SAN DIEGO – Wisdom is commonly defined as having experience, knowledge and good judgment. But it also means looking back, accepting mistakes, and understanding where we went wrong.
As President Barack Obama demonstrated recently during a contentious interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” he still lacks wisdom.
Like many presidents, Obama has trouble admitting when he’s wrong. Either because he doesn’t want to give his enemies ammunition, or because he has a blindspot where his own failings are concerned, a president who has never liked being challenged or questioned also has no appetite for introspection.
When Steve Kroft pressed him on whether a failed plan to train and equip 5,000 moderate Syrian rebels that only produced what one top U.S. Army general described as “four or five” fighters constituted a “serious miscalculation” and “an embarrassment,” the president got defensive. He even pushed back, accusing Kroft of asking “big, open-ended questions.”
You know what I don’t get? One would assume that Obama, after having been married for 23 years, would have enough practice by now at admitting when he’s wrong.
I catch some of my mistakes. Others get by me, and that’s where my wife comes in. She takes care to point out each and every one. Apparently, I’m wrong quite a bit.
And now that I’ve become more reflective on the far side of middle age, I’ve begun to think about the value of being wrong. And not just on the small stuff, but on the big things.
The small stuff is made up of things such as political issues and policy debates. For instance, I was wrong to oppose gay marriage in favor of civil unions and to think deportations were the solution to the immigration problem, and so I’ve moved to the left on both. But I was also wrong to think that gun control would curb violence in society and that abortion was solely about preserving a woman’s right to choose, and I’ve begun to move to the right on those issues.
But the big things are more complicated, more meaningful and more interesting. Here are 10 of my biggest mistakes:
See there, Mr. President. It’s not that difficult to admit errors in judgment, faulty assumptions, miscalculations. It’s OK to pause and take stock of where we went astray. It’s part of growing up. As you approach your final year in office, you should give it a try.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is email@example.com.