When I first read the text of Randy Cunningham’s statement acknowledging having taken bribes and announcing his resignation from the House, I thought to myself man, I just love these speeches. I love it when a politician comes out and delivers his mea culpa, acknowledging what half of us knew perfectly well already, and shifting seamlessly from contrition to the tearful appeal for our sympathy. Here’s the text, as I read it at Talking Points Memo:
I am resigning from the House of Representatives because I’ve compromised the trust of my constituents.
When I announced several months ago that I would not seek re-election, I publicly declared my innocence because I was not strong enough to face the truth. So, I misled my family, staff, friends, colleagues, the public — even myself. For all of this, I am deeply sorry.
The truth is — I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my high office. I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, and most importantly, the trust of my friends and family.
Some time ago, I asked my lawyers to inform the U.S. Attorney Carol Lam that I would like to plead guilty and begin serving a prison term. Today is the culmination of that process. I will continue to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation to the best of my ability.
In my life, I have known great joy and great sorrow. And now I know great shame. I learned in Viet Nam that the true measure of a man is how he responds to adversity. I cannot undo what I have done. But I can atone. I am now almost 65 years old and, as I enter the twilight of my life, I intend to use the remaining time that God grants me to make amends.
The first step in that journey is to admit fault and apologize. The next step is to face the consequences of my actions like a man. Today, I have taken the first step and, with God’s grace, I will soon take the second.
Cue the violins, right? I was reminded of Clinton’s speech coming clean about Monica (sort of) in the wake of the blue dress.
So now I’ve actually watched the video of Cunningham delivering the statement, courtesy of Crooks and Liars. And I don’t know. Call me a sucker, but I sure want to be taken in by it. I want to believe that that’s real contrition, that Cunningham means it, and isn’t just playing for sympathy with that “twilight of my life” stuff.
But then I think about Aaron Broussard, and his tears, and my heart hardens a bit.
I guess when you get right down to it I don’t know what’s real here. Except that the things Randy Cunningham said in the course of that statement were all starkly, verifiably true. What a moment it must be for a corrupt politician, someone who’s been sucking down millions of dollars in bribes and casually shelling out favorable treatment in response, to stand in front of those lenses and that microphone and actually speak the final, irrevocable truth.
Like I said, watching him, I want to believe. Does that make me a putz?