Saturday, August 6, 2011

Twelve Grafs, One "Sorry"

by Libby Sternberg

New York Times columnist Joe Nocera recently called the Tea Party "terrorists" in a column. If the definition of news is any story with a "man bites dog" template, the Nocera name-calling surely doesn't qualify. He was one among many using words like "terrorist" for those whose opinions he didn't share.

Nonetheless, it's noteworthy when people who are paid to give thoughtful opinions end up being, well, thoughtless, so his name-calling column garnered attention.

It wasn't the kind of attention a commentator likes, however, since it focused on style and not substance.

Not to worry -- in his August 5 column, he apologized and said he won't do it again.

But you have to search for those golden words of regret. On second thought, don't bother. Here's the Cliff Notes version of the 12 paragraphs of his column:

Grafs 1 through 4: a summary of Nocera's working-class roots
Grafs 5 and 6: how awful the financial crisis is and how angry it makes people, including himself
Graf 7: how he hates incivility; the money quote -- "I apologize" (that's it in its entirety)
Graf 8 through 11: how awful the economy is and how awful Republicans are for doing things he doesn't like
Graf 12: he promises not to call anyone names again.

I'm sure conservatives weren't holding their breath for an apology, but his column hardly qualifies as one anyway. In it, he seemed to me akin to a child who, when caught with his hands in the cookie jar, says he's sorry but, gosh, darn it, he was so hungry because the dinner you cooked was awful to begin with.

There's something a little, oh, insincere, about the apology in that case. It sounds more like an excuse than a real declaration of contrition.

So, while I, as a conservative, would be happy to accept Nocera's apology for labeling folks terrorists, who, like me, believe the Republicans, while not perfect, are on the right track, I can't grant him absolution.

His confession was too small, too obscured, and too inauthentic.

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