Let's call it the "Hussein Heard 'Round the World." As an opening act for a John McCain speech, conservative radio personality Bill Cunningham unleashed a torrent of censor-free remarks at Barack Obama. Cunningham said,
Now we have a hack, Chicago-style Daley politician who is picturing himself as change. When he gets done with you, all you're going to have in your pocket is change. Adding that the liberal-leaning media will "peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama."
McCain immediately followed with a categoric apology for the event before even being asked, and flatly rejected the notion saying,
I apologize for it. I did not know about these remarks, but I take responsibility for them. I repudiate them. My entire campaign I have treated Senator Obama and Senator Clinton with respect. I will continue to do that throughout this campaign...Any comment that is disparaging of either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama is totally inappropriate.
Whether or not you think Cunningham's remarks were out of line, my question is this: When someone acts on behalf of a politician — even if the politician apologizes for or rejects the sentiment — once a statement is out there, does a politician still benefit?
In this case, McCain gets to distance himself from the "crazy right" and make bold proclamations about his fairness and commitment to running a clean campaign — even though the dirt is already out of the bag. Can a political apology be as much strategy as it is reaction?