Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The word you're looking for, governor, is 'Sorry'

It's hard to admit you're wrong. Even harder when doing so means admitting your critics may be right. It's a challenge for any of us, but especially politicians, as evidenced again Monday night by Gov. Pat McCrory's response to the revelation that the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services mailed 49,000 children's Medicaid cards to the wrong households.

Instead of emphasizing how sorry he was about an inadvertent disclosure of personal information,  McCrory blamed the error on "10 years of operational neglect" at the department under previous governors Bev Perdue and Mike Easley, both Democrats. "You can't fix that in one year," McCrory said defiantly.

It's no great revelation that public officials tend to see issues as potential political wins and losses - and mistakes as therefore something to be minimized, not acknowledged. That's true from the president on down, and it's acutely true with McCrory. He's long been seen in Charlotte circles as oversensitive about criticism, and in a revealing interview last month with Editorial Page Editor Taylor Batten, he repeatedly turned discussion of state issues into grievances (often incorrect) about how the media was treating him. That's what you do when you're obsessed with the scoreboard.

So instead of a simple, unqualified "sorry" Monday, we got a rather audacious attempt at blame-shifting. And not a very good one, either. The supposed "10 years of operational neglect" at DHHS under Democratic administrations had nothing to do with the human error that the agency cited this week. (McCrory laughably tried to suggest that Obamacare was somehow to blame, too.) As for those "10 years" - they yielded a fraction of the scandal and mismanagement that we've seen in one year at DHHS with Secretary Aldona Wos in charge.

Two additional problems with McCrory's defensive posture: First, it creates a culture of deception in his administration. It's troubling enough that DHHS hid the Medicaid card mistake from the public until a newspaper found out, but when it was revealed, DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz wrongly said the mistake was something the agency had just learned about. It's a troubling pattern with McCrory and his administration.

Also, the governor's defiance can be enabling. When the reflex is to explain away mistakes and deflect criticism, you invite an erosion of accountability. That's become abundantly clear at DHHS.

So the "win" that McCrory went for Monday isn't really a win at all. His finger-pointing appeals to the people who are on his side, right or wrong, and it's unconvincing to those who won't ever give him the benefit of the doubt. The people willing to judge his administration objectively, however, see that one of his agencies has had an astounding run of questionable decisions and operational mistakes. It might be easy to understand why McCrory doesn't want to admit that. But his stubbornness isn't doing him, or his state, any good.

Peter St. Onge 


Exit 0 said...

CREATES a culture of deception?

It's already there, mate.

They've got a full platoon of paid trolls working all the papers' comment sections as well as any piece they can find elsewhere.

North Carolina government doesn't belong to North Carolina anymore.

Tom Burger said...

Blame the previous administration? That's not new. Obama has made a living at it for five years now.

Naty28 said...

He blamed Perdue for the teacher salary issue in a recent interview, as well. I wonder what he'd do if they misplaced his check and benefits.

Archiguy said...

Tom - No, actually he hasn't been "making a living at it for 5 years now". If anything, President Obama has been more than gracious when discussing the catastrophe he inherited from the previous administration. The recession happened on BUSH's watch, a fact too many conservative agitators conveniently forget. Obama was left to clean up two wars, one of which should never have been started. The list is endless.

And everything Mr. Obama has tried to do to fix the mess he was left with has been vigorously, often hysterically, opposed by the very Republicans who created that mess to begin with.

The fact is that, to paraphrase Erich Segal, being a Republican means never having to say you're sorry. Or you're wrong. Or even that just maybe, you might have had a teensy weensy error in judgement. You know, like the Iraqi War. Or saying you met with protesters when you didn't, or sanctimoniously giving cookies to teachers you're depriving of a pay raise. You know, stuff like that.

Anonymous said...

Yeah yeah play the record Pete...McCrory bad. Obama/Hagan good. McCrory defensive and deceptive. Obama/Hagan not. Well, we readers really got our moneys worth tonight.

Exit 0 said...

@alwaystomorrow How about you detail your claims.

Exit 0 said...

@alwaystomorrow How about you detail your claims.

Count count on that, I reckon.

Anonymous said...

Hey Peter,

How many O articles and editorials can you recall that were a favorable read towards McCrory? and how many O articles and editorials can you recall having been a negative read towards Obama and Hagan?

McCrory has had more negative articles from the O in less than one year as gov. than Obama and Hagan have had in 10 years in office..and we all dam well know the track records of all three.

Lex Alexander said...

I think we can safely conclude at this point that the only reason Aldona Wos still has a job is because she has pictures of a naked McCrory with either a dead child or a live animal.

Willy Loman said...

What McCrory said would be a problem....if it weren't true.

kantstanzya said...

Wow. This gets my vote as the hypocritical editorial of the year.

Every sentence in this piece could have been written about the Obama administration...if the Observer editorial staff ever thought to open their eyes and pens to reality.

"Hard to admit you're wrong". "Issues as potential political wins and losses"... see the new Defense Secretary Gates book that claims Obama used military lives for politics."Blame shifting"...Obama gave a speech yesterday still blaming George Bush for his weak recovery, declining wages and middle class and high unemployment. Still using the excuse of a recession that ended in the first 6 months of his presidency 5 years later!

"Explain away mistakes and deflect criticism to invite an erosion of accountability." Gee who does that sound like? "Finger pointing appeals to the people who are on his side". Hmm.. like constantly going back to the old well of class warfare and race baiting to keep his left wing troops in line?

"In 10 years they (Democrats) yielded a fraction of the scandal and mismanagement that we've seen in one year"? If you believe that you believe the Obama administration is the "most transparent in history".

The only reason the Black, Sleezly, Perdue scandals and mismanagement took so long to expose... and who knows what else never was revealed or questioned... is because the Democratic Party Media like the Observer engaged in "see no evil, hear no evil, write about no evil" from their ideological allies. I think McCrory administration has done a great job considering the extent to which they have been scrutinized and their every action mischaracterized and misrepresented.

In the end the main thing the Observer has shown us in the past year is that they just don't like the policies of the Republicans and Gov. McCrory. But we already knew that. They've consumed an awful lot of energy and print in trying to prove it is anything more.

Unknown said...

Where was this scrutiny by the Observer when Mike Easley was the Gov and John Edwards was commiting his sins?

samwise55freedom said...

Come on, when you screw up admit it. Put your big boy pants on and man up. He's starting to sound like Obama.. Always crying about the last guy. Bitching about media bias doesn't make you right either. Conservatives will always have to contend with bias from the liberal press.