Neo-neocon asks a great question: do we learn from our mistakes in the electoral/political sense? We think it applies more widely: do we learn from our mistakes in rational undertakings? That is, we are excluding love in this discussion. We know that there can be an element of love in politics, business, and so on but there is a rationale if not rational thought going on.
We are convinced that we learn our mistakes and try not to replicate them. We do it individually and collectively. We do not learn from our mistakes. Thus, McCain, Romney, Trump makes sense. Romney solved the electability problem. Trump solved the niceness problem. Neither one of them solved the real problem.
Business folk and political folk have their moments but the rarely endure. Winston Churchill was the guy to fight Hitler but probably not the peacetime guy although the socialists, were, as everywhere and always, a disaster in the post-war UK. Howard Head made great skis but his company outgrew him.
Jim Geraghty makes the point in the Morning Jolt that:
it’s best if a leader has clear, well-known, well-established principles and a thought-out philosophy.
Jim is in part right to recognize that stuff happens so the way to predict the future is to know the candidate and his philosophy. The idea is that philosophy meets events and predictable decisions are made. In Jim’s example, because Trump has no philosophy, there are wild swings in the direction of his public statements. It is certainly true that we elected two presidents, Clinton and Obama, that we did not know much about. Was Bill the leftist of 92-94 or the man closer to the center after the Republican Revolution? Or was he just somebody that would do anything to get elected?
We have seen possible examples of presidents learning from their mistakes. Clinton moved to the center. W. won the war in Iraq. There are not many other examples.
But it is only partly right that philosophy leads to decisions. Philosophy can help with consistency but it doesn’t lead to decisions. There are going to be conflicts and priorities matter (as Jim recognizes). Philosophy, character, courage, and decision making skills are all important skills.
Sidebar: it would seem that our two current major candidates would fail all four. Many folks think they know Hillary’s philosophy but given her mendacity we don’t think that it is possible to know. End sidebar.
We are of the belief that, at best, we learn our mistakes were mistakes. We, like our political leaders, rarely have insight to figure an improved decision. Churchill is our hero. He was right about Hitler when so many others were wrong but he made enough mistakes to keep us humble. Courage is great when you are right.