As a crisis communications counselor, I’ve seen that the public is generally remarkably forgiving if, and only if, the wrong-doer: a) admits the wrong without lapsing into fudging language; b) apologizes in a way that actually is perceived to be sincere; c) exhibits humanity, not robotics; and d) explains specifically how they are righting the wrong, and taking steps to ensure it will never happen again. Absent those things, I’ve also seen how brually unforgiving the public can be.
Therefore, allow me to give some pro bono advice to poor Mitt Romney, who has been accused of a very, very serious crime. I’d recommend former Governor Mitt issue a heartfelt mea culpa statement that goes something like this:
My fellow Americans, I made a mistake. And it was a doozey. For reasons I can’t explain, I helped 401,000 people in my state get health coverage for their families.
I know, I know. It was heinous. Immunizations. Cancer screenings. No medical bankruptcies. I pray that God and the American people can somehow find it in their hearts to forgive me.
I don’t have a good explanation. I guess I just lost my way by spending too much time listening to sob stories from those 401,000 uninsured whiners.
To my credit, I did leave 2% uninsured. But I realize, that’s no excuse. A 98% coverage rate – the lowest in the nation – is a disgrace to me, and my family’s good name.
For that, I am deeply, deeply, DEEPLY sorry. I want you to know that I am dedicated to ignoring the two-thirds of Massachusets citizens who support my reforms. To the one-third who oppose the reforms, and are active in Republican politics, I want you to know that I hear YOU loud and clear.
I therefore, hereby denounce the 88% of physicians practicing medicine under the wretched reforms, who claim they have improved health care quality and access for my neighbors.
But that’s not all. I promise to build a statutory lock box to prevent those reforms from ever helping 98% of the American people get medical care for their families. We can’t have that.
And if you’re still pissed at me, I’ll also throw in a bonus promise to dismantle the most effective and popular health coverage initiative in America, Medicaid. Will that do it?
While I can’t undo my past wrongs, I want to ensure the American people that I get it. I won’t ever again stoop so low as to double the health coverage rate for vulnerable children.”
He attempted to put this nightmare behind him yesterday, but it was insufficient. If His Mittness will just do the right thing, I think he will be surprised to see how forgiving the American people can be.