Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Bush Regrets Decision to Invade?

Andrew Sullivan highlights a portion of the lame duck's chat with Charles Gibson of alphabet news. Mr. Sullivan highlights this quote:

I don't know -- the biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq. A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein. It wasn't just people in my administration; a lot of members in Congress, prior to my arrival in Washington D.C., during the debate on Iraq, a lot of leaders of nations around the world were all looking at the same intelligence. And, you know, that's not a do-over, but I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess.

And then offers his analysis:

Observe the passive constructions. The description of others. "People in my administration." "Prior to my arrival." Everyone got it wrong but him, the one person ultimately responsible for getting it right.

But I look at the Bush quote and I see, in Bush-speak, an admission that the Iraq War was a mistake and that he regrets authorizing invasion. He wishes the intelligence had been different. He wishes it had all said that Iraq was not a threat, instead of just the parts he chose to ignore. So while he won't take ownership of his awful decision to invade, isn't he tacitly acknowledging that it was a bad decision with disastrous consequences?

If he didn't regret the Iraq war, he wouldn't have offered the intelligence failures as his biggest regret because they wouldn't, to him, make any difference as to whether or not the invasion of Iraq was justified or smart.

He might have instead chosen to blame "people in my administration" for the failure to respond to -- I don't know -- Hurricane Katrina.

It's not as if he didn't have an easy 'out' to that question. He chose to go the War route.

The follow up exchange between Gibson and the duck is also illuminating:

GIBSON: If the intelligence had been right, would there have been an Iraq war?

BUSH: Yes, because Saddam Hussein was unwilling to let the inspectors go in to determine whether or not the U.N. resolutions were being upheld. In other words, if he had had weapons of mass destruction, would there have been a war? Absolutely.

GIBSON: No, if you had known he didn't.

BUSH: Oh, I see what you're saying. You know, that's an interesting question. That is a do-over that I can't do. It's hard for me to speculate.

In the past, Bush would have dutifully defended the decision with his other made-up justifications about democratization and fighting them there so we wouldn't have to fight them here. Or he would have gone on and on about how the surge is working and we're succeeding in Iraq. In this case, Bush doesn't evade the question with talking points. Instead, he barely musters the strength to punt it entirely.

It might be the closest thing to an admission of wrong-doing or confession as we'll ever get. If Gibson pressed here, even a little bit, Bush might have gone even further. He didn't. He immediately went to the next question:

"Greatest accomplishment? The one thing you're proudest of?"

I was hoping he'd say "not rigging the 2008 election." He didn't.

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