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January 14, 2005

Beginning of Self-Knowledge Department

From Daniel Froomkin. George W. Bush ups the number of mistakes he knows that he has made from zero to two:

Second Thoughts About 'Bring 'em On' (washingtonpost.com) Calling it "a regret, a confession, something," President Bush acknowledged in a round-table interview with regional newspapers yesterday that he has had second thoughts about two of his more swaggering comments from the first term, including his notorious utterance: "Bring 'em on." There is no official text of the session, but here's how Tom Webb of the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press transcribed the president:

"Sometimes, words have consequences you don't intend them to mean. 'Bring 'em on' is the classic example, when I was really trying to rally the troops and make it clear to them that I fully understood, you know, what a great job they were doing. And those words had an unintended consequence," Bush continued. "It kind of, some interpreted it to be defiance in the face of danger. That certainly wasn't the case. Or, you know, 'dead or alive' in referring to Osama bin Laden at the Pentagon. I can remember getting back to the White House, and Laura said, 'What did you do that for?' I said, 'Well, it was just an expression that came out. I didn't rehearse it.' . . . I don't know if you'd call it a regret, but it certainly is a lesson that a president must be mindful of, that the words that you sometimes say -- I speak plainly sometimes, but you've got to be mindful of the consequences of the words. So put that down. I don't know if you'd call that a confession, a regret, something."

It was in a July 2, 2003, exchange with reporters, just as the insurgency was starting to inflict serious casualties on American troops, that Bush said: "There are some who feel like -- that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring 'em on. We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation." Here's that text. Critics described it as an irresponsible taunt that invited more attacks on U.S. soldiers. Since then, more than 1,100 U.S. servicemen have died in Iraq. And it was on Sept. 17, 2001, during a short exchange with reporters at the Pentagon, that Bush was asked if he wanted al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden dead. "I want justice. There's an old poster out west, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive,'" Bush said. Here's that text. Bin Laden, of course, has still not been captured.

Posted by DeLong at January 14, 2005 08:19 AM

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» They say the second term brings certain revelations. from INBB
As the praetorial Brad Delong points out, Bush rethinks his 'no mistakes' comments, Second Thoughts About 'Bring 'em On' Up until now, Bush has been notably averse to expressing anything remotely like regret about any of his actions. At his... [Read More]

Tracked on January 14, 2005 09:20 AM

» "A concession, a regret, a something" from Your Right Hand Thief
Contra Jonah, I do appreciate George Bush's regret over the stupid "Bring'em on" phrase. But I'm monumentally puzzled about his regret over the "Dead or Alive" comment. Can someone please tell me what the bad, "unintended consequences" were surroundi... [Read More]

Tracked on January 14, 2005 02:12 PM


This admission will actually help his Messiah image with the moral values crowd, because, after all, even Jesus had his moments of doubt: "And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matthew 26:39)

Posted by: P O'Neill at January 14, 2005 08:41 AM

The count of mistakes doesn't change as I read it. We can up the number of "regrets", "confessions", or "somethings" by two. Consequences were unintended, but I don't see anything that would make me think he sees them as "mistakes."

Posted by: Harold Brooks at January 14, 2005 09:00 AM

Is there a substantive difference between a "moment of doubt" and a flip flop? Is this just one of those things that's OK if you're Republican?

Posted by: Paul Callahan at January 14, 2005 09:21 AM

"I speak plainly sometimes, but you've got to be mindful of the consequences of the words."

Notice how the pronoun shifts person in the same sentence. That's something for armchair psychoanalysts out there to mull over--he's willing to take credit for "speak[ing] plainly" but not so willing to accept any liability.

Honestly, I don't think it's stretching much to interpret it literally: "I, President Bush, speak plainly sometimes, and you, the American people, had better be ready to clean up my mess."

Posted by: Paul Callahan at January 14, 2005 09:28 AM

Why is it that Bush only speaks plainly "sometimes"?

Posted by: joe at January 14, 2005 09:37 AM

Does Rummy speak plainly, too? And if he does, do we know that he does? Or do we not know that we don't know?

That sound you just heard was the permutations exploding...

Posted by: Uncle Jeffy at January 14, 2005 09:47 AM

A little good news if OT: Huygens probe seems to have landed safely on Titan.

Posted by: sm at January 14, 2005 10:10 AM

Personally, I doubt the 'bring em on' crack did much tangible harm - other than make the president of the United States look like a posturing fool. The insurgents were going to attack American soldiers, tauts or no taunts.

It's the SECOND part of his comment that Bush should apologize for - every day for the rest of his life:

"We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation."

Posted by: Billmon at January 14, 2005 10:31 AM

If saying things like "Bring 'em on" and "Wanted: Dead or Alive" is speaking "plainly", I dread the day when Bush uses colorful language.

Posted by: Steve at January 14, 2005 10:40 AM


Shame on you. You keep wanting to talk about substance. Have you not watched Bush speak? Did you not tune in to the debates? Have you not witnessed him polishing up his text on destroying Social Security, without ever saying "trade-off" or "benefit reduction" or "we took that money from the Trust Fund so people in my class could get richer, and we will never, ever give it back"...? Now, let's get back to the important stuff, like whether saying "bring it on" is something over which one should have a moment of regret, if it happens that a bunch of US soldiers die thereafter.

Posted by: kharris at January 14, 2005 10:46 AM

Speaking of admitting mistakes:

Scott McClellan said the president had no regrets about invading Iraq. “Based on what we know today, the president would have taken the same action because this is about protecting the American people.”


If you were given a choice between $1 and a 99% chance of a million dollars, chose the gamble and lost, it would make perfect sense to say “Based on what I know now, I would still take the same action.” Decision Making 101 says that under conditions of uncertainty, good decisions can lead to bad outcomes.

McClellan’s argument is not the one taught in DM 101, though. He seems to be saying that since the alleged motivation for starting a war against Iraq was to “protect the American people” it doesn’t matter whether the alleged threat we were being protected from actually exists.

This is crazy. This is nonsense. This is the Bush Administration.

Posted by: df at January 14, 2005 11:00 AM

Ummm...I think the more indicative part of the interview is the following passage:

'When a reporter began a question by saying Bush had cited weapons of mass destruction as his reason to remove Saddam Hussein from power but that the weapons "didn't exist," Bush kept interrupting with "Oooop!"'

Source: http://www.sptimes.com/2005/01/14/Worldandnation/President_weighs_in_o.shtml

We have a 15 year old in the White House. An immature one.

Posted by: Jason JL at January 14, 2005 11:02 AM

Jason: We have a 15 year old in the White House.

One who spent the first 40 years of his life soaking his brain in alcohol and cocaine. Houston, we've got a BIG problem.

Posted by: df at January 14, 2005 11:15 AM

> Bush kept interrupting with "Oooop!"'

Eh-oh! Hee hee hee

(are sure you meant to say FIFTEEN year old?)

Posted by: Paul "Tinky Winky" Callahan at January 14, 2005 11:21 AM

"Defiance in the face of danger" my aunt's fanny. Since when has this yellow-bellied sidewinder faced anything? And, since when we he in danger?

Gaaaah, I hate this administration and all that sail on her.

Posted by: yam at January 14, 2005 12:09 PM

I pilloried the president yesterday for his "Bring'em on" statement.

Precisely what is wrong with the "dead or alive" statement?

Posted by: oyster at January 14, 2005 12:52 PM

Not backing it up. Thinking that talking like a tough guy from the Old West substituted for real action.

Posted by: Barry at January 14, 2005 01:06 PM

“Based on what we know today, the president would have taken the same action because this is about protecting the American people.”
One wonders how invading Iraq could possibly be construed as "protecting the American people." The CIA issued a report on Thursday that said "the war in Iraq is providing an important training ground and recruitment center for Islamic terrorists." Of course Scottie the whore now says that this report is speculative!

Posted by: bob at January 14, 2005 02:10 PM

Barry, Froomkin in the Wapo's summary seems to agree with you that Bush regrets the dead or alive comment because, in retrospect, it highlights how he didn't back it up.

I'm incredulous. Isn't this the real story? Our leader promised to bring bin Laden to justice and now regrets saying so because (presumably) it made his plans for Iraq more difficult to justify?

Impeach him before he takes the oath again.

Posted by: oyster at January 14, 2005 02:18 PM

So Bush comes to "confession". Apparently it is dawning on him that the many deaths and destroyed lives resulting from his executive order are going to give him a special place in hell.

Posted by: Dubblblind at January 14, 2005 06:51 PM

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