Politicians and other public figures are an interesting lot. They find it impossible to say the words, “I don’t know.” Ask them a question to which they don’t know the answer, and you will receive either a series of ums and errs, or even worse, you’ll receive an answer that makes no sense at all. There is no virtue in “faking it.” In fact, I think the American people would have more respect for public figures if they would simply admit that they don’t know everything. Instead, they struggle to respond, and often times, the response leads to prime fodder for an opponent.
Here’s a classic example of where it would have been MUCH better to simply say, “I don’t know.” You probably remember this one.
Ok, ok… she was only a teenager, but wouldn’t it have been much easier to say, “Our education system is a mess, and it needs to be fixed”? Done. Finished. End of answer. The point is that rather than keep it simple or better yet, say, “That is a complex question, and I’m really not sure of the answer,” the contestant tried to fake it and will always be remembered for it.
Now, let’s move forward to adults… you know… grown ups. In this case, we will look at politicians and the danger of not saying, “I don’t know.” Perhaps the fear of being labeled an idiot is so overwhelming that ANY answer is better than no answer. Perhaps politicians equate “I don’t know” with “I’m dumber than a box of rocks.” You know what? I don’t know. But what I do know is that trying to make something up when one does not know what one is saying is a prescription for disaster.
Take a look at Democrat Senate candidate from Connecticut Dick Blumenthal. He was asked a simple question… How do you create a job. He clearly does not know. But his “answer” is what will be remembered.
His response is now being used by Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon. i think maybe “I don’t know” would have been a better response.
And, of course, there is Barack Obama. It’s clear from the times his teleprompter has messed up that he really doesn’t know what he is saying. However, that doesn’t stop him from continuing to spout off nonsense. Does Obama really know about health care? Take a look at what happens when he has to speak without a cheat sheet.
How will the elections turn out in November? I don’t know. (Actually, I have a pretty good idea, but I’m just saying that.) The point is that “I don’t know” is not as dangerous as politicians think. If something goes wrong, and you don’t know why, say so. But also reassure your constituents that you will find out. That is a much better approach than blowing smoke. As Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are finding out, they have blown smoke for so long that the American people are no longer listening.