When will they ever learn?

The result has been damage not only to Carnival’s brand and business — reportedly 12 Carnival cruise ships have been canceled in the aftermath of the Gulf incident — but to the rest of the cruise industry, which could be damaged by this kind of ostrich-like crisis management by Carnival.

To be clear, effective crisis management is not just about minimizing damage to a politician’s reputation or to a company’s brand or share values when the bad news event is occurring. It is about a more transcendent value, respect — respect for voters, respect for consumers and customers, respect for shareholders.

A company or a politician that chooses the “limited modified hangout” is disrespecting the public and its customers/voters. Such a strategy seems to reflect the attitude conveyed by Jack Nicholson in the famous climactic trial scene in the movie, “A Few Good Men” — “You can’t handle the truth!”

Oh yes we can.

White Houses, politicians and businesses alike would do well to remember this mantra: “Tell it all, tell it early, tell it yourself.”

Lanny Davis, a Washington attorney and principal in the firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, specializing in legal crisis management and dispute resolution, served as President Clinton’s special counsel from 1996-98 and as a member of President Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board from 2006-07. He currently serves as special counsel to Dilworth Paxson and is the author of the forthcoming book, Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping With Crises in Business, Politics, and Life, to be published by Simon & Schuster in March.