One common theme among President Bush’s critics is his unwillingness to admit errors. He is relentlessly hammered for “arrogance” and “stubbornness” for not acknowledging missteps, mistakes, and wrong judgments. Even during one of the debates, he was asked to name three decisions he made where he regretted them, and he refused to do so.
I don’t think it’s arrogance talking. It’s the voice of learning from his father’s mistakes.
I remember watching the network news about 14 years ago. The Democratic Congress had just passed a large tax-increase bill and submitted it for his signature. My memory’s a little fuzzy, but I seem to recall the Democrats had pushed hard for this measure, even threatening to shut down the government, if the President didn’t sign it. And sign it he did. And that night the newscast I watched (I think it was ABC) opened with a montage of about a dozen of Bush’s 1988 campaign speeches, spliced together:
“READ/READ/READ/READ MY/MY/MY/MY LIPS/LIPS/LIPS/LIPS — NO/NO/NO/NO NEW/NEW/NEW/NEW TAXES!/TAXES!/TAXES!/TAXES!”
At that moment, I knew that President Bush could pretty much kiss goodbye his re-election. He had just handed his future opponent the hugest club to beat him over the head with.
The current President Bush must have seen this humiliation of his father, and saw what it cost him. Many people say it cost him a second term. He probably believes that those people who want to hear him admit error aren’t looking for signs of humility or modesty or human failings. They’re desperately seeking a soundbite like his father’s “read my lips” pledge that they can then take and use to destroy him. And this President Bush is a canny enough politician to not play the “gotcha” game and hand his opponents a weapon of that magnitude. Nobody with a lick of sense would do that.
And, in my opinion, he’s exactly right.