Why are politicians hesitant to admit they made a mistake even though everybody knows they did?
In the 'real' world, we're led to believe that if you screw-up, man-up and people will respect you for it.
Why isn't that the case in politics?
I'm alluding to, of course, the Peter MacKay and Rona Ambrose press conference on Wednesday about the F-35 'reset.'
During the 30 minute press conference, we learned that the cost of 65 F-35 fighter jets will be about $45.8-billion over a 42 year period — a far cry from the $16 billion figure touted by the Tories in the 2011 election campaign. We also learned that the government will now evaluate all available options for acquiring new fighters.
John Geddes of Macleans Magazine summarizes the 'take-away' from yesterday's news the best:
"Every element of his and the government's earlier line of argument on the F-35—that it was the only jet that could possibly do the job, that the cost had been properly assessed and explained to taxpayers, that there was no chance an open bidding process might get Canada an adequate fighter for a better price—has been thoroughly junked."
So why can't the Tories just admit that they were wrong?
Is it too much to want an apology from MacKay in particular — an admission that his Department of National Defence screwed-up?
Why don't politicians like to apologize?
Yahoo! Canada News went to two political consultants with that very question.
Here are their responses:
Marcel Wieder, President of Arrow Communications Group:
"Politicians approach things differently from you or I.
If you or I make a mistake and we admit it there is very little likelihood that it will make the front page of a paper, the lead story of a broadcast or be tweeted to the masses. We make our apologies and go on with our lives.
In the case of a politician, admitting mistakes results in news stories, endless social media commentary and attacks by opposition politicians and groups. The mistake is then turned into a character or judgement flaw and examination of previous actions and decisions are made in search for similar mistakes. All of which is emotionally and intellectually draining on the politician and their staff. It distracts from the work that the politician is undertaking and in some cases makes them second guess their decisions.
The stakes for a politician admitting to an error are very high. Governments have toppled over mistakes and as a result politicians fight them very vigorously.
There are some who would believe that it is better reject the argument in hopes that it will blow over than to admit the mistake and have it used against you repeatedly."
Gerry Nicholls, Communications Consultant:
"The Conservative strategy is simple: always attack, never defend.
Admitting a mistake would be a defensive move, that would knock them off their central political message, i.e. Conservatives are good economic managers.
Also it would give the Opposition a victory and the Conservatives don't want to hand their foes a win if at all possible. It's important the government appear invincible."
I get what the learned consultants are saying. But I still want my apology.