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April 24, 2007 11:49 PM   Subscribe

Bush's Mistake and Kennedy's Error. What happens when someone says, "I was wrong"?
posted by Eekacat (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting little tidbit from Scientific American. Though this seems to explain things too (and linked here before as well).
posted by Eekacat at 11:51 PM on April 24, 2007

Not in this lifetime.
posted by cytherea at 1:00 AM on April 25, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance explains why everybody, except you, is always wrong. It's pretty handy because nothing helps people resolve differences more than providing psychological explanations for their obviously irrational behaviour.

WTF Sciam...when did they start publishing first year undegraduate level psych student political diatribes?

This glib analysis is from someone who considers themselves a skeptic?
posted by srboisvert at 1:25 AM on April 25, 2007

From the article: "Bush's popularity would skyrocket, and respect for his ability as a thoughtful leader willing to change his mind in the teeth of new evidence would soar."

Well, maybe in some sort of ideal world where populace is able to make its own judgements about these things.

Unfortunately in the real world, any statement that isn't completely 'on message' would be the equivalent of throwing oneself at a pack of angry dogs, as far as the response of the media is concerned.
posted by popkinson at 1:43 AM on April 25, 2007

yeah, gotta go with srboisvert on this one. wtf?
posted by dreamsign at 2:03 AM on April 25, 2007

You can't credibly apologise for something until after the fact, but the war continues. So Not in this lifetime may be accurate.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 2:35 AM on April 25, 2007

God told Bush to invade and God can't be wrong. And, if anyone should apologize, it should be God.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:00 AM on April 25, 2007

It's true. The Lord works in mysterious ways. In mysterious, disasterous, dim-witted, short-sighted ways.
posted by Dr-Baa at 6:25 AM on April 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

Is he sure that was G*d talking to him when he consulted "a higher Father"? 'Cause if it'd been Satan manipulating things, he hardly could've done better short of lobbing a few nukes at Bushehr for good measure, and I'm still not willing to rule that possibility out entirely.
posted by pax digita at 6:29 AM on April 25, 2007

You know, God can be a real dick sometimes.
posted by psmealey at 7:07 AM on April 25, 2007

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

-George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903)
"Maxims for Revolutionists"

Non-surprisingly this quote shows up a lot for Nader too.
posted by samsara at 8:09 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

At this point, were Bush to fall on his knees and beg the American people to forgive him, announce a troop withdrawal, the firing of Cheney, the creation of a bipartisan emergency cabinet, the closing of Gitmo, and the prioritizing of environmental initiatives for the remainder of his term, I would not think a soul would believe him. The man has one of the classic qualities of a true psychopath: an absolute absence of any evidence of remorse. He's an insidious liar, self-important and uncurious in the extreme. He has not told the truth about anything in his life, and certainly not as president. From him, even the most abject apology would sound strategic, and false on its face.

Loathsome people, these Bushies.
posted by spitbull at 10:40 AM on April 25, 2007

samsara, it's worth pointing out that the Shaw quote mistakenly posits a "world" that is itself devoid of rationality, intentionality, or humanity. like all such 19th century thinking, it hypostatizes the individual agent of social change.

precisely why it applies to Nader, a 19th century man if ever there was one.
posted by spitbull at 10:43 AM on April 25, 2007

Either this overwhelming evidence is wrong, or I was wrong--and I couldn't have been wrong, because I'm a good guy

This may be the crux of the problem (I'm not talking about Bush -- I'm interested more in this as a general phenomenon). Some people refuse to admit they were wrong out of devious motives, and I can understand that even if I don't condone it. Others refuse because they feel confessions turn them into a "beta dog." Again, I understand.

But I don't understand equating being "a good guy" with infalability. I hope I'm a good guy. I try to be. Yet I fuck up all the time, and I'm sure I always will.

I know people who feel that if you're diligent and well-meaning, you generally won't make mistakes. If you do, it's probably because you slacked off or because some "act of God" happened (e.g. you suddenly got sick). This is so NOT how I view the world.

The world, as I see it, is largely governed by chance and chaotic forces. And this included my own personality and motives. Try as I might to thwart this fact and always do my best, I am a flawed being living in a flawed world. I WILL make mistakes. I WILL be wrong. And admitting that I'm wrong does not make me "a bad guy." Admitting to making a mistake is like admitting that water is made of hydrogen and oxygen.


One more thought: the article suggests that good things come from owning your mistakes. As a constant-mistake-owner, I think this is only partly true. It depends on whether you're confessing from a position of strength. People look kindly on a powerful or heroic figure who admits to wrong-doing. Back when I waited tables, if I'd apologized for breaking a dish, my manager would have just glared at me. But when I'm teaching (something I'm confident about -- and it shows), I get showered with good will when I admit to a mistake. It makes me seem "more human."

Also, you can admit to making a mistake and yet frame it in a way that makes it seem like you're doing something noble. Kennedy did just that. Essentially he said, "I'm very aware that I could pass the buck or choose a scapegoat, but I'm going to take the high road and own the mistake." Strictly speaking, that's not necessary if your goal is to simply own up. You can say, "I made a mistake" without hinting at how good you are for owning up to it. (There's a good scene in the movie "Quiz Show" that deals with this issue.)

I'm aware of this, and I'm uncomfortable with this sort of framing, because it feels self-serving. But it kind of sucks, because when I remind people I'm doing something noble by apologizing, they treat me much better than when I just apologize.
posted by grumblebee at 11:31 AM on April 25, 2007

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