Just when you think Politifact can’t make any more of a mockery of itself than it already has – over and over and over and over again – they wade into the breach today on foreign policy. More specifically, they took issue with Mitt Romney’s statement today that “I think it’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values.”PolitiFact has a history of denying that things Mitt Romney says are apologies are, in fact, apologies. Shapiro has fun with PolitiFact's method of undercutting Romney in this case:
So, what did Politifact have to say? They interviewed three “apology experts.” Seriously. First, they interviewed Professor John Murphy, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who said it wasn’t an apology because “the statement does not use the word ‘apology’ or ‘apologize’ and does not use any synonym for that word.” Second, they interviewed Lauren Bloom, “an attorney and business consultant who wrote The Art of the Apology.” What did she say? Romney’s “once again allowing his emotional allergy to apology to interfere with his judgment.” Finally, they interviewed Professor Rhoda E. Howard-Hassman, who said the statement was “not an apology.”But is that PolitiFact's fault? PolitiFact tried to contact a fourth expert who did not respond. By looking at the earlier fact checks we can confirm that the expert was conservative foreign policy analyst Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation.
What did Gardiner have to say in PolitiFact's original story? Here it is:
Nile Gardiner, a foreign policy analyst with the the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Obama is definitely apologizing, and it's not good. He co-wrote the Heritage analysis, "Barack Obama's Top 10 Apologies: How the President Has Humiliated a Superpower."As I noted in an earlier analysis, PolitiFact completely discounted Gardiner's statement in ruling Romney "Pants on Fire" for saying Mr. Obama went on an apology tour. PolitiFact did not explain its reasons for discounting Gardiner's expertise. If partisanship was a problem then we should expect PolitiFact to find an entirely new set of experts. Choosing the expert opinion of three liberals over one conservative looks simply like an expression of partisan bias by the fact checker when unaccompanied by a solid rationale.
"Apologizing for your own country projects an image of weakness before both allies and enemies," Gardiner said. "It sends a very clear signal that the U.S. is to blame for some major developments on the world stage. This can be used to the advanage of those who wish to undermine American global leadership."
He noted that Obama tends to be most apologetic about how the U.S. has fought terrorism and its approach to the Iraq war. "There is a very strong partisan element to his apologies, but the biggest driving factor is Obama's personal belief that the U.S. is not an exceptional, uniquely great nation," he said.
In the latest apology for Obama, PolitiFact's three experts make a show of distinguishing between condemnation and apology. But that approach obscures a potential relationship between condemnation and apology.
One cannot condemn an entity and apologize for that same entity at the same time with the same statement. Those aims work against each other. But very clearly, one can easily work a condemnation into an apology: "My son was bad, bad, bad, bad, bad--a thousand times bad for breaking your window, Mrs. Jones."
In the above example we have an apology and a condemnation in the same sentence. It works because the apology is directed at one entity (Mrs. Jones) while the condemnation is directed at a third party (the son). By throwing a natural ally under the bus for breaking the window, the condemner sends a clear implicit message of regret to the offended party, Mrs. Smith.
It's important to emphasize the role of an apology in both personal and international relations: An apology is an attempt to smooth things over with the offended party. Condemning the breaking of the window sends a message to Mrs. Jones that something will be done to the window breaker to help balance the scales of justice. Absent that implication, condemning the window-breaker isn't likely to sooth Mrs. Jones' ire.
In the case of the Libyan embassy, embassy officials clearly released the statement with the aim of defusing anger at the United States. One can claim that it was a condemnation rather than an apology, but that's obfuscation.
It was a classic apology, delivered by implicit means.
***Shapiro's sharp, pithy and to the point. Visit Big Peace and read the whole of his take.