Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 14, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

RESPONSIBILITY....I'm curious about something. I'm just asking here, so don't go ballistic, OK?

Today President Bush responded to a question about Hurricane Katrina by saying, "To the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility." Liberal pundits gasped in dismay because Bush famously refuses to ever admit mistakes or take responsibility for things that go wrong. This was a moment for history!

But here's the question: is Bush really very different from any other president in this regard? Harry Truman and his famous stopped buck aside, taking responsibility for specific mistakes is not exactly something that most politicians are noted for.

As a matter of curiosity, I did a Nexis search in the Washington Post for "Clinton w/10 'take responsibility.'" I got 44 hits, and of those only two were actually examples of Clinton taking responsibility for some kind of mistake. The first was Waco, an incident he was initially criticized for because of the perception that he had allowed Janet Reno to take the fall, and the second was Monica Lewinsky, which was dragged out of him only after months of subpoenas and grand jury testimony. Even granting that the criticism over Waco might have been unfair, neither of these is exactly a sterling example of buck stopping.

Are there other examples? This is a genuine question, since Nexis searches aren't perfect and neither is my memory. And I'm not talking about generic apologies for historical injustices, I'm talking about accepting responsibility for specific failures of his administration. Did Clinton do this any more than Bush has?

Kevin Drum 12:44 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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