a Lee Atwater, anyway. And I make some pretty damn excellent apologies myself. But that's bragging. Sorry.
P. J. O'Rourke is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.