George W. Bush’s public statements have been absurd for so long, that it’s almost poor sport to continue to skewer them. Nevertheless, because I haven’t done so on BTC News in quite a while, and because this may be my last opportunity, I can’t resist one last shot. For auld lang syne, as it were.
When Bush told ABC’s Charlie Gibson last month that the “biggest regret” of his presidency was “the intelligence failure in Iraq,” and that he wished the intelligence “had been different,” he left a lot of people scratching their heads. Why would a guy who twisted, ignored, and fabricated intelligence in order to justify his invasion regret it, or at least claim to?
If he had paid attention to the correct intelligence, such as Joe Wilson’s report from Niger, the invasion would not have been politically possible. So did he mean that he regrets the invasion? That doesn’t appear to be the case, since he’s never wavered from asserting that in spite of the faulty intelligence, removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision. And when Gibson went on to ask whether he would have invaded anyway, knowing that there were no WMDs, Bush replied, “That is a do-over that I can’t do.”
So how (and why) would he have liked the intelligence to be different? He can’t mean that he wishes Saddam had actually had weapons of mass destruction—in which case the invasion would have been justified by the mass slaughter of our troops as they headed toward Baghdad—or can he? That seemed to be the implication when he said a little later in the interview that one of his greatest disappointments was “no weapons of mass destruction…in Iraq.”
I wanted to ask the White House about this in December, but back then Dana Perino wasn’t talking to me. When I went back this Wednesday, however, she did. Here’s our exchange:
ME: The President has said that the biggest regret of his presidency was the Iraq intelligence failure, and that he wishes the intelligence had been different. But he’s also said that even with the faulty intelligence, his decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision. If the intelligence had been different, though, isn’t it true that he would not have been able to make that decision? So why does he consider the faulty intelligence his biggest regret?
MS. PERINO: As the President has said before, you don’t get do-overs in the presidency. You act with the information that you have, and he thinks it was the right thing to do.
She ended the briefing at that point, so I wasn’t able to point out that she hadn’t answered my question.
But in Wednesday’s Doonesbury, fictional Fox reporter Roland Hedley asked Bush a very similar question:
HEDLEY: Mr. President, you’ve said that your only regret is the poor intelligence you received about WMD’s in Iraq. But since you’ve also claimed you would have invaded anyway, why do you regret that the intelligence was poor?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Why do I regret it? Because of my integrities!
HEDLEY: Which ones, sir?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Compedance! Accountancy! The pie you put on mom’s that love freedom!
HEDLEY: Wow. I guess that says it all.
I agree. That’s probably the best answer we’re going to get.