A president who can't cop to a mistake? Not a single one? What's up with that?
Way back in April, at one of George Bush's rare press conferences, he was asked by a reporter to fess up to a mistake he'd made since September 11. He grunted and groaned. "I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it," Bush chuckled. After assuring the reporter that "something will pop into my head," he finally gave up, admitting, "I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one."
Well, that was six months ago. So you'd think he would have been prepared when Linda Grabel asked her question at the second presidential debate. "President Bush," said Linda politely. "During the last four years, you have made thousands of decisions that have affected millions of lives. Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision and what you did to correct it."
It's really not that hard a question. Ask the average American to ask that the average American woman what mistakes she's made and she'll rattle off about ten of them. Women admit their mistakes. In fact, we even take the blame for other people's mistakes. What's the big deal? Admit the mistake, say you're sorry, explain what you learned from it and promise not to do it again.
But Bush just can't do it. In response to Linda's question, he stumbled and fumbled and mumbled about some appointments he'd made. COME ON, Mr. Bush. Get real. Iraq is falling to pieces, Afghanistan (despite recent elections) is controlled by warlords, the situation in Israel and Palestine is out of control, North Korea and Iran are developing nuclear weapons, Osama bin Laden is still on the loose, the U.S. budget deficit is off the charts, 800,000 jobs have been lost on your watch. And you canąt think of ONE mistake?
Of course, admitting his mistakes could backfire. If Bush admitted, for example, that he was wrong about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that it was a bad decision to invade Iraq and that he was sorry that so many American's lives have been lost in vain, it probably wouldnąt be good for his campaign. But then again, another four years of Bush in the White House would not be good for the electorate or the world.
So while Bush refuses to admit mistakes, maybe it's time for the people who voted for Bush in 2000, the people who didnąt vote at all in 2000, and yes, people like myself who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, to admit our mistakes. I'll say mine -- I had no idea that George Bush would be such a disastrous president. Had I known then what I know now, and had I lived in a swing state, I would have voted for Gore instead of Ralph Nader. And this time around, if I lived in a swing state (which I don't) I wouldnąt make the same mistake.
What about you?
Remember the saying "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me"? Well, the guy who can't admit his mistakes couldn't cop to shame either. When he quoted the 'ol "Texas saying", instead of concluding "Shame on me", he said, "You can't get fooled again."
Now maybe, just maybe, he got that one right. We'll see on November 2.
Medea Benjamin is cofounder of the human rights group Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org ) and the women's peace group CodePink (www.codepinkalert.org ).