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Mistakes Were Made

As part of its “Primary Questions” series tonight, CBS News anchor Katie Couric asks each of the candidates what is the biggest mistake they’ve ever made.

No, the candidates didn’t just stare blankly, not coming up with anything. Nor did they cite the job-interview standard, “I have gotten lost in my work.” Rather their responses are not blatantly self-serving, if they still try to point out how they’re learned from ’em.

Rudy Giuliani is perhaps the most candid: “I know the one that comes to mind right away.  And that’s one– in not being able to anticipate the changes that were needed in child welfare and setting up the Administration for Children’s Services enough.  All– all of the sudden, this young girl, Elisa Izquierdo, was– was killed.  She was killed in a brutal way.  She had been in and out of the child welfare agencies.  She had been on our radar screen and– and I hadn’t fixed it in time.  And I– I had– had time to do it.  I could have done it in the time that I reformed the other agencies.  And I felt terrible about this.  And we– we made a very big reform based on it.  But, I always felt if we had done that earlier, maybe just maybe we could have avoided her death, and maybe some other situations like that.”

Hillary Clinton cites health care: “You know, I have to put– my handling of healthcare among one of my biggest mistakes, because it was so personally disappointing.  But it was also such a tragic– loss of time– for so many Americans who needed healthcare, and we weren’t able to deliver it.  And I didn’t handle it right.  And I didn’t know everything I know today about the best way of presenting it and trying to– convince the Congress and the country to go along.  And I– you know, I was upset about that for a long time, because I was, you know, really unhappy with the mistakes I made and felt like they had contributed to– the loss of an opportunity to provide healthcare for people.”

Mitt Romney cites supporting abortion rights earlier in his political career, even though he says he was personally anti-abortion. “I think from the political– perspective, the biggest mistake I made was– believing that my personal– disagreement with abortion, and my– my view that abortion was wrong, that somehow I could accommodate my personal view that abortion was wrong with a public view that other people should be able to make up their own mind, and the government wouldn’t play a role.  That, in my view, was a mistake.  It– became apparent to me when– a bill reached my desk that would have created new life and destroyed it.”

And Barack Obama mentions getting involved in drugs and alcohol as a teenager. “The biggest mistake that I ever made was when I was a teenager.  Because I got– involved with drinking and trying drugs.  I was being raised by a single mom and by my grandparents.  And I’ve written about this in– in my first book.  You know, I was frustrated and didn’t have role models out there that– made sense.  And so– and so I engaged in a lot of destructive behavior.  And it– it– I pulled out of it in my first couple of years of college.  Because I– I– I started thinking outside of myself.”

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