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For Durbin and Rove,To Apologize or Not,There Is No Question

The political chattering class is once again embroiled in a debate over dueling calls for apologies. Meaningful apologies ought to be reserved for an admission of error and expression of regret, not to make people feel better about a perceived slight.

With this in mind, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was right to apologize for comparing American soldiers to Nazis — even though none of his Democratic colleagues thought he needed to do so, and even though his apology only applied “if” you were one of the “some” who “may” have believed that his remarks crossed the line.

The fact is that the senior Senator from Illinois, who is also the second highest ranking member of Senate minority leadership, likened American soldiers at Guantanamo Bay to “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings.”

He made this outrageous comparison, equating a single, unproven allegation of tough interrogation of terrorists to the government-sanctioned extermination of millions of innocent human beings for their religious and political beliefs. The effect of his official statement on the floor of the Senate rippled throughout America and transcended borders. In fact, within hours Al-Jazeera was spreading these harmful and dangerous statements throughout the Arab world as an “American leader engaged in ‘truth-telling.’”

Although a quick, genuine apology could have helped stymie the spread of his remarks, his apology instead came a week later. Nonetheless, Durbin was right to apologize for his insidious remarks, which demeaned the horrors of the past and endangered our soldiers today.

On balance, those same Democrats who saw no reason for one of their top Congressional leaders to issue an apology are now demanding an apology from White House adviser Karl Rove, who last week told a gathering of conservatives that while “conservatives saw the savagery of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and prepared for war, liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding to our attackers.”

Besides the blatant hypocrisy involved in selective protests, these calls are misguided because Rove’s comments were demonstrably true — even if they made liberals uncomfortable.

The differences between these two situations are stark. Rove’s speech drew distinctions between conservatives and liberals — not between Republicans and Democrats. Further, his critique was of the liberal ideology, not the Democratic agenda, and yet it is Congressional Democrats in the House and Senate who have taken the most offense.

Rove specifically cited MoveOn.org as a prime example of this liberal mind-set. Only two days after Sept. 11, 2001, the leaders of this most vocal liberal organization urged “the powers that be to use, wherever possible, international judicial institutions and international human rights law to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks, rather than the instruments of war, violence or destruction.” These same liberals called for “moderation and restraint in responding to the recent terrorist attacks against the United States.”

Far from distancing themselves from these fringe sentiments, the Democratic Party has embraced this thinking over the intervening years and has placed MoveOn.org, and individuals like filmmaker Michael Moore and multimillionaire George Soros, at the center of their movement. In fact, the Democratic Party has even promoted one of last year’s most outspoken anti-war liberals, Howard Dean, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and have been paying for it ever since.

A few examples of this liberal out-of-touch thinking included a 2004 Democratic presidential contender, the Rev. Al Sharpton, opining that “America is beginning to reap what it has sown” after the attacks of 9/11; a Democratic Congresswoman from Ohio comparing the 9/11 terrorists to the American “revolutionaries who cast off the British crown”; and even the Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), calling the war on terrorism “primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation.” And some in the mainstream media played along when just days after the 9/11 attacks, Newsweek’s cover asked the question, “Why do they hate us?” That’s a silly and offensive question.

Rove owes no apology and should never be afraid to discuss the historical record of the left’s response to the attacks on our country.

If apologies are to have meaning, and calls for apologies are to have sincerity, they should be confined to correcting errors and expressing regret. Rove should not indulge the left’s desire to feel better about having been on the wrong side of history again.

Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.) is vice chairman of the House Republican Conference.

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