TCS Daily

Mea Culpa

By Lee Harris - January 20, 2006 12:00 AM

Boy do I feel stupid.

In my article on Hillary Clinton's remarks about Bush running the House of Representatives as a plantation, I totally misrepresented the Senator's comments as if she had been talking about the White House, from which I drew several conclusions, none flattering to Senator Clinton, and none of which, in light of the facts, should have been drawn by me. Though one may disagree with the remarks that Senator Clinton actually made, they certainly did not deserve to be treated the way I treated the remarks that I wrongly assumed she had made, and I owe an apology both to the former First Lady and to my readers for my error.

While at the moment I feel a bit foolish, I am genuinely pleased to discover that Senator Clinton did not make the statement that I wrongly imputed to her -- though, needless to say, I would have been even more pleased if I had discovered this before I wrote the article! I have always respected Hillary Clinton, and I am relieved to find out that her swipe at the Bush administration was well within the pale of normal American partisan discourse. My distortion of her words was entirely the result of my own carelessness, and was not the result of any ill-will or malice toward her.

For some time now I have thought about writing an article on the dangers of speed reading on the Internet. It was originally intended to poke fun at people who read my articles and then imputed to me ideas that were often the exact opposite of those that I tried to express. Unfortunately, this incident has made it vividly clear to me just how very close to home this danger lies.

On the hand, the great virtue of the Internet is that when someone makes a gaffe like mine, it is immediately pointed out to the idiot who has made it, who, in this case, unfortunately, is me. (It's always much more fun when the idiot is someone else.)

It is often said that people learn by their mistakes, though in most cases what they learn is to make different mistakes. No doubt in the future I too will make new and original mistakes, but I will always try to correct them as soon as they are brought to my attention, and to apologize to anyone I have treated unfairly because of them.

Lee Harris is the humble author of Civilization and Its Enemies.



Mea Culpa
Apology accepted, insofar as it lies with me to do so. Would that we were all so honest and brave.

Accepted, with thanks
I read that article, and my jaw dropped after only a few sentences, wondering why I was wasting time with someone who had it so *wrong*. I figured you'd drop off my radar, and that would be that.
Your apology is well written, and timely. Would Dan Rather have done as much.
Stay well.
-- Alear

Mea Culpa
The apology was impressive, but although Lee's statement of the facts was not entirely accurate, his reaction was not far off the mark. Shelbey Steele has an excellent piece in WSJ's Opinion Journal ("Hillary's Plantation: Hillary Reveals Her Fear of Condi Rice") in which he criticizes Clinton for pandering to a black audience in a way that insults blacks by being a manifestation of the way Dems value them only for their sense of grievance. Newt Gingrich made a remark similar to Clinton's about Congress, but to a reporter and in which he identified with the 'slaves' as the leader of a revolt rather than casting them as helpless victims.

Steele sees former Republican weakness on race turning into advantage as embodied in Condi Rice:

["]And, because Ms. Rice is grounded in this tradition ["'overcoming' rather than grievance"], she is of absolutely no value to modern liberalism or the Democratic Party despite her many talents and achievements. Quite the reverse, she is their worst nightmare. If blacks were to take her example and embrace overcoming rather than grievance, the wound to liberalism would be mortal. It is impossible to imagine Hillary Clinton's "plantation" pandering in a room full of Condi Rices.["]

Lee was basically on the right track.

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