START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
Sep 27, 2006

What we can learn from the Hungarian PM's disastrous slip-up.
http://www.slate.com/id/2150414/


"We have screwed up. Not a little, but a lot. … If we have to give an account to the country of what we have done in four years, what are we going to say?"

I wish I could gleefully report that the words quoted above had been spoken by an American politician, preferably at a large public gathering with lots of media. But, alas, they were pronounced by a foreign politician with an unpronounceable surname: Ferenc Gyurcsany, the prime minister of Hungary. For those readers who don't follow Hungarian politics on a daily basis, he also said that "we lied, morning, noon, and night" and conceded that his country had stayed afloat during his government's first term thanks to "divine providence, the abundance of cash in the world economy, and hundreds of tricks."

Gyurcsany made these refreshingly frank comments during a private meeting. They were taped, and leaked. He now says he spoke that way to impress upon his colleagues the urgent need for radical economic reform in Hungary, by which he means higher taxes (his party had promised lower taxes) and tighter budgets (his party had promised few cuts). Shakily, he's sticking to that line.

It won't be easy. In Budapest, his comments sparked several nights of riots, about 250 injuries, and daily demonstrations. Hungary's currency and credit rating took sudden dives. The opposition is calling for his resignation. Inexplicably, Gyurcsany still managed to show up late last week at a conference on European Union reform in Berlin, where I watched him make an emotional and not entirely comprehensible speech. He warned, among other things, of "radical nationalism," by which he presumably meant all of those people angry at him for "screwing up." He looked close to tears.

The lesson here is clear: Prime ministers, presidents, and other sundry statesmen beware. In democratic politics, you get in trouble not for what you do but for what you say - particularly if it's true.

I should point out here that the Hungarian case is unusual, since the prime minister was admitting not only to mistakes but also to deliberate deception—a double whammy. But it's true, too, that plenty of other politicians around the world have lost elections, support, and power for telling a difficult truth. Let's be blunter: In America, no one gets elected dogcatcher if he talks about reform, sacrifice, and lower living standards—let alone confesses to serious mistakes. This is not because such candidates are liars, though some of them may be. It is because the public doesn't like talk of reform, sacrifice, and lower living standards. We don't tolerate negative politicians. We don't re-elect them.

All of which brings me, unavoidably, to the Bush administration and Iraq. Last week another leak revealed that at least some part of the American intelligence apparatus now believes that the war in Iraq has led to an increase in radical Islam, a strengthening of the international terrorist network, and a higher threat of attacks on America and Americans. If this is true, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, it means that the president and the defense secretary have been told by some of their own intelligence officers that the bungling of the war in Iraq was a grave mistake.

But I'm not holding my breath in anticipation of hearing that analysis from the president or the defense secretary or anyone else close to the White House. And—without getting into the ins and outs of who said what to whom, what might have been done differently, or what the future policy in Iraq might be—maybe none of us should be surprised. It's all very well to call for apologies or admissions of wrongdoing or acknowledgment of failure, as some Democrats are doing this week. Yet if the president really were to publicly declare that "we have screwed up," he would inspire, if not riots, then jeering and sneering all around. If Donald Rumsfeld were to state that all of his Iraq-is-a-success talk was wrong, and that "we lied, morning, noon, and night," I'm not sure anyone would like him any better for it, either.

It's too bad: If we could openly analyze what went wrong in Iraq without constant administration spinning, we might avoid similar disasters in the future. If we could openly speculate about the new threats created there, without the director of intelligence complaining that we'd misinterpreted the leak, we'd be in a better position to fight them. But confession of mistakes is, in a way, the last taboo. Nowadays you're allowed to cry if you're a politician, and you're allowed to admit you need counseling. You aren't allowed to say your policies were wrong. In our political culture, just as in Hungary's, the admission of error is always called a sign of weakness.

Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Wednesday September 27, 2006, 8:32 am
Tags: [add/edit tags]

Group Discussions
Comments
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:

Penelope P. (222)
Thursday November 8, 2007, 6:43 pm
"Truth is seldom pure and never simple"- In fact the postmodernes have gone on record as claiming that there is no such thing as truth. But leaving that aside-Truth on the whole has been rather unpopular-At least it's messengers have been- Christ. TE Lawrence. Sir Walter Raliegh,Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Socrates- even Francis Bacon exemplify what happens to those who seek to relay it. Even medical truth ahead of it's time tends to be unpopular Cf what happened to Lister
It seems to me just one of those things people have always tended to shoot the messenger if they can get away with it

Ken G. (49)
Monday February 4, 2008, 9:06 am
And so there's the saying, "The truth shall set you free." Maybe it's the responsibility that goes along with being free that's the real problem with the truth.

Author

Ken G.
male, age 76, single
Mesa, AZ, USA
KEN'S SHARES
Oct
14
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\n     \"I the communicant communicate these commutative words to you as we are in community together in a communicable manner.\" How\'s that for an introduction? A saying I once heard about public speaking was, \"There are two ways to speak...
Jul
3
(2 comments  |  discussions )
\n \r\n\nThe words to the song on the radio were clear enough in sound but didn\'t resonate very well in my mind. Tomorrow is the 4th of July, Independence Day for the United States. People wave their flags and the male singer emits the words, “...
Sep
20
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\n \r\n\n\"One of the best ways to win any game is to write the rules.\"\r\nMichael S. Malone\r\n \r\n  ;   Whatever happened to just playing the games for the fun of it? But then of course possibly Michael Malone could\'ve been psychic and ...
Jan
24
(3 comments  |  discussions )
After getting kicked out of two groups and having an equal or better amount of posts deleted I've decided to respond to this here. One group host has sent me a request to join the group leaving me wonder about what are they thinking. One who delet...


SHARES FROM KEN'S NETWORK
Jun
3
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\\n What isKids Help Phone?\\r\\n\\nCall us if you want to talk\\r\\nWrite to us if you have something on your mind\\r\\nYou don’t have to pay for our service\\r\\nWe are always open\\r\\nYou don’t have to tell us who you are\\r\\nIt’s between jus...
May
30
(0 comments  |  discussions )
Water drops after rain in my yard on May2013hope my friends will enjoy them\\r\\n*********\\r\\n to watch them all in short time...... click at view slide show.. and choose Delay:1second
May
5
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\\n\\r\\n20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking\\r\\nAfter first learning about human trafficking, many people want to help in some way but do not know how. Here are just a few ideas for your consideration.\\r\\n1. Learn the red flags that may indicate...
May
4
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\\nChild Abuse and Neglect\\r\\n\\r\\nChild abuse is more than bruises and broken bones. While physical abuse might be the most visible, other types of abuse, such as emotional abuse and neglect, also leave deep, lasting scars. The earlier abused children ...
Apr
22
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\\nHi to all Dear care2 friendI know Val for many years here on care2..she is my a good friendnormaly she never trouble me or friends....but when I read this...her message todayI know she must in trouble..or life there too stress for herso I decide to ...


MORE MEMBER BLOGS
Mar 31
Blog: How to Extend the Life of your TRIAD Boilers by Kayleigh L.
(0 comments  |  discussions ) — \\nHow to Extend the Life of your TRIAD Boilers \\r\\n \\r\\nCorlis Engine Review\\r\\nEvery user desires to prolong the life of a unit. TRIAD assists their clients in achieving this important objective by informing them of ways they can avoid problems... more
Feb 27
Blog: Dr Oz Weight Loss - The 100% Natural And Very Efficient Diet Pill by Debra S.
(0 comments  |  discussions ) — \\nYes, Dr. Oz called Garcinia Cambogia Extract (HCA) the Holy Grail of Weight Loss. He went on to say, “Anytime I see a scientist get this excited about something like Garcinia Cambogia Extract and when I looked through some of this research and... more
Blog: My Favorite Websites by krysta I.
(0 comments  |  discussions ) — \\nIFAW: www.ifaw.org\\r\\nOCEANA www.oceana.org\\r\\nPETA: www.peta.org\\r\\nEARTH 911: www.earth911.org\\r\\nANI MALs ASIA: www.animalsasia.org\\r\\n \\r\\n\\r\\n\\n more
Feb 21
Blog: testing one two three by Geoff M.
(0 comments  |  discussions ) — hello world more
Blog: Garcinia Cambogia Reviews From Actual People Garcinia Pure Extract Is A Huge Success February 20 by Dany M.
(0 comments  |  0 discussions ) — \\nGarcinia Cambogia Reviews From Actual People Garcinia Pure Extract Is A Huge Success February 20\\r\\nGarcinia Cambogia System The Dr. Oz Lose Weight Quick Process Without Having Side Effects\\r\\nHe went on to say, “At any time I see a researcher... more
 
Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of Care2.com or its affiliates.