In what has been described as a mea culpa, Trump adviser Peter Navarro spoke with the Wall Street Journal about him having Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as there being a "special place in hell" for him. He explained, "I used language that was inappropriate and basically lost the power of that message. I own that, that was my mistake, my words."
As co-founder of the Apology Institute of America along with the redoubtable Nell Minow, I must give this "apology" an F. As the mantra goes when an "apology" gets a low grade, "You know what an apology sounds like. And that wasn't it."
For starters, we KNOW they're his words. That's actually the problem. Owning them doesn't make them go away, it means you accept that you said them. Which is a good thing, because in this case Mr. Navarro was on TV and the public saw him say it.
More problematic is that I've been searching through the text of his quote, looking for the word "apology" or "sorry" in regards to his mistake. As far as I can tell, since they appear to be absent and given that he owns them, he's okay with having said them. For all we know, the only mistake he seems to be referring to is that he said them out loud, in public, on TV where everyone could hear them. And play them back repeatedly.
Indeed, he starts his comments on the subject by saying merely that all he wants to do is "correct a mistake" he made. Which he latter repeats that it was just a "mistake." Those are not the words of someone apologizing. Correcting a mistake is like when you said that Canada burned the White House, but you really meant it was the British.
Only when pressed by the moderator after finishing if he was apologizing, he dismissively mumbles almost under his breath, "Yeah, absolutely" but very quickly moves past that to say that what he learned is he should stick to policy. That says he wasn't wrong about what he had said, just that he shouldn't have said it out loud.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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