Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) yesterday offered a tearful apology on the Senate floor for comparing the alleged abuse of prisoners by American troops to techniques used by the Nazis, the Soviets and the Khmer Rouge, as he sought to quell a frenzy of Republican-led criticism.
Durbin, the Democratic whip, acknowledged that "more than most people, a senator lives by his words" but that "occasionally words will fail us and occasionally we will fail words." Choking up, he said: "Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line. To them, I extend my heartfelt apologies."(my emphasis)
"A tearful apology."
What is going on here? Here's what the man actually said:
"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings," Durbin said. "Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."
I don't see anything to apologize for. Torture isn't something you'd expect from Americans. True. This is something we're supposed to be above. True. Suddenly, instead of answering the charge, he's made to answer for his rhetoric. We go after Durbin for what he says instead of others for what they do?
This quotation gets at the heart of this:
Then, Chicago's Democratic mayor, Richard M. Daley, declared: "I think it's a disgrace to say that any man or woman in the military would act like that."(emphasis mine)
Note that. It's not a disgrace to do such things; it's a disgrace to say somebody did those things.
And, then, after holding out for a time, he apologizes. Tearfully.
Senator Durbin, you had no reason to apologize, and you gained absolutely nothing for yourself, your party, or your cause by doing so. You work among people who have apologized for nothing. They don't apologize for being asleep at the wheel, for dropping the ball on Osama bin Laden. They don't apologize for largely abandoning Afghanistan. They don't apologize for a bungled Iraq war, the deficit, anything. There are things in this world for which you should be made to answer, but you didn't do them, so why are you apologizing?
UPDATE: See Eric Zorn's "What Dick Durbin Should Have Said."