As Reginald Dwight once sang:
It's sad, so sad
It's a sad, sad situation
And it's getting more and more absurd
It's sad, so sad
Why can't we talk it over?
Oh, it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word
Now what Mr. Dwight (or Sir Elton John as he is called in select circles) was singing about in this 1976 ballad was the story of a romantic relationship simply falling apart. The song's protagonist is simply reaching the conclusion that he or she has made mistakes yet cannot bring himself or herself to admit them to a partner. For the protagonist, admitting fault is painful; so much so that he or she is literally witnessing the destruction of a relationship that could potentially be saved by saying that simple phrase "I'm sorry". Yet, when it comes down to it, the protagonist's pride is simply more important than saving his or her relationship.
Pride can be in funny thing in that regard. People are often drawn to individuals who are prideful in themselves and their abilities (read: The Donald). However, pride can often lead to one's downfall as, well, an entire canon of both literary and historical figures can attest to. In today's modern political landscape, there exists a new ideological battle between pride and one's ability to react if that pride is ever questioned. We now live in the 24/7 news cycle where a politicians every single speech/press release/interview/Facebook post/tweet is immediately disseminated and dissected, often times twisting a politician's words to give a statement an unintended outcome. How that politician reacts to this potential fallout can often make or break him or her in the eyes of supporters, party officials, donors, and other important individuals that the candidate relies on for financial support.
And so, we have gotten to the point in our current media landscape where any politician who offers an apology for something that he or she did is now seen as being weak, feeble, and incapable of leading. An early Republican criticism of President Barack Obama concerned him making "an apology tour" to Middle Eastern nations once he took office. This myth was disproved early on, but it still lingered on four years later when GOP nominee Mitt Romney brought it up during the third presidential debate only to have President Obama kindly inform Governor Romney that his claim has already been thoroughly debunked. Yet, what was it about this apology tour myth that kept Republicans so enthralled for four years?
Quite simply, Republicans today see any act of apologizing as weakness. Much like the protagonist in Elton John's song, they believe it is caving in and demonstrating a lack of resolve. If you apologize then you are admitting fault. If you are admitting fault then you are weak. If you are weak then other world leaders will jump all over you and take you out back to the woodshed when it comes time to negotiate any kind of international agreement. Even though President Obama wasn't "apologizing" to Middle Eastern leaders he was still saying things like "American can and will do better". Even something as universal as acknowledging that we aren't already a perfect union was seen as a slight to our country in the eyes of Republicans.
So, what's the opposite of saying you're sorry? Of admitting that we, as a nation, can do better? Why, that's simply being as braggadocious as possible! In other words, take a position, go with it, don't let facts get in the way of it, and whatever you do, never EVER apologize! That way, nobody can say you're weak and you get praised by your supporters, party officials, donors, and other important individuals that you rely on for financial support. Not only will they support you, but they will praise you for being true to your convictions. Sure, you might not have any idea what you're talking about but you will sound good when you say it. As long as you say it in a confident tone, your supporters will believe you and eventually you'll come to believe whatever you are saying yourself. It's a win-win!
It is this no apologies philosophy that now oozes throughout the entire Republican Party. They've got it down to a science, actually. Step 1: Make baseless statement that advances your own personal political agenda. Step 2: Get fact-checked and proven wrong. Step 3: Double down on statement and criticize liberal media/unprofessional interviewer/jealous Democratic Party for playing partisan politics with your statement. Step 4: Repeat previous statement and reiterate how political opponents are trying to take you down simply for speaking the truth. Step 5: Profit.
And so this is why we now have a Republican Party that refuses to apologize for anything they've said or done from offspring to political commentators to politicians themselves. Sexually active abstinence-only educator Bristol Palin gets knocked up again? Stay strong and say you did it on purpose. Ann Coulter offends nearly 6 million Jews in this country? Stay strong and say your tweet was misinterpreted. Bill O'Reilly caught lying about his "combat experience" in the Falkland Islands? Stay strong and say there's a liberal conspiracy out to get you. Donald Trump can't name Arab world leaders? Stay strong and call it a "gotcha" question then conveniently make up with the reporter who asked you the question on a nationally televised debate.
We now have a Republican Party hellbent on this idea because, quite simply, it's all they have. They don't have any new political ideas so at the very least they have to appear like they have some new, innovative ideas. If you watched the second GOP debate, you probably noted how appropriate it was that they were in the Reagan Presidential Library: All their "novel" policy ideas have been around since 1980 and have failed time and time again. If you cannot win over a populace with ideas then you must try to do so with appearance. Sure, Carly Fiorina was a terrible CEO, but did you hear about passionate she was about Planned Parenthood? Yeah, yeah, I know everything she said was a lie, but she said it with such conviction it's no wonder that the audience applauded so wildly! That's the key right there: Say it loud and proud and then don't back down no matter what.
Yet, in the end, this new form of no-holds-barred politics cannot sustain itself in the long run. We already have questions about Donald Trump's demeanor when it comes to his subordinates so how can we trust him to respectfully engage world leaders? Do we really want Chris Christie talking to Kim Jong-un? How about having Carly Fiorina having a heart-to-heart with Angela Merkel? Or, my personal favorite visual, how about a meeting in the Kremlin between Rafael Cruz and Vladimir Putin?
What today's GOP doesn't understand is that those two simple words "I'm sorry" do not represent weakness. Rather, they represent a form of empathy that has long since vanished from the modern conservative movement. Saying I'm sorry doesn't embolden our enemies, but rather it shows that America is finally coming to terms with its own troubled history. Saying America can do better is not unpatriotic, but instead remains the simple idea that our nation was founded on in our quest for a more perfect union. By actually studying our history and learning from our mistakes, we are not giving our enemies a political advantage but instead are ensuring an open and honest dialogue between two partners that will lead to a healthy relationship down the road built on trust and honesty.
In other words, a relationship where pride doesn't ruin a good thing.