It's a lost art, slinking away.
Now the fashion is slinking back.
Nobody wants to simply admit they made a mistake and disappear for awhile. Nobody even wants to use the weasel words: "Mistakes were made." No, far better to pop right back up and get in the face of those who were savoring your absence.
We should think of a name for this appalling modern phenomenon. Kissingering, perhaps.
In Las Vegas, there's the loathsome O.J., a proper candidate for shunning and stun-gunning, barging back into the picture.
And on Capitol Hill, Larry Craig shocked mortified Republicans by bounding into their weekly lunch. You'd think the conservative 62-year-old Idaho senator would have some shame, going from fervently opposing gay rights to provocatively tapping his toe in a Minneapolis airport toilet. (The toilet stall, now known as the Larry Craig bathroom, has become a hot local tourist attraction.)
As though Republicans don't have enough problems, Craig said he is ready to go back to work while the legal hotshots he hired appeal his case. He even cast a couple votes, one against D.C. voting rights. (This creep gets to decide about my representation?)
Even if President Bush is "the cockiest guy" around, as former Mexican President Vicente Fox writes in a new memoir critical of W.'s "grade-school-level" Spanish and his grade-school-level Iraq policy, he can't be feeling good about the barbs being hurled his way by former supporters and enablers.
Rummy's back in the news, giving interviews about a planned memoir and foundation designed to encourage "reasoned and civil debate" about global challenges and to spur more young people to go into government.
It's rich. Maybe more young people would go into government if they didn't have to work for devious bullies like Rummy who make huge life-and-death mistakes and then don't apologize.
In The Washington Post, he blamed the press and Congress for creating an inhospitable atmosphere that drives good people away from public service. Maybe that's why he and his evil twin, Dick Cheney, did their best to undermine the constitutional system of checks and balances - so they could get more fine young people to serve.
Does the man blamed for creating civil disorder in Iraq even know what the word "civil" means? Wasn't he the prickly Pentagon chief who got furious with anyone who didn't agree with him on "global challenges"? He shoved Gen. Eric Shinseki into retirement - and failed to show up at his retirement party - after the good general correctly told Congress that it would take several hundred thousand troops to invade and control Iraq. And he snubbed the German defense minister when Germany joined the Coalition of the Unwilling.
He was the one, right after Sept. 11, who began pushing to go after Saddam. He and Cheney were orchestrating the invasion from the start, guiding the dauphin with warnings about how weak he would seem if he let Saddam mock him.
The ultimate bureaucratic infighter wrote the memo as part of his Socratic strategy, asking a lot of questions when he was already pushing to go into Iraq. He never did any contingency planning in case those things went wrong; the memo was there simply so that someday he could pull it out for a reporter.
Even though he rubber-stamped W.'s tax cuts, Alan Greenspan is now upbraiding the president and vice president for profligate spending and putting politics ahead of sound economics.
He also says in his new memoir that "the Iraq war is largely about oil," telling Bob Woodward that he had privately told W. and Cheney that ousting Saddam was "essential" to keep world oil supplies safe.
Irrational exuberance, i ndeed. ...
Maureen Dowd, a columnist for the New York Times, can be reached at The New York Times, editorial department, 229 W. 43rd St., New York, NY 10036.