Tag Archives: self-justification

Carol Tavris & Elliot Aronson

Lyndon Johnson was a master of self-justification. According to his biographer Robert Caro, when Johnson came to believe in something, he would believe in it “totally, with absolute conviction, regardless of previous beliefs, or of the facts in the matter.” George Reedy, one of Johnson’s aides, said that he “had a remarkable capacity to convince himself that he held the principles he should hold at any given time, and there was something charming about the air of injured innocence with which he would treat anyone who brought forth evidence that he had held other views in the past. It was not an act… He had a fantastic capacity to persuade himself that the ‘truth’ which was convenient for the present was the truth and anything that conflicted with it was the prevarication of enemies. He literally willed what was in his mind to become reality.” Although Johnson’s supporters found this to be a rather charming aspect of the man’s character, it might well have been one of the major reasons that Johnson could not extricate the country from the quagmire of Vietnam. A president who justifies his actions only to the public might be induced to change them. A president who has justified his actions to himself, believing that he has the truth, becomes impervious to self-correction.

Carol Tavris & Elliot Aronson, Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Bbeliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, Orlando, Florida, 2007, p. 7