Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Audacity of Dishonesty

We always thought Egyptian politicians like Amr Moussa and Ahmed Shafik owed us an apology before we allowed them to move forward with their political careers. They were part of a rotten regime that killed and tortured people. They enabled a dictator and his posse to rob the country of its resources and leave the rest live in poverty. In a simplistic way we needed closure.

Apologizing can be powerful especially in the Egyptian context as many of us, one way or the other, enabled the Mubarak regime. But is apologizing for errors in judgment ever done in politics? We saw Hillary Clinton in 2007 adamantly refuse to admit that supporting the Iraq war was a mistake. The more stubborn she became the more Obama gained support. She tried to spin her position and even pretend that she is sorry but never apologized (fearing to be considered weak). Many thought it reflected arrogance and lack of self-awareness on her side. On the other hand, Obama showed us his mature and human side in  his book The Audacity of Hope. Not many politicians would have the audacity to reflect on their journey and write candidly about it before running for president like Obama did back in 2006. Quotation below:
"Increasingly I found myself spending time with people of means – law firm partners and investment bankers, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists. … As a rule, they were smart, interesting people, knowledgeable about public policy, liberal in their politics, expecting nothing more than a hearing of their opinions in exchange for their checks. But they reflected, almost uniformly, the perspectives of their class: the top 1 percent or so of the income scale that can afford to write a $2,000 check to a political candidate. … They had no patience with protectionism, found unions troublesome, and were not particularly sympathetic to those whose lives were upended by the movements of global capital. … I know that as a consequence of my fundraising I became more like the wealthy donors I met." 
Had Moussa showed us that he is capable of reflecting on his professional life we may have considered supporting him. Moussa had a golden opportunity to use his long career to show us how he made mistakes and learned from them. More importantly by sharing his story with the younger generation he would've taught many the power of admitting mistakes and the importance of context in our life. And we may have shown him how we are capable of forgiving and supporting new beginnings. 

Source of the Obama Quotation: Salon / Glenn Greenwald (full article here)