The Know-It-All’s Dodge has been hanging around waiting for me to add it to the Rationalizations List for a long time. I should have added it when President Barack Obama exploded my head with this exchange, in 2015, regarding his pathetic and disastrous handling of the Syrian civil war.
In an interview with CBS’s Steve Kroft, who had earlier in Obama’s administration stated outright that his questions to the President would not be confrontational ones, there was this:
KROFT: You have been talking a lot about the moderate opposition in Syria. It seems very hard to identify. And you talked about the frustrations of trying to find some and train them. You had a half-a-billion dollars from congress to train and equip 5,000, and at the end, according to the commander of CENTCOM, you got 50 people, most of whom are, are dead or deserted. He said you’ve got four or five left.
OBAMA: Steve, this is why I’ve been skeptical from the get-go about the notion that we were going to effectively create this proxy army inside of Syria.
Aghast, I wrote,
Wait—what??? This was Obama’s policy! He was brushing off a massive and expensive failure by saying he never really believed in it in the first place! Can anyone point me to any previous President or competent leader of any kind (Robert E. Lee: “Yeah, I always thought that Pickett’s Charge thing was a bad idea.” Roberto Goizueta: “I wasn’t surprised that New Coke flopped…I hated the stuff, myself.”) who would so brazenly deny accountability for his own fiasco?
If you want to know why Congress, which Obama persuaded to spend a half-billion dollars for a policy Obama now says he didn’t think would work, doesn’t trust this President, here is your answer. Nobody can trust a leader like this.
I really should call the new addition “Obama’s Dodge,” but if there was ever a President Know-it-all,” it was Barack. [ I’m thinking about writing an essay examining the question of whether a leader who is an unethical asshole but who poses as a respectable leader, fooling much of the public, is better or worse for a country than a leader who is completely transparent and unapologetic about his asshole tendencies. Any resemblance to individuals alive or dead will be completely unintended, of course. ]
There has been a faint but distinct echo of this rationalization every time an Ethics Alarms commenter responds to a post about some new unethical outrage with “This comes as no surprise.” The thrust of The Know-It-All’s Dodge is that if one anticipated a bad result resulting from one’s own actions or decision, then one should be exonerated from blame, or that at least the blame should be moderated because it wasn’t a mistake, or something. The logic makes no sense, except to narcissists and idiots. (Obama is a narcissist.) If you KNEW something you were responsible for would have bad consequences, why did you allow it to occur? Resorting to this rationalization is damning, not mitigating.
I’m going to place “The Know-It-All’s Dodge” on the List in the cluster under #36. Victim Blindness, or “They/He/She/ You should have seen it coming.” ( “Victim Blindness attempts to shift responsibility for wrongdoing to the victims of it, who, the theory goes, should have known that their actions would inspire the conduct that caused them harm, and thus they should have either avoided doing what sparked the unethical response, or by not doing so waived their right to object to it.”)
I hope you’re taking notes…
The old 36C, Donald’s Dodge, or “I never said I was perfect!” ( “…a really vile rationalization, one of the worst on the list. It posits the theory that as long as someone never says or suggests that he is above a particular kind of misconduct, he shouldn’t be judged harshly for engaging in it.”) will be moved under #19, The Perfection Diversion, or “Nobody’s Perfect!,” where it should have been in the first place.