It's my fault.
I did it.
I messed up.
Blame me. Nobody else. Me.
When was the last time you heard a leader - in politics, in sports, in business, in culture - say any of these things? It's rare. It's so rare that you can probably recall only one or two times.
It's not because there isn't blame to be taken. It's not because people have stopped messing up. It's because people have stopped taking responsibility for their mistakes.
This past week, Egypt elected an Islamic radical as its next president. Egypt is lost to the West, and what was once a stable nation will now be
an exporter of violence.
Make no mistake, this was a colossal error of American foreign policy. It's as bad as when the communists took china, and when Saigon fell.
And yet, who is taking the blame? Less than two years ago, when the streets of Cairo were on fire, our Secretary of State said Egypt is a stable place, a secure place. She said we had nothing to fear from the democracy movement. She said the Muslim Brotherhood would go nowhere near the presidential palace.
She was wrong. And now, because we didn't take action, America is less respected, less feared and less secure.
As a leader, you can't say: "well, I got bad information." You can't blame someone else.
If you want credit when things go right, you have to take blame for when things go wrong.
And let's not beat around the bush. Egypt has gone horribly, horribly wrong. Someone in Washington should accept blame for screwing things up.
Perhaps it's not fair to blame someone for 100% of what happened.
But shouldn't someone step up and say: "Blame me? I misjudged things. I thought the Egyptian people would establish a fully functioning democratic system with checks and balances and protections for coptic christians and a free press and all that."
"I guess I was wrong."
What about hearing a little contrition from the people who confidently passed an expensive, massive health care law without thinking of the
constitutional issues? What about a little "I'm sorry" from those members of congress and the administration?
They dragged the country through a year of partisan debate. They loaded up debt. Raised taxes. Ignored the polls. Left our health insurance markets in shambles. And when someone asked them: Is this constitutional? they brushed it off.
How about a little accountability? But I suppose that might be too much to ask. After all, we should not expect accountability from our leaders until we get it from ourselves. Take the economy. Look, I think the economic policies of our president are a disaster. Don't get me wrong. But they are just a variation on a theme. Democrat or Republican, most economic policy ideas have it upside down.
As long as we expect Washington to deliver us from economic ruin, all we will get are economic ideas where Washington ends up with more power.
Washington is like a hammer - the whole world, as far it's concerned, is a nail that needs to be smashed over and over again. The hammer must do its work.
All Washington knows is political power. And that means an economy controlled more and more by politics, lobbyists and people in the
government bureaucracy. But that's not how a free market works. We all know that opportunity and prosperity starts at home. Away from Washington. It starts with hard work. Innovation. Creativity. Saving and investing. Long hours. Accepting risk. And yes, accepting our own failures.
None of those things depends on Washington. And Washington can't fix what's broke in America. That's why we have to start accepting where responsibility really lies. It lies within each of us.
When the housing bubble burst, everyone wanted to blame the bankers. For pushing the loans. For lying about the mortgages. For running up debts and then asking for bailouts.
It was an outrage. But behind every bad mortgage was someone who took on more than they should have. Someone who lied about their income. Someone who said: I can flip this house in six weeks and make a fast buck.
So yes, blame the bankers. Blame the bailout. But blame the borrowers, too. They were part of this mess. But ultimately, the blame game is taking us nowhere. The blame game doesn't bring democracy to Egypt. Doesn't fix our economy. Doesn't end the housing crisis.
We still need solutions.
We still need ideas.
And if we are going to move forwards, we have to end the blame game. We have to say: choose me. I'll fix this. I'll do what needs to be done. We can't wait for Washington to fix our problems. They just create more of them.
We have to do this work ourselves. We have to take responsibility. Because ultimately, it's our life. It's our community. It's our nation. And it's our future.
Past presidents and leaders have understood this. When the Bay of Pigs mission failed in cuba in 1961, President Kennedy went out and he spoke to the nation, and took full, personal responsibility. When the Iran hostage rescue mission failed in 1979, President Jimmy Carter went on TV. President carter is not my idea of a great president, but on that day, he did the honorable thing. He said: "It was my decision to attempt the rescue operation. It was my decision to cancel it ... The responsibility is fully my own."On the eve of D-Day, in 1944, General Eisenhower drafted a short statement and put it into his pocket. It said the following: The troops, the Air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone." He was willing to stake his personal reputation and legacy, all of it, to events beyond his control. To the execution of thousands of commands. To the heroism of young men he hardly knew and who he would never meet.
At any stage, any of it could go wrong. Many things did go wrong. But the mission went right.
All that followed was a reflection of that simple law of the universe: It's amazing what people can do when nobody cares who gets the credit - and when everyone is willing to take the blame.
Thanks for watching.
God bless you and may God bless the Republic.