Is President Bush Confused about Credibility?

An online posting by William Saletan encourages us to think about the definition of credibility.  We all want to be considered credible, but do we really know what this word means?  And is the definition of credibility really worth thinking about?  The answer is “Yes–if we want to be successful.”

It’s tempting to think that the definition of credibility is an ivory-tower question when we have practical work to accomplish.  In actuality, high perceived credibility is positively correlated to success in every sphere of life.  If you can’t define credibility or identify its elements, you can’t take advantage of opportunities to boost your credibility and your success. 

Saletan maintains that George W. Bush has a misguided, and even a dangerous, understanding of credibility.  Saletan begins with a statement by the president at an April 2007 press conference.  Bush said:

One thing is for certain, though, about me, and the world has learned this: When I say something, I mean it. And the credibility of the United States is incredibly important for keeping world peace and freedom.

Here’s a portion of Saletan’s commentary:

To Bush, credibility means that you keep saying today what you said yesterday, and that you do today what you promised yesterday. “A free Iraq will confirm to a watching world that America’s word, once given, can be relied upon,” he argued Tuesday night. When the situation is clear and requires pure courage, this steadfastness is Bush’s most useful trait. But when the situation is unclear, Bush’s notion of credibility turns out to be dangerously unhinged. . . .   No correspondence to reality is required. Bush can say today what he said yesterday, and do today what he promised yesterday, even if nothing he believes about the rest of the world is true.

Bush’s comment implies that we should define credibility largely as consistency, as keeping our word.  Saletan argues that consistency can be useless or even dangerous, if we start with the wrong premise and then stick to it.

So, is President Bush confused about the definition of credibility? 

Credibility does involve consistency, but other elements of credibility are important as well.  People assign us a level of credibility based on the interplay of the following elements:  integrity, competence, sound judgment, relational sensitivity, and likeability.  Once you know the elements of credibility and can see your strengths and weaknesses, you can take positive steps to boost your credibility in the eyes of others.

For a detailed explanation and action steps to boost your credibility, go to    

(The link to Saletan’s post is


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