10/16/2012 07:11 pm ET Updated Dec 16, 2012

Rules of Ettiquette: When To Apologize

Mitt Romney thinks it disgraceful to apologize for America. I think it's useful. Yesterday I left a frying pan on a hot burner. "You left a pan on the stove top. Now the pan is ruined and the kitchen is full of smoke," my wife said.

"It's not my fault," I answered. "It's America's fault."

"How is it America's fault?" she wondered.

"So America is never wrong?" I answered.

"This has nothing to do with America being right or wrong."

"Well I, for one, apologize for America," I responded.

"What do you mean, "you apologize for America?""

"I take it you believe that one should never apologize for America," I said. "Have you joined the Tea Party?"

"This is insane," she cried.

"Now you're Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin. Anyone who disagree with you is insane."

I often apologize for America when I travel. When asked my nationality at French passport control, I respond, "American. We put ketchup on pot roast. I apologize for America." (Nous plaçons le chup du ket sur la roti de la casserole. Je vous prie de m'excuser pour l'Amérique.).

I am whisked through customs while other Americans fill out long forms that begin with "Grandmother's Maiden Name."

Romney should learn that there are times to apologize for America. Suppose there is a long line at the UN cafeteria and America cuts in front of Guinea-Bissau, Djibouti, Nauru and other dweeb nations. Or while attending a meeting of UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Importance of Itsy-Bitsy, Teenie-Weenie countries, co-chaired Moldova, Mauritania, and The Seychelles, America's cellphone rings and America begins loudly chatting with Brazil. In such cases, the president should apologize for America. And not by email, but face to face, or at least by Skype.

Or suppose after being elected, Romney's tough talk and inflexible positions precipitates wars in Syria and Iran. There is a time and a place for apology.