Nov 10th 2007 By Asylum Staff
When President Bush deals with the press, his defensiveness, often seen as evasiveness, only serves to indict him, regardless of the truth of the accusation.
At a press conference in 2004, John Dickerson of Time magazine asked an unexpected question of President Bush: "You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?"
The President's response was indicative of not just a political propensity, but a human tendency to hide frailty.
"I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it," President Bush said. "John, I'm sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could have done it better this way, or that way. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hasn't yet." Then the President went on to explain his reasoning for the things he believed he had done right.
Bush lost an opportunity to shift the discussion from party politics and brazenness to candor and humility.
Get Over It:
How about this reply to John Dickerson instead:
"John, that's not an easy question to answer. Admitting mistakes is hard, whether it's to the nation or to my wife. I believe that's a human tendency each of us is susceptible to. To make matters worse, politics has become a place where admitting mistakes is a sign of weakness, and an opportunity for others to jump on and amplify those mistakes. In spite of that, I have made mistakes. For example, I was convinced it was in the best interests of our national security to [fill in the blank]. But because there are variables no one controls, it didn't play out the way I thought it would. Now, with better information, looking back on it I wish I had done some things differently.
"With that said, I ask the American people to forgive me for those mistakes -- and the mistakes I'm certain I will yet make. I'm not under the delusion I'm perfect and I know the people in this room aren't under that delusion about me either. There's no such thing as a mistake-free presidency -- it hasn't been possible for the 42 presidents who preceded me. But I know I can do better. Thank you for the honesty of your question, John." (Unfortunately, that speech is just wishful thinking on our part.)