Soon we’ll need a whole Month of Atonement

by Ogi Overman

With all the atoning going around lately, you’d swear half the world had converted to Judaism and was randomly observing Yom Kippur. Maybe we ought to tweak Judaism a bit to allow for all the expiation and penance, stretching it out from a Day of Atonement to a couple of weeks or so. In fact, once the chips start falling as a result all the scandals flying around these days, we might need a whole month to accommodate all these poor repentant souls.

Criminy, it’s gotten so bad that in one day last week we had three semi-teary apologies from three disparate folks ‘— and nary a one was even connected to the Republican Party.

Well, maybe the darling of the Rapture Right, Pat Robertson, does have some GOP ties, come to think of it. You can always count on Robertson for a laugh, but he went off the deep end ‘— even by his standards ‘— with his comment that God struck down Ariel Sharon because he’d committed some sin or other that didn’t conform to Robertson’s fundamentalist view of Christianity. Robertson has some cause-and-effect rule for everything, let’s call it the God’ll-Getcha-For-That Law, that explains everything quite neatly and succinctly in his narrow universe. It’s either good or evil, black or white, right or wrong to him; no nuances, no shades of gray, no room for debate. But when Israel cut off all contact with him after his ill-advised remarks, he saw his planned religious resort in that country that is set up to make him a very rich reverend going up in smoke, so out came the bottom-of-my-heart apologies.

And how about that South Korean doctor (or is he a vet?) who made all those revolutionary claims about cloning stem cells for specific organs that had the world medical community aflutter. Turns out his research was all faked, his claims all lies. In that my wife and millions like her with debilitating diseases had been given false hope because of his lies and character flaws, I hope there’s a special place in hell reserved for him. An oceanful of tears of contrition won’t be enough for me to forgive him.

Then there’s that guy Oprah made a millionaire, James Frey, author of her Book of the Month Selection A Million Little Pieces.’” What a piece of work this guy is! Turns out he embellished his tale of drug addiction, crime and ultimate redemption and recovery purely to make a buck. Now, this one really galls me on several levels. I called one of my AA buddies who’s been in recovery for over 20 years to get his take on it, and his reply was, ‘“What we [in 12-step programs] practice is a program of brutal honesty on a daily basis, and anyone who actually made his 4th step [‘Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves’] worse than it really was clearly has some work to be done. I doubt his recovery is quite complete.’”

As someone who makes his living stringing sentences together, I would be less kind to the guy. I think he’s a charlatan, a flim-flam artist and a complete fraud. Trying to pass off a work of fiction as fact is unconscionable, even if there is some supposed redeeming message in there. I have all the sympathy in the world for those involved in the quest for humility suggested by 12-step programs. But this jerk clearly is not on that quest, but rather the quest for the legal tender.

Okay, turning back to the political realm: is anyone buying this newfound contrition of Duke Cunningham, Michael Scanlon and Jack Abramoff, or even the non-apologetic apologies of Tom DeLay, Dennis Hastert or even The Duh himself? You gotta admit, though, they are some of the best at faking sincerity since Nixon assured us he was not a crook.

But of course we know better, in that none of these oh-so contrite folks ‘fessed up before they’d gotten their asses in a sling, which puts their tears squarely in the crocodile realm inhabited by the likes of Jimmy Swaggert, Jim Bakker, Wilbur Mills and every politico or televangelist who ever got caught with his pants down or his hands in the cookie jar.

A few months from now ‘— after Karl Rove gets indicted, a dozen or so congressmen get caught up in the Abramoff web, the NSA scandal reveals that ordinary citizens who happen not to care for their current president got wiretapped, and the pre-war Iraq lies continue to mount ‘— some of those crocodile tears may actually be real.

But I’ll be laughing.

Ogi can be reached at, heard each Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. on ‘“The Dusty Dunn Show’” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen on ‘“Triad Today’” Friday at 6:30 a.m. on ABC45 and Sunday at 10 p.m. on UPN48.