Apologies Vs. Ethics

American Airlines CEO Donald Carty
A weekly commentary by Face The Nation Anchor Bob Schieffer.

Want to know what offended me the most about the shenanigans of Donald Carty, the guy who ran American airlines?

Well, it was all those apologies he put out after he got caught trying to salt away big bonuses and pensions for himself and the other airline big-wigs after he had convinced the company's pilots, flight attendants and mechanics to take big cuts in their pay and benefits to prevent bankruptcy.

He wasn't sorry for what he's done, of course. He was just sorry he got caught, which brought forth nine apologies.

Well, PR experts and crisis managers make a living by telling business and government leaders in a crunch to do just what Carty did; call a news conference, apologize profusely, say you've learned from the experience and then say it's time to move on. No penalty, of course, just apologize, and most of the time it works.

But what I was thinking about as I watched Carty's numerous mea culpas was how we used to try the same thing when we were kids. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," we'd cry when we saw my mother coming at us. "A little late for that," she'd reply, just before she whacked us.

Well, happily, the American Airlines board, under heavy pressure from the Flight Attendants' Union, took my mother's approach on this one and fired Carty. Good for them.

But watching these business scandals unfold time after time leaves me wondering. These CEOs all seem highly educated in the tactics of excusing outrageous behavior. But what about ethics? Has that become a foreign language no longer required?

It's too bad my mother's no longer around. She could have taught a whole new course at one of those graduate business schools.