Rahim Jaffer’s letter of apology: six lessons from an unwise politician

Rahim Jaffer’s letter of apology: six lessons from an unwise politician

Yesterday, the Toronto Star released a letter from Rahim Jaffer to Mark-Olivier Girard, clerk of the Commons government operations committee, clarifying why he didn’t perform so well at his hearing in April. While the tone is predominantly remorseful, we can’t help but notice how it reads like it was written by a first-year university student asking for a make-up exam. (In Jaffer’s case, it worked; he’s appearing again today.) Students and aspiring politicos could learn something from Jaffer’s backhanded apology. Here, some lessons in spin that can be gleaned from the faded Conservative star.

1. Listen to your lawyer
“I was advised by my lawyer to take time to review e-mails…I ignored that advice.” Funny that Jaffer would need to be reminded of this. Since the whole arrest thing last fall, he and his lawyer have probably been closer than newlyweds.

2. Never pass up an opportunity for a potshot
Contrition doesn’t rule out passive-aggressiveness: “I was just so upset by the treatment of my wife…by the prime minister and other opinion leaders that I felt that I should fix the problem as soon as possible.”  Which leads to…

3. Say no to victim. Say yes to hero
Jaffer wisely takes the stance that he was defending his wife’s honour. The way he describes it, the hearing was basically a barroom brawl.

4. Nothing sounds more professional than a really good modifier
Saying “I regret” just doesn’t cut it—Jaffer “really regrets.” He also signs the letter “Yours very truly.” Understand? He’s very true! He’s really sorry!

5. Don’t forget your roots
“I was also unprepared for the aggressive and nasty tone of the questioning at the committee.” Really? Jaffer’s been off the Hill for only two years and he’s forgotten what politicians are like. Makes us wonder how he ever won an election. Oh, wait.

6. Imply discrimination whenever possible
Jaffer got close to claiming sexism, but he could have stood to go a little further. He talks about how many spouses have government-issued BlackBerrys to keep up with their cabinet minister partners. Why is it a big deal for him to have one? Is it because he’s a man?

• Rahim Jaffer’s letter to Mark-Olivier Girard [Toronto Star—PDF]
• Rahim Jaffer admits he was wrong, delays appearance [Toronto Star]