Advice for Martha Stewart (search)... think Nixon, think Checkers, think "I'm sorry... so sorry... please accept my apology."

Stewart should have walked out of that probation office and gone directly to a hotel ballroom where microphones and TV cameras should have been waiting, and she should have said:

"I'm sorry. I screwed up. I know it was a big mistake, and now I'm going to prison for it. And guess what? This is not a good thing. It sucks, and it's my own damn fault."

Contrition is as American as mom and apple pie, and the sooner Stewart learns it — the sooner we can all stop spotting the liar who's trying to sell sorry, but doesn't mean it.

Stewart's company has a chance to survive if the K-Mart deal smoothes out. The TV show has half a chance of airing reruns until she's out and maybe her June 17 sentencing will go better than expected.

Crisis managers can spot someone listening to the lawyers and not the media people, and this is a classic case. The lawyers' advice? "Shut up and let me do the talking..." has gotten her in deep trouble. Admittedly, she caused her own trouble, but face it — as of now, the lawyers aren't helping any.

The media people want her to go in front of a camera, apologize, be honest, let the emotion of the moment sweep over her and let a tear fall — a sincere tear.

The minute she does that... she's little Orphan Annie. Until then, she's Al Capone (search).

That's My Word.

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