His bad

The New York Times on Barack Obama’s admission.

The primary weapon for a president who really intends to clean up Washington is credibility — and that requires integrity. Mr. Obama showed that he has both of those things in abundance with his refreshingly frank admission that he “screwed up” and his assurance that he had learned from his mistake.

The Economist on whether Gordon Brown should own up to Britain’s economic troubles.

… most other politicians adhere to Benjamin Jowett’s famous dictum about apologies: never! Under duress, and in suitably lawyerly periphrases, they may, at most, express a compassionate “regret” for something inconsequential that they, or ideally someone else, did a long time ago … The explanation for this reticence is simple: self-criticism is an admirable trait in human beings but a potentially fatal one in politicians. A minister who apologises for a big policy error may be lauded for his honesty but sacrifice his credibility. Why should the public trust Mr Brown to get Britain out of its economic hole if he admits to having dug the country into it?

Apart from a sideways admission of error on Iraq during the last campaign, it’s difficult to remember an apologetic moment from Stephen Harper. As demonstrated by this magazine’s interview with him last month, he’s not much for public introspection. There is surely, as the Economist points out, some sense in that—it is probably not entirely his fault that our politics are so unreasonable.