Apology, like Much about Mitch Daniels, Was Truly Authentic ; Commentary

Article excerpt

Even as his tenure as Indiana's governor winds down, Gov. Mitch Daniels finds ways to surprise people - and in a good way. A few days ago, Daniels accomplished a feat that is rare in modern politics.

He apologized for something he'd said. And he did it the right way - not the way politicians normally do.

Here's the story: At the opening of the I-69 extension to Evansville, the governor said that the world was divided into two groups, "builders and bellyachers."

Many people - including me - complained the governor was dismissive of legitimate concerns about the highway's environmental impact or the long-term impact of the lease of the Indiana Toll Road that generated much of the funding that made it possible.

The governor listened and he responded. Graciously. He wrote a letter to The Indianapolis Star, where some of the complaints had appeared, that read

"Those who wrote to criticize a figure of speech I used at a recent I-69 ribbon-cutting were right to call me on it. I think it's accurate to say that at all previous times I have shown respect for the opponents of the highway, but my fondness for alliteration got the best of me on this occasion and I used a word ("bellyachers") that was wrong. I retract it with regret. "Those who were present know that I wasn't even talking about I-69 specifically at that point, but rather making the point that any big idea or project is sure to attract a host of those eager to say why change shouldn't or cannot happen. But there must have been a hundred better ways to say that, and I apologize for not choosing one of them."

Simple. Elegant. Classy.

This not the sort of apology we're used to seeing from politicians. Because most politicians' apologies aren't genuine.

A wise teacher once told me that any "apology" that includes the words "but" or "if" really isn't an apology. It's an attempt to reposition for another line of attack in an ongoing argument.

Perhaps the best recent example came when Indiana Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock "apologized" for his comment in a debate that pregnancies that result from rape are God's will. …