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The Profound Query of Sarah Palin? (And the Politics of Apologies)

The Jerusalem Post (Palin at Kotel tunnel: Israel too apologetic) reports:

World Likud chairman and Likud MK Danny Danon and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz served as Palin’s tour guides on Sunday night. Palin was told that Jews were not allowed to pray openly on the Temple Mount and about the Arab riots that accompanied Netanyahu’s decision to authorize the creation of an exit from the Western Wall tunnels in 1996.

“Why are you apologizing all the time?” Palin asked her guides.

My first reaction:  Israel apologizes all the time?  It seems to me that they are generally fairly unapologetic about their policies.

My second reaction:  why do certain conservatives get all hot and bothered about apologies anyway?  Do we really live in a world with too many people trying to take responsibility for their actions that we need to get upset about apologies?  (More on that below).

My third reaction:  ah well, she is entitled to her opinion, even if it comes across to me as more an ideological sound bite than anything else.

My fourth reaction:  what?  Some people are declaring this to be a profound utterance?

John Hinderaker at Powerline in regards to the question:

Liberals love to insult Sarah Palin’s intelligence. It’s not a subject on which I have any particular opinion, except to note that, apparently by a remarkable coincidence, her judgment is correct on just about every subject.

William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection:

With that single sentence made to her Israeli hosts, Sarah Palin demonstrated a greater understanding of the problems confronting Israel than the collective wisdom of all the J.D.’s, Ph.D’s, and Masters of International Affairs in the Obama administration combined.

Both assessment are odd, insofar as I am unaware of a parade of apologies issuing forth from Israel.   Moreover, neither of the posts, despite their profuse praise of the wisdom of Palin’s question actually lists any such apologies.  Both decry the inability of Jews to pray at the Temple Mount out of fear of Arab riots.  While I can understand displeasure over this reality, I am not sure how it qualifies, per se, as an “apology.”

Moreover, Jacobsen infers quite a lot from Palin’s question:

First, it goes to the heart of Israel’s right to exist

[...]

Second, Palin recognizes that the reason there is no peace in the Middle East is not that Israel is unwilling to give up more land, but that Israel is not willing to give up completely.

I am not sure how one can derive either of those from Palin’s question.

Indeed, it seems that both Hinderaker and Jacobson are working a bit too hard to derive profoundness from a not especially profound question.  Both treat the question as something of a Rorschach test, quite frankly, seeing what they want to see.

And, I have to ask again:  why is there so much concern about apologies?   (Indeed, Jacobson also visits the issue of what he calls Obama’s “apology tour[s]“—which like Palin’s query of her Israeli guides strikes me as an exaggeration at best):

Of course, the beauty of Palin’s question was that it applies just as well to Obama, who has launched apology tour after apology tour, who dwells on our imperfections, who refuses to lead, and who seems embarrassed by us.

First:  this doesn’t comport with reality.  I am unaware of an apology tour, let alone tours (plural).  Of course, if one uses Karl Rove’s definition of “apology” (he actually uses the phrase “confession tour” although the headline writer used the term “apology tour”) then I guess there have been apologies aplenty.  For example, Rove wrote, back in 2009:

Mr. Obama told the French (the French!) that America “has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive” toward Europe. In Prague, he said America has “a moral responsibility to act” on arms control because only the U.S. had “used a nuclear weapon.” In London, he said that decisions about the world financial system were no longer made by “just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy” — as if that were a bad thing. And in Latin America, he said the U.S. had not “pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors” because we “failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas.”

The horror.

Is any of the above empirically inaccurate?  Is any of it really even all that damning?  (And I hate to say it, but if one wanted to lay bare the sins of the United States, there are better ones that those, which are largely low wattage).  For that matter, is any of the above really an apology?

Second, what is so wrong about admitting mistakes or indicating that one ought to take responsibility for one’s actions?  We teach our kids this, but we aren’t supposed to want countries to behave in such a fashion?  Why?

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. [...] me @OTB:  The Profound Query of Sarah Palin? (And the Politics of Apologies). addthis_url = 'http%3A%2F%2Fwww.poliblogger.com%2F%3Fp%3D19627'; addthis_title = [...]

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  2. mantis says:

    Israel apologizes all the time? It seems to me that they are generally fairly unapologetic about their policies.

    They invented the Obama apology meme, so why not an Israel apology meme? Reality does not matter.

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  3. ponce says:

    There’s some very freaky connections between fringe right American politicians and fringe right Israeli politicians considering so few Jewish Americans vote Republican.

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  4. Highlander says:

    She is right.

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  5. Wiley Stoner says:

    Ponce, It is not Palin who is on the fringe of American politics. It is your obermeister Barack Insane Obama. Palin represents what America is all about. Obama represents what Marx was all about. If you think Palin is on the fringe, wait till November 3, 2012.

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  6. anjin-san says:

    Nice lips…

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  7. ponce says:

    “Palin represents what America is all about.”

    Quitting?

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  8. Max Lybbert says:

    why do certain conservatives get all hot and bothered about apologies anyway? Do we really live in a world with too many people trying to take responsibility for their actions that we need to get upset about apologies?

    It’s not apologies, per se. It’s about apologizing for things that aren’t actually slights or wrongs. In this case, Israel apologizing for not letting Muslim extremists push Israel into the sea, or taking reconciliatory actions (such as not praying openly) in response to bad behavior (such as suicide bombings).

    In other cases, the popular opinion during the Cold War that Communism was a viable and valid philosophy in the face of decades of evidence to the contrary versus Reagan’s efforts to push forward and challenge the USSR. Additionally, efforts to apologize for things well in the past. Should Putin apologize for Stalin’s engineered famines? Should the US apologize for less-than-forthright negotiations regarding the Panama Canal?

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  9. In this case, Israel apologizing for not letting Muslim extremists push Israel into the sea,

    Could you provide an example of this, please?

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  10. michael reynolds says:

    Any post mentioning Palin is moron bait. It’s kind of a cool thing to know. In case you need some morons.

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  11. ponce says:

    “Any post mentioning Palin is moron bait.”

    Ditto for any post mentioning Israel.

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  12. In this case, Israel apologizing for not letting Muslim extremists push Israel into the sea, or taking reconciliatory actions (such as not praying openly) in response to bad behavior (such as suicide bombings).

    Israeli/Palestinian issues are typical presented in the false dichotmy between complete pacisifism and lawless militarism. It’s possible to think Israel should defend itself at terrorist attacks while at the same time if frequently uses terrorism as an excuse to do things that are completely unrelated to its defense that it should apologize for and stop doing.

    The most obvious example would be expansion of “settlements”, which is a euphemism for the Israeli policy of legalized land theft. If a palestinian or Arab israeli owns a piece of land that a Jewish Israeli wants, they’re permitted to chase the owners off and then claim to “settle” it. This has nothing to do with preventing terrorism and is not the sort of behavior that should be permitted, much less encouraged, in a civilized society.

    Indeed, it’s basically racial collectivism. It’s odd that the Tea Party spends so much time looking for socialists under the bed domestically and then opens far more blatant forms of socialism in its foreign policy.

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  13. ponce says:

    “Indeed, it’s basically racial collectivism. ”

    Actually it’s basically Russian mafia.

    Which is to be expected.

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  14. G.A.Phillips says:

    michael reynolds says:
    Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 00:15
    Any post mentioning Palin is moron bait. It’s kind of a cool thing to know. In case you need some morons.

    ponce says:
    Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 00:32
    “Any post mentioning Palin is moron bait.”

    Ditto for any post mentioning Israel.

    Hahahaha ya it, they is……does the hook hurt?

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  15. Jon G says:

    It doesn’t matter if “facts” say that the Israeli govt has not literally apologized. The are cowards because they reuse to confront terrorists and bomb Palestine Arabs into the stone age. Palin is way smarter than you overeducated elites because she speaks the truth from the heart with real emotion.

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  16. Max Lybbert says:

    In this case, Israel apologizing for not letting Muslim extremists push Israel into the sea,

    Could you provide an example of this, please?

    Clearly Israel doesn’t apologize in a literal sense very often. But the Israeli government does sometimes try to show sensitivity. Usually they don’t get anything in return. For instance, Ariel Sharon tried to coordinate with Arafat when Sharon visited to the Temple Mount ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariel_Sharon#Campaign_for_Prime_Minister.2C_2000-2001 ). His reward: the Second Intifada.

    Over the years Israel has seized land in response to outside attacks (say, the Six Day War, Yom Kippur War). The proposed solutions from brilliant minds in the West is for Israel to give back the land and let bygones be bygones. I can’t speak for Palin, but I believe there are times when giving back seized land is something of an apology (the Gaza Strip) and times when it isn’t (the Suez Canal).

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  17. matt says:

    So basically you’re saying that since Israel very occasionally tries to be sensitive towards Palestinians (when Israel isn’t taking land for settlers or blowing up/shooting Palestinians) that means they are always apologizing? So according to your logic the same could be said of Palestine who occasionally try to be sensitive towards Israelis..

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  18. Jay Dubbs says:

    I can’t tell if Jon G. Is being sarcas

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  19. Jay Dubbs says:

    I can’t tell if Jon G. Is being sarcastic or not. So maybe it is the perfect post – both sides will agree with him.

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  20. tom p says:

    The are cowards because they reuse to confront terrorists and bomb Palestine Arabs into the stone age.

    The Israeli’s are cowards???? They might be alot of things but “cowards” is not among them.

    They don’t confront terrorists??? They confront them everyday….

    They don’t bomb Palestine Arabs into the stone age??? Well… maybe they didn’t bomb them back into the stone age, but they sure gave it a good try during the Gaza incursion.

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  21. tom p says:

    Also, I have new intelligence test, it consists of one question:

    “How do you view Sarah Palin?”

    A) Favorably
    B) Unfavorably

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  22. The Tin Man says:

    Jon G sez: “Palin is way smarter than you overeducated elites because she speaks the truth from the heart with real emotion.”

    My heart is a muscle and it pumps blood. I don’t want it to be doing anything else. This is basic human anatomy.
    Most people get whatever ideas they have from their heads.
    Apparently Jon G and 1/2 Gov. Palin have to reach into their back pockets to scratch their brains!

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  23. Max Lybbert says:

    So basically you’re saying that since Israel very occasionally tries to be sensitive towards Palestinians … that means they are always apologizing?

    Not really. I’m not the one who said that Israel was “always apologizing” (that was Palin). I was trying to explain why conservative look down on some “apologetic behavior” (and pointing out that not all apologetic behavior is bad).

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  24. Hey Norm says:

    @ Wiley
    America is about quitting, losing, and lying?
    How y’all confuse a multi-millionaire narcissist with the average American is beyond me.
    The funny thing is that this trip was intended to bolster her foreign policy bonafides…but it’s really just reinforcing her inadequacy.

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  25. john personna says:

    I think it speaks to a shallow and emotional worldview, but maybe that’s just me.

    It seems in line with “if you feel it’s right, you don’t have to think it through too deeply.”

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  26. [...] Alaska governor is entitled to her opinion, or in this case, “ideological sound bite,” says Steven Taylor at Outside the Beltway. But I’m not sure what she’s talking about. Right or wrong, Israelis seem [...]

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  27. mattb says:

    @Steven asked

    why do certain conservatives get all hot and bothered about apologies anyway? Do we really live in a world with too many people trying to take responsibility for their actions that we need to get upset about apologies?

    I think that a lot of this has to do with a specific quasi-”religious” (note that this is not necessarily or exclusively Christian) sense of internalized moral certainty.[*]

    Palin (and GWB before her) model a specific faith that, as an “exceptional people” raised in the “heartland” that we have encoded into us an innate sense of right and wrong. This is the foundation of the American Hero — (s)he doesn’t decide, (s)he knows (and has always known).

    The Apology (as used here) means that said action was “wrong” (either at the time, or when reexamined under present scenarios). The possibility of being wrong undercuts the belief in exceptionalism.

    You can make mistakes — but that God/American given judgment would never allow you to make mistakes on an important issue (remember the difference in that press conference between Blair and Bush’s reflexive comments about things they might have done differently in Iraq with 20/20 hindsight).

    Thus these apologies are always framed as the result of weak thinkers, appeasers, etc — those who hedge. Apologists (those who reflect on past actions) can’t handle the responsibility of separating right from wrong, or don’t have the internal tools to do it (a moral failing).

    BTW, this distinction falls out in numerous ways: A difference between Palin & Bush, on one side, and Obama, on the other, can be understood in an asinine comment the later made during the BP Oil thing: “I talk to experts so I know whose ass to kick.” Same problem as the apology… if you’re an ass kicker, you know innately whose ass to kick” (“bring him in dead or alive”). If you’re a poser you need to be pointed.

    [*] – Note that Liberals can be equally dogmatic — it’s just that they have an internalized belief in the need to retrospection (which paradoxically is also based on a embodied knowledge of being right).

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  28. G.A.Phillips says:

    Also, I have new intelligence test, it consists of one question:

    “How do you view Barack Obama?”

    A) Favorably
    B) Unfavorably

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  29. ponce says:

    “How do you view Sarah Palin?”

    As a performance artist, I find her hilarious.

    A snowbilly version of Joaquin Phoenix.

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  30. tom p says:

    GA!! You got the joke! It is totally non-partisan and fits whatever preconceived notions one may have! And notice that there is no room for ambivalence?

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  31. hey norm says:

    what’s with this idiot wearing the star of david anyway? did she convert? is the former half-term first dude/bp employee/union member now wearing a yarmelke?
    she doesn’t even know that bethlehem is not in israeli territory? that kind of explains her inability to grasp the concept of blood-libel doesn’t it?
    seriously – if she’s as daft as george w. bush, then who is going to be her dick cheney?

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  32. [...] Alaska governor is entitled to her opinion, or in this case, “ideological sound bite,” says Steven Taylor at Outside the Beltway. But I’m not sure what she’s talking about. Right or wrong, Israelis seem [...]

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  33. llama lady says:

    Just to set the record straight:

    Sharon “visited” the Temple Mount with 3000 uniformed IDF troops and an Israeli flag, in blatant violation of the Status Quo law which governs the entire facility. That’s what brought about the second intifada.

    And for those who want to bomb the Palestinian Arabs back into the stone age, have you met the people? How much time have you spent with them?

    I found them to be lovely and hospitable.

    Just for the record.

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  34. gVOR08 says:

    “John Hinderaker at Powerline in regards to the question:

    Liberals love to insult Sarah Palin’s intelligence. It’s not a subject on which I have any particular opinion, except to note that, apparently by a remarkable coincidence, her judgment is correct on just about every subject.”

    I would like to thank Mr. Hinderaker for confirming a suspicion I’ve had for some time. Conservatives judge intelligence by level of agreement with their own opinions. From this flows the otherwise inexplicable ability to view Bush II , otherwise known as C+ Augustus, as smarter than Obama ,who graduated summa cum laude from Harvard Law.

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  35. G.A.Phillips says:

    GA!! You got the joke! It is totally non-partisan and fits whatever preconceived notions one may have! And notice that there is no room for ambivalence?

    :)

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  36. brad says:

    Whatever one thinks of Palin the only question of import is whether she could screw things up as badly as the best, brightest, most qualified and experienced have; granted in her case it is conjecture where the best and brightest are burdened with the historical record chronicling their contributions.

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  37. Louis Wheeler says:

    I think you are making too much of this. Her comment did not seem out of place.

    An apology is proper when a person has done something wrong. What wrong have the Israelis done which would preclude them from praying at one of their most holy sites? A far better question would be, “Why are you Israelis so submissive to the opinions of your enemies? Why do you apologize for your existence? Do you think this will help you?”

    Nothing which the Israelis do, to please themselves or assert their rights as human beings, will ever be accepted by their enemies. The Palestinians have stated repeatedly that they want to push the Israelis into the sea and kill every last jewish child. Giving into Muslim demands or trying to avoid their violence is futile.They will merely get enflamed about some other fault, imagined or not.

    This is akin to the problem of printing irreverent drawings of Mohammed in European newspapers. The Muslim threat of violence has suppressed historic freedoms of speech. This has given the Islamist a tool to destroy every freedom of European citizens. This submission is part of the process of turning Europe into Eurabia by enforcing Sharia laws. Why should her recognition of this be considered odd or unintelligent?

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