Sure he titled his NRO piece, “Mea Maxima Culpa,” and he supposedly offered to resign from EPPC (which was rejected by his board, as he took a leave of absence). But there are good reasons to believe Whelan is far from contrite, still involved in influencing public opinion on the Kavanaugh confirmation process, and planning a comeback.
To begin with, it turns out that Whelan’s libelous and bad faith theory that Dr. Ford had another attacker was hatched at a PR firm, CRC. The firm does work for the Federalist Society and the Judicial Confirmation Network (spending millions in undisclosed money to boost Republican nominees and block Democratic nominees like Merrick Garland). They were the inventors of “swift boating” against John Kerry. Whelan’s co-author on his Scalia book, Justice Scalia’s son Christopher, apparently still works there.
All of this shows this was not Whelan gone rogue but an elaborate dirty tricks operation to take the heat off Kavanaugh. That so many smart people could think this hare-brained and immoral idea would work says a lot about the moral bankruptcy of the people working on it. But they must have spent hours chewing it over without seeing how terrible this whole idea was, and how corrupt the fight for the Court has become on the right.
When Whelan first apologized, it was only for naming the accuser, not for launching the theory. He eventually gave a half-hearted apology to Dr. Ford for not showing “respectful consideration” of her or sexual assault victims, even while standing his ground that Ford may not be telling the truth.
Then, after supposedly tendering his resignation to a board that includes the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, his resignation was rejected and he was said to be taking a leave. At that point, he continued to retweet theories suggesting Dr. Ford wasn’t telling the truth:
As contrite as Whelan supposedly is for his conduct, he's out there on Twitter now retweeting stories expressing doubts about Dr. Ford's story pic.twitter.com/0lPqnVKHdt
— Rick Hasen (@rickhasen) September 23, 2018
Then, in his “mea culpa,” Whelan cast himself the victim of people criticizing him too much and suggested he’ll be back on the attack in no time:
I am grateful for all the consoling notes I have received, including some from very unexpected quarters. I fully deserve much of the criticism that others have directed at me, and I will not undertake here to distinguish between the fair critiques and the unfair ones. To those who have taken delight in being vicious towards me, I will say only that my self-rebuke stings far more than anything they can say.
(My emphasis.) No doubt there will be the “right time” for him to undertake a defense against what he terms “unfair” attacks.
I’m sure Whelan is upset that his plan failed and his reputation sullied. I’m sure he believes he’s made an error in tactics. But the signs so far show not only that he failed to learn the right lesson from what he did but that he’ll be back at it again in no time.