Former Vice President Joe Biden recently reached out to Anita Hill to apologize for his role degrading her and other women during the Clarence Thomas hearings. The exchange left Anita Hill “deeply unsatisfied.”
It was an unsatisfactory apology.
Biden, it seems, just can’t mouth a direct apology.
Why? Because apology is an exchange of power. That’s why apology is so difficult for people with power.
Apology requires the person with power to give up his or her battle with history. By apologizing, the apologizer accepts that the victim’s version of history is accurate.
It requires the person with power to accept total responsibility and that Joe Biden, in the end, seems unwilling to offer.
The passive voice is the last refuge of the powerful. All Biden was capable of expressing was his regret over “what she endured.” Now, who was the cause of all that she endured? Nor is regret anywhere close to apology.
Delayed apologies are complicated. Yet they can be effective if the apologizer accepts totally responsibility.
Biden blew it. Anita Hill rejected his apology. The faulty apology guaranteed that it would be a subject for every interview he would do. On The View, his very first interview after declaring as a candidate for president, Biden was invited to issue a more direct apology. He couldn’t do it even with prompting. View host Joy Behar even offered him the words: “I’m sorry for the way I treated you, . . .´
The words were too rich to swallow. All he could say in response was, “I’m sorry for the way she got treated. If you go back to what I said, and didn’t say, I don’t think I treated her badly.”
It’s entitlement that lets Biden persist in the belief that he has a privileged perspective on how Anita Hill was treated. Until he abandons that entitlement and privilege, the presidency—and a basic element of his humanity—will be denied him.