The United States owes Bloomberg columnist Mark Halperin a debt of gratitude. For a rare and fleeting moment, Americans of all political persuasions, religious affiliations, and ethnic backgrounds were united in revulsion over the spectacle of his attempt to interview Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Halperin’s ham-fisted, chauvinistic effort to force Cruz to prove the authenticity of his heritage by riffing extemporaneously on Cuban culture and to speak en Español were both embarrassing and insulting.
Halperin’s motives were transparent. He set out to demonstrate in some small way that Cruz was Cuban in name only — a CINO, if you will. In this manner, Halperin sought to tar Cruz with the stereotype often applied to minority Republicans that holds their devotion to their ethnic heritage is only skin deep.
Halperin’s apology for his contemptible actions was even worse. After more than 24 hours of controversy and condemnation, Halperin issued a mealy-mouthed mea culpa in PDF format. In the “apology” in which he asked forgiveness only from those who might have been offended, a rudimentary blame-shifting tactic, Halperin insisted that a number of factors were responsible for this kerfuffle. Everything, in fact, but his intent.
Halperin contended that the speed at which he delivered the offending questions, his “tone and timing,” were responsible for the universal impression that he was prosecuting a show trial. He added that the inquisition he led was merely “light-hearted banter” and designed to “give the Senator chance to speak further about his heritage.” And yet, virtually everyone who watched this exchange came away with a distinctly different impression.
The Bloomberg columnist’s apology neatly exposes the hollowness of America’s culture of forced regret. Halperin’s confession reads like an empty gesture because it is. He’s not sorry. He doesn’t really think he did anything wrong. He’s only apologizing for the sake of his career. To remain silent is to risk watching as the self-perpetuating outrage machine’s gears to grind into action, and to possibly watch his livelihood join the hundreds of ill-fated careers that have been crushed in their merciless milling.
Ted Cruz could have contributed to the routinized process of exacting a pound of flesh from the party responsible for a social faux pas. The senator might have easily emerged from that interview bristling with offense and expressing regret for all his fellow Cuban-Americans who were slighted by Halperin’s ignorance. When he read the apology, Cruz might have dubbed it insufficient, or he simply could have said nothing at all. In a display of graciousness, however, Cruz not only accepted the apology but defused the controversy with a statement implying that it was all manufactured in the first place.
Mark Halperin is a serious and fair-minded journalist. Today he kindly issued an apology for some silly questions he asked me in an interview. The apology was unnecessary — no offense was taken, nor, I believe, intended — but is certainly appreciated.
I’m proud of my Cuban heritage, my father’s journey from oppression and prison in Cuba to freedom in America, and also my Irish-Italian heritage on my mother’s side. Both are integral parts of who I am today.
The 2016 Republican field is shaping up to be the most diverse in history, and I look forward to a robust and substantive conversation about how we work together to turn around our current stagnation and expand opportunity for everyone to achieve the American Dream.
What’s remarkable about this statement is that it should ideally be unremarkable. This is how well-adjusted citizens who do not have a vested interest in destroying another’s prospects behave. If this episode followed the pattern associated with the regrettable new normal, America would have stood witness to a grand pageant in which the wronged party pretends to be slighted, the offender pretends to be sorry, cultural arbiters pretend to have an opinion on the matter, and the public pretends to be interested. We all have our role to play in this societal charade, and we’ve become accustomed to performing our parts with enthusiasm – if only to ensure that our livelihoods remain safe from the machine’s gaping maw.
Cruz admirably put a stop to this dishonest display. In doing so, he freed us all from our obligation to play-act our roles in a dispiriting farce. We owe him a debt. If more people in Cruz’s position behaved as he did, perhaps the dreary, rote drama with which we are all familiar would finally end.