During an interview Thursday with the St. Paul Pioneer Press and a dozen other newspapers, Bush said: "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."
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 surrounding the exchange below (made a week after 9/11)? How was it inappropriately defiant, given the circumstances?
Q Are you saying you want him dead or alive, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: I just remember, all I'm doing is remembering when I was a kid I remember that they used to put out there in the old west, a wanted poster. It said: "Wanted, Dead or Alive." All I want and America wants him brought to justice. That's what we want.
In Dan Froomkin's long, link-filled report, he provides the following explanation for why Bush might regret the statement:
Bin Laden, of course, has still not been captured.
No f*cking shit! I see nothing objectionable in the "Dead or Alive" comment. Sure it looks Texan and un-Presidential-- but how in hell can Bush possibly avoid being either of those two things? That's his nature, for goodness sakes!
So, is the statement regrettable because it highlights-- THREE YEARS AFTER THE ATTACKS-- that Osama bin Laden is still at large? Is the comment regrettable because it shows how much of a distraction Iraq has been from the so-called "War on Terror"? Because it exposes how much of a strategic mistake it was? Does the comment bring to mind how badly we erred when we subcontracted al-Qaeda hunting to the Pakistanis while we withdrew our Special Forces from Afghanistan and put them in Iraq... in the Spring of 2002!!
I mean, chreezus, we've created a terrorist incubator in Iraq-- just as many feared. We've given a whole new generation of jihadists a place to plan, train, and kill. Osama bin Laden has never seemed more healthy, poised and in control. His protege, Zarqawi, is also near the height of his powers. When he ran for president, Wes Clark promised that he would move "heaven and earth" to get bin Laden. That's part of the reason I supported him. It seems Bush's commitment is something less than that. After today's inexplicable "regret", I would say far less.
Please, can anyone explain why Bush wanting Osama bin Laden "Dead or Alive" was a mistake? I'm utterly baffled.
Did less informed folks misunderstand what he was referring to...?