THE BLOG
06/22/2014 09:30 am ET Updated Aug 22, 2014

Taking Credit and Accepting Responsibility

If I were the CEO of a company and was employed six years ago to clean up the problems attributed to my predecessor, how would the Board of Directors react if the company was still having problems and I was blaming my predecessor for them? Would the directors say, "Oh, yes, the problems were so great that we could not expect you to have fixed them in six years"? Or would they say, "We hired you to fix things, and you should have had them fixed by now or at least be well on your way to having them resolved"?

With the companies I am acquainted with, the board and the stockholders would not put up with a CEO who was blaming his predecessor of six years ago for the continued loss of money and the value of the stock still going down.

It bothers me that President Obama and his administration so frequently blame others for problems and the bad news coverage that go along with them. For example, just last week the president said something like, "You cannot blame me for the problems in Iraq. It is all the fault of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He is to blame." At least the president did not continue to blame President George W. Bush. But other members of his administration and the Democratic attack team blamed Dick Cheney, President Bush's Secretary of Defense, for the "new" problems with the unexpected surge of the ISIS Sunnis.

Or take the IRS problem with the crashing of hard-drives in the computers of seven IRS employees who are under investigation for their possible roles in delaying action on the applications of right-leaning organizations for not-for-profit status. One perhaps could accept that one or two of the hard-drives would have crashed, but all seven of them, at the same time. Humm! Rather than admitting that there was possibly a problem with what the IRS did, the Director of the IRS rather arrogantly, in my opinion, said that the IRS had nothing to apologize for, and President Obama said there was no reason to suspect foul play. So the computers are to blame!

Oh, yes, there was the attack on the American diplomatic mission at Benghazi, in Libya, that killed four people, including a United States ambassador. It is not that the State Department or the Defense Department failed in providing necessary protection. Oh, no! President Obama's administration said the attack was the spontaneous response to an American film that insulted the Prophet Mohammad, while evidence suggests that it was known from the beginning that the attack was a well-organized assault by Islamic terrorists that took some time to plan.

The President constantly takes credit for the popular things that he and his administration are doing. He frequently is heard saying such things as: "As Commander in Chief I ordered the military to do such and such." or "I directed that such and such a thing be done." or "I did it by executive order." or "My administration did such and such." or "We did such and such." He is always taking credit for what he believes are popular undertakings or matters that result in what he and his advisers think are popular outcomes.

If he takes credit for what he deems are popular things, it would be refreshing to hear him, likewise, accept the responsibility, or as some people call it the blame, for his perceived failures or unpopular outcomes. The American people are an amazingly forgiving people when someone sincerely apologizes for his or her serious misjudgments or downright mistakes. They don't expect the president to be perfect. But they do expect him to be forthright and honest.

In my opinion, it would be reassuring to the American people for the president, his administration, his advisers, his truth squad, or his attack team just to admit that perhaps some of the problems in Iraq are the result of the administration's foreign policy decisions, that just perhaps there were some people in the IRS who were deliberately delaying action on granting some organizations not-for-profit status, or perhaps that the administration shares at least part of the responsibility for a United States ambassador and three other United States citizens being killed at Benghazi. I say reassuring because the American people would come to trust the president when he brought them good or bad news.

I studied in Scotland not long after the end of World War II. People there told me what they admired most about Prime Minister Winston Churchill was that in his nightly radio addresses to the British people during the War he told them, night after night, about how bad the war was going for England. He never "sugarcoated the pill" or blamed someone else or some other country or some other government for what was going wrong. So when he told them something that was good news rather than bad, they could believe him. He built up trust and credibility regardless of the situation.

I would like that same kind of trust and credibility from our president and his administration and his advisers. They have every right to take credit for their successes, but they also have every responsibility to accept the blame for their mistakes, misjudgments, and failures.