A lawyer family friend used to describe the best strategy his client could use in explaining past misdeeds as the “dead dog” method. The cross-examining lawyer asks, “Did you do such and such?” Our friend’s client responds, “Yes, I did such and such. And I did more than such and such. I did all these horrible, awful such and suches, and I feel so horrible and awful about them. Let me tell you all the such and suches I did, how horrible they were, and how horrible I feel!” The cross-examining lawyer gets tired of this lament and tries to move on to a new subject but the witness will not let him: “No, wait, I have more to confess, more forgiveness to ask for. I just feel so awful about it, and I can’t get past it.” And so on.
I think our family friend told the story with a mixture of amusement and cynicism. But imagining a sincere situation, the strategy reflects an earnest truth: Horrible misdeeds are overcome through deep appreciation and acknowledgement of their horribleness.
In American pol