No sensible person ever made an apology.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is a web site that many people in the Bush administration should refer to. It is called Write Express and it comprises samples of letters that one can use in day-to-day intercourse. The ones I think are most helpful fall under the heading “apology letters.” In introducing the “apology” concept the site says: “Wish you hadn’t said or done something? A carefully worded apology letter can help smooth things over.” That sounds like exactly what Paul Wolfowitz could use.
When Mr. Wolfowitz got to the World Bank, he was involved with someone who is described in the various news accounts as either his “girl friend”, a “female friend” a “bank employee with whom he has been romantically linked” or a “companion.” One of the first things he did was arrange for this woman of many titles to be transferred from the World Bank to the State Department at an increase in salary of more than $61,000 and an agreement that upon her return to the bank from the State Department she would receive a rating of “outstanding’ in her performance reviews, presumably irrespective of the actual quality of her work.
When this was discovered and criticized, Mr. Wolfowitz apologized without the benefit of the software available from Write Express. He said: “I wish I had trusted my original instincts and kept myself out of the negotiations. I made a mistake, for which I am sorry.” Then he said he needed some “understanding” of the “painful personal dilemma” he faced when he left the Pentagon to become the World Bank’s president. One of the rules of the personal apology, according to the website, is “Accept responsibility for what you did.” When asking us for our understanding he is violating the rule of accepting responsibility. None of us wants to feel his pain, especially not people at the World Bank who earn a lot less than the Woman of Many Titles.
Another person who could benefit from the site is D. Kyle Sampson, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s former top aide. When he testified to Congress in March about the firing of the eight U.S. attorneys, he said that “none of the U.S. attorneys was asked to resign in favor of a particular individual who had already been identified to take the vacant spot.” An e-mail that surfaced in early April was sent by Mr. Sampson to White House Counsel Harriet Miers more than a year before he testified. In it he named each of the U.S. attorneys whose firing was under consideration and beneath each of the names was written the name of a proposed successor.
From the Justice Department response to that disclosure it is obvious that the department does not have a copy of the “apology” software. Its spokesman said: “We have consistently stated that, with the exception of Griffin, individuals were not pre-selected for any of the eight U.S. attorney positions prior to asking the U.S. attorneys to resign. . . . The list, drafted 10 months before the December resignations, reflects Kyle Sampson’s initial thoughts, not pre-selected candidates by the administration.”
Mr. Sampson’s lawyer does no better than the Justice Department. He said: “Kyle’s testimony regarding the consideration of replacement was entirely accurate. In December 2006 when the seven U.S. attorneys were asked to step down, no specific candidate had been selected to replace any of them, and Kyle had none in mind.”
The apology rule that would apply to this situation would be sending the Senate committee before whom he testified a letter of apology. Since this falls under the heading of a “personal apology letter” the website says the letter should be handwritten rather than typed and it should be on personal stationery. The apology should appear in the first one or two sentences. He should freely acknowledge that the mistake was all his fault and not try to blame any of the committee members for the errors in his testimony. He should tell the committee that he values its friendship and does not want to lose it. That will be appropriate since by establishing that he and the committee members are friends, its members may be less inclined to charge him with perjury. The final suggestion on the website is that he hand-sign the apology letter with a black pen.
(Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s omission from this discussion is deliberate. He is such a consummate liar that no software has yet been developed that would restore his credibility.)
Given the kinds of problems that George Bush and his administration continue to encounter it would probably make sense to buy the software in multiple copies. There are two available discs. One contains 3001 personal and business letters for $34.99 and the other contains 4001 for $39.99. Since Mr. Bush has less than 2 years left to serve, the $34.99 version should suffice.