Blame and Responsibility
We applaud the President of the United States for accepting responsibility for lapses in the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina.
Similarly, we also applaud the teen driver who accepts responsibility for crashing dad's car into a tree. We applaud the dry cleaner who accepts responsibility for burning a hole in a customer's sport jacket. We applaud the pet owner who accepts responsibility for his dog dropping a turd on the neighbor's lawn.
What sort of topsy-turvy world is it when the most earth-shattering announcement following a life-shattering hurricane is that the commander in chief of the federal government takes responsibility for federal screw-ups?
Don't answer that; it's a rhetorical question.
Don't get us wrong. We actually are impressed that President Bush said what he said -- and it certainly trumps Mayor Ray Nagin's refusal to admit shortcomings -- but we're not quite ready to wet ourselves like some in the mainstream media, such as ABC's Elizabeth Vargas, who called the statement an "extraordinary admission." We respectfully disagree. An extraordinary admission would be, say, "I led the nation into war based on bad intelligence." An extraordinary admission would be "I made a mistake in hiring an Arabian horse-show judge to head FEMA." An extraordinary admission would be "My name is Rumpelstiltskin."
By contrast, this is a decidedly nuanced admission. Ever the dutiful Air National Guard pilot, Dumbya knows the value of a good parachute: " ... To the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."
But don't mistake taking responsibility for taking the blame. We can't help but recall an old Watergate-era political parody record by David Frye called Richard Nixon: A Fantasy. In it, Frye, portraying Tricky Dick, drew the distinction that people who take the blame lose their jobs; people who take responsibility do not.