I was wrong.
That’s it. Simple. They’re just three, one-syllable words. But in today’s world they seem to be almost impossible to say, even when the evidence pointing to their appropriateness is overwhelming. Do anything. Lie. Obfuscate. Shift the blame. Change the subject. Refuse to even discuss the matter. Do whatever you have to do to avoid ever admitting that you were, quite simply, wrong.
Throughout his political career, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has been vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage. Thus he has always supported his state’s ban on such unions. There’s just one, little problem with that: Wisconsin’s ban is unconstitutional. Whether you support the ban or not, it simply does not pass constitutional muster, so it has to go. This puts the Gov in a precarious position wherein he can either admit supporting an unconstitutional law, or admit that he shouldn’t have supported it in the first place – that he was, in fact, wrong.
How did he react? He dropped back 10 and punted. Scott Walker, a sitting Governor of a US state, said to a reporter that his (Walker’s) opinion does not matter. Think about that for a second. Have you ever heard a politician tell you that his opinion on one of the most contentious issues of the past decade doesn’t matter? It sure as heck seemed to matter when he thought he had the law on his side, but now he petulantly refuses to even state his opinion out loud. Such a transparent act of political cowardice could have been avoided though, and the debate silenced, had he just uttered those three little words.
In another surprising development, Vice President Dick Cheney ran into an unexpected buzz saw when he sat for an interview with Megyn Kelly on notoriously Republican-friendly Fox News this week. To her credit, Kelly pressed the Bush-era V.P. on his own Iraq policy while Cheney was busily torpedoing the Obama administration’s action (and inaction) in the region. Had he not, Kelly asked, gotten it wrong time and time again regarding the length of the then-impending war, on Saddam’s WMD program, on the Iraqis’ “greeting us as liberators,” etc?
How did Dick react? He dodged. He lied. He obfuscated and tried desperately to hang on one, singular point of contention with Kelly’s assessment while ignoring all of his other glaring errors. He said there was no doubt in anyone’s mind about Saddam’s WMD program (he clearly didn’t ask me). He raised the post-Sept. 11 fears of a nuclear attack, ignoring that there was none coming. He called the entire Iraq situation something he “inherited.” The lack of logic underlying that last statement is something I won’t even dignify by ripping it apart. And this man, who was once a stent-assisted heartbeat away from the Presidency, could not bring himself to utter three, relevant syllables.
It really is sad that we’ve painted ourselves into this corner. Being wrong is not a sin. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of humanity. Maybe it helps them sleep at night. Maybe if my errors meant that thousands were denied the protections of America’s foundation I’d be a little upset too. Perhaps if they led to a decade-long, bloody war based on false pretense I’d find it a little tough to look in the mirror.
But maybe, just maybe, admitting fault might lead to greater insight into why I had failed in the first place. I might be just a little less likely to repeat my errors if I recognized them as such first. I might also be less likely to stamp my feet like a five-year-old and point the finger at someone else when my own mistakes led to the plans I had so hastily put into action began to unravel. Me? I’m going to stick with admitting my errors. I’m going to teach my kids to own up to their mistakes as well. I guess that puts our shot at a career in politics out of reach. Yeah, I’m okay with that.