In “DeBlasio’s Long Odds” The Putz thinks he can ‘splain why liberals won’t be able to win their war on inequality. It’s a typical Putzian screed. “John Murphy” from NH had this to say about it: “Funny how your “most research indicates” link goes to an article completely lacking citations on a site full of conservative-slanted articles and not, say, to actual research papers.” What a surprise… MoDo has a question in “The Commish, the 2nd Time Around:” Can Bill Bratton, the old and new police commissioner, stop the “Bonfire of the Vanities” predicted by the Bloombergians? In “Compromise: Not a 4-Letter Word: The Moustache of Wisdom says there is a sensible path forward on America’s biggest challenges if Congress would only do the right thing and take it. Right, Tommy. You go and explain that to Louie Gohmert. I’ll wait… Mr. Kristof gives us “First Up, Mental Illness. Next Topic Is Up to You.” He has a question for Times readers: What neglected topics would you like to see explored in 2014? In “One Marine’s Dying Wish” Mr. Bruni says the military found dishonor in Hal Faulkner’s homosexuality. He didn’t want that senseless verdict to survive him. Here, FSM help us, is The Putz:
This much can be said for Bill de Blasio’s inauguration, which featured a concentration of left-wing agitprop unseen since the last time Pete Seeger occupied a stage alone: If the waning years of Barack Obama’s presidency are going to be defined by a liberal crusade against income inequality, there’s no more fitting place to kick it off than New York City.
It’s fitting because a glance at New York’s ever-richer 1 percent, its priced-out middle class and its majestic skyscrapers soaring above pockets of squalor makes it easy enough to understand left-wing populism’s appeal.
But it’s fitting, as well, because New York also illustrates the tensions that make the war on inequality hard to wage, and suggests reasons to question whether it’s actually worth fighting in the first place.
Those tensions start with the fact that despite a run of non-Democratic mayors, the five boroughs have hardly been a laboratory for Social Darwinists in the last two decades. Instead, de Blasio’s “tale of two cities,” one ever-richer and one struggling to keep up, has been unspooling in a liberal metropolis in a liberal state surrounded by a mostly liberal region, where many obvious anti-inequality policy levers are already being pulled.
This doesn’t mean inequality is immune to policy responses, especially when you leap to the national level — a leap, of course, that liberal populists want to see de Blasio’s message make.
But the new mayor’s political coalition also provides a clue as to why a comprehensive policy response may never actually be tried. In his primary upset, de Blasio enjoyed strong backing from the city’s college-educated upper middle class. He even did slightly better among voters making between $100,000 and $200,000 than he did among the poor.
In a way, this shows the potential breadth of populism’s appeal. But while upper-middle-class voters are happy to support higher taxes on 1 percenters — not least because they’re tired of trying to compete with them for schools and real estate — they don’t necessarily want a program that would require their own taxes to rise substantially.
And this is a problem for the populist left, because to build the kind of welfare state — European, Scandinavian — that seems to really level incomes, you need lots of tax dollars from the non-rich. Yet the current Democratic coalition has been built on a promise to never raise taxes on anyone making under $250,000 … or maybe $400,000 … or possibly $500,000, the threshold de Blasio chose.
That promise has made it safe for many well-off voters, in New York and elsewhere, to cast votes for liberal populism. But it’s also made it impossible for the populist war on inequality to ever actually be won.
But should we even want that war to be fought? Here, too, New York’s experience raises difficult questions for egalitarians. Of all the arguments for reducing inequality, the most potent is the claim that a more unequal society is one with fewer opportunities to rise, and that a hardening of class lines in America is intimately connected to growing fortunes at the top.
This makes some intuitive sense, and there is international data — dubbed “the Great Gatsby curve” by the economist Alan Krueger — suggesting a link between inequality and immobility. But within the United States, that link turns out to be much less readily apparent.
Using data from an ambitious research project on social mobility, the Manhattan Institute’s Scott Winship and the Heritage Foundation’s Donald Schneider recently tried to recreate the “Gatsby curve” for U.S. job markets. Instead, they found little-to-no correlation between inequality and mobility across different regions of the country.
And New York illustrates their point, because the city’s extreme income inequality hasn’t led to extreme immobility. In fact, compared with nationwide trends, New Yorkers born into poverty have an above-average chance of rising into the middle class. (And New Yorkers born into affluence have an above-average chance of dropping to the bottom.)
Now it’s true that whatever the link between mobility and equality, there are potential policy moves — an expansion of housing stock, for instance, to make expensive cities more affordable — that would probably address both issues at once.
De Blasio’s signature proposal, universal pre-K, is a more ambiguous case. Most research indicates that early childhood education doesn’t have the benefits to children’s prospects that its advocates suggest. But it’s possible the program could increase the mobility of parents, by lowering costs and stress for two-earner and single-parent households.
But there’s also a pessimistic scenario, in which the growing cost of New York’s existing welfare state means that de Blasio’s crusade ultimately just devolves into interest-group featherbedding, in which the rich are squeezed to benefit a well-compensated public sector and preserve bureaucracies that ought to be reformed.
And that outcome — a populism that marginally inconveniences the richest without meaningfully changing life for anyone else — would be less a model for the post-Obama Democrats than a cautionary tale.
Now that we’ve survived that it’s time to plow through MoDo:
Bill Bratton’s biggest problem right now might not be stop-and-frisk.
It might be stop-and-sulk.
Given a new mayor who catapulted into office by castigating the police, given a City Council that passed two punitive bills related to the police and racial profiling, given the prospect of federal oversight on stop-and-frisk, given the overshadowing of the stunning drop in crime by the open sore of racial insensitivity, New York police may decide to engage in, as police call it, de-policing.
If morale sinks too low, one former New York City police official suggests, officers may not go after criminals “in the most aggressive fashion.”
“Right now, police in New York are not happy,” the new commissioner conceded in his conference room at police headquarters Friday evening, surrounded by walls of video screens tracking crime around the city. “They’re frustrated because their good work really did get banged around in the campaign.”
There was a record decline in crime and a record increase in tourism, Bratton said, and “cops aren’t feeling the residual benefit of that.”
He said “the most angst” was being caused by a City Council bill expanding the ability to sue over racial profiling by officers, because police see it as a risk to themselves and their families.
He said New York has “a crisis of confidence on the part of the cops about what it is that we can do” and “a crisis of confidence in the public about what the cops have been doing.”
Bratton, always very popular with the police who work for him, has been through it before. When he went to head the L.A. force in 2002, he said, police were so demoralized by cascading troubles and bad leadership that some sank into a “drive by and wave” mode.
While diplomatically praising his old rival Ray Kelly, Bratton also noted that there were missed opportunities to curb stop-and-frisk.
“The shame of it,” he said, “is it probably could have been addressed a year or two years ago but for the intransigence of Mayor Bloomberg. I hesitate to describe it as intransigence because I really do believe that both Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly, both good men, both committed to keeping this city safe, really deeply believed that the reason crime was going down, the reason there was less gun violence, the reason there were fewer guns being taken off the street, was because of the increasing numbers of stop-question-frisk.
“And eventually because of that unwillingness to step back from that posture, it became a rallying cry for a number of the mayoral candidates, including Mayor de Blasio, who was able to most successfully use it as a platform.”
Police, he said, “need clear guidelines, clear guardrails, and we don’t have that right now.” They are comfortable re-engaging, he said, when they have those guardrails.
In Bloomberg’s final years as mayor, Bratton said, “Cops themselves felt that they were in a no-win position. They had an administration, Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelly, who were demanding more and more and more. And the cops themselves felt, you know, it’s too much. And the community was saying it’s too much. It’s like a doctor giving too much chemotherapy: ‘Doctor I’m feeling better but you’re giving me all this chemo and I’m feeling worse again.’ ”
In L.A. in 2002, Bratton faced a crisis where morale was low after a corruption scandal and after the city was crowned the murder capital of America, and an inspector general was on hand for oversight. “We got the cops out of their cars,” he said. “They got back to making arrests. They got back to doing stop-question-frisk. But they were also doing it in a way that was focused.”
His initiatives focusing on gangs and crime data, he asserted, allowed the police an appropriate structure “so that every black kid that was wearing a long white T-shirt with shorts wasn’t thought of as a potential suspect.”
The last time Bill Bratton became police commissioner of New York, in 1994, his mission was to take back the city. Now his mission is to back off — to rein in the force enough so that minorities do not feel hounded. The last time he was Top Cop, his boss was Mr. Law and Order, and Bratton was the tip of Rudy Giuliani’s spear. This time, he’s working for a liberal populist mayor who got elected thrashing the excesses of stop-and-frisk, and he’s supervising police officers who are trepidatious about working for a man who won office by stoking the fires of public opinion against them. (Dante de Blasio did a potent ad for his father noting that he might be a likely candidate for stop-and-frisk.)
Trying to help Christine Quinn (tepidly) and stop de Blasio during the mayoral primary, Michael Bloomberg’s aides fed the paranoia that under de Blasio, New York would flame into “Bonfire of the Vanities.” Bratton must be the affirmative answer to all the jittery New Yorkers asking “Is it safe?,” fearing that fiends are going to start climbing out of manholes if the new mayor goes all flower power on crime. And he must be the affirmative answer to the minority community’s demand for more sensitivity.
After 20 years of news conferences touting crime declines and a safer city, if crime stops going down — let alone if it goes up — it will be a political catastrophe for City Hall.
Even for a master at shaping perception like Bratton, it’s going to require exquisite balance. Skeptics on both sides of the spectrum, from Al Sharpton to former Mayor Bloomberg, suggest the changes on stop-and-frisk may be cosmetic.
On the eve of leaving office, Bloomberg, defensive about the scar on his legacy, noted to Capital New York that in L.A. Bratton — considered the godfather of the sort of aggressive policing tools that have come under fire — was just as much a proponent of stop-and-frisk as Kelly was. “Bratton did more stop and frisks per capita than Kelly did,” Bloomberg said. “They’ll call it ‘frisk and stop’ instead of stop-and-frisk.”
Bratton mulled that his specialty had been coming in to lead police departments “in total crisis” and, in a way, he violated his own philosophy by following someone so successful.
But he believes he can resolve the problems with stop-and-frisk and shaky morale. “I didn’t come back to New York to fail,” he said flatly, dapper as ever in a Hermès tie with elephants and a blue Rolex watch his wife gave him.
Bratton said he wants to bring in a language expert, as he did back in 1994, to train police on the best ways to use language to “calm down incidents” by being respectful rather than ratchet them up by being confrontational.
Noting that you have to use stop-and-frisk “with skill,” he said: “We have an expression in policing that it’s not the use of force that gets cops in trouble, it’s the use of language.”
He said an officer who says, “Sir, can I speak to you?,” rather than “Hey, you, get over here,” will be more productive. They also need exit strategies, he said, to depart from encounters without “demeaning” people.
He knows he has a super-healthy ego but says it just reflects confidence. He notes that his famously fractious relationship with Giuliani — Rudy grew envious of Bratton’s glowing press as “America’s Top Cop” and forced him out — taught him a good lesson. He plans to meet with Mayor de Blasio once a week — “no matter what” — to encourage transparency, so that gossip doesn’t “fester.”
He said everything was going well so far, even though they are only on the third day of their relationship.
His experience with Rudy and two mayors in L.A. has taught him this: “You’ve got to keep them informed. Try to have no surprises, if you will.”
With that, he headed off through the snowy streets for a meeting with the mayor.
Next up we’ve got The Moustache of Wisdom:
Former Senator Alan Simpson likes to say that if you can’t learn to compromise on issues without compromising yourself, you should not be in Congress, be in business or get married. It is amazing how many people violate that rule, but especially in Congress and especially among the Tea Party types, where calling someone a “deal maker” is now the ultimate put down. What makes it crazier is that in American education, innovation and commerce today, “collaboration” is being taught and rewarded as the best way to do anything big, important and complex. Indeed, in Silicon Valley, a “collaborator” means someone with whom you’re building something great. In D.C., it means someone committing political treason by working with the other party. And that is why Silicon Valley is now the turbo-engine of our economy and D.C. is the dead hand.
To be sure, in politics compromise is not a virtue in and of itself. There are questions of true principle — civil rights, for instance — where compromise might kill the principled choice. But there has been an inflation of “principles” lately that is inhibiting compromise. A certain tax rate or retirement age is not a principle. It’s an interest that needs to be balanced against others. Today, we would be best served in meeting our biggest challenges by adopting a hybrid of the best ideas of left and right — and the fact that we can’t is sapping our strength.
For instance, on the debt/spending issue, Congress should be borrowing money at these unusually low rates to invest in a 10-year upgrade of our crumbling infrastructure (roads, bridges, telecom, ports, airports and rail lines) and in a huge funding increase for our national laboratories, research universities and institutes of health, which are the gardens for so many start-ups. Together, such an investment would stimulate sustained employment, innovation and the wealth creation to pay for it.
But this near-term investment should be paired with long-term entitlement reductions, defense cuts and tax reform that would be phased in gradually as the economy improves, so we do not add to the already heavy fiscal burden on our children, deprive them of future investment resources or leave our economy vulnerable to unforeseen shocks, future recessions or the stresses that are sure to come when all the baby boomers retire. President Obama has favored such a hybrid, but it was shot down by the Tea Party wing, before we could see if he could really sell it to his base.
We should exploit our new natural gas bounty, but only by pairing it with the highest environmental extraction rules and a national, steadily rising, renewable energy portfolio standard that would ensure that natural gas replaces coal — not solar, wind or other renewables. That way shale gas becomes a bridge to a cleaner energy future, not just an addiction to a less dirty, climate-destabilizing fossil fuel.
In some cities, teachers’ unions really are holding up education reform. But we need to stop blaming teachers alone. We also have a parent problem: parents who do not take an interest in their children’s schooling or set high standards. And we have a student problem: students who do not understand the connection between their skills and their life opportunities and are unwilling to work to today’s global standards. Reform requires a hybrid of both teacher reform and a sustained — not just one speech — national campaign to challenge parents and create a culture of respect and excitement for learning. Obama has failed to use his unique bully pulpit to lead such a campaign.
Finally, the merger of globalization and the information-technology revolution has shrunk the basis of the old middle class — the high-wage, middle-skilled job. Increasingly, there are only high-wage, high-skilled jobs. This merger of globalization and I.T. has put capitalism — and its core engine of creative destruction — on steroids. That’s why Republicans are wrong when they oppose raising minimum wages and expanding national health care. These kinds of social safety nets make the free market possible; otherwise people won’t put up with creative destruction on steroids.
But it is capitalism, start-ups, risk-taking and entrepreneurship that make these safety nets affordable, which is why we need more tax incentives for start-ups, the substitutions of carbon taxes for payroll and corporate taxes, and more cuts to regulations that burden business. Unfortunately, promotion of risk-taking and risk-takers is disappearing from the Democratic Party agenda. Its energy and excitement is focused much more today on wealth redistribution than wealth creation. On immigration, Senate Democrats and Republicans forged a sensible hybrid solution, but Tea Partiers in the House are blocking it.
These hybrid solutions are not how to split the difference. They’re how to make a difference. But they only get forged if Republican leaders take on the Tea Party — which transformed the G.O.P. into a far-right party, uninterested in governing — and remake the G.O.P. into a center-right party again. If that happened, I’m certain that a second-term Obama, who is much more center-left than the ridiculous G.O.P. caricatures, would meet them in the middle. Absent that, we’re going to drift, unable to address effectively any of our biggest challenges or opportunities.
We’ll try to draw the veil of charity over the fact that he started off by invoking Simpson. Here’s Mr. Kristof:
Those of us in the pundit world tend to blather on about what happened yesterday, while often ignoring what happens every day. We stir up topics already on the agenda, but we falter at calling attention to crucial-but-neglected issues.
So here’s your chance to tell us what we’re missing. I invite readers to suggest issues that deserve more attention in 2014. Make your suggestions on my blog, nytimes.com/ontheground. I hope to quote from some of your ideas in a future column.
My own suggestion for a systematically neglected issue: mental health. One-quarter of American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder, including depression, anorexia, post-traumatic stress disorder and more, according to the National Institutes of Health. Such disorders are the leading cause of disability in the United States and Canada, the N.I.H. says.
A parent with depression. A lover who is bipolar. A child with an eating disorder. A brother who returned from war with P.T.S.D. A sister who is suicidal.
All across America and the world, families struggle with these issues, but people are more likely to cry quietly in bed than speak out. These mental health issues pose a greater risk to our well-being than, say, the Afghan Taliban or Al Qaeda terrorists, yet in polite society there is still something of a code of silence around these topics.
We in the news business have devoted vast coverage to political battles over health care, deservedly, but we don’t delve enough into underlying mental health issues that are crucial to national well-being.
Indeed, when the news media do cover mental health, we do so mostly in extreme situations such as a mass shooting. That leads the public to think of mental disorders as dangerous, stigmatizing those who are mentally ill and making it harder for them to find friends or get family support.
In fact, says an Institute of Medicine report, the danger is “greatly exaggerated” in the public mind. The report concluded: “although findings of many studies suggest a link between mental illnesses and violence, the contribution of people with mental illnesses to overall rates of violence is small.”
Put simply, the great majority of people who are mentally ill are not violent and do not constitute a threat — except, sometimes, to themselves. Every year, 38,000 Americans commit suicide, and 90 percent of them are said to suffer from mental illness.
One study found that anorexia is by far the most deadly psychiatric disorder, partly because of greatly elevated suicide risk.
Mental illness is also linked to narcotics and alcoholism, homelessness, parenting problems and cycles of poverty. One study found that 55 percent of American infants in poverty are raised by mothers with symptoms of depression, which impairs child rearing.
So if we want to tackle a broad range of social pathologies and inequities, we as a society have to break taboos about mental health. There has been progress, and news organizations can help accelerate it. But too often our coverage just aggravates the stigma and thereby encourages more silence.
The truth is that mental illness is not hopeless, and people recover all the time. Consider John Nash, the Princeton University mathematics genius who after a brilliant early career then tumbled into delusions and involuntary hospitalization — captured by the book and movie “A Beautiful Mind.” Nash spent decades as an obscure, mumbling presence on the Princeton campus before regaining his mental health and winning the Nobel Prize for economics.
Although treatments are available, we often don’t provide care, so the mentally ill disproportionately end up in prison or on the streets.
One example of a cost-effective approach employs a case worker to help mentally ill people leaving a hospital or shelter as they adjust to life in the outside world. Randomized trials have found that this support dramatically reduces subsequent homelessness and hospitalization.
Researchers found that the $6,300 cost per person in the program was offset by $24,000 in savings because of reduced hospitalization. In short, the program more than paid for itself. But we as a society hugely underinvest in mental health services.
Children in particular don’t get treated nearly often enough. The American Journal of Psychiatry reports that of children ages 6 to 17 who need mental health services, 80 percent don’t get help. Racial and ethnic minorities are even more underserved.
So mental health gets my vote as a major neglected issue meriting more attention. It’s not sexy, and it doesn’t involve Democrats and Republicans screaming at each other, but it is a source of incalculable suffering that can be remedied.
Now it’s your turn to suggest neglected issues for coverage in 2014. I’ll be back with a report.
And last but not least we get to Mr. Bruni, writing from Fort Lauderdale:
We don’t get any say about the kind of world we’re born into — about whether it’s prepared for the likes of us, whether it will open its arms. Hal Faulkner certainly didn’t get the world he deserved. It was needlessly cruel to him, senselessly judgmental. For the most part, he made peace with that.
But over the last few months, with cancer spreading fast through his body and time running out, his thoughts turned to one aspect of that landscape that he could perhaps revisit, one wrinkle he might be able to revise, a wrong he had a chance of righting before his death.
Back in 1956, when he was 22, he was discharged from the Marines after more than three years of proud service. There were no real blots on his record. No complaints of incompetence or laziness or insubordination. There was only this: A man with whom Hal had spent some off-duty time informed Hal’s commanding officer that Hal was gay. The commanding officer suspected that this was true and, on that basis, determined that Hal had to go. The discharge was classified as “other than honorable.”
“It wrecked me,” Hal told me when I visited him on Friday at his home here on the 16th floor of a high-rise with a panoramic view of the Atlantic. The morning was gloriously sunny, but tears streamed down his cheeks. Although more than half a century has passed since that harsh judgment — he’s 79 now — it has always stayed with him, a tight, stubborn knot of sadness and anger.
“They gave up on me,” he said, referring to the Marines. “I never forget it.” He was haunted in particular by those three words — “other than honorable” — and wanted more than anything to have them excised from his epitaph. That became his dying wish: that those words not outlive him.
Before federal law was changed in 2011, more than 110,000 gay, lesbian and bisexual people were discharged from the United States military over time because of their sexual orientation. And until the 1990s, when the policy tweak known as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” vaguely softened the prohibition against gays in the armed services, it was common for such discharges to be dishonorable ones that barred gay veterans from receiving any benefits and sometimes disqualified them from civilian jobs they later sought.
But now that the military accepts gays, there is also a process that permits those who were dishonorably discharged to appeal for reclassifications of those dismissals as honorable. A military spokesman said last week that he didn’t know how many veterans had sought to take advantage of it, or with what success. But Hal caught wind of it, and knew that he had to try.
He grew up on a cattle ranch in northern Florida, in a strict Southern Baptist family. He was one of eight children. His father died when he was 7, and his family struggled financially afterward. Although Hal (a nickname for Alfred) graduated from high school, college wasn’t in the cards.
He enlisted in 1953 and attended boot camp in South Carolina from June to August, “the hottest months of the year,” as he said in an email in September to OutServe-SLDN, an advocacy group for gay service members. He was telling them his story in the hopes of rallying them to his cause.
He rose in the Marines from private first class to corporal and then to sergeant, and he landed a plum assignment in the Philippines. “I would have ascended to the top,” he told me. “And yet I couldn’t be what I wanted to be.”
He prospered nonetheless. In a company that sold heavy construction and road-making equipment, he worked his way up to an executive sales position. “I helped build Walt Disney World,” he said.
But he grew increasingly conflicted about his hand in paving so much of Florida and switched courses, joining a firm that made tools and technology for guarding against environmental degradation.
He lived well: expensive cars, world travel, a collection of Native American art.
But the bigotry that ended his military career followed him beyond that point, and so did the fear of it. He lost another treasured job, he said, because of his sexual orientation. And from the 1950s through at least the 1970s, he felt that financial security and success hinged on a certain degree of secrecy. Had he been more open about being gay, he said: “I wouldn’t be here today. I’d probably be on the street.”
It wasn’t until 2005 that he finally brought Charles, his longtime partner and “the love of my life,” to a big family gathering. A few years later, Charles died, and Hal now lives alone, with round-the-clock help from a home health care attendant.
When he received a diagnosis of cancer in his lungs, liver and adrenal glands a year ago, he was given about six months to live. He’s at least 50 pounds thinner than he once was and moves through his apartment on a tiny scooter. He’s almost deaf, his speech is labored and his thoughts are sometimes confused. To piece together his story, I relied heavily on two nieces who visit him regularly, Michelle and Deborah, and on Anne Brooksher-Yen, the New York lawyer who took on his discharge appeal.
The case came to her only two months ago, when doctors were saying that Hal might have only weeks left. She was racing the clock. She pressed the military for an expedited decision. It arrived in a letter in mid-December, and she traveled all the way to Fort Lauderdale for a gathering on Friday afternoon at which the letter was presented to Hal.
John Gillespie, a member of OutServe-SLDN’s board of directors, traveled here, too, from Mississippi, and he arranged for two local Marines, in uniform, to be on hand to congratulate Hal, who’d been told what the letter said and would now get a special moment to savor it.
“He lived his entire adult life with this shame and this stain on his honor,” John said to me, explaining why he insisted on creating that moment. “The world has changed so much that with the stroke of a pen, that stain and that shame are gone.”
At the gathering, in a penthouse apartment a few floors above Hal’s, he was given a red Marine cap, but when he tried to put it on, he screamed. There are painful nodules on his scalp from the rapidly spreading cancer.
“They hurt so bad,” he said to John, Anne, his two nieces and several friends from the building. But he wasn’t complaining. He was making clear that he wasn’t being discourteous by not wearing the gift.
John read from the letter, including its assurance that Hal’s military record would “be corrected to show that he received an honorable discharge.” When Hal took the letter from him, he didn’t hold it so much as knead it, pressing tighter and tighter, maybe because he was visibly fighting tears.
“I don’t have much longer to live,” he said, “but I shall always remember it.” He thanked Anne. He thanked his nieces. He thanked the Marines. He even thanked people in the room whom he had no reason to thank.
Someone went off to mix him a Scotch-and-soda, and he finally gave in. He sobbed.
“It’s often said that a man doesn’t cry,” he said. “I am a Marine and I am a man. So please forgive me.”
His remarks hung there, because he’d used the present tense. Am a Marine. And because he was saying he was sorry, this veteran whose country owed him an apology for too long.