The Campaign Spot

The Endless, Empty Refrain of ‘I Take Responsibility’

Hillary Clinton, discussing the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, to CNN Monday in Lima, Peru: “I take responsibility. I’m in charge of the State Department’s 60,000-plus people all over the world, 275 posts.”

There’s a strange habit in politics of public figures declaring that they’re “taking responsibility” for something going wrong . . . but then not following up with any particular action, contrition, or consequence.

Back at the beginning of this administration, February 3, 2009:

Tom Daschle, the former Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate, withdrew earlier Tuesday as news that he failed to pay some taxes in the past continued to stir opposition on Capitol Hill.

“I think I screwed up,” Obama said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “And, I take responsibility for it and we’re going to make sure we fix it so it doesn’t happen again.”

Of course, earlier this year we learned that 36 Obama aides owe $833,000 in back taxes.

Obama said he “took responsibility” for the millions in bonuses paid to AIG executives as part of the bailout. Of course, the bonuses stayed in there.

Discussing the debt and the state of the economy at a fundraiser for state senator Creigh Deeds in Virginia on August 6, 2009, Obama said, “I don’t mind being responsible. I expect to be held responsible for these issues, because I’m the president.” Of course, we’ve added $4.4 trillion in new debt since he said those words.

After Obamacare passed, the president did admit that he didn’t keep his promises on how the legislation would be handled.

He was pressed by freshman Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah to explain why Obama had not followed through on his pledge that negotiations over the healthcare bill would be broadcast on television. Obama argued that most of the debate had in fact been aired, except for some of the talks close to the Senate vote. “That was a messy process,” Obama said. “I take responsibility.”

But it was too late to change anything at that point, obviously.

On May 28, 2010, President Obama discussed the BP oil spill and declared, “I ultimately take responsibility for solving this crisis. I am the president and the buck stops with me.” The well was not capped until July 15, and it was not officially sealed until September 19, 2010.

President Obama said he “took responsibility” for the 2010 midterm results . . . but there was little or no sign that he changed his governing approach, philosophy, or policies in response to the lopsided results in favor of the Republicans that year.

Finally, it is easy to overlook that the president admitted that he misjudged the severity of the economic difficulties facing the country when he came into office.

In response to a question from a Twitter follower from New Hampshire, Mr. Obama said another mistake he made was not explaining to Americans how long the economic recovery would take, because he failed to grasp the severity of the recession quickly when he took office.

“Even I did not realize the magnitude, because most economists didn’t realize the magnitude of the recession until fairly far into it,” Mr. Obama said. “I think people may not have been prepared for how long this was going to take, and why we were going to have to make some very difficult decisions and choices. I take responsibility for that.”

He takes responsibility . . . and asks the country to trust that judgment for another four years.

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