Latest (but not final) Bush Apology

As part of our ongoing effort to pass on to our readers the best apology advice on the internet, the PA team is encouraging apology experts in the fields of public relations, personal counseling, consumer advocacy, business ethics, medicine and law to submit entries to our blog that cover current case studies or topical apologies in the news. We are very pleased to include the following submission from Dr. Jennifer Thomas -- her post deals with President George W. Bush’s recent public apology for the economic crisis.

Dr. Jennifer M. Thomas is a part-time clinical psychologist with Associates in Christian Counselling in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Jennifer counsels on a wide variety of individual and couples issues, from communication to trauma recovery and spiritual healing. She is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. Jennifer is also the co-author, alongside Dr. Gary Chapman, of The Five Languages of Apology, released in September 2006.

On Monday, December 1, President Bush walked the fine line of publicly expressing regret about the world's financial crisis without accepting responsibility for the meltdown. Here are the details: According to USATODAY, Bush, "said he felt responsible for the economic downturn because it is occurring on his watch, but he added: 'I think when the history of this period is written, people will realize a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over a decade or so' before he became president." In The Five Languages of Apology, Gary Chapman and I identified five different factors that convey sincerity in apologies. In his comments, Bush clearly expressed regret (our Language #1). Our 2nd language of apology is "accepting responsibility." According the the text of this news report, Bush accepted responsibility based upon his position. He then referred blame to a previous time frame. In our book, we describe how stating or inferring "BUT" voids the previous comment. My analysis of Bush's apology is that he expressed regret while not squarely accepting responsibility for this financial crisis.

This type of mixed apology is common in the business world. After all, the apologizer may reason, many forces were at work. How could I be fully responsible? At times, corporations apologize for the hurt they are causing while pursuing a reasonable plan of action. For example, my husband's employment at a now-defunct bank was severed due to a merger. The managers had no obligation to apologize in that situation. One manager, however, offered a kind expression of regret for the layoff. That is essentially what Bush has offered us this week. I share his regret about our dwindling bank accounts.