“There were mistakes made in Iraq for sure.” Jeb Bush, yesterday, in his foreign policy speech. Nearly all of which, by the way, could have been delivered by his elder brother—which is as it should be, given how many members of the Bush #45-aspirant brain trust have Bush #43 or Bush #41 experience.
Previously in this ignoble series:
1973: "Mistakes were made in terms of comments." Richard Nixon's press secretary Ron Ziegler, on the lies he had told the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about their Watergate stories.
1986: "Mistakes were made." Then-VP George H.W. Bush on the Iran-Contra scandal and the administration's lying about it.
1987: "Serious mistakes were made." Ronald Reagan, on the same topic in his State of the Union address.
1991: "Some mistakes were made." White House chief of staff John Sununu on his abuse of travel policies.
1997: "Mistakes were made." Bill Clinton not on the topic you might guess but on administration officials discussing banking policy in front of fund-raisers.
2002: "It is quite possible that mistakes were made." Henry Kissinger, on human-rights complaints about U.S. intelligence activities in South America.
2006: "The biggest mistake that's happened so far," George W. Bush on the Abu Ghraib torture scandals. "That's happened" is a nice variation on "was made."
2007: "Mistakes were made." Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, on the politicized firing of some U.S. Attorneys.
2014: "Mistakes were made." NJ governor Chris Christie on the GW Bridge scandal in his State of the State address.
1946: "Mistakes were made," Albert Speer at the Nuremberg trials.
No, sorry, this last one is not real. Nor is AD 33: "Mistakes were made," Pontius Pilate; nor 1912: "Mistakes were made," Capt. Smith of the Titanic.
For wrapups on this pernicious, passive-voice, accountability-avoiding approach to public life, see On the Media; the Maddow show blog; The Washington Monthly; the NYT; CBS; Wikipedia; the NPR blog; MetaFilter; etc. The late William Safire wrote about the circumlocution in 2003, also arguing at the time (mistakenly) that the invasion of Iraq would not prove to be a mistake.
Please, God, let us bring a halt to this three-word affront to logic and language. Other 2016 candidates, please learn from the mistake that was made in Jeb Bush's speech.
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