Some cynical types have expressed anger that I have enthusiastically lauded Vice President Cheney in my column today for being a stand-up guy and owning up to being responsible for shooting Mr. Whittington. They impute all sorts of motives, ulterior and Machiavellian, to his words.
To me, the first obligation of the commentator is to take a person at his word unless I see evasive game-playing in the phrasing of the statement itself, such as we have often encountered in American politics, from Nixon's "I am not a crook" to Reagan's "Mistakes were made" to Clinton's "It depends what the meaning of is is" to Gore's "No controlling legal authority".
Also, no matter how much political or other advantage accrues to the confessor, people of weak character are startlingly prideful in their refusal to acknowledge guilt. We need only look to Martha Stewart, who spent five months in jail rather than admit that she cut some corners in her stock trading.