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Roger Martin

Roger Martin

Roger Martin is Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and author, most recently, of The Design of Business. His website is www.rogerlmartin.com

Don't Apologize -- Be Human

Full cooperation is certainly a necessary part of the response, but I think the situation also provides an opportunity for Obama to help his constituents begin to understand and appreciate his fallibility.

The key is to not apologize. The minute Obama apologizes for Blagojevich, he implies he believes he should be infallible, that he should be able to figure out in advance who is trustworthy and who is not and only associate with the former. Guess what? He can't: he isn't invested with godlike capabilities.

The more he inadvertently implies that he is infallible, the more he causes his constituents to think their god - Obama - can and should take responsibility for being perfect and taking care of everything, and that their job is just to sit back and watch. That is an unhelpful misallocation of responsibilities, with Obama as over-responsible and the American electorate as under-responsible. It goes downhill from there as the American people sit back and criticize Obama ever more stridently for not being perfect.

It is much better for Obama to say: "Blagojevich has been terribly badly behaved. I did have dealings with him in the Chicago political scene. I didn't see warning signs that I wish in hindsight that I would have picked up. From that experience, I have learned a, b, and c. And I believe that learning will make me a better leader going forward."

Bad things are only of utility to the extent that one learns from them. Apologizing sounds noble but it is inherently a non-learning response.

By Roger Martin

 |  December 15, 2008; 2:07 PM ET
Category:  Politics Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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To all the naysayers lets just click our heals together 3 times, and wish for the end of all corruption, because that's the only way we can survive, wishing it away, pretending it doesn't exist, or by fooling ourselves into thinking that Chicago is the exception and not the norm, you sheeple can't be serious, this country is full of corruption, because people like many of you selectively choose to voice your outrage when it suits your political agenda, instead of standing on principle in the midst of corrution like the president elect. The world is a dangerous and corrupt place where pragmatism and intellect trumps good intentions and willful denial of inconvenient truths, you want to see corruption, try the DOJ, and EPA, the SEC, and the CFMA of 2000. Corruption is a media induced diversion implicating the CRA and low-income home owners as the cause of this financial crisis, without mentioning the hundreds of billions of dollars still buried in Credit Default Swaps waiting to be pawned off to the American taxpayers for Wall Streets benefit, while 3Mil auto-workers and associated employees prepare for yard sales, and public asistance. Corruption is U.S. Congressmen and Senators who are more concerned with the competitiveness of Chinese, and Japanese automotive companies, over building a strong domestic manufacturing industry. GM and Ford built the markets that we are told should be left to foriegn manufacturers, I commend GM and Ford for buiding a prosperous middle class America, and consider those who would sacrifice American middle class incomes for ideology, yes ideology as corrupt, none of the naysayers demanded Wall St. pay guarantees, or pay deductions, but blue collars workers supposedly single handedly derailed any manufacturing loan, vote farming is what derailed that loan, and 2010 will be harvest year, the Web-community will be waiting for those southern GOPher hackmen for Asian auto manufacturers to seek their re-elections, hope your closets are clean and your and disclosures are in line, you fight for your ideology, we'll be fighting for the middle class rightful place as front and center in American trade and economic policy.

Posted by: Dolimange | December 16, 2008 12:14 PM
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This is trivial, President elect should not even honor the uncoherent assertion with a direct response, who beside sensationalist media machine, or digruntled Republicans would even consider that he (Obama) being a Chicagoan and Blagovich being a Chicagoan implies mutual guilt or corruption, following that logic our future President is a Arab baby killing black liberation preacher, and muslim terrorist, from either Great Britian, Kenyan, or Indonesia. Come on, at the end of the day who do you think will look silly. Hope you've been keeping score, I got everyone but President Obama and team looking like sensation addicted puesdo-thesbians by the end of Jan. 100:1. Get a life! This isn't the time to placate your guilt for letting Bush interject politics into war, energy independence, evironmental protection, climate change, endangered species, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, etc. This is a non-issue

Posted by: eyeman | December 16, 2008 10:53 AM
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President-elect has been distancing himself from Blagojevich for at least a year. Since he hasn't ever had a close relationship with the governor, there is no reason for Obama to apologize at all.

Posted by: Interloper | December 16, 2008 9:58 AM
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Well, now we have the theme for the next four years, as America begins to realize they've bought a political charlatan as phony as Jim Jones of San Francisco and Guyana, as rank as the Duke and the King, and the stench becomes insufferable and overpowering.

Posted by: DaTourist | December 16, 2008 9:13 AM
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Should we expect Obama to be the Fresh One just because Obama campaigned as the Fresh One?

What that smell from the Chicago River?

Posted by: DaTourist | December 16, 2008 9:09 AM
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Should Obama apologize for swimming in the same political sewer (aka the Chicago River) as the Daleys, the Madigans, the Jacksons, George Ryan, the Chicago City Council, the Mells and Blagojevich?

Well Obama can no more deny them and their contributions to his success than he can deny his beloved pastor Wright?

Right? Right!

Posted by: DaTourist | December 16, 2008 9:07 AM
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Why on earth should Obama apologize for Blagojevich's corruption?

Can you prove -- facts and sources, please -- that Obama had anything to do with Blagojevich's twisted scheme to sell Obama's Senate seat?

Blagojevich himself is heard on tape blasting Obama -- in crude terms -- because Obama rebuffed him. What is your problem?

Posted by: Gatsby1 | December 16, 2008 5:08 AM
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Bill, Most of us are still hoping Obama is trustworthy. And until proven untrustworthy AS president, he has my trust. He has now been elected as President of the United States and that gives him a clean slate as far as I am concerned.

Posted by: msgijoe | December 15, 2008 10:34 PM
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Hmmm. Illinois politics and the comment who is trustworthy? Well that's just about no one. Maybe we should ask Mr. Rezko?

Posted by: Bill | December 15, 2008 7:44 PM
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