Can President Obama say, “I made a mistake”?

He was wrong on ACA, wrong on Syria, wrong on the stimulus package; will Obama ever admit it?

Whatever it is, it's not my fault. / White House photo used under U.S. Government Works license
Whatever it is, it's not my fault. / White House photo used under U.S. Government Works license

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2015 — The most effective leaders are generally those who make good, well-thought decisions and who are willing to admit a mistake when they make one.

Admitting responsibility for mistakes is not a sign of weakness, but of honesty. Not admitting mistakes, especially when it is obvious a mistake was made, backs leaders into defensive positions that question their judgment.

Will President Obama ever admit that he made a mistake?

In 1987, President Reagan, in a nationally televised speech from the Oval Office, admitted he made a mistake with the Iran-Contra decision. He said, “Now, what should happen when you make a mistake is this: You take your knocks, you learn your lessons, and then you move on. That’s the healthiest way to deal with a problem …”

In 1961, President Kennedy admitted his mistake in the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion. He said, “There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan … Further statements, detailed discussions, are not to conceal responsibility because I’m the responsible officer of the government …”

There is, in fact, a long history of presidents admitting they made mistakes, dating back to George Washington and the whiskey rebellion. Each acted to correct his errors. The first step, of course, was to admit that a mistake was made.

Will President Obama ever admit that he made a mistake?

There are numerous instances of Obama’s making mistakes and refusing to admit it. He instead becomes defensive and spins yarns to cover them up.

In his first year in office, Obama pushed through a nearly $1 trillion spending bill that he promised would stimulate the economy and provide shovel-ready jobs. He never admitted that this was at least partially mistaken, though he eventually admitted, “shovel-ready jobs were not as shovel-ready as we thought.”

When he was selling the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to the American people, Obama insisted that the individual mandate was not a tax. He maintained this position until the Supreme Court ruled that the law was legal because the mandate was indeed a tax. He was silent on that point although he applauded the decision that said the law was constitutional because Congress does have the power to tax.

He mistakenly told the American people they could keep their doctors and keep their current plans if they desired under the ACA. He mistakenly said that the cost for health insurance would fall by an average of $2,500 per family. Yet he refuses to admit that he made a mistake when he said these things.

Obama instituted a foreign policy that was essentially turn the other cheek and retreat.  Instead of directly confronting sworn enemies of the U.S., he said we should not confront them but rather try to understand them and reach a negotiated settlement, even if that meant that the U.S. had to surrender its prior victories. He pulled out of Iraq in 2011, claiming a victory and assuring a prosperous future. Clearly that was a mistake.

Obama assured America that this view would lead to a safer world and one in which the U.S. was more respected.  Even today he says that the U.S. is the most respected nation in the world. Most Americans wonder which countries respect us more. Is it China, or Russia, Middle Eastern countries or Eastern European countries?

Since the world is far less safe today than it was when Obama took office, his foreign policy is clearly a mistake.

When police personnel got into confrontations with suspected criminals who ended up dead, the president said there would be justice for the men who died and that the police would be held accountable. When it was determined that the police acted properly, he never admitted his error in blaming the police; he remained silent, at least until the next incident.

Then he again blamed the police. One result is that police personnel nationwide feel under political siege. Crime rates are rising for the first time since 2006, and Obama remains silent, never admitting that he judged too quickly.

We are all human and will all make mistakes. The most effective leaders are those who admit their mistakes, learn from them and move on. If Obama is worried about approval ratings, he may want to note that after presidents Kennedy and Reagan admitted mistakes, their ratings went up.

And it is generally known that those who do not admit mistakes are doomed to repeat them.

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