Governor Paterson and the Art of Political Confession

While perhaps not the tone I would use, this ultimate message of honesty of this post is one I more than agree with.  And it’s very funny.

Courtesy of Scholars and Rogues, here’s a little taste of Yes, Larry, I Did F**k that Goat; a Confessional Primer for the Modern Political Aspirant, by Euphrosyne.

"New York Governor David Paterson has the kind of political acuity worth watching… and unfortunately, probably worth emulating from now on. He coolly observed his predecessor go down in flames and silicone. He stepped politely over the writhing corpse, ascended into office and promptly did what Mrs. E has been privately hoping for years a political figure would do: called a press conference, looked the American media in its bloodshot, Internet-porn-raddled eyes and said, in essence:

“All right, bitches, let’s GO there,” spilling a load of personal compost over the next few days that, while not spectacular in scope, was refreshingly honest in a somewhat revolting way. Best of all, his wife did more than (here it comes) stand by her man; she added her own soiled knickers to the flurry of smudged tidy whities Dave was launching at the dazed citizens of New York. Damn. In a grave near Nashville, Tammy Wynette’s carefully embalmed nipples are standing at awed attention."


Click through here to enjoy the rest. You’re guaranteed your belly laugh of the day.

7 replies
  1. Shaula Evans
    Shaula Evans says:

    Charlie, given that you wrote (in a more serious vein) about the trust impact of David Paterson’s predecessor Elliot Spitzer’s public mea culpa last month, I hope you’ll be treating us to your own, professional comparison of Paterson and Spitzer’s public relations / reputation management / crisis communications strategies.

  2. Euphrosyne
    Euphrosyne says:

    Thank you so much for the mention, and what a tastefully rephrased title! Perhaps someday my inner vulgarian will exhaust herself… but my outer Miss Manners is not holding her genteelly restrained breath.

  3. Charlie (Green)
    Charlie (Green) says:


    The voyeuristic among us (and the voyeur in all of us) hopes your outer Miss Manners is doomed to lose all her struggles with Ms. Inner Vulgarian, so long as MIV continues to write so well.


  4. Charles H. Green
    Charles H. Green says:

    Shaula, I’m not sure whose advice he was taking.  I think the bar has been raised for all of us.  If Gary Hart had done what Edwards did, I think he might have had a career.  But that was in the easy days.  Now, Edwards reminded me a bit of Michael Richards.  My, how jaded we have become.

    Maureen Dowd zeroed in on him, finding just the right phrase to skewer one of a couple failings in his approach: his attempt at being "oncologically correct": If she’s in remission, excuse the commission. 

    It’s hard for me to discern what’s "right" in these matters, but I’d suggest three guidelines for the aspiring political confessor:

    a. Never declare yourself to be pure;

    b. Never invite reporters to inspect and dissect your purity;

    c. When caught, just say, "I made a major boo-boo.  There is no excuse, and I’m still trying to find an explanation for my obtuse bone-headedness." 



  5. Shaula
    Shaula says:

    Charlie, I just read a fascinating artice by Rabbi Irwin Kula about apology voyeurism, where he compares public news cycle apologies to contemporary secular versions of cheap grace and scapegoat spectacle.  His concerns about not turning one of the most important human virtues- the ability to seek and grant forgiveness – into public relations events, are particularly relevant to corporations and the field of crisis communications / reputation management.

    He also cites the 12th century philosopher-sage Maimonides on the nature of genuine forgiveness, as a product of an introspective process requiring four steps (the four R’s):

    1. Recognition of what we did wrong and why we did it,
    2. Regret for what we did and resolve to not do it again,
    3. Repair of any damage done which includes apologizing directly to the person we hurt,
    4. and only at the end of this process Reconciliation.

    Maimonides "four R’s of forgiveness" sound an awful lot like the work of Aaron Lazare and Nick Smith in their book "On Apology," which both you (in Apologies, Forgiving and Forgiveness) and Mark (in The Power of I’m Sorry: the 4 R’s of a Trustworthy Apology) have referenced here.  I haven’t read Lazare and Smith myself, so I am curious: do they explicitly credit Maimonides in their work?

    The Power of I’m Sorry: the Four R’s of a Trustworthy Apology

    The Power of I’m Sorry: the Four R’s of a Trustworthy Apology

    The Power of I’m Sorry: the Four R’s of a Trustworthy Apology

    Read more at:


  6. Charlie (Green)
    Charlie (Green) says:

    Shaula, thank you once again for your indefatigible breadth of reading–and attentiveness.  More reading to do!

    But let me comment sideways.  Much of what you and I and Lazare and Smith I think seem to agree about is the personal nature of apologies and forgiveness–to use Maimonides’ list, the themes of wrongness and regret.

    I was quite struck by a NYTimes op-end the other day, Joe Wilson’s War, by Joanne Freeman.  Apparently, at least 125 years ago and at least in the US Congress, there were apologies, and they strayed far from those criteria.

    Apparently bald accusations of lying were not uncommon at all, and were loudly shouted.   They were also followed up quickly–typically within minutes or hours–by apologies.  But the whole process was an exercise in socialized behavior.

    Apparently publicy accusing a fellow member of lying could only be resolved with an apology or a duel, the latter occasionally resulting in death.  Death, or its threat thereof, being good for publicity, it evolved that people would publicly call someone a liar, then apologize before the need for gunplay.   But said apologies had no real remorse, nor sense of guilt.

    That may sound cynical from our point of view.  But from theirs, it was a public obligation, not a private one.  It was how people retained respect for the institution.

    In this day of talk-radio and reality-TV, where the personal is splashed all over the public theater, many people support Joe Wilson in presuming he has no reason to apologize.  It’s hard to argue we’ve evolved, when you look at it that way.

    I wonder if other highly social societies–Japan?–similarly have more outward-facing definitions of apology and forgiveness than we in the more individual-oriented US?


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