The full responsibility scam
Carlton M. Caves
2006 February 19

Dick Cheney's man-in-place-of-quail shooting incident last weekend and the manner of its reporting have been the subject of national attention for a week now. In my view, the chief value of the incident is to draw attention to how the Bush gang accepts responsibility for its actions.

Here's Cheney's way of accepting full responsibility, taken from his exclusive interview with Fox News's Brit Hume last Wednesday.

HUME: So how, in your judgment, did this happen? Who---what caused this? What was the responsibility here?

CHENEY: Well, ultimately, I'm the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry. And you can talk about all of the other conditions that existed at the time, but that's the bottom line. And there's no---it was not Harry's fault. You can't blame anybody else. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend. And I say that is something I'll never forget.

Fade to a scene in a typical American household, where a teenage daughter, having apparently lost the car she drives a few days ago, is discussing the situation with her father for the first time.

FATHER: I haven't seen your car for several days. What happened to it?

DAUGHTER: Dad, the car veered off the road and ran into a wall.

FATHER: Good gracious! Are you all right?

DAUGHTER: I'm fine. The seat belts and air bags worked just like they're supposed to. I walked away from the accident.

FATHER: Well, thank goodness for that. But what happened to the car?

DAUGHTER: The car was totalled. I was the driver who veered off the road and ran into the wall. You can say what you want about the road and the wall, but ultimately I have to take the blame. I was terrified. As I got out of the car and saw that it was totalled, I didn't know what to think. It was the worst experience of my life.

FATHER: I can imagine. It sounds awful. But why didn't you tell me sooner?

DAUGHTER: I wanted to wait till I had the story exactly right.

FATHER: Hmm. Are you saying there's more than one story?

DAUGHTER: The accuracy of the story was important, and I wanted to be sure I got it right.

FATHER: OK. I'm still puzzled by that, but let's move on. Maybe you should tell me exactly how it happened.

DAUGHTER: I told you. The car ran off the road and encountered an unexpected obstacle. Things happen.

FATHER: But why did you run off the road? Did you fall asleep at the wheel? Were you distracted by something? Were you talking on the cell? Had you, God forbid, been drinking?

DAUGHTER: Dad, I'm accepting full responsibility. Please understand that. Some things haven't gone as planned since I started driving, and that made it more difficult than anticipated to avoid an accident.

FATHER: I'm not sure we're getting anywhere here. We're going to have to report this to our insurance company, but your car was so old it was essentially worthless, so we didn't carry any collision coverage on it. I don't think we'll get a penny from the insurance. Have you thought about how you're going to replace the car?

DAUGHTER: Because things didn't go as planned, I'm going to have to ask you and Mom for a supplemental appropriation.

FATHER: Could you make a contribution from your own savings?

DAUGHTER: What I'm saying is that since I'm taking all the blame, it's only fair that you should bear all the costs.

FATHER: Well, Mom and I will have to think about that. Is this accident going to create any problems with your provisional drivers license?

DAUGHTER: I'm sure that when the state learns that I'm accepting full responsibility, they will realize that I still deserve to have a license. Dad, I sense that you're starting to play the blame game. Since I've taken full responsibility, what's important now is to put this incident behind us and move forward. That's what I'm going to do.

Here we cut away from this nightmarish spectacle of a teenager composed of equal parts of Bush and Cheney, with a dash of Rumsfeld for flippancy. Back to the real world.

In the real world, there are consequences for accepting responsibility for some unfortunate incident. You are expected to do whatever you can to ameliorate the negative outcomes of the incident, to examine your behavior seriously, with an eye to identifying things that need to be changed to avoid a repeat, and sometimes to accept punishment.

Bush and his crowd live in a world of their own, where they talk about the importance of values even as they trash them. In the Bush world, taking full responsibility is a scam, a ploy resorted to when the pressure for information and explanations becomes too great to resist. Far from there being any consequences, however, the whole point of taking full responsibility---aside from a bit of portraying oneself as a victim---is to avoid consequences by declaring the issue closed.

If for no other reason than the mockery of values that the Bush crowd is teaching all of us, they ought to be booted out. The first chance to send a message is next November's Congressional elections. It needs to be loud and clear.

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