Mistakes Are Acknowledged The phrase "mistakes were made" has been used frequently this week. Why is this comment — resurrected from the Reagan years — so popular with the Bush administration?
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Mistakes Are Acknowledged

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Mistakes Are Acknowledged

Mistakes Are Acknowledged

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

President Bush has conceded that the firing of eight U.S. attorneys was handled badly and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the man at the center of this political crisis, agreed. But NPR's senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr, says he's still waiting to hear someone accept responsibility.

DANIEL SCHORR: It's become almost a parlor game to spot the many uses of the passive voice by President Bush and his aides. The latest, although assuredly not the last, was Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: "mistakes were made" in connection with the firing of eight U.S. attorneys that the White House had wanted fired.

The Bush administration is not the first to invent responsibility from nowhere when things go wrong. President Reagan used a tense that you might call the passive imperative "mistakes were made" when the Iran-Contra scandal blew up.

President Clinton referred to a series of very bad mistakes when the American Air Force bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. But for the Bush administration, "mistakes were made" doesn't begin to cover the enormity of the disasters for which Mr. Bush has ducked any real responsibility.

One was not so much a malfeasance as a catastrophic nonfeasance. That was the bungling response to Hurricane Katrina, to which the inept action of federal agencies peopled with political appointees made a great contribution.

The other was Iraq. Just to say Iraq is to evoke images of death and destruction, but President Bush, deploying his "mistakes were made," announced a surge of American troop reinforcements and a new strategy.

The president has yet to make any real apology for plunging America into this war in the first place. He never did produce the weapons of mass destruction that were supposed to be the reason for an invasion that is now costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars.

I don't want to end this commentary on a despairing note, and so let me recall the New York mayor of my youth, Fiorello LaGuardia - little flower to many of us. A domestic relations judge whom LaGuardia had appointed, Herbert O'Brien by name, was stirring controversy over race relations in New York.

When the mayor was later reminded during a congressional hearing that he had named O'Brien to the bench, he responded, Senator, I have made a lot of good appointments, and I think I am good, but when I make a mistake, it's a beaut. Where's LaGuardia when we need him? This is Daniel Schorr.

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