It is interesting that in an interview with CNN this past Sunday, former Vice President Dick Cheney, a hardcore dispositionist, offered a situationist-like defense of the troubles that ailed the Bush Administration.
It appears that after walking in his own shoes for eight years, Cheney could see the situation and how it complicated the bright-line, often unforgiving directives that guide dispositionists. Sometimes, as Cheney appears to have discovered, bad outcomes are not always the products of bad choices, but are instead borne from–to borrow the former vice president’s words–bad “stuff.”
We excerpt Cheney’s interview, a complete transcript for which can be read here.
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JOHN KING: There are people I assume watching this interview right now, and people in this town who would say, why should we listen to you? And they would say that because of the context of the Bush administration numbers.
They would say, you know, what did you do when you were in charge? And they have some numbers to back up their case. And I want to show some to our viewers When you came to office, the unemployment rate in the country was 4.2 percent, when you left it was 7.6 percent.
The number of Americans in poverty when you arrived, just under 33 million, over 37 million when you left. The number without health insurance, a little over 41 million when you came, over 45 million approaching 46 million when you left.
And you came with a budget surplus of $128 billion and in the final year, the budget deficit was a record $1.3 trillion. So what would you say to someone out there watching this who is saying, why should they listen to you?
FORMER VP CHENEY: Well, there are all kinds of arguments to be made on that point. But there’s something that is more important than the specific numbers you’re talking about, and that had to be priority for our administration.
Eight months after we arrived, we had 9/11. We had 3,000 Americans killed one morning by al Qaeda terrorists here in the United States. We immediately had to go into the wartime mode. We ended up with two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of that is still very active. We had major problems with respect to things like Katrina, for example. All of these things required us to spend money that we had not originally planned to spend, or weren’t originally part of the budget.
Stuff happens. And the administration has to be able to respond to that, and we did.
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KING: Do you wish your administration had taken more aggressive steps, and were you boxed in by opposition to Iraq not only here, but around the world?
CHENEY: I can’t say that. You know, you deal with the situation you find.
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For a related Situationist post discussing attributional biases, including the “ultimate attribution error,” see “March Madness.”