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Feb 28 2007
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Candidates and supporters who believe we can win the presidency on a wave of apologies should learn the lessons of history.

Cross posted at the Francis L. Holland Blog.

John Edwards said Tuesday that honesty and openness were essential qualities for a president, and that he was proud to acknowledge his 2002 vote authorizing the invasion of Iraq was a mistake . . .

Yahoo.News

But, with John Edwards at 17% in the polls to Hillary Clinton's 43%, the public seems already to be punishing Edwards for his habit of apologizing.

In the September 30, 2004 debate between George W. Bush and John Kerry, the word "mistake" arose 13 times in the context of Iraq, offering Bush ample opportunity to admit that he had made at least one mistake.  Kerry admitted to having made significant mistakes while George Bush admitted to none.

BUSH: My opponent says help is on the way, but . . . it's certainly hard to tell it when he voted against the $87-billion supplemental to provide equipment for our troops, and then said he actually did vote for it before he voted against it.

Not what a commander in chief does when you're trying to lead troops.



LEHRER: Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.



KERRY: Well, you know, when I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?

http://www.debates.org/pages/trans2004a.

html



Apparently, much of the public believed Kerry's mistake was worse - admitting a mistake, changing his story, and becoming a "flip-flopper" - because Bush went on to win the election.  

The New York Times said,


Until sometime early in the summer, President Bush and his advisers sporadically wrestled with a fundamental choice: Was it smarter to go into the final months of the election campaign confessing to considerable error in decisions leading up to the invasion of Iraq, and in early calculations about how best to occupy the country? Or would the president - "not a man given to backward-looking introspection," as one close aide put it - be better off conceding only the smallest errors of judgment, and focusing the electorate on the hope of a bright future for Iraq and the whole Middle East?

Mr. Bush chose the second option. To choose otherwise, one of Mr. Bush's advisers said the other day, would be "to give John Kerry the opening he was waiting for."



But now, in the final 23 days of the campaign, that decision has come to look far riskier than it did in the flush of handing Iraq back to Iraqis. Win or lose, when the history of the 2004 Bush campaign is written, it may turn out that the bet about how to talk about the war will prove pivotal. Mr. Bush held his bet through the presidential debate Friday, declining a questioner's invitation to describe any mistake he had made. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/10/weekin

review/10sang.html?ex=1172725200&en=

ac83b971d8fdeb28&ei=5070  

But, at the time the talking heads and many Democrats ridiculed Bush for his unwillingness to admit having made mistakes.  From CNN:

BORGER:  . . . [O]ne of the most interesting things to me, Howie, was sort of the question that the president was asked about, can you ever remember a mistake you made? And this time, unlike the last time he was asked that...



KURTZ: When he was at a press conference.



BORGER: When he was at a press conference, he was a little bit more prepared. And he said, well, if what you mean is did I make a mistake in going into Iraq, the answer is no. Yes, I made a couple of mistakes on presidential appointments, but I'm not going to talk about those now.



And what you see is the Kerry campaign saying, this is a stubborn person who will never admit that he has made a mistake. And that is something they are talking about. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0

410/10/rs.01.html



Still, Bush's strategy won the day:  "Better to be perceived as wrong and resolute than to be perceived as an irresolute flip-flopper in a time of war."

And still John Edwards continues today on his National Apology Tour, with the anti-war Left encouraging him and demanding that other candidates join the John Edwards Lollapalooza Apology Jamboree.  He said recently, ""There's not a single voter in America who doesn't understand that their president is human, and their president will sometimes makes mistakes." Yahoo.News

Other candidates refuse to join Edwards either because the have nothing to apologize for or because they don't believe the Apology Tour is the best way to win the Presidency and end the war.  After the Kerry/Bush rout, can you blame them?  Are we Democrats trying to win an election or win a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for most apologies on a single issue?

One of the most famous American apologies was Jimmy Carter's 1976 admission that, as concerned adultery, he had "sinned in his heart".  


PLAYBOY INTERVIEW: In an interview published in the November 1976 issue of Playboy magazine, then-Governor Carter talked about the role of religion in his life. In one part he said:

"I try not to commit a deliberate sin. I recognize that I'm going to do it anyhow, because I'm human and I'm tempted. And Christ set some almost impossible standards for us. Christ said, 'I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery.'

"I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do--and I have done it--and God forgives me for it."

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/character/gl

ossaries/carter.html



As obvious as the admission seemed, since most of us have sinned in our hearts and do so daily in one way or another, still Jimmy Carter's admission became a scandal and the focus of national derision until his presidency ended abruptly after one term, with the election of the less apologetic Ronald Reagan.  It's not that Democrats can't win the Presidency, but just that apologizing isn't historically an effective way of doing so.

Candidates and supporters who believe we can win the presidency on a wave of apologies should learn the lessons of history.  As valid as apologies may be factually, the election usually goes to the candidate who apologizes the least.


Cross posted at the Francis L. Holland Blog.

francislholland@yahoo.com

Elrod's picture

Clinton

Grist for the mill here but Clinton never apologized for getting a blow job from Monica Lewinsky, or for lying about it. And he came through pretty strong.

I think you're on to something here. People don't like to admit they've done wrong to other people. Americans would rather be strong and wrong than weak and right (a Clinton quote). The better move is to nail somebody for their poor judgment. When a politician refuses to apologize for the Iraq war, you don't say, "Candidate X should apologize for getting us into Iraq..." You should say, "Candidate X thinks the Iraq war is going great (even if they don't say that)... I don't think that shows good judgment. Do you?" The refusal to apology can be turned into a refusal to criticize the current policy (even if the candidate is, in fact, criticizing the current policy.) You gain the upper hand not by purity of past action but by militance of current rhetoric.

R. Neal's picture

I don't know about the

I don't know about the theory, but I'm sure tired of hearing Edwards apologize for his vote on the war.

He's sorry. We get it. 'Nuff said.

LadyVols's picture

I agree and Hillary is the

I agree and Hillary is the ONLY ONE who is standing her ground. I loved it when she told them to find another person to vote for when they hounded her on her vote.

Bill did great even thought he said he didn't have sex with that woman. If you are "liked" you will always be liked he knew that and like you said did great!

R. Neal's picture

The LV and Bill and Hillary

The LV and Bill and Hillary lovefest continues....

Troll.

Johnny Ringo's picture

I guess I don't understand

The LV and Bill and Hillary lovefest continues....

Troll.

I guess I don't understand your use of "troll." I could understand it used for a person who comes to an ideologically-identifiable website like this and drops deliberately provocative bombs just to rile people up, but supporting H.C. is "trollery?" How?

R. Neal's picture

This person appears to have

This person appears to have a past history here.

Number9's picture

OMG,

This person appears to have a past history here.

Return of the "Chairman"? Eglia Buckleberry? Worse?

R. Neal's picture

No need to speculate about

No need to speculate about anyone. I don't know and wouldn't say if I did. Just ask LV if he/she/it has ever registered at this site under a different user name/ID.

Johnny Ringo's picture

Ahh

This person appears to have a past history here.

Gotcha.

rikki's picture

It seems like the

It seems like the interesting part of this pathology lies not with the candidates, but the public. Elrod quotes Clinton about being strong and wrong, but I see no strength in being wrong. Much of America's strength in the world derived from being right: freeing slaves, enfranchising women and blacks, promoting democracy and justice. Christianity is the dominant religion in our culture, and it values repentence and forgiveness as the key to salvation. Science also values correction and improvement as the primary vehicle for advancement, and one of the more interesting discoveries in the study of complex systems and neural networks is the importance of error as a way to prevent the system from getting stuck in local optimums far from the global optimum.

With so much of our history and philosophy teaching us that progress and improvement comes from admitting mistakes, why do we value ideological rigidity and prejudice in those we elect to make decisions for us? Perhaps politicians can exploit this weakness by refusing to apologize for their errors, but that still leaves me wondering why we are suckers for the con.

LadyVols's picture

The LV and Bill and Hillary

The LV and Bill and Hillary lovefest continues....

Troll."

Well, she has the money, the name and Bill...three nice bullets in her gun. As for the others, unless Al gets in and most think he won't she has the best chance at beating "whatever" they run.

Who is Bill?

LadyVols's picture

Troll "a lawn object sold or

Troll "a lawn object sold or found near tourist towns"

As for Hillary, she can win this thing. Some right wing sites are saying hollywood is moving their money to other candidates but the upside is she has a wonderful "history" of service in her state and more than enough money to make up for whatever is moved.

It is a long haul to 08 but we believe when the dust settles she will be the candidate the party will back, her husband has a 90% approval rate among democrats which does not hurt at all!

ultron's picture

It'd be nice if the

It'd be nice if the Democrats nominated someone who was right on the war. Too much to expect?

Elrod's picture

rikki, You are completely

rikki,
You are completely correct, in theory. It would be great if we could vote for somebody who can frankly admit their mistakes. It would even be "Christian" to embrace those seek forgiveness. This may rankle a few feathers but here goes: most Americans are not Christians in this broad sense - including especially those who call themselves Christians. They don't really cherish forgiveness, just officially sanctioned performances of "forgiveness" without any actual contrition. Why do you think it takes so long to apologize over slavery? Because a lot of people just aren't that sorry about it. Why do people still fly rebel flags? Do you think they really believe that the Confederacy was all about "state's rights," and that somehow armed rebellion against the US government is standing up for freedom? Maybe some among the gullible do, but most know damn well that the flag stands for defiant white supremacy whether or not their own ancestors owned slaves or even fought for the Confederacy. Why do so many people believe in the death penalty? Surely a forgiving people woudn't believe in it. But we aren't a forgiving people. We're authoritarian to the core and we admire appearances of strength - regardless of where it's coming from. This is all especially true among Republicans. One reason so many conservatives back Giuliani right now, despite his seemingly liberal positions on social issues, is that he conveys an air of authoritarianism. He looks like he can smack down some lily-livered liberal. Of course when the dress comes out, the whole charade may be over...

That doesn't mean we need a constant apology for the war. Over time it just becomes an empty gesture of performance like all other political apologeia. But the larger point is that Americans just don't like their leaders admitting fault. America must be perfect... Only those who hate America point out its faults... You get the picture.

Johnny Ringo's picture

Pardon my quibble

One reason so many conservatives back Giuliani right now, despite his seemingly liberal positions on social issues, is that he conveys an air of authoritarianism.

I think the main reason Giuliani is doing well a year before the first primary and the first campaign ads have rolled is because he's just about the only Republican in the race that anyone's heard of, McCain being the other. Let's see how he does in the primaries, when something other than name recognition drives the polls. My bet is that he won't make it very far.

Les Jones's picture

Bubba's reaction to LadyVols

Bubba's reaction to LadyVols puzzled me at first. Then I remembered Bubba can see people's IP addresses, so I'm guessing he knows something I don't.

www.lesjones.com

Elrod's picture

South Knox Bubba?

Just curious but is this site run by the dude who once had a blog called "South Knox Bubba?" If so, now I know why I like it so much because I always loved SKB.

Knoxquerious's picture

CoachBJTBP?

CoachBJTBP?

R. Neal's picture

Asked and answered. No need

Asked and answered. No need to speculate. I don't know and wouldn't say if I did.

R. Neal's picture

Yes, that would be me, the

Yes, that would be me, the (former) SKB dude. :)

Elrod's picture

Giuliani has name recognition

SKB, Thanks!

Johnny,
I think you're right. I remember in the Spring of 2003 when Howard Dean was cleaning house in the Democratic Primary polling in places like Arizona and South Carolina. All I was thinking was...how? Well, his name was out there and he was campaigning. That was it. The 2008 campaign is so young right now and the various establishment types (in both parties) haven't put their eggs in any basket yet. I do think, however, that Giuliani has appeal to authoritarian types - including those who reject his social positions.

R. Neal's picture

Did y'all see the MTSU

Did y'all see the MTSU poll?

I've got a summary over at Facing South.

Rudy has a slight lead over McCain in TN at the moment.

Elrod's picture

The MTSU poll is

The MTSU poll is encouraging. There's widespread dissatisfaction with the Republican brand right now. Giuliani has some support because he's not a typical Republican. More than a quarter of Tennesseans know nothing about Obama. I bet the same number of Tennesseans know that Giuliani is thrice married and supports gun control, late-term abortion rights, gay civil unions and amnesty for illegal immigration. When they find that out, they'll like Obama more and Rudi less. Count on it.

ultron's picture

"The MTSU poll is

"The MTSU poll is encouraging. There's widespread dissatisfaction with the Republican brand right now. Giuliani has some support because he's not a typical Republican. More than a quarter of Tennesseans know nothing about Obama. I bet the same number of Tennesseans know that Giuliani is thrice married and supports gun control, late-term abortion rights, gay civil unions and amnesty for illegal immigration. When they find that out, they'll like Obama more and Rudi less. Count on it."

So, the important thing is which team you are on? Do I have that right?

Elrod's picture

Only partly

Only partly is it a matter of "which team" you're on. Rudy is better than the run-of-the-mill Republican. But he's still a shill for the worst of the GOP on matters of foreign policy and Iraq. I'd take Jimmy Duncan with his rampant criticism of the war than a socially liberal Rudy. It isn't about R vs. D. It's about Republican Rudy as Republican partisan loyalist vs. somebody willing to criticize the GOP on the fundamental issue of our time (Iraq). I find McCain more agreeable than Rudy even though I agree with Rudy more on social issues.

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