Obama: ‘I Screwed Up’

In a series of previously scheduled interviews with television networks yesterday afternoon, President Obama admitted the obvious: His team’s failure to properly vet a series of high level appointments was embarrassing.

Charles Babington offers a solid assessment:

The new president, seen by some as arrogant, was anything but on Tuesday. “I screwed up,” Obama said repeatedly during a series of TV interviews. “I take responsibility for this mistake.” It was a frank admission from an Oval Office where “mistakes were made” has often been the preferred dodge.

An old story, with new actors, played out Tuesday: A new president’s team imperfectly vetted top nominees. The nominees, it turns out, had not paid taxes for household help or other services when they were private citizens. The news media and political adversaries bored in. And rather than spend more valuable time and political capital defending the appointees, the administration dropped them and moved on.

In other words, Obama may be more ordinary than some admirers would like to admit. He will surely struggle, over the coming weeks and months, with the economy, health care, military matters and Congress, much as other presidents have.

That’s hardly an indictment. But Obama’s rocket ride to the White House, his extraordinary speaking skills, and his smooth, I-don’t-sweat style had some people calling him “the one,” a once-in-a-generation political leader who could rise above his predecessors’ foibles.

I’ve been predicting this for weeks, not because I want Obama to fail but because the standards for success had been set impossibly high. He’s a gifted politician but, it seems, a mere mortal.

He has, however, handled this well.  He’s quickly cut his losses and moved on.  And he’s apparently learned something from his predecessor’s mistakes as well:  When everyone knows you’ve screwed up, go ahead and fess up — and then change course.

FILED UNDER: Politics 101, US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. bystander says:

    BHO is a pragmatist and no doubt a smart politician. He knows that he must choose his battles well, and this one wasn’t worth fighting. His apparent ‘surrender’ is in reality a victory of sorts, as Babington’s article proves out so well. There is integrity in being humble.

  2. Heretik says:

    […] Obama admitted his sins: “I screwed up” and then Obama said, “Suffer the children that they may come unto me” or was it […]

  3. William d'Inger says:

    Every fresh-faced administration makes virtually the same type fumbles. Were it not so, pundits would have to find real jobs like driving cabs or sweeping streets.

  4. DL says:

    For those who think Obama walks on water, it must be a dissappointment to discover that it real was dirty sludge.

    It appears that there is more honesty and dignity in involuntary servitude than there is in public service.

    God has strange ways that usually end up exposing the charlitans for what they are. Unfortunately there are millions who just like the corrupt leaders, excuse their evil.

    That Obama still supported the criminals after their crimes were made known, shows the level of corruptness he owns. Like rush – I pray he fails.

  5. Drew says:

    I really don’t think it is an issue that a couple of his choices have turned out to have tax (or any other) problems. I’m not familiar with the typical cabinet position vetting process, but the long history of fumbles in previous administrations makes it obvious that it simply is imperfect. So be it.

    It seems to me the real issue was his initial reaction to stand by Daschle. Once he knew the facts, which should have been almost instantaneously, Daschle should have been gone. The fact that he would even consider standing behind an obvious tax cheat tells us much.

  6. Eneils Bailey says:

    “I screwed up,” Obama said repeatedly during a series of TV interviews.

    Sure, he did, and you have to give him credit for taking responsibility.

    But, at some point, you have to go back and look at this person’s lack of experience, past associates, his campaign rhetoric, his gift of gab, and the MSM”s total lack of examination of his past personal and professional experiences. We may have a Jimmy Carter reduviid here on steroids.

  7. JB says:

    For all the talk about the “honeymoon ending,” I am still daily amazed at the pass No. 44 continues to receive. Consider the chronology of this mea culpa. Before Daschle withdraws, Obama stands by him — and the national media rush to explain how Daschle’s inexplicable ability to pay his taxes is actually OK. Then, after the Republicans and their backers in the press refuse to let Daschle off easily, Daschle withdraws and THEN AND ONLY THEN does Obama admit to erring and “fess up.” Now, he scores points for being “a grown up” about this. Please. Spare me this nonsense. If the man were to dump his waste on the White House lawn, you’d probably praise him for his concern over the fertility of the soil. The fact is, if Obama really believes that the failure of his Cabinet nominees to pay taxes is really a problem, then he will immediately demand the resignation of Timothy Geithner. Until then, I will not believe a word of his blather, intended to make it appear that he actually cares about “two sets of rules.” Until Geithner is gone, I will conclude that he is only blowing smoke in the hope that those who fail to think will inhale..

  8. Davebo says:

    Is it possible to be disappointed and relieved at the same time? Why yes, I suppose it is.

    John Poindexter

    Elliott Abrams

  9. spencer says:

    Now, compare this to the typical reaction of the Bush White House.

    They would go to the most ridiculous exercises to avoid admitting they made an error on even the most insignificant matters.

    Can you imagine Bush ever saying I screwed up?

  10. Franklin says:

    Can you imagine Bush ever saying I screwed up?

    Now why would somebody say that when they’ve never screwed up?

  11. tom p says:

    Now why would somebody say that when they’ve never screwed up?

    giggle, giggle…

    But, at some point, you have to go back and look at this person’s lack of experience, past associates, his campaign rhetoric, his gift of gab, and the MSM”s total lack of examination of his past personal and professional experiences.

    Gee, Haven’t I heard this before? (“Hi Kettle, I’m Pot, your black!”)

    It seems to me the real issue was his initial reaction to stand by Daschle.

    Drew, on this one, I am giving him a “loyalty pass”, Daschle did help him in his early DC years, but still, he DID dump him…. unlike his immediate predecessor with Al G.