In his apology for using an old slur against immigrant migrant workers, especially those from Mexico, Alaska Rep. Don Young said there was no malice in his heart.
We believe him. Our problem isn't with Young's heart. It's with his head.
What was he thinking?
Apparently he wasn't, and that thoughtlessness prompted a fierce reaction, not least from his fellow Republicans.
Yes, Young's use of "wetback" was a big political gaffe, one likely to damage GOP efforts to cultivate the growing Latino vote in the U.S.
But politics aside, Young's use of the word was just plain wrong.
The most telling criticism came from Texas Democratic Rep. Rubio Hinohosa, who noted that Young has served in the House since 1973 alongside Hispanic colleagues, and should know that that word has never been acceptable.
Young also represents a state that counts among its residents many people from around the world, including a fair number from Latin America.
Young has a well-earned reputation for embarrassing himself and Alaska. Still, a majority of Alaskans keep sending him back to Washington. Why? In part because for all his mangled language and comedic gaffes -- from leg-hold traps on the House floor to propeller-head caps in committee -- Young has been a tough, astute campaigner. Rather than wince at his antics, many Alaskans cheer them.
As a state, we seem to have developed an attitude that says, with a shrug, "That's our Don," as if we'd married him -- for better and worse.
In the last few weeks we've had a double-dose of worse. A House subcommittee has announced an investigation of alleged unethical behavior by Young (it's hard to keep track of all the investigations). He's never been convicted or censured, but he's spent years under one cloud of suspicion or another.
And now he embarrasses himself, his state, his party and the Congress with a slur on migrant workers at a time when the nation is trying to settle thorny questions of immigration reform. (Most of us are the descendents of immigrants who came to America looking for a better life, and without engraved invitations.)
Alaska's patience with Young seems as inexhaustible as it is inexplicable. Is it too much to ask that we see a level of performance and statesmanship that justifies such patience?
BOTTOM LINE: Young embarrasses. Again.