03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Blame Game

On Saturday, two separate articles from two diverse sources--sports and politics--provided a lesson about the importance of being positive in communication.

The sports item featured Stanford's freshman quarterback, Andrew Luck, whose coach calls him "a rare combination of confidence and humility." Luck demonstrates that rare combination in his post-game press conferences when reporters ask him about his mistakes. As the article reported, "He never bristles at such questions and never makes excuses. He doesn't dwell on dropped passes, penalties that wreck big plays or bad breaks." In Luck's own words, "As many balls that have been dropped, there have probably been two times as many bad balls by me."

The political article was about President Obama in a commentary by the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan. Although Noonan was a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, she respects Obama. The Republican writer said of the Democratic president, "He willed himself into the presidency with an adroit reading of the lay of the land, brought together and dominated all the constituent pieces of victory, showed and shows impressive self-discipline, seems in general to stick to a course once he's chosen it."

But Noonan finds fault with Obama, ten months in office, continuing to blame George W. Bush's administration for the difficulties in his own. She wrote, "The president said last week, at a San Francisco fund-raiser, that he's busy with a 'mop,' 'cleaning up somebody else's mess.'" Noonan considers that "this theme is unbecoming. Worse, it is politically unpersuasive. It sounds defensive, like a dodge...This is not a sign of confidence."

The solution would be for Obama to play to his strengths: To continue to read the lay of the land adroitly, to bring together and dominate all the constituent pieces of victory, to show impressive self-discipline, to stick to the course he's chosen--but to drop his references to "somebody else's mess." Recalling the lyrics of the World War II patriotic song, Obama should "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative."

This is not to suggest that the president should turn a saintly cheek and offer mea culpas for the state of the union, but that he should stay on the high road. The Bush administration is history; now is not the time to look back, but straight ahead, and to do so with a positive plan of action.