No, Jack, we really can’t handle the truth

Like many Americans, I’m prone to fits of fantasy about our political leaders.

What if they could just level with us, admit error, admit doubt.


What if Barack Obama, for example, said to the nation:

“Look …”

(By the way, have you noticed how many of his sentences begin, “Look …”?)

Anyway, what if he said:

“Look, I know I’ve made mistakes.

“I’ve disappointed some of you. I’ve disappointed myself at times.

“I know you’re upset by the sluggish economy. If I grant that I’ve made mistakes there, would you grant that things could have turned out far more catastrophically than they have?

“2009, that was one scary hello to the job. Smartest people in the universe telling you they have no idea how bad things could get, and no plan to fix them.

“Still, we DID prevent the bus from hurtling off the cliff. At least give me that, and I’ll admit this. I miscalculated badly on the politics on the stimulus. I so wanted Republican support to ratify my campaign riffs about changing how Washington works. So I wasted time and diluted the end result trying to get people across the aisle to respond in a way they clearly had no desire to do. Rookie mistake.

“What’s more, I did a bad job of explaining to you what we were doing, and why. I forgot that the game was still being played on Ronald Reagan’s ballfield, where tax cuts are always the magic elixir and government always the bad guy.

“Did the same darn thing on health care.

“I realize I trust too much in my own rationality and coolness. I’ll try to lead more from the heart, instead of just coolly solving things in my own head and acting as though that’s enough.”

OK, so that’s my idiosyncratic fantasy of how I’d like Obama to admit error. Yours would be different.

But the point is: How would the cable talk shows and the permanent opposition react to words such as that?

You know how they’d react, sure as the sunrise.

You’d hear partisan pundits instantly ranting from dawn to midnight about how weak, whiny and alibi-making Obama was.

Within 24 hours you’d see Super-PAC funded ads showing video of Obama saying, “I’ve made mistakes” about 15 times in 30 seconds.

We say we want our politicians to tell the truth. But when they do we punish them, swiftly, savagely and ritualistically.

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