It seems to have become fashionable in politics to issue apologies for deeds undertaken years, sometimes decades, before the current generation of politicians were even born. In recent years we have had Tony Blair expressing ‘sorrow’ for the slave trade for which he was then roundly attacked as he didn’t actually say ‘sorry’.
In Australia we’ve seen the government make a formal apology for the past ‘wrongs’ caused by successive governments on the indigenous Aboriginal population. Gordon Brown apologised to the 150,000 children, some told they were orphans, sent abroad to countries like Australia and Canada between 1920 and 1967.
In the U.S. they have built into their political culture a system of pardoning people for past indiscretions. Politicians at various levels, up to and including the President, have the power to over-ride the decisions of the courts, seeing jail sentences curtailed or individuals pardoned well after they have left this earth.
This trend seemingly is due to continue, as well as sink to new lows, as Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, has said he is reviewing a pardon petition for Billy the Kid. The infamous outlaw was shot and killed in 1881, but not before he killed 21 men.
Instead of scrabbling for opportunities to demonstrate their contriteness for events well out of their control, voters have made it clear they would prefer politicians to take responsibility for what is happening today.