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With apologies to just about everyone

By one account, President Barack Obama issued some variation of “I’m sorry” 26 times during the press conference on Thursday at which he said he was sorry for the way he and his administration botched the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

In a session that lasted a little less than an hour, that’s about one mea culpa every two minutes.

Apparently, though, you can never have enough apologies.

The New Hampshire Republican Party keeps saying that Democrats in the state who supported the law popularly known as Obamacare should apologize for doing so.

Consider this statement, which the state GOP issued recently about Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s proposal to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act: “It’s time for Senator Shaheen to join President Obama in apologizing for imposing the debacle that is Obamacare on her constituents and back real solutions to undo the damage caused by this awful law.”

Not wanting anyone to feel left out or unimportant, the party has also called for Carol Shea-Porter to join the apology parade: “Representative Shea-Porter’s actions are too little, too late and she should join President Obama in personally apologizing for misleading her constituents about the disastrous consequences of Obamacare.”

Rep. Ann Kuster, another Democrat, has also been asked to apologize at various times for various things.

In truth, what Republicans would really like them to apologize for is being Democrats.

Of course, Democrats do the same sorry thing to Republicans. Just this past week the state Democratic Party issued this statement: “The New Hampshire Democratic Party is calling on Senator Kelly Ayotte to apologize for peddling a discredited, false Benghazi report today after CBS News retracted its original story.”

Hardly a week goes by when one party doesn’t issue a statement insisting that some official in the other party apologize for some perceived sin. Funny how it doesn’t exactly rain apologies after that happens. In those instances where a political operative calls for an apology from the opposition and an apology actually follows, it’s usually because the person on the hot seat was planning to apologize anyway, and everybody pretty much knew it.

We don’t mind actual apologies so much, when they happen. They’re a way of letting voters know that politicians care – at least about the prospect of not getting re-elected (though that’s clearly not President Obama’s motivation.)

Apologies start to ring pretty hollow, though, at the point at which an official stands up and says, “I take full responsibility” for whatever it is they’re supposedly sorry for. Usually when that happens, the politician in question stops well short of actually taking full responsibility – since that would likely entail being sorry enough to tender a resignation. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius comes to mind as the most immediate example.

The phony calls for an apology are frequently way more annoying than the alleged transgressions themselves, though the phoniness does serve some political purposes. They’re how the parties throw rocks at each other when they lack decent ammunition. They also, at times, reflect an attempt to shake the donor tree and see if any money falls out. Calling for someone to apologize can also be interpreted as code for, “We don’t really have anything of substance to contribute, so we’ll just say ‘bad doggie’ and insist the other guys apologize … for being the other guys.”

In other words, it’s sometimes a shameless attempt on the part of operatives to keep the party in the public eye.

How come nobody ever insists on an apology for that?

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