Bush Says He Can't Think of Any Mistakes
By Helen Thomas
President Bush told his news conference that he couldn't think of any mistakes he has made since he was inaugurated.
The president appeared totally flummoxed when asked to name one. He hemmed and hawed and aw-shucked, suggested that such a question was better left to historians. He complained about being asked such a question "in the midst of this press conference with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer."
He then veered toward humility. "I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have." But he said he just wasn't "as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one."
Well, let me try to help. Let's start with his invasion of Iraq.
That Bush mistake is one we will be paying for indefinitely, both in the human cost -- not to mention the diplomatic and financial price ($121 billion so far).
The mistake was the false premise underlying the U.S. invasion, a trumped-up claim that Bush insisted on repeating Tuesday night when he claimed that Saddam Hussein was "a threat to the region, he was a threat to the United States." And he had weapons of mass destruction that posed an imminent danger to us.
"Of course I want to know why we haven't found a weapon yet," he told reporters after a year-long search has turned up no evidence of such weapons. "But I still know Saddam Hussein was a threat. He was a threat because he had used weapons of mass destruction on his own people."
As for the weapons, the president said wistfully: "They could still be there."
The president has a large taxpayer-financed staff that is supposed to prepare him for likely questions he would face at a news conference. But either Bush or the staff flubbed a question that every reporter in Washington could have predicted: Would he apologize for the government failures that led to the Sept. 11 attacks?
The question was a natural because Richard Clarke, his former counter-terrorism director, had offered such an apology last month.
But don't expect one from the president. He wasn't responsible for 9-11 -- Osama bin Laden was, Bush replied.
Meanwhile, the American casualty toll continues to mount in Iraq and is beginning to get the attention of the American people.
And though he rejects the analogy, the U.S. involvement in Iraq is starting to look like the Vietnam quagmire.
Asked about any parallel with Vietnam, Bush dismissed such a comparison, saying it would send the wrong message to the troops and the wrong message to the enemy. That sure reminds me of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon.
Even more reminiscent was Bush's constant refrain: "We are going to stay the course." It was 1967 and 1970 all over again.
Bush wants us to forget the promises that his administration made before the war that happy Iraqis would welcome the U.S. military invaders as liberators.
And he shamelessly continues his faltering effort to depict the invasion of Iraq as somehow connected to the war on terrorism. In doing so, Bush is trying to get off the hook for failing to keep his eye on the ball, which would have been to focus on the fight in Afghanistan and the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Iraq -- which should have been a sideshow -- has dominated his radar screen since he became president.
Both Clarke and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill have attested to Bush's determination to get rid of Saddam Hussein from day one. It was a policy in search of justification. And his ongoing attempts to connect the 9-11 tragedy with Saddam Hussein would be laughable if they weren't so blatantly dishonest.
Bush acknowledges he faces tough times and that he plans to send more troops to Iraq and they will be there for an indefinite period, probably long after the United States returns sovereignty to the Iraqi people on June 30.
Maybe after June, the president will find time to ponder whether he has made any mistakes.
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