For most people admitting mistakes is difficult. The bigger the ego, the higher the profile, the more visible one’s activities or accomplishments, the less likely to willingly own up to poor judgment, irrational, anti-social or even criminal behavior.
When Governor Gray Davis of California, albeit facing an unprecedented recall and the specter of yielding his hard fought office to the Terminator, actually admitted making mistakes in the handling of his state’s energy crisis and the overall economy, he plowed new ground for major league politicians who virtually never accept responsibility for defeat or share much of the credit for victories.
Politicians stand alone among celebrities in the art of outright denial and deflection. Even Michael Jordan in his prime accepted the occasional bad game. Bruce Willis and Tom Cruise took some of the blame for the demise of their relationships with Demi and Nicole.
Only when faced with impeachment and irrefutable DNA evidence did Bill Clinton admit to an improper dalliance with Monica. The Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Kent State, the Florida recount, Clarence Thomas, Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, John Ashcroft – monumental mistakes for which no one takes the heat.
How refreshing it would be if George W. admitted to losing the popular vote, accepted responsibility for excessive tax cuts favoring the rich, helping to turn an enormous budget surplus into a record breaking deficit. How unprecedented if congressional leaders on both sides would accept that the Iraqi occupation is a foreign policy disaster and that a U.N. sponsored international coalition is the only practical and affordable solution to the post-war quagmire U.S. unilateralism has created.
Why not admit that our intelligence regarding WOMD was both faulty and exaggerated. Why not use Colin Powell’s statesmanship and more moderate posture to offset the rabid counsel from the likes of Rumsfeld and Cheney?
W. is as likely to admit overreaching as Rumsfeld is to acknowledge doling out largesse to Halliburton in the aftermath of the war.
Have the Cubs ever owned up to the disastrous Brock for Brolio trade? – the Blackhawks for the catastrophic Esposito, Hodge and Stanfield for Giles Marotte? – the San Francisco Warriors for the appalling Bill Russell even up for Easy Ed McCauley trade?
Only a few diehards remember that the Portland Trailblazers with the number one pick in the NBA draft, passed up Michael Jordan for Sam Bowie and tried to defend their ineptitude for a number of years.
Vice President Dan Quayle was a universally recognized mistake that may have cost Bush Sr. reelection, but to look for a stronger, more intelligent running mate would have meant asking the idiot savant Quayle to stand aside and to admit the original error in judgment. Incumbent presidents are incapable of adopting this strategy even if it is the only way to win.
Has the FBI ever admitted that a mistake was made in not wondering why Saudi immigrants where taking flying lessons in Florida? Would the CIA have ever shared relevant terrorist info with the FBI absent the formation of the Bureau of Homeland Security?
Is it possible that Sr. Bush was wrong in not listening to Norman Schwartzkopf and extended the first Gulf War into Baghdad, thereby relieving his son of the obligation of ousting Saddam?
Could Al Gore today question his decision to limit Bill Clinton’s role in the last election to fund raising? By benching perhaps the strongest campaigner of them all, Gore’s inability to carry his home state and/or Arkansas was the opening the Republicans needed to hang chad and give the Supreme Court their first choice to appoint a president.
Only after an unprecedented market meltdown, did the Wall Street securities industry reluctantly concede that perhaps exuberance over high-tech startups with no potential to ever create an economic entity was a mistake.
The world is still waiting for the now defunct Arthur Andersen to admit cover-ups and fiscal manipulation in exchange for unconscionable consulting fees – for the Ken Lays and Andy Fastows to admit they’re crooks – for the Rolling Stones to admit to substance abuse – Luciano Pavarotti to accept obesity – for Cher to admit multiple facial reconstructions – for the tobacco industry to concede that they aggressively market poison to children.
Add to this husbands who cheat on their wives, wives who cheat on their husbands, taxpayers who cheat on their taxes, golfers who forget to count their strokes, drivers who consistently exceed the speed limit, drinkers who drink to get drunk, you’d think almost everyone would tolerate or at least understand mistakes.
Better than one-third of all U.S. marriages end in divorce. That’s a hell of a lot of mistakes by any standard. Given this backdrop, it’s difficult to comprehend why the people we choose to lead our nation are for the most part congenitally unable to admit that a decision was poor and then change it.
At the moment, it appears that Bush would sooner risk reelection than admit his economic policy is fatally flawed, and that at some point a $500 billion dollar deficit is unsupportable.
It’s a testament to the strength and ingenuity of the American people that our government survives the people we elect to run it. If, however, you believe that Sugar Shane Mosley beat Oscar de la Hoya, you believe in the tooth fairy.