"In the heat of battle I let my passion and emotion get the better of me and as a result handled the situation poorly. I would like to thank my fans and supporters for understanding that I am human and I look forward to continuing the journey, both professionally and personally, with you all as I move forward and grow from this experience."
These are the words of South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson, right? You know whom I'm talking about. He's the guy who wasn't as well known as Joe the Plumber, but has skyrocketed to fame after he called President Barack Obama a liar during his speech last Wednesday to a joint session of Congress.
Well, if you thought the above quote belongs to Wilson, you'd be wrong. It's a portion of an initial statement released last Saturday by Serena Williams, the tennis star.
The second-seeded Williams was fined $10,000, the maximum permissible on-site fine, for unsportsmanlike conduct for screaming profanity at a lineswoman during her U.S. Open tennis match against Kim Glijsters. Williams was fined $500 for racquet abuse after she blew a 30-0 lead and smashed her racquet in disgust dropping serve to lose the first set.
Today (Monday, Sept. 14) Williams amended her statement, and at the same time, demonstrated that she has a lot more class than what's-his-name from South Carolina.
"I want to amend my press statement of yesterday, and want to make it clear as possible – I want to sincerely apologize FIRST to the lines woman, Kim Clijsters, the USTA and mostly tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst," Williams said in a statement issued through the USTA. "I'm a woman of great pride, faith and integrity, and I admit when I'm wrong. I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately and it's not the way to act – win or lose, good call or bad call in any sport, in any manner. I like to lead by example. We all learn from experiences both good and bad, I will learn and grow from this, and be a better person as a result."
Wilson and Williams had been traveling on the same path. Shortly after calling the president a liar, he issued this statement:
"This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the President's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility."
Sounds good. The President even said last Thursday that he accepted the apology.
There's just one problem. Unlike Williams, by all appearances it seems that Wilson is doing his best to deconstruct any amends he may have made last week. Or at least make it clear that he doesn't regret screaming, "You lie!" to the President during a nationally televised speech.
"I am not going to apologize again," the South Carolina Republican said on "FOX News Sunday" when asked about pending disciplinary steps against him by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
Wilson said he already apologized to Obama and that the president accepted it. However, he insisted that Obama "was misstating the facts," and that Democratic leaders in the House were "playing politics" by continuing to focus on the issue.
House Democrats plan to censure Wilson if he refuses to apologize on the House floor this week.
Wilson embarrassed himself and the Republican Party. But the manner in which he accomplished this, when you look at the history of politics in this country, sadly is nothing new.
Let's face it. Decade after decade, we have politicians at all levels in this country who can't help themselves. They eventually act like the jerks that they truly are.
The media also has to take a bit of the credit for all of this. The discontent our nation has experienced this summer – from tea bag "rallies" to raucous town hall meetings – has gained countless newspaper headlines and reports from television talking heads because we've become a country with 24-hour instantaneous, sound-bite news organizations that are obsessed with these kinds of stories rather than the substantive issues.
Even lawmakers as dim as Wilson know that these kinds of incidents will gain media attention. So instead of being apologetic, he becomes defiant, which lead to greater defiance from the fringe on the right. Members of that rather exclusive group reveled in their own lunacy last weekend during a Glenn Beck-inspired revival of hate in the nation's capital.
The idea that we will ever achieve total civility in our democratic politics is a myth. The real question is whether our party leaders and the media will continue to focus on the nastier aspects of our political system or if they will give more attention to the substantive debates that other members of both parties want to have.
It appears that the smart minds of the GOP don't know how to shed the lunatic fringe which only enables and enriches the loud mouths on radio and television who make a living as entertainers and who proclaim that they are leading a movement.
With so many major challenges facing the nation, let's hope our leaders refocus on more honorable political traditions.
For starters, it would be nice to see Wilson lift a page from Serena's playbook, show just a hint of dignity and apologize for acting like a jackass.