When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie used the phrase “clearly, mistakes were made” to make his non-apology apology for the closing down of access lanes on the busy George Washington Bridge by top aides as part of a political vendetta, he joined the ranks of some of the United States’ most elite politicians.
The famous phrase is used so often by scandal-plagued presidents and administrations that William Safire, who has written and added to his book Safire’s Political Dictionary for more than four decades, devoted an entire section to it.
How Safire describes the phrase:
mistakes were made: A passive-evasive way of acknowledging error while distancing the speaker from responsibility for it.
Here’s a brief history of the company Christie now keeps.
“Mistakes were made.” —President George W. Bush, on the firing of U.S. attorneys
- At least nine people in Colorado Springs were injured in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic, officials said. ›
- At least 15 people were killed after a suicide bomber attacked a Shiite Muslim procession of hundreds of people in Nigeria. ›
- And how well do you know what happened in the news this week? Take our quiz. ›