The National School Boards Association’s Apology: When “We’re Sorry” Means “We’re Sorry That Our Unethical Tactic Backfired, So Forgive Us And We’ll Try Something Else”

NSBA apology

What’s going on here?

I have a theory.

When the National School Boards Association sent an official letter asking President Biden to have parents investigated as “domestic terrorists” as they were vociferously objecting to their children being indoctrinated in critical race theory and other anti-white, anti-American propaganda, it must have seemed like a good idea at the time. The NSBA missive claimed that school board members were under “immediate threat” of violence by protesting parents. The Justice Department soon after, in a memorandum signed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, sicced the F.B.I. on dissenting parents:

“….The Department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate. In the coming days, the Department will announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.Coordination and partnership with local law enforcement is critical to implementing these measures for the benefit of our nation’s nearly 14,000 public school districts. To this end, I am directing the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working with each United States Attorney, to convene meetings with federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders in each federal judicial district within 30 days of the issuance of this memorandum. These meetings will facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff, and will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment, and response.”

Oops! The memo was immediately assailed by critics, and not only on the Right, as government overreach and intimidation, as well as a political and partisan move to aid and abet a constituency organization pursuing a radical education agenda. Subsequently, information came to light that the letter may well have been triggered by the furious reaction of a parent to the Loudoun (VA) School District’s handling of his daughter’s rape by a skirt-wearing male student who had access to the high school’s girls bathroom due to a new and controversial pro-trans policy. Now the school administrators are caught in a rape cover-up scandal. Meanwhile, Garland’s memorandum was angrily and effectively exposed and condemned by Republicans in a House hearing this week as he unconvincingly insisted that it was not triggered by the NSBA letter, and denied that it was an effort to undermine opposition to what is increasingly being seen as a losing Democratic Party/progressive effort to seed divisive propaganda in the schools.

Garland’s performance was a high-profile disaster, further complicated by the revelation that his son-in-law would directly profit by an increase in critical race theory in public school curricula. Virginia Democrats appear on the verge of losing the State House next month, after candidate Terry McAuliffe said in a televised debate that parents should not be able to tell schools what to teach. President Biden’s popularity is also plummeting, though this issue is just one of many reasons for that.

What to do? I think that the decision was made that the NSBA needed to take one for the team. The White House asked them to say they didn’t mean it what they wrote, and imply that it was their fault that Garland acted against parents, the First Amendment and the right to petition the government. The NSBA just went a little crazy and called engaged parents making reasonable objections at school board meetings “terrorists.” It really LOVES those parents! It’s do-over time!

This is a classic Level 10 on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, “An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.” It is also, if I am correct and this was engineered by desperate White House strategists, astoundingly inept.

Who believes that an organization goes through the heavy process of getting approval for an official letter to the President, sends it, publicizes it, almost immediately gets the action it requested, and then suddenly decides it was all a mistake? It was a “mistake” because the thing blew up in their face, that’s all. But how does the retraction help Garland or Biden? They still reacted to the original letter like Pavlov’s dogs. They still issued a threat they had neither cause nor power nor right to issue. They still signaled—again—that this is a party with a taste for totalitarianism How stupid do these people think we are?

I have to say: I thought the Bush administration was about as incompetent as a group could be. Then Obama topped it: think about the handling of the Gulf oil spill, the roll out of the Obamacare website, the IRS scandal, Syria, the Secret Service, Benghazi, Iran. Amazing. Yet the Trump Administration was a true clown show, maybe a little better than Obama’s, maybe a bit worse, but still, wildly incompetent. Even with a President who is obviously missing a few cards in his deck, and the most unqualified VP since Dan Quayle (at least), I couldn’t imagine that this administration could be more incompetent than the previous one.

And yet it is.

11 thoughts on “The National School Boards Association’s Apology: When “We’re Sorry” Means “We’re Sorry That Our Unethical Tactic Backfired, So Forgive Us And We’ll Try Something Else”

  1. Would that Garland had called for and organized a similarly ambitious response to the organizers of and participants in the mostly peaceful protests.

    I suspect the letter was hatched by Joe’s minions fully in coordination with the school board people. I’m assuming it was written at the direction of the administration.

    • To clarify, I’m referring to the initial letter from the school board group to the administration. That letter did not just arrive on someone’s desk in the DOJ via the USPS.

      • Yes, some of the stories I am reading state that the author did not consult with the NSBA’s board but did consult with the White House.

  2. I was wondering how you would categorise an apology that I remember Heinlein has a character say in The Star Beast. Sadly, it doesn’t quite match what I can find on line, so either I misremembered it or it was altered in the edition I read (which seems likelier to me, so good does it still strike me as being). From faulty memory, it went roughly like this: “I did say you were a fossil, it is true, and I am sorry for it”.

      • Here’s some context. The speaker is a teenaged girl seeking to represent a teenaged boy in a quasi-court proceeding rather than let the family lawyer do so. She has just pointed out various conflicts of interest the lawyer has, calling him a fossil while doing so. The person presiding over things has just admonished her for that, leading to her apologising in this form.

        The issue I was wondering about, of course, is the ambiguity as to the antecedents of her uses of “it”, given that what she uttered at that point was ostensibly an apology.

  3. This administration should get credit for eliminating the incredibly corrosive flood of leaks to the press by senior administration members.

    In addition to that, there’s no way trust of the press would have dipped this low without Biden being elected. Hopefully public trust in the press reaches levels in line with levels they have demonstrated is due until one of their investigative reporters figures out how trust is built.

  4. This administration is doing it’s best to transform Hanlon’s Razor into a muddled mess. That happens when the object of the discussion is flush with both malice and stupidity.

    Congratulations, Biden administration. You are indistinguishable from the Trump administration when it comes to embracing both malice and stupidity. Only Obama’s bunch was worse — they threw “Up yours!” into the mix. Perhaps Biden will get there as well.

    • Will get there? Between Mayor Pete’s shining the nation on while he coos over his recently adopted kids, Garland basically telling the House he won’t conduct an ethics review when the conflict is obvious, and Hunter’s art dealings, I’d say we’re easily at “Up yours,” maybe even “Fuck you and your family,” as Al Capone tells Elliott Ness in The Untouchables.

  5. Granted, the apology, whether forced by Biden or other DNC operatives (to protect McAuliffe?) or trying squelch blowback, is cynical and lame. Any apology including “to be clear” is merely spin, buying time hoping the whole thing goes away.

    Yet, they did real damage with their initial letter to DOJ. Merrick mobilized the entire AG apparatus to intimidate parents into bowing to Big Ed. And it was all based on exaggeration and false information. Merrick didn’t think twice about this response.


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