Will the next President admit to error?May 30, 2008
Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan has rattled cages and shattered relationships here in Washington with his new book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception. McClellan’s controversial tell-all bashes the Bush Administration for, among other things, misleading the American public about the war in Iraq and mishandling rescue efforts from Hurricane Katrina. Not surprisingly, the Administration has hit back hard, McClellan has gone on the defensive, and the feathers are likely to continue flying for some time to come.
What I’ve found most interesting and credible about McClellan’s book as described in the media is his characterization of President Bush himself. McClellan claims that he respects and admires the President, whom he describes as a man of “personal charm, wit and enormous political skill.” Unfortunately McClellan also characterizes President Bush as being unwilling to admit to his mistakes and all too susceptible to believing his own “spin.” That characterization rang true for me based on my own observations. Some time ago, I remember hearing President Bush say in a one-on-one television interview that he couldn’t think of any mistakes he had made or anything he wished he had done differently during his term in office.
Oh, come now.
Nobody’s perfect, and while I’m far from being the President’s biggest fan, I certainly don’t expect him to do everything right. But I find it completely unbelievable that anyone would claim that they couldn’t remember a single mistake, misstatement or misstep they’d made over a multi-year span. Self-confidence is one thing, self-deception is another. When a President deceives himself, sooner or later he’s bound to deceive the American public.
We’ve already seen the various candidates who are likely to win the White House in November make various mistakes on the campaign trail, and I’m encouraged that they’ve all stepped up and admitted it (albeit with varying levels of promptness and candor). No matter how competent and careful the next President is, he or she will undoubtedly make errors of judgment once in a while, and I believe it will be important for the next President to be honest enough with the American people and the world to admit to those errors and apologize when necessary.
Would your candidate for President be ethical enough to admit to error and apologize? You decide.
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