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Have you ever taken full responsibility?

Posted on Tuesday, February 27, 2024 at 11:00 am

Tyrades! by Danny Tyree

“I accept full responsibility.”’

In your lifetime you’ve doubtless heard umpteen public figures (elected officials, bureaucrats, corporate executives, celebrities) promise, “I accept full responsibility” after some manifestation of corruption, incompetence or social injustice comes to light.

(And if you’ve ever witnessed your CAT insinuate, “I accept full responsibility,” you need to take full responsibility for the potency of the weed you’re smoking.)

The first dozen times you heard this, you naively expected heads to roll, policies to be overhauled and restitution to be made.

This is probably because you have bittersweet childhood memories of marching over to Mr. Beasley’s house, confessing to knocking a baseball through his window and mowing his lawn all summer to make amends.

In the grown-up world, repercussions are more nuanced.

As Lucy Van Pelt from “Peanuts” might announce, “The spin doctor is IN.”

You might think justice demands terminations, resignations or demotions; but semantics can cover a multitude of sins. (“In the interest of proper context, I have corralled a distant cousin of Noah Webster who would like to shed some light on alternative meanings of the words ‘I,’ ‘accept,’ ‘full’ and ‘responsibility.’”)

Crafty speakers disguise throwing others under the bus. (“I accept complete responsibility, although … neither my immediate predecessor nor my executive assistant bothered to tell me that a dollar-store sticky note is not the optimal substitute for a ‘Bridge Out’ sign.”)

Sometimes we peons are too easily distracted. (“Before I go hang my head in shame, I must point out that all the smoke and mirrors you see up here are 100 percent American-made.”)

Even our information gatekeepers can be misdirected. (“I also take full responsibility for the recycling of the swag bags we provided for each of you fine representatives of the Fourth Estate.”)

The savviest public figures know how to accentuate the positive. (“Going forward, we must think globally. I’ll bet there are cultures where two-headed infants with gills are considered a blessing!”)

Tugging at the heart-strings is a way to seal the deal. (“I am redoubling my efforts to regain the public’s trust. My aged mother always taught me to clean up my own messes. My aged mother who will probably stop eating and wither away if her only daughter is condemned to give up her reserved parking space over some trivial Cayman Islands bank account kerfuffle…”)

Apologies need to be heavily scripted. Public figures tend to dig the hole deeper when they speak extemporaneously, as with “Some of my best friends are dumb blondes and inscrutable Orientals” or “Baby, I swear that next time — um, er, I mean, we have put in place revised protocols and stringent guardrails.”

I know the more bloodthirsty among us would love seeing the typical insincere display of contrition replaced with a good old-fashioned hara-kiri act of self-disembowelment, but don’t get your hopes up. (“Oops. The ceremonial sword from the lowest bidder shattered on my pocket protector! Who wants to face the music on this one?”)

As long as there are fallible institutions  and opportunistic image consultants, expect to endure a steady stream of dog and pony shows competing for the public’s mercy.

Heck, even if all the image consultants went on strike, semi-remorseful public figures could brainstorm rehabilitation campaigns just by watching Seventies sitcoms.

“As God is my witness, I didn’t know that haphazardly handled thermonuclear devices could desecrate Native American burial grounds!”

©2024 Danny Tyree. Danny is a lifelong Middle Tennessean who has three books available on Amazon. He welcomes email at and visits to his X account @TyreeDanny.