His humility is welcomed, but now comes a test of competence in deep reforms.
A United States president who admits a mistake is almost as rare as a Wall Street executive who refuses a bonus after losing money. When such humility strikes, it should be cheered to spur reform. But for a regretful Obama White House and a somewhat-rueful Wall Street, it's still unclear what reforms lie ahead for each.
President Obama admitted Tuesday he made mistakes after two of his cabinet nominees, Tom Daschle and Nancy Killefer, were forced to bow out because of revelations over their nonpayment of taxes. But what kind of mistakes?
One was clear. "There aren't two sets of rules," he told NBC News, "one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes."
Still, how should Americans square that new-found lesson on double standards with the fact that another tax-dodging nominee, Tim Geithner, was made Treasury secretary? Or that Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State despite her husband being allowed to accept money for his foundation from foreign governments that also make deals with the top US diplomat?
And what of the White House vetting process or that two Obama nominees are former lobbyists or that the president backed Mr. Daschle to the end?
For a politician who promised a high bar of ethics and a new era of responsibility, this president still has far to go to understand why it is so easy for many in Washington to claim immunity or a sense of entitlement not available or accepted by other Americans.