Being able to admit a mistake is an admirable quality for politicians. Not sticking your foot in your mouth is another. So, Gov. Ted Strickland is one for two on that front.
Last week, Strickland said he would not welcome Iraqi war refugees in Ohio.
"I think Ohio and Ohioans have contributed a lot to Iraq in terms of blood, sweat and too many tears," Strickland said. "I am sympathetic to the plight of the innocent Iraqi people who have fled that country. However, I would not want to ask Ohioans to accept a greater burden than they already have borne for the Bush administration's failed policies."
The governor and his comments have, with good reason, been the targets of several scathing editorials across Ohio even USA Today weighed in.
Strickland's words reek of callousness. Ohio had a large contingent in the House and Senate who supported the war in 2003 and the state owes it to those displaced Iraqis to offer whatever help it can. Strickland opposed the war and Republicans pushing for it, but the common refrain of "support the troops, even if you don't support the war," must be extended to support Iraqi refugees, none of whom asked for U.S. intervention in their country.
Strickland did attempt to clarify his comments Monday, saying he was simply expressing frustration with President Bush's plan to allow 7,000 Iraq refugees into the United States so far only 463 have been allowed against 3.8 million that have been uprooted adding that the Bush administration created the refugee crisis by launching the war. Allowing another handful of refugees into the United States is "a Band-Aid," he said, and "not something that I think Ohio should have to deal with for the president."
While accepting Iraqi refugees obviously entails a number of practical concerns, because the United States caused the mess in Iraq, it has an obligation to examine ways to address those concerns. And, at the very least, it should not come off as a country with leaders who could not care less about their fate.
But, Strickland, who has no say in the matter, also said he would in fact welcome refugees in Ohio. The federal government and church or civic groups usually determine where refugees locate, not the state governments.
Strickland also took responsibility for butchering his intent last week and stressed he did not intend to sound callous to the plight of Iraqis. Strickland should have known better than to make such uninformed comments he actually expressed some surprise that his words carried such weight across the state and country. As the leader of Ohio, Strickland's voice carries a long way.