Accountability: Learning From the Links

05/11/2015 08:42 pm ET | Updated May 11, 2016

Observing the expanse of current events and politics today, it is sometimes confusing as to what it is that we are supposed to understand or learn from it all. In this great age of communications and media with access to so much activity, we have a plethora of information and a paucity of wisdom.

Do all of the following moments have a thread in common and can we find a bit of wisdom?

Pam Gellar's Mohammed cartoon competition in Texas and the resulting death of two potential terrorists; Former Governor Mike Huckabee's announcement for President and his statement that "I don't have to defend everything I've ever done." Hillary Clinton's campaigns push back on the controversy surrounding the Clinton Foundation, and Bill Clinton's statement that "we have never done anything knowingly inappropriate." Jeb Bush's interview where he said he would have gone to war with Iraq and problem wasn't the war but the implementation of the war in the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein. The release of the report on the New England Patriots involving "Deflategate" and Tom Brady's responses.

These five seem to have no discernible connection, but I believe they are part of a bigger issue and point to what American's are hungry for. And that is accountability.

I have always been a big fan of golf and it is something I used to play a lot with my brothers and with friends. I haven't had the opportunity to play much in the last ten years, but got hooked on the sport when I started caddying at a young age in the Detroit area.

I learned about life in those days of caddying for the wealthy people and the connected people who belonged to the country club. The members were pillars in the community (businessmen and women, ministers, politicians, and wealthy retired folks), and who I recall overhearing at times talk about poor folks need to just be more responsible in their lives. Or they would talk about the sense of entitlement that existed in communities around Detroit and would say that much of this led to crime and bad behavior.

And then in the course of caddying for some of these "country club" folks I would watch them move the ball to a better position without their playing partners knowing, or use what we would call a "foot wedge" to kick their ball away from a tree. Some would cheat throughout the round of golf, while simultaneously talk about the lack of accountability in society. It sure gave me a lesson in hypocrisy, but it didn't diminish my love for the game of golf.

One of the big reasons I love golf is that the participants are actually obligated to call penalties on themselves which is unlike every other sport. If something happens in the course of play and the other players don't see, the players are responsible for penalizing themselves. I have watched this happen among pro players where hundreds of thousands of dollars are on the line, as well as among amateurs where only a few beers and bragging rights are at play. It is the ultimate in self accountability and taking responsibility for ones own actions and what happens in life.

In politics and in society today we need more of this type of accountability. We need leaders to stand up and admit mistakes, to say they messed up, and then tell us how they can do better. We need leaders to be transparent and open about what is going on and decisions they made, so we can see where accountability lies.

Pam Gellar didn't cause the terrorists to be terrorists and they paid the ultimate price for their actions, but she shouldn't hide behind the First Amendment. Just because you can say something, doesn't mean you should. It is accountability to realize the difference.

Gov. Huckabee, you want to be the leader of the greatest country on Earth, so yes you do have to explain decisions you made in your life, and take responsibility for those and admit if you made mistakes.

Hillary Clinton: Attacking the author of a book who raised questions about possible inappropriate actions at your foundation is not accountability. And President Clinton, you might want to explore whether a culture was created at your foundation which made cutting corners acceptable even if you were unaware of specifics.

Gov. Jeb Bush, we want a President who has learned from mistakes, especially a mistake that costs this country thousands of life's, two trillion dollars, and created more instability in the Middle East. I know President Bush is your brother, but we need to acknowledge mistakes in order to learn.

And the New England Patriots and Tom Brady shouldn't have waited on the NFL to impose a punishment for cheating in football. Admit to the wrong doing, apologize, and say how you are going to fix the culture going forward. And fans of New England who pass over this activity by saying it is okay to do whatever it takes to win, is that how you are raising your children?

It is time we have insist on accountability in our leaders and demand it as a cultural value we won't compromise on. We have had two presidents in a row, both from opposing parties, who seemed incapable of admitting a mistake. They saw self-accountability as a sign of weakness. The American public sees it as a sign of strength.

Let us practice a little more of the integrity and accountability that exist in the game of golf where penalties are assessed by the participants on themselves. They don't wait for someone to catch them, they do it because they believe in the integrity of the game. Too often we see in our politics and our culture what I sometimes witnessed on the golf course as a caddy in Michigan. People who cheat to win, who say one thing and do another, and who only feel bad if they are caught.

Let us demand something more from our leaders, and let us expect more from ourselves. We can each start in our own lives by being more accountable, and then we can show leaders the way. In 2016, I am searching for the candidate who best practices this type of accountability, and will create a culture where it is enhanced.

There you have it.

Matthew Dowd, founder of ListenTo.Us, is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.