Rudy Giuliani wants us to weigh his mistakes against his successes, Hillary Clinton demands that we believe that she didn't know then what she knows now, and John Edwards just calls it a mistake to have trusted Bush.
And what is it that these accomplished candidates want us to forgive and forget as they seek the top government job in the world? For Giuliani, it is his insistence that sleazy, inept, and corrupt crony Bernard Kerik be put in charge of homeland security (which the former mayor himself sees as one of the most sensitive and important appointments). For Clinton and Edwards, it is sending thousands of Americans (and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis) to their death while diverting hundreds of billions of U.S. tax dollars away from domestic priorities into the financial and moral sinkhole that is the Iraq war.
Now think about your own professional life for a second, and imagine what the equivalent mistake would be, and what would happen to you? Would you be given even more responsibility, would you even have the chutzpah to ask for a promotion?
Perhaps these presidential candidates are inspired by George W. Bush, our first MBA President, who in turn borrowed from the sordidly dysfunctional process that leads executive boards to hire the worst CEOs over and over again.
Giuliani asking us to weigh his mistakes with his accomplishments is not unlike an adulterous Gary Hart baiting the media to follow him to prove he was not cheating on his wife. If the mainstream media do their job (never a given, especially when it comes to reporting on Giuliani), this can only lead to one happy conclusion and uncover the fact that he is completely unqualified to be president (thank you, Joe Biden, for the best quote of the campaign so far).
As for Clinton and Edwards, their mistake was in gambling the wrong way: that a vote for war in Iraq would be less detrimental to a future presidential bid than a vote against. They now want us to believe that the vote was an error in judging a foreign threat, not an electoral one, a cynicism that further compounds the original damage. In many ways, though, the calculation may not have been that bad: Clinton and Edwards continue to be given a pass for a mistake that has had abhorrent consequences, maybe because so many journalists and voters wish to forget their own jingoism circa 2002.
It may also be that holding Democratic senators to account for that vote narrows the choice to, basically, Barack Obama, as two other "serious" candidates, Biden and Chris Dodd, both voted for the Iraq war.
And so American voters, especially in the Democratic primary, are asked to do what they do so well, and that is to move on, as we all make mistakes, hindsight is 20/20 and as long as we confess our sins, it's all good. You have to wonder, though, what was with all the bluster, the counting of the war dead, the hatred of Bush, of Republicans, of Donald Rumsfeld, if we can move on so quickly that we forget who allowed it to happen and how?