Bob Woodward, in Plan of Attack, recounts a conversation between Powell and the President in the run up to the war in which Powell prods the president to take into consideration the necessity of owning potential problems in Iraq. Powell told the president, "You break it; you own it." Once Plan of Attack hit the bookstands, the episode and expression were repeatedly broadcast. Pottery Barn, offended by the association, publicly defended their company's consumer friendly culture by stating clearly there is NO SUCH policy at the Pottery Barn.
Terry Gross recalled hearing Tom Friedman, New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, use that expression on her show and reading it in his column multiple times before the invasion of Iraq. Friedman, in an interview broadcast today with Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air, explained. Friedman used the expression in a conversation with Richard Armitage, who used it in a conversation with Powell. Powell repeated it to the president, unaware of origins of the expression or the customer service policies of the Pottery Barn. Bob Woodward records it for posterity.
Powell explained the whole story last week on Larry King live. Friedman joked that no one was particularly concerned with the origins of the expression until Pottery Barn showed their ire.
So is this a little parable?