Sunday, October 30, 2005
By Steven L. Taylor

There is much discussion in the media today about what the Bush administration needs to do now. Many are pointing to the need to engage in apology and re-organization. I believe this to be sound advice. If the administration digs in its heals and tried to stubbornly pretend as if nothing has happened with these indictments, the situation will continue to fester.

It is clear, from historical precedent, that Presidents are better off dealing with these issues head-on.

As Leon Panetta pointed out this morning on Meet the Press

MR. PANETTA: Tim, there’s a lesson that never seems to be learned in Washington and I’ve been in and out of Washington over 30 years. Any time somebody makes a mistake at that level, the best thing to do is to admit it to the American people and move on. John Kennedy probably set that standard with the Bay of Pigs, and ever since then, presidents every time they get in trouble try to bob and weave and sometimes say things that ultimately come back to haunt them. And I think that’s true–it was true for Reagan, although he eventually admitted what happened. It was true for Clinton although he eventually admitted what happened. And I think right now for Bush the fact is he has not taken responsibility for what’s happened and I think that’s one of the problems he confronts.

And, the other members of the panel made similar points:

MR. BESCHLOSS: You know, Tim, what strikes me even more powerfully from what everyone is saying is almost why presidents aren’t tempted to almost immediately say, “I’ve made a mistake and I’m going to change.” But Ken was being very modest over here in talking about Ronald Reagan, but he was one of the ones who went to the president and said, “You can’t keep on saying you did not trade arms for hostages; no one believes it.” And when he gave that speech that we saw on the screen that you put up, Tim, saying that actually he did, although in his heart he felt he did not, his poll ratings went up 9 percent. That was something that helped.


MR. JORDAN: And it’s very instructive that both presidents that did this, Reagan and Clinton, ended up as popular presidents. So the American people are understanding and will give a president the benefit of the doubt.

MR. DUBERSTEIN: Mea culpas sell with the American people. The American people…

MR. JORDAN: I agree, exactly.

MR. DUBERSTEIN: …want the presidents to say, “I’m sorry, I made a mistake.” They’re only normal, they’re real.

Duberstein, Jordan and Panetta know whereof they speak, given that they all served as White House Chiefs of Staff and Beschloss is a scholar who specializes in the presidency.

Meanwhile, Lanny Davis provides some good advice in the pages of the New York Times:

Now President Bush must do something that for him, it seems, is the most difficult task: admit a mistake. First, he must send his press secretary, Scott McClellan, into the White House press room to apologize for his misleading the American people – probably based on incomplete or inaccurate information he was given – when he denied involvement by White House officials in the disclosure that Valerie Wilson was a C.I.A. officer.

More important, President Bush should follow the ultimate rule of White House damage control: the buck stops here. He should admit that this entire mess could have been avoided had the White House, including the vice president, criticized Ambassador Joseph Wilson openly and directly, rather than whispering “on background” into the ears of certain reporters that his wife was responsible for sending him to investigate possible Iraqi attempts to buy uranium in Niger.

And then, after reminding everyone that Mr. Libby is entitled to the presumption of innocence, Mr. Bush should focus on the people’s business and the far more serious problems facing America.

This all strikes me as sage advice. However, I have to wonder if it will, in fact, be followed.

Another example of press coverage focusing on post-indictment reactions by the Bush administration: Rove is a focus of calls for White House shakeup

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10 Responses to “Reacting and Moving Forward”

  1. eric Says:

    An apology won’t work unless it is perceived as genuine presumably based on some sort of self-reflection. Given that the administration hasn’t apologized for getting the WMD intelligence in Iraq wrong (at least that i’ve heard), and his “buck stops here” explanation for Katrina was qualified with a “the federal part”, I can’t imagine them considering an apology for this faux-pas.

  2. Henriet Cousin\' Says:

    Apologize!? It is proper manners to apologize when you have given offense? What offense has the Bush administration given to its enemies at home or abroad? Smite them hip and thigh and drive them from the field is more like it.


  3. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    Let’s see, one persons see so many things to apologize for that it is too late for any such admissions, while another sees nothing whatsoever to apologize for.

    So, no ideological lenses clouding anyone’s vision, it would seem..

  4. Mad Dog Says:

    Apologize for what? I’ve still seem nothingt hat auggests anyone int he Adminisrtation had anything to do with “outing” Plame or anyone else. Libby’s was indicted for supposedly not telling the turth, not because he outed anyone. I hope W simply pardons Libby and tells Fitzgerald and the MSM to stick it in their ears.

  5. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    The fact that President came out and said that none of the administration was invovled does put some onus on the White House.

    That a major figure in the administration has been indcied for perjury after the President campaigned on bring honor back to the WH (which was a reference to Clinton’s perjury issues, among other things).

    This is also, I would add, as much about politics as it is about who is right and who is wrong.

  6. eric Says:

    No ideological clouds here… Just a simple point. If no one believed Reagan wasn’t involved in Iran-Contra then certainly few will believe that wmd’s existed in Iraq….. they weren’t there, but the administration has yet to admit that even though most people know better today… Therefore if they apologize for Harret Myers, I doubt they would be belived. Its just a matter of establishing credability for the apology to be effective.

  7. eric Says:

    sorry… meant to say Plame. don’t think they should apologize for Myers.

  8. Insults Unpunished » Damage Control Says:

    [...] m, Mr Bush runs the risk of sullying the ideas that he has championed. UPDATE: Steven has more.

    Posted by Robert Prather | Permalink | |
    You can find this entry in: Politics


  9. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    I don’t get your point about Reagan–given that he actually did apologize, which is part of the overall point…

  10. eric Says:

    Reagan was believed by some because they perceived the apology as honest. (But like your comment, he only apologized well after everyone figured he did something wrong. I wasn’t clear. So when I said Reagen wasn’t believed, I was referring to his long delays before the apology)

    If Bush apologizes for Plame, but not for WMD’s — at least admitting he made bad decisions based on faulty intelligence — he won’t be belived.

    Remember…. all those “Clinton lied, but no one died” bumper stickers aren’t talking about Plame. Apologies only work if they’re perceived as honest.

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