Rod St. Aubyn: Own Up To Your Mistakes


When I was in college I experienced something that stuck with me forever. Late one evening most of the people living in my residence hall wing were involved in a wet toilet paper fight. A few participants even went to the extreme measure of throwing a few oranges and apples that they had just picked up at the food service during the earlier evening meal.

Needless to say, after the fight there was wet toilet paper on the ceiling, on every wall, and the suite room doors. There was wet toilet paper on almost every scare inch of the walls. I have never seen such a mess from the fight that occurred late that evening.

The next morning the lady housekeeper came into our wing and almost had a heart attack. She went to the Head Resident and threatened to quit. In the meantime, several of us began to clean up the mess. A few hours later the Head Resident posted a sign saying that anyone involved in the mess was supposed to meet in her office at 6 pm.

Of course that was the discussion of the day for the residents of that residence hall and in particular for the wing members. Some stated that they were not going to go the meeting. A few justified their actions saying they “only threw one wad of wet toilet paper.” Then one of my suitemates, a UND football player who was also a participant, said something that has stuck with me forever. He said, “Guys, we all make mistakes, but don’t lie about it. Own up to your mistake.”

Most of the wing mates showed up for the meeting and accepted responsibility. We were required to write a letter of apology to the housekeeper and clean up the mess (which we had already completed) along with some other minor punishment. The housekeeper was pleased with the letter and I became a lifelong friend with her until her death several years ago.

I’m sure most people have heard the joke – “How can you tell when a politician is lying? When his lips move.” I would like to think that this represents a minority of those that pursue public office.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have the guilty politician admit that they made a mistake, but has since learned from their mistake? Is the public unwilling to forgive the mistake?[/mks_pullquote]

However do we see politicians deny their transgressions and quickly change the subject or try to divert the attention from the subject matter? I don’t know if this denial is ingrained from our legal system. How often do you see that accused people usually plead “not guilty” so their attorney can work out a deal for pleading guilty to a lesser charge?

Would the courts show leniency if the accused admitted to their actions right away?

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have the guilty politician admit that they made a mistake, but has since learned from their mistake? Is the public unwilling to forgive the mistake? I personally don’t think that this is the case for most people.

I would like to think that that the public would be willing to forgive and move on. That does not mean that they will tolerate repeated dishonesty – or does it?

I don’t mean to select just one politician. It could be applied to candidates from both major
parties. But let’s look at the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

First there were accusations of when and what she knew about the Benghazi incident and if they knew it was a planned attack or something in reaction to the controversial Muslim video. She denied the accusations and there have been constant stalling actions regarding the House investigation.

A confidant of Hillary’s has now divulged facts that dispute her previous explanations. Then we discovered that she had a private email account while working as the Secretary of State, something that was not permitted for other SOS employees as explained in her own email. We later discovered that she had deleted her emails from her server.

Last week it was determined that she did not have just one private email account, but possibly two or more accounts.

Now there are accusations regarding the donations to the Clinton Foundation. The Foundation has since acknowledged that they had misreported some donations. Of course, to date Hillary Clinton has been silent on all of these issues and has successfully stalled dealing with any of these issues.

I fully appreciate that candidates are under a super microscope by the media and their opponents. Accusations will be rampant. But I still wonder.

Rather than avoiding uncomfortable accusations, why don’t the candidates own up to their mistakes? Is it because they don’t trust the public in forming their own opinion on the sincerity of the politician?