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“Mistakes were made.”
In politics, it is an expression so ubiquitous that it becomes comical. Whether you realize it or not, it’s something you’ve heard dozens, if not hundreds of times before, always uttered by someone trying to get out of hot water. The phrase is so common that there are actually YouTube mashups of political figures like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama using it.
You will notice the clever construction of the sentence.
Sounds like an acknowledgment of wrong, doesn’t it? After all, mistakes have been made! It means that something was supposed to happen a certain way, and it didn’t. There was, at the end, a kind of mistake. And someone did.
But who, exactly, is responsible for the aforementioned error?
Not the speaker of this sentence, that’s for sure. If they were interested in accepting responsibility for the act in question, they would say something like, “I made a mistake. Saying “mistakes were made” leaves the question of guilt or responsibility unanswered, attributing it neither to oneself nor to anyone else.
By failing to identify a guilty party, the deviously smart damage control politician manages to avoid blaming himself, while inviting no antagonism from anyone else. Ultimately, this, one of the all-time cliched political aphorisms of our time, is meant to give the appearance of accepting responsibility without any of the complicated issues of actually having one.
That’s exactly what University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy was trying to do last week when he used the phrase while answering questions from the Legislature Education Committee on Thursday. last.
“Mistakes were made, especially around the University of Maine Augusta research,” Malloy said at one point. “Overreliance on an external research consultant led to poor decisions. Because I believe that people should be held accountable, I accepted this obligation, that mistakes were made. Bad mistakes.
Notice what he did here. Malloy states that things have gone wrong, then points to an easy boogeyman, an outside consulting firm involved in the search, before unconvincingly saying that he “agreed [the] obligation” to be held responsible, before repeating once again that “mistakes have been made”.
That kind of nonresponse should come as no surprise from Malloy, a career politician who ruined Connecticut’s economy. Before becoming chancellor, Malloy served two terms as governor of Connecticut, where he proved to be an economically inept and scandalously unpopular ruler.
In a survey conducted at the end of his term, Malloy recorded an approval rating of 14.6%. For context, at the time the poll was taken (October 2018), President Donald Trump had a 35% approval rating. Thus Malloy – a Democrat in a majority Democratic state – was so unpopular that his approval was less than half that of Trump. I’ve never really seen anything like it in 20 years of politics.
For those familiar with his career, he was always an odd choice to lead the University of Maine system, and I was stunned when I heard he landed the job. But somehow he did, and we sit watching his failed leadership of the system. Due to his mishandling of Augusta’s presidential hire, System is likely on the hook for around $700,000 over the next three years. This, however, is not the end of the complaints against him, as the faculty senates of three schools in the system have officially registered their opposition to his leadership.
And yet, somehow, the board is still considering extending his contract, now that it is coming to an end. The directors have already extended his contract for a short time, apparently against their own well-established contract renewal policies, and at the next board meeting there is a chance he will continue. .
If they do, the decision will be invalid. As someone who cares deeply about the university system, especially its flagship campus, the last thing I want to see is for it to be devastated by the incompetence of a politician who runs it inappropriately. His continuation as chancellor cannot be tolerated.
The elders should stand up and demand that the administrators not renew his contract in July. Lawmakers, in their role, should make it clear that if it continues, funding for the system will be affected. The message would get through then, I think.
Whatever happens in the future for the University of Maine system, I believe Malloy has to go. The biggest “mistake that was made” was hiring him in the first place.