Joe Biden Does Something Heroic

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., pauses during his remarks at the Democratic National Committee Winter Meeting in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2007. Biden expressed regret for describing presidential rival Barack Obama as an articulate and clean African-American, trying to stem damage to his nascent 2008 campaign.
AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari
Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) was in the news recently for saying some things that he wished he hadn't said. Presumably intending to compliment Barack Obama, Biden made some remarks that were patronizing, at best. I salute him.

Why? Do I approve of making thoughtless remarks about African-Americans? Of course not. Do I think he should have thought before he spoke? You bet. But I admire him for what he didn't do. After saying something stupid and embarrassing and potentially harmful to his career, he didn't run off to a rehab center.

Biden took responsibility for his actions, didn't blame them on anything that happened in his childhood, and apologized. That kind of heroic behavior is very rare today.

When Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, admitted to and apologized for having an affair with his best friend's wife, he didn't mention therapy or rehab either. So, two politicians in the same week didn't hide behind the counseling card. It seemed too good to be true.

It was. Newsom held out for only five days before he announced that he would be seeking treatment for "alcohol use." His office also said that this "treatment" will not take him away from any time as mayor or as a candidate for re-election. Sounds like pretty serious therapy to me.

I have great respect for alcoholics and other addicts, people with eating disorders, and those with depression and other medical problems who go into rehab or counseling and try to get help. I'm sure it takes great courage to confront these problems. However, in recent years, the "rehab center" has provided a sanctuary for famous people who have messed up. We hear too much about rehab and not enough about responsibility.

Today, people go into rehab or therapy to supposedly help them after they have spewed vile anti-Semitic, racist, or anti-gay remarks. And they go for flirting with minors over the Internet. Then after their 30 days of rehab is up, I guess we're all supposed to forgive them or forget about whatever they did.

This "quick fix" approach is particularly annoying. I'm sure that some of these people could really use psychiatric help. But let them apologize first, take responsibility for what they've done, and then recognize that they may need to be in therapy for a lot longer than a month. When they go into counseling for less time than most of their TV series last, I tend to doubt their sincerity.

Often these stays in rehab or on a psychiatrist's couch are combined with claims of alcoholism or of being mistreated as a child. Again, these are serious things for a person to deal with, but I don't see how, for example, Mel Gibson's being treated for alcoholism could help get rid of his anti-Semitism. The booze didn't put those thoughts in his head. I'm sure we all know people who've gotten drunk who don't suddenly start blaming Jews for all the wars in the world.

In this age of specialization, soon there will probably be separate rehab centers for different "conditions." There will be The Rehab Center for People Who Say Hateful Things, The Rehab Center for People Who Say They Are Addicted To Performing Sexual Acts They Wish They Didn't Do, and, of course, The Rehab Center for Celebrities Who Haven't Had Their Names in the Papers Lately.

As these places proliferate, there will be centers for "regular people," not just celebrities. So, look for people to say things like, "I know I should rinse off my own dishes, but I have a real problem. So, I'm going into rehab for 30 days." Similarly, we may be asked to forgive people who check themselves into places such as, The Rehab Center for People Who Promise to Call Back But Don't, and The Rehab Center for People Who Never Pick Up The Check.

In other words, I have the feeling that running off to rehab is just going to get worse.

I won't be surprised if President Bush and his buddies end up going the rehab route. It just might be his way out of the Iraq mess. In fact, it's perfect for him. Like so many other people these days, he won't really have to apologize or admit he's been wrong. All he and his colleagues will have to do is say they have a problem. Then they'll check into The Rehab Center for Public Officials Who Are Addicted To Exaggerating Dangers to Convince Us To Go to War.

After 30 days, he'll come out, people will forgive him, and he can start in on Iran.

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, and makes no apologies that some of them were in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver