I want to add a few thoughts to Jonathan’s post on MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, who apologized for his vulgar comments about Laura Ingraham and was suspended by the network.

The apology was heartfelt enough, and Laura was gracious enough to accept it. But it’s also worth taking into account, as Jonathan does, that Schultz’s crude insult wasn’t (for him) anomalous. Anyone who has seen his program, even for brief periods, can’t help but be struck by the thuggish vocabulary he routinely employs. He doesn’t simply disagree with conservatives; he downright hates them. (In that sense, he was a logical replacement for Keith Olbermann’s time slot.)

What Schultz said about Ingraham, then, was perfectly in line with his concept of public discourse and therefore predictable. It’s also reasonable to assume that his remorse, while sincere, wasn’t spontaneous. It was undoubtedly inspired by a realization that he had upset MSNBC’s new management. That’s fine; for most of us even our best motivations are often tainted by pride and self-interest.

In any event, the acid test is whether, when Schultz returns, he has altered in any meaningful sense his ways. It’s not easy to change the habits of a professional lifetime. If Ed Schultz can do it—if he can become a passionate but not brutish voice on the left—more power to him. If he can’t, then his emotional (and much-commented upon) apology won’t count for very much at all.

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