George Bush and the Inability to Admit Error

President Bush and Dick Cheney talked with the 9/11 commission yesterday. We don’t know exactly what was said, but it’s a pretty safe bet that Bush didn’t say “We could have done more. I wish that we had.”

Why is this administration so defiant toward anyone who asks if they might have done more? Why does the President joke and blunder his way past questions about mistakes or regrets? It’s completely clear that mistakes have been made. Why won’t he acknowledge that fact, point out what’s been done to prevent those same mistakes from being made again, and move on?

Almost as mystifying to me is the way so many writers jumped to Bush’s defense after his press conference a couple of weeks ago when he shrugged off several questions about mistakes that he might have made. Bush said he couldn’t think of any mistakes, and many writers who I respect applauded his responses and pooh-poohed the journalists who asked the questions. Yes, the questions were leading and would almost certainly be used in the great smoke-and-mirrors game that is American politics. But why concede points to the opposition when you can steal points from them by using their attacks for your own gain?

Does anyone really think that Bush hasn’t made any mistakes? I’m a solid Conservative and nominal Republican, and I can see many biggies.

He shouldn’t have stressed the WMD issue in Iraq so repeatedly. He should have gone to the 9/11 commission separate from Dick Cheney. He shouldn’t spend so damn much time on his ranch in Texas. He should have listened to those who suggested that the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq was under-manned and under-planned. None of this is a secret.

Of course, there are the eight months he was in office before 9/11. Every single day that passed without an order to the CIA, the FBI, and the entire US military to swoop down and round up or kill every terrorist suspect they could find was, at least, a missed opportunity.

Of course Bush, Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and the rest of the administration should have done more to prevent 9/11. 9/11 happened, so it’s obvious that more should have been done. This isn’t a newsflash to anyone. He could very simply admit what everyone already knows.

Admitting error isn’t the same as accepting blame, and I wonder if that’s the problem. Obviously, if Bush goes on television and says “We should have done more” many will claim that he’s taking responsibility. That’s not at all true, and I think that most Americans would know it.

Why can’t he admit that he’s not perfect? Why can’t his speech-writers and his political advisers get him to own up to some shortcomings?

I honestly believe that if he said that the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, though proceeding, was tougher and more expensive than they expected, he’d gain a lot more than he’d lose. If he explained that, while he believed they were doing the right things in the summer of 2001, he sincerely wished that his blood had been up earlier and that they had pursued leads more vigorously than they did, he’d get the benefit of the doubt from many who currently don’t want to give it to him. If he came out and admitted that he should have spent more time explaining the many other reasons for changing the regime in Iraq besides weapons of mass destruction, he’d score more points than his opponents are currently scoring by ripping him on the issue.

He’s got a leg to stand on with these issues. No one expects the President to be infallible. No one expects that anything ever goes 100% according to plan. Everyone knows that the President’s decisions are only as good as the information that is available at the time that he makes them, and that information in these types of scenarios is usually sketchy at best.

By trying to maintain an illusion of perfection, by pretending that everything is proceeding according to plan, he is simply leaving himself open to the type of cheap-shot attacks and goofy caricatures that he’s currently bombarded with. It’s not news to any of us that everything isn’t roses. He’s not letting any cats out of any bags if he acknowledges that he’s made a mistake here and there.

Bush would gain in the polls, and fare better in the voting booths this November, if he’d simply own up to the mistakes that have been made. He doesn’t need to go on hands and knees to ask for forgiveness. He doesn’t need to beg for mercy. He simply needs to say “THAT is what I could have done better, HERE is why we did it the way that we did, and THIS is what we’re doing to prevent this error in the future.” End of story.

The fact that he won’t admit to even the tiniest mistake gives an appearance of at least ignorance if not downright dishonesty. Wouldn’t he rather be regarded as imperfect than dishonest? If he wants to win in November, he’d better work on that.

Posted by murdoc at April 30, 2004 1:10 PM | TrackBack (1)