Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dana Milbank: Accepting Responsibility, With an Asterisk

Accepting Responsibility, With an Asterisk: "President Bush in 2000 ushered in the Era of Personal Responsibility. Yesterday ushered in the Era of Qualified Personal Responsibility.

In hours-long testimony before a Senate committee, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he took the blame for the department's failures responding to Hurricane Katrina. 'I am responsible for the Department of Homeland Security,' came the inevitable claim. 'I'm accountable and accept responsibility for the performance of the entire department.'

At the same time, Vice President Cheney, breaking four days of silence since accidentally shooting a man on Saturday, was scheduling a confessional on Fox News. 'You can't blame anybody else,' Cheney told Brit Hume. 'I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend.'

But, try though they might, neither Chertoff nor Cheney could come up with much in the way of what he had done wrong.


Since Bush won the presidency in 2000 with a promise to usher in a 'new era of personal responsibility,' a public acceptance of culpability is de rigueur when something goes wrong.

But admitting mistakes is an entirely different matter. That could convey weakness and, as such, is to be avoided entirely. Hours after branding the federal response to Katrina 'unacceptable,' for example, Bush qualified that by saying, 'I am satisfied with the response. I'm not satisfied with all the results.'"


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