As George W. Bush completes the last weeks of his presidency, the phrase “bloodied but unbowed” comes to mind. The MSM is delighted about the first part, of course, having done all it could to inflict that condition. But it still seems to rankle that Bush has not confessed to large-scale error. With the exception of a trip to “re-education camp,” nothing Bush could do would delight his liberal detractors more than such a confession.
In the meantime, Dan Eggen of the Washington Post pretends the MSM has its confession in this piece obnoxiously titled “Reflecting on His Tenure, Bush Shows New Candor.” Eggen contrasts the president’s “new candor” with the old Bush who “once was unable to provide an example of a mistake he had made in office” (emphasis added). (I believe that Eggen is referring to a statement Bush made during a debate with John Kerry; which presidents have enumerated their mistakes in a presidential debate?) Eggen clearly wants to create the impression that Bush finally is confessing to mistakes he made in office.
But Eggen doesn’t deliver the goods. He cites Bush’s statement that when he ran for office in 2000, he didn’t anticipate war, and was not prepared to be a war time president when he took office. But which politicians in 2000 were expecting a war, and who among the viable presidential candidates had experience in leading during war time? Here, in effect, Bush is regretting not being FDR, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon.
As to Bush’s war time leadership, the best Eggen can offer is Bush’s statement in an interview with ABC that he wishes “the intelligence had been different” on Iraq. Bush added that this intelligence failure is his “biggest regret.” But Bush didn’t collect the intelligence; he simply relied on the intelligence collected and analyzed by others. The fact that he wishes the intelligence community had served up better intel is not much of a mea culpa. I regret that the restaurant where I had lunch today didn’t serve up a better meal, but I mostly blame the restaurant.
Finally, Eggen cites Bush’s statement that he regrets not enacting comprehensive immigration reform and that the “tone in Washington” got worse not better during his administration. But regret that something happened (the tone got worse) or didn’t happen (Congress wouldn’t pass legislation) is not the same thing as regretting a mistake. I doubt Bush thinks there is anything he should have done but failed to do that would have enabled his vision of immigration reform to become law or that would have made Washington a harmonious city during the past eight years. I certainly don’t think there is.
But though Eggen comes up empty, I have heard the president admit to mistakes in office. He has said (I don’t recall where) that some of his tough talk (“bring it on”) was a mistake. And he has said that although, he didn’t have it put up, he shouldn’t have stood near that “Mission Accomplished” banner.
Perhaps Dan Eggen regrets writing a bogus story when there was a genuine one that would have served him almost as well.
The left’s obsession with extracting mea culpas from Republican presidents is longstanding. David Frost’s interview with Richard Nixon is still considered a hot topic in some circles. The same obsession naturally does not apply to Democrats. Has the Washington Post ever fretted about whether Jimmy Carter was sufficiently contrite (or candid) about his failed policies towards Iran? Or whether Bill Clinton regrets giving al Qaeda a virtually free pass while disgracing himself and his office by having sex with an intern and then lying about it?
The bottom line on Bush is that he has cited a few mistakes, could no doubt cite a few more if he were so inclined, but has no obligation or good reason to do so.
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