After Washington Senate candidate Mike McGavick's multi-headed mea culpa, we heard from a veteran politics watcher and participant (not a Washingtonian) who compared it to a TV news "pledge to be fair, objective and accurate. The assumption has to be that others aren't. His point must be that there are others in politics who are phony, uncivil and secretive. Hard to believe."
McGavick's explicit point was that he'd erred and seen the light. His implicit point was both that he's better than that now, and that he's on a higher moral plane than those who do not similarly throw open their pasts.
McGavick at once acknowledged four events in his history of which he said he was sorry: three relating to a failed marriage, a campaign mistake and a failure as a SafeCoCEO which already were more or less public knowledge, and a fourth relating to a DUI which hadn't emerged. What McGavick did was more complex than the acknowledgement of a single past mistake. He seemed to be saying that these are the things I have done - and now we can close this subject of my personal failings and move on.
For this narrative of redemption to work on a political level, it has to appear clean and total. It cannot be a selective confession, but has to be absolute, witholding nothing; and it has to have marked a clean break with the past, so that the character flaws can be seen as being of the past and not of the present.
He may not have appreciated how high a bar he set for himself. (more…)