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McCain Apologizes for Cunningham Remark

Is a Political Apology Too Little, Too Late?

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?


Join The Conversation
guiltypleasure31 guiltypleasure31 9 years
he apologizes so that he doesn't look bad while his surrogates do the dirty work for him, regardless the message is out there & that was the goal. it's about more than just the middle name and the obvious attempt to tap into people's unspoken fears, the guy said all kinds of nasty things. calling someone a "liberal hack" who sees himself as "a prophet" and thinks all you need is to get everyone together to sing kumbaya among other things, is a but much.
ktownpolarbear ktownpolarbear 9 years
i think the fact that he apologized at least says something.
bransugar79 bransugar79 9 years
I think it's honorable that he apologized. The reason I believe it is hinest and not a political tactic is that he didn't wait 24 hours and come back with a sound bite. I think it could be used as a strategy but in this case I do't believe it was. As far as the comments they were unbecoming any person. I think it's fien to express your opinion but targeting a person because of their middle name is childish at best. Aren't we supposed to know better by now? And if you are agaisnt someones poicies or ideas isn't the best way to counteractthem to come up with better ideas of your own? I think that's just common sense 101
Jillness Jillness 9 years
"This talk-show host isn't a shrinking violet obviously and I can't believe McCain didn't know he'd be there to warm up the crowd" Exactly. It is like hiring Howard Stern to be your opening act, and then being surprised when he starts being crude.
sofi sofi 9 years
I don't know about this one. I heard most of this guys remarks and McCain's apology, but I also saw this guy go off on McCain afterwards on CNN. He was furious that McCain claimed never to have met him (he said they have met on several occasions) and was asked to be there. Fine, he doesn't totally agree with what he said or how he said it, but it really pissed this guy off that he lied about knowing him and distanced him self from more conservatives in this way. This talk-show host isn't a shrinking violet obviously and I can't believe McCain didn't know he'd be there to warm up the crowd. He would have to imagine a big mouth like this wouldn't take this sitting down and be down right angry over this. McCain definitely angered people from his party, but I guess he was willing to take heat from somewhere.
j2e1n9 j2e1n9 9 years
Agreed tresjolie! I would apologize for that shit too. It would just be my own personal preference not to have fun or one-up myself at someone else's expense. And I see McCain as the same type of person. I think it just might be McCain's way of saying that that kind of shit just isnt his style. I mean he doesnt need to bad mouth people or strategize an apology to make himself look better! Its just not his style. ;)
Jillness Jillness 9 years
I call Bullsh*t on John McCain. I just heard that this same radio personality called Obama, "Barack Muhammed Hussein Obama" on his radio show. John McCain's team wouldn't have hired someone they had never heard before. They obviously condoned his "style".
Jillz1128 Jillz1128 9 years
Slightly off topic, but living in Chicago I would like to point out that Daley has done some great things for the city, corruption nonwithstanding. And that is coming from a Republican.
x_juicyfruit x_juicyfruit 9 years
I don't know. I think McCain was taking responsibility. I think his apology was sincere.
i agree with jillness and hotstuff totally. i couldnt have worded either thought better
potc-crazyy potc-crazyy 9 years
sincere about the apology*
potc-crazyy potc-crazyy 9 years
Well, that rant was absolutely horrible, but it isn't McCain's fault. McCain seemed very sincere about it, and to be quite honest I don't think that rant did /too/ much to Obama. I mean, so much of it was just completely bogus and entirely unbelievable not only to those well-informed. (In a way, it's like the 'Fat Christ' poster incident. Sure, they ban the poster but now 'Fat Christ' gets more publicity than it probably would have without the ban.)
Jillness Jillness 9 years
For me, his whole rant was obnoxious and embarassing. Not because of the middle name thing, that has been run into the ground more than "that's hot". Get new material! The guy went on for a very long time about both Hillary and Barack, but it was just nonsense that would be better suited to an elementary school playground. "CNN, the Clinton News Network" is just lame. Just lame. I also think that when you tell a speaker to "throw red meat" to the crowd and get them riled up, you run a risk. If you want to CYA, you let them know that there are boundaries.
flutterpie flutterpie 9 years
for the most part i believe that apologies are nothing but political strategy but in this case i believe mccain is sincere, he was really thrown for a loop by the dirty politics played by bush in the 2000 primaries and he never struck as someone who would participate in that. the conservative pundits need to understand that they are going to lose this election for mccain if they dont stick to the issues and not a middle name or african tribal wear
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 9 years
I agree it's just his middle name, but it seems like people are using it in an inflamatory way. People hear Hussein and have a negative association. It's like if his first name were Adolf or something. I saw the remarks, and while they weren't that bad, they aren't remarks fitting for a dignified campaign. As for apologies, I vote "yes" for them. Because if they don't apologize, they lose, and now it seems if they do, they lose because they have ulterior motives or whatever. McCain did something good by 1) taking responsibility for the remarks, even though he wasn't aware of them, and 2) apologizing for them. Sincere or not, we'll never know. It certainly seemed that way to me. But honestly, what other choice did he really have? Either way, I think he handled it as best as he could given the situation he was in.
trésjolie1 trésjolie1 9 years
I think his campaign should have chosen a different warm up act(I saw the clip, and his statement might fly on a local radio show, but not as a part of a national campaign)in the first place. But I think McCain did very well considering; it was quick, heartfelt, and left no room for speculation.
princess_eab princess_eab 9 years
Y'know.... the remarks weren't that bad at all. Obama is going to hear a lot worse. I say this as someone who's a supporter. His middle name is Hussein, he needs to just discuss it and tell Americans how common a name it is in the rest of the world. Defuse ignorance. Still, I do think this played well for McCain with independents... but not with the talk-show hosts, who are angry at him again!!
zeze zeze 9 years
pleaseeeeeee This is political gold, you get the negative remarks out there but you don't get the bad press (see Hillary Clinton). I've worked on campaigns before, and mind you not powerhouse republican presidential ones, but the mind games and scheming is out of control. The way you know these schemes work is when you see people believeing the apology. It is politics 101 - get a dummy no one takes too seriously to be the scapegoat, give him the message you want everyone to think about in their heads but not talk about out loud and then look good by apologizing and making the dummy look bad.
JovianSkies JovianSkies 9 years
I side with the above. *sigh* Politicians. Can't live with them Can't live without them ;-)
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
I still don't understand how using someone's middle name is an insult. If you explain that to me, maybe I'll get what this guy did wrong.
hotstuff hotstuff 9 years
"Can a political apology be as much strategy as it is reaction?" Yes, but I actually felt he was genuine in his apology and it was very big of him to do so.
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