Does Bush Actually Regret "Bring It On" And "Dead Or Alive"?
Far be it for me to say that every now and then, Bush shows signs of maturing a little as president. Unfortunately, these episodes are never followed by consistent behavior of a reasoned, moderate leader, but are usually followed by a return to form of the inflexible, stubborn, and wrongheaded person that currently occupies the Oval Office. One example of this was Bush’s first post-election press conference in November, in which I noted his answers seemed to be more mature and open-minded that the usual cowboy, do it my way or else mentality that seems to always be on display with this man. As usual that performance was followed by a return to form for Bush, who since then has shown the usual arrogance and hubris. With Bush, more so than with many other politicians we’ve seen, his actions and not his words are most important.
Today, Bush once again showed a maturing and reflective side that is rarely on display when he was interviewed by 15 reporters at the White House.
In a rare, reflective look back on his first term, President Bush said Thursday that he learned a lesson about "the unintended consequences of my words," recalling two famous expressions: "bring 'em on" and getting Osama bin Laden "dead or alive."
After he made the bin Laden remark at the Pentagon six days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Bush said: "I got back to the White House, and Laura said, `What did you say that for?' Well, it was just an expression that came out. I didn't rehearse it."
Bush said his "bring 'em on" comment, directed at Iraqi insurgents who were attacking U.S. forces in July 2003, was meant "to rally the troops ... some interpreted it to be defiance in the face of danger, but that certainly wasn't the case."
Bush's comments came during a wide-ranging White House interview with 15 reporters one week before his inauguration for a second term.
When Bush was asked about his biggest regret during his first term and his greatest hope for his second, he said peace was his most fervent hope, citing Iraq and the Middle East. But he deflected the first part of the question.
"I'm not a regretful person," he said. "I'm a look-forward, get-things-done type of person."
Oh please. Stop it already schoolboy!
At the end of the interview, Bush was asked again about any regrets.
"One of the things I've learned is that sometimes words have consequences you don't intend to mean," he responded, leaning back in his chair in the Roosevelt Room. "The classic example was `bring 'em on.'"
Some former military leaders had criticized the president's remark, saying it might goad Iraqis and put troops at risk. Bush's opponents often used the "dead or alive" comment against him, pointing out that bin Laden was still on the loose.
"I don't know if it's a regret, but certainly a lesson, to be mindful of what you say, to be mindful of the consequences of your words," he said. "What would you call that? Confession? Regret? A something."
A something? Well anyway, that’s more reflection that we’ve seen from this guy, and probably more than we’ll see in the coming months. We can now expect a return to form tomorrow, back to the never-look-back-or-admit-a-mistake arrogance, immaturity, and pigheadedness some of us have come to despise.
Sure, a man who is heading towards 60 years old and has been in the public eye for fifteen years should by now not have to be learning these lessons in the most powerful job in the world. Worse yet, there are others who are paying the price for George W. Bush’s ongoing on-the-job training.
But this emotionally adolescent middle-aged man who talks tough, who still hasn't learned some of life's basic lessons that many of the rest of us learned in our twenties, and who is loathe to admit a mistake is nonetheless a security blanket to red state, moral values voters, who frankly have their own issues.