LET'S ALL GIVE esteemed state Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin a long, slow clap.
Go ahead. I'll wait.
Eakin tearfully apologized yesterday before the judicial ethics court that will determine his fate for exchanging emails that included pictures of naked women and nasty jokes about minorities and homosexuals.
"I am sorry beyond words," he said - although he also said he should be held accountable only for the messages he sent.
So close, judge . . .
It would have sounded like a sincere apology if it wasn't such a hollow one, because the proper thing to do - the thing Judge Eakin failed to do - was to decry these emails forcefully the moment he saw them.
That's the least we should expect from a public official in his position.
Well, that and not exchanging lewd jokes about female employees with Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Baxter. But, hey, Baxter sent one of the women flowers as an apology, so . . .
I am sorry, too, judge - but not beyond words and certainly not because a bunch of lawmakers got caught being dirty old men.
I'm sorry that this disaster keeps unraveling to show just how low some public servants will stoop to save their own skins while taking each other down.
And no, I'm not just talking about the emails that have served as a frightening window into the character of officials who hold the fates of so many in their hands. I'm talking about the shameless use of the gender and race cards.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane's claims that her job is in dire jeopardy because she challenged the judicial system's "old boys club" could be called desperate if not for the fact that it is so infuriating.
She has consistently called the emails unacceptable - until it was revealed that her twin sister, Ellen Granahan, the chief deputy in Kane's office, also exchanged similar messages.
The Kane camp's initial response: What emails? And then a few hours later: Oh, those emails . . . Those aren't nearly as bad.
Nice try, but you can't go after the boys' club and then shrug when it turns out your twin sister might very well be a member.
Later, Kane's camp said Granahan's emails would be independently reviewed. But really? Credibility, meet window.
Then there's the race card her camp also threw out when she alleged that a sting investigation launched by two prosecutors under fire for their own pervy emails targeted politicians of color.
Except that last week, the attorney for State Rep. Louise Williams Bishop, who got caught up in the investigation involving payoffs from a political lobbyist, said that after reviewing grand-jury testimony and other information, there was no racial bias.
"I want to apologize to anyone I might have offended," said defense attorney Charles Peruto, after he got his client a sweet deal.
Oh, how so many have offended . . . Let me count the ways:
By disgracing your offices and positions by acting like a bunch of pimply faced pre-pubescents.
By breeding more distrust in the judicial system by making those who've historically been mistreated by the system your punch lines.
By playing the gender and race cards for your own gain, thereby making it even more difficult for people who have legitimately been discriminated against to be taken seriously.
People all over this country are taking to the streets seeking equal treatment under the law. And here we have a bunch of lawmakers claiming discrimination to save their jobs or positions or worse, for some petty payback game.
How dare you?
How dare you show such contempt for the people you are supposed to serve?
How dare you ask for forgiveness and understanding or worse, a pass, from a public for whom you've shown so little respect and regard?
Save your tears. Save your hollow apologies.