Better Late Than Never?

Some interesting admissions:

In a joint news conference Thursday night that had a somber tone, Bush acknowledged the bloodshed has been difficult for the world to understand. Blair called the violence “ghastly.”

But, Bush said at the White House, “Despite setbacks and missteps, I strongly believe we did and are doing the right thing.”

Those missteps include the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, though Bush said those responsible have been jailed. More personally, the president said, he learned not to use so much “tough talk” – saying Osama bin Laden was wanted “dead or alive” and challenging America’s enemies to “bring it on.”

“I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner, you know,” Bush said softly.

Blair said the leaders did not accurately predict immense challenges such as the strength of the insurgency. “It should have been very obvious to us,” the prime minister said.

I guess I am pleased they are finally recognizing and admitting to some mistakes, although I resent the notion that those responsible for the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib are in jail. They aren’t. Unless they have retired independently, they are still writing policy for the WH, or have been promoted to more important positions. While the actual abuse was done by few soldiers in terms of percentages, the climate was created by policy makers and politicos who, in many cases, allowed this to happen through intentional decisions, legal maneuvering to enhance executive authority, and frequently, gross indifference and tough talk.

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61 replies
  1. 1
    Pooh says:

    I eagerly await the denunciation of Bush’s de-escalation of OBL-related rhetoric from right Blogistan.

  2. 2
    Krista says:

    Those missteps include the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, though Bush said those responsible have been jailed.

    I agree with you 100% on this. The people who did it are in jail. The people RESPONSIBLE for it are not.

    As far as Bush’s pretty words are concerned, IMHO a better post title would have been, “A Day Late and $400 billion short”

    But that’s just me.

  3. 3
    Marcus Wellby says:

    “I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner, you know,” Bush said softly.

    I find it very disturbing, and a bit sad, that a president of the United States needs to make that admission.

  4. 4
    dlw says:

    I guess I should be happy, but it’s not just “Late” it’s “Too Late”. And it’s still “Too Little”. Though Blair’s comment that it should have been obvious is getting closer to the mark finally.

  5. 5
    Brian says:

    Unless they have retired independently, they are still writing policy for the WH

    Oh, boo-fucking-hoo.

  6. 6
    Pooh says:

    I find it very disturbing, and a bit sad, that a president of the United States needs to make that admission.

    Am I generalizing too broadly to suggest that whenever he ‘admits mistakes’ they tend to be mistakes of things he shouldn’t have said rather than shouldn’t have done? (And is it a further too-broad generalization to suggest that he might not actually know the difference?)

  7. 7
    Andrew says:

    The people who did it are in jail.

    Krista, this is clearly not true. Only a few people have been punished, primarily MPs from the National Guard, and not many (if any) of the military intelligence and CIA folks directly involved, or higher ranking officers in that chain of command.

  8. 8
    John S. says:

    Oh, boo-fucking-hoo.

    Another stellar example of the illuminating commentariat from the right.

  9. 9
    Krista says:

    Andrew – sorry, I was making a rather broad generalization, trying to echo John’s point that while some of the people who perpetrated the acts are being punished, those that fostered the attitude of “Geneva Convention? What’s that?”, have not faced any sort of reckoning.

  10. 10
    Pb says:

    Andrew,

    Only a few people have been punished, primarily MPs from the National Guard, and not many (if any) of the military intelligence and CIA folks directly involved, or higher ranking officers in that chain of command.

    Don’t worry, I’m sure Gen. Hayden will straighten all that out…</snark>

  11. 11
    ppGaz says:

    Am I generalizing too broadly to suggest that whenever he ‘admits mistakes’ they tend to be mistakes of things he shouldn’t have said rather than shouldn’t have done?

    No, I think you are right on.

    Matthews nailed this yesterday. And he pointed out that the “confessions” sounded rehearsed, and staged, and that they were entirely self-serving.

    Tucker Carlson bashed the “confessions” too, and said that they were badly handled. I don’t think any of the talking heads were praising Bush for the thing. Joe Scarborough even bashed him.

    Sometimes the press potatoheads do actually get something right.

  12. 12
    PeterJ says:

    So Bush do care about polls after all…

  13. 13
    canuckistani says:

    Matthews nailed this yesterday. And he pointed out that the “confessions” sounded rehearsed, and staged, and that they were entirely self-serving.

    Kinda like “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt when I said you had been beat with an ugly stick”?

  14. 14
    MAX HATS says:

    My reaction was “THAT’S his regret?” Might as well apologize for the “Mission Accomplished” banner while he’s at it. Mistakes that lead to American and Iraqi deaths, continuing unneccessary chaos in Iraq, the imperilling of the mission, inadaquate securing of WMD sites which thank god were by and large empty – no problem there. But his polls are low, and so droopy eyed and voice tinged in regret, he apologizes for a purely political mistake that hurt his precious political capital. Christ, what a peice of shit. Maybe if he either 1) worked a day in his life, or 2) spent any time at risk in Vietnam like so much of his generation he’d actually be capable of some empathy outside the prep-school bubble.

  15. 15
    Pb says:

    Yeah, if he wanted a list of some real things to apologize for, I could come up with… ah… zillions… Here’s 100 mistakes from 2004 or before. I don’t think anyone’s succeeded in compiling a comprehensive list yet, but if they did, it’d just look like a huge and detailed timeline of the last six years or so…

  16. 16

    […] John Cole finds an apology in the latest admissions. […]

  17. 17

    You know. I honestly don’t care. Didn’t even listen to it.

    Worst President Ever.

  18. 18
    Otto Man says:

    You know. I honestly don’t care. Didn’t even listen to it.

    Actually, you should give it a look. Bush mumbles through the bit, like a kid who’s been dragged over to the neighbor’s to apologize for torturing their cat. His heart’s not in it at all. Which might explain the smirk he flashed to the front row as soon as he was done.

  19. 19
    srv says:

    Tucker Carlson bashed the “confessions” too, and said that they were badly handled. I don’t think any of the talking heads were praising Bush for the thing. Joe Scarborough even bashed him.

    Sometimes the press potatoheads do actually get something right.

    Actually, I think alot of the complainers now where probably formerly whooping it up (“bring ’em on”, “dead or alive”, “axis-of-evil”, “mission accomplished”) and dissing those of us who have a clue about the consequences of words. Now they either have to dis GW or eat their own crow.

    GW’s 9/11 “this is a crusade” quote really tells you everything you ever need to know about this guy. He either had no idea what he was saying, or he let his true nature slip. Nobody but a moron or a zealot would ever think to say something like that.

  20. 20
    croatoan says:

    His wink to the reporters after he made his remarks shows how insecure the apology was.

    Dan Froomkin points out that he’s made the same apologies before.

    And it looks like Marines killing over a dozen Iraqi civilians in Haditha isn’t a mistake.

  21. 21
    Marcus Wellby says:

    Nobody but a moron or a zealot would ever think to say something like that.

    How about a moronic zealot? Though snark aside, I think he is far too much a moron to be a zealot.

  22. 22
    fwiffo says:

    I used to think that the “worst president ever” thing and impeachment talk was silly hyperbole. I mean, there were some real stinkers – your Hardings, your Andrew Johnsons, your Grants. But has there ever been one nearly so damaging on a global scale? All the presidents we think of as terrible presidents generally screwed up domestically or had corrupt administrations that didn’t have global impact. But Bush has managed to screw up this country while simultaneously cheesing off the rest of the world. That’s the kind of two-fisted incompetence you just can buy or bottle.

  23. 23
    mrmobi says:

    John, you’ve been out front on this issue from the beginning. It’s what attracted me to this place, and I applaud your principled stand… but this “admission” is strictly calculated poll-driven bullshit on the part of the President.

    I’ve always liked Tony Blair, but he hitched his wagon to a dark star, and he’s paying for it now. Unlike many progressives, I never hated W. I just thought he was a spoiled rich kid, always being bailed out by his father. When 9/11 happened, I rooted for him, like all of us who wanted this nation to land on its feet after the tragedy. I still don’t hate him, it would be a waste of energy in our political system. I don’t want him impeached either. I just want there to be SOME accountability SOMEWHERE in our government. I want someone to pay for torturing unkown numbers of Iraquis to death, to go to jail for stealing untold billions there, and, most of all, for undermining our most basic freedoms in the name of protecting the homeland, and for blatantly ignoring and breaking the law.
    So I hope you keep at it, John, but I also hope you know the only way for change to happen is to send the Republican party to the woodshed for a few years, and that means voting for Democrats. I’m beginning to feel like a lot of people out there are coming to the same conclusion.

  24. 24
    D. Mason says:

    I learned some lessons

    Well, as long as the decider can walk away from the whole Iraq experiance with a valuable lesson I guess it was worthwhile.

  25. 25
    CDB says:

    Call him stretch hehehe.

    Can I buy you dinner hehehehe.

    Seeing innocent people die everyday on TV will have some effect hehehe.

  26. 26
    ppGaz says:

    Nobody but a moron or a zealot would ever think to say something like that.

    More moron that zealot, I think. And what passes for zealotry is really just political ballbusting. I really think we are living through his acting out of a need to be seen as a stronger pres than his father. We are all extras in his little drama.

  27. 27
    srv says:

    Ah, we have all given him WAY too much credit. John, you’re projecting what you want to hear:

    Saying “Bring it on.” Kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people. That I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner. You know, “Wanted dead or alive,” that kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted.

    Bush didn’t admit anything except that he was misinterpreted.

  28. 28
    JoeTx says:

    I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted.

    Yep, thats it, he was “taken out of context!”

  29. 29
    skip says:

    “I’ve always liked Tony Blair, but he hitched his wagon to a dark star, ”

    More liketo a White Dwarf than a collapsed star.

  30. 30
    Kimmitt says:

    Since the President has no intention of altering his behavior in any way — by, for example, beginning to seek out the advice of those who were right about Iraq while he was wrong — he’s just lying again. So who cares?

  31. 31
    DougJ says:

    I need some help here people. I want to serve drinks called “Patrick Fitzgerald” and “Karl Rove” when Rove gets indicted. Any ideas? Maybe the Karl Rove could be called the “Turd Blossom” and have a piece of chocolate or a coffee bean in it.

    Any ideas are welcome.

  32. 32

    Please.

    Better late than never my ass. Bush can apologize by forcing Cheney and Rumsfeld to resign. That is the only thing that would do it for me.

  33. 33
    Otto Man says:

    I need some help here people. I want to serve drinks called “Patrick Fitzgerald” and “Karl Rove” when Rove gets indicted. Any ideas?

    The Patrick Fitzgerald should reflect his Irish heritage and the slow, smooth wheels of justice that he represents. You could simply appropriate the recipe for an Irish Car Bomb — a shot glass with half Bailey’s, half Jameson’s, dropped into a 3/4 full pint of Guinness. Or, if the idea of theft is too at odds with the U.S. Attorney’s office, you could try a tumbler with layers of Bailey’s, amaretto, and creme de cacao.

    The Karl Rove, ideally, would be so repulsive no one would ever want to drink it. But since you’d presumable like your guests to enjoy the moment, the Turd Blossom approach might be a good route. Vanilla Stoli, Kahlua, and Frangelico with a coffee bean. Or you could go with a Frog March — say, Creme de Menthe, Creme de Cacao, and a dash of milk?

    Whatever you go with, be sure to pour one on the ground for all the Bush administration’s imprisoned homeys.

  34. 34
    DougJ says:

    Otto — I think I’ll go with that for the Turd Blossom. I like Frog March idea too.

    How about one called “A Shot in the Face” for Dick Cheney as well? I’m thinking Wild Turkey that’s been “peppered” with something, though I’m not sure what.

  35. 35
    Andrew says:

    I recommend pepper for peppering.

    But do what you will.

    Some sesame seed would work too.

  36. 36
    DougJ says:

    Would pepper go with wild turkey? Or should we pepper something else?

  37. 37
    Otto Man says:

    Pepper and Wild Turkey might not mix well.

    Why not just rename a Bloody Mary as a Bloody Harry?

  38. 38
    JoeTx says:

    You could pepper a nice tall bloody mary! ewwwww, just remembered his daughters name was mary, I need to go throw up now!

  39. 39
    Andrew says:

    Dr. Pepper has some nice peppering and medical connotations.

  40. 40
    Andrew says:

    Pepper and Wild Turkey might not mix well.

    It’s “A Shot in the Face!” I don’t think it’s supposed to be particularly pleasant.

  41. 41

    I used to think that the “worst president ever” thing and impeachment talk was silly hyperbole. I mean, there were some real stinkers – your Hardings, your Andrew Johnsons, your Grants. But has there ever been one nearly so damaging on a global scale?

    Yeah, generally James Buchanan is regarded as the worst, with William Henry Harrison regarded as the best ever.

    But as far as greatest damage done on a global scale, that was probably Lyndon B. Johnson, as we’re still feeling the repurcussions of Vietnam to this day.

  42. 42
    Zifnab says:

    Better late than never my ass. Bush can apologize by forcing Cheney and Rumsfeld to resign. That is the only thing that would do it for me.

    If only he could. I think Dick and Rummey would do America a better service by forcing Bush to resign. Then, at least, they couldn’t pass the buck to the Chimp-in-Chief when one of their brilliant PNAC ploys fell through.

  43. 43
    D. Mason says:

    But as far as greatest damage done on a global scale, that was probably Lyndon B. Johnson, as we’re still feeling the repurcussions of Vietnam to this day.

    I guess only history can decide who was worse: The President who brought us Vietnam or the President who brought us Vietnam 2.0…

  44. 44

    Obviously Absolut Peppar Vodka, with Wild Turkey.

  45. 45
    RSA says:

    “I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner, you know,” Bush said softly.

    Was anyone reminded of Peter Boyle as The Monster in Young Frankenstein?

    I live because this poor half-crazed genius, has given me life. He alone held an image of me as something beautiful and then, when it would have been easy enough to stay out of danger, he used his own body as a guinea pig to give me a calmer brain and a somewhat more sophisticated way of expressing myself.

    Fans will recall that The Monster gave up something in exchange. . .

  46. 46

    Turd Blossum…

    You could do something similar to the Brain which is Peach Schnapps with Bailey’s… The bailey’s doesn’t mix and looks kind of disgusting in the center.

    Maybe if you mixed some Kahlua in there… oh man, that would probably taste bad… Kahlua with peach?

  47. 47
    Zifnab says:

    But as far as greatest damage done on a global scale, that was probably Lyndon B. Johnson, as we’re still feeling the repurcussions of Vietnam to this day.

    You can’t possibly crucify Johnson purely on Vietnam. We were dabbling in that country since Eisenhower and continued to stay in through Nixon. Johnson certainly botched the war the worst, but I’d hardly call him the worst President ever, unless you want to completely ignore the Civil Rights Act and Voting Act as well as his Great Society programs. Johnson was a very good President when he wasn’t trying to invade anybody.

  48. 48
    RSA says:

    I think that the turd blossom metaphor is based on a piece of shit with an unexpected flower growing from it. Your drink needs a flower garnish, or at least a colorful paper umbrella.

  49. 49
    Halffasthero says:

    Since we are discussing alcohol, I was wondering where the Friday Beer Blog is? I am done for the day and wanted to comment on a beer I just tried and needed to sing its praises.

    Goose Island Oatmeal Stout from Chicago – definite thumbs up.

  50. 50
    Punchy says:

    Goose Island Oatmeal Stout from Chicago – definite thumbs up

    Agreed. Goose Island anything is good. Ever tried Anchor Steam? Bueno.

  51. 51
    VAMark says:

    Buchanan has got to be the worst. The Civil War was coming sooner or later no matter what, but he didn’t have to let Jefferson Davis as his Secretary of War build and equip forts all through the secessionist regions to prepare.

    Come to think of it, if you think of SecDef and the pre-reform Secretaries of War as a continuous line, I’d say Jeff Davis would edge Rumsfeld out as the worst there, as well. Rumsfeld at least isn’t purposely trying to destroy the country.

    LBJ was what I call a high standard deviation guy – some great things and some really awful things during his 5 years – but the damage the Iraq war has done to this country internationally is likely to dwarf the cost of Vietnam, although nothing next to the results of nuking Iran if it really comes to that.

  52. 52
    Anderson says:

    DougJ, I recommmend a gin sling, as in “ass in a sling.”

  53. 53

    You can’t possibly crucify Johnson purely on Vietnam. We were dabbling in that country since Eisenhower and continued to stay in through Nixon. Johnson certainly botched the war the worst, but I’d hardly call him the worst President ever, unless you want to completely ignore the Civil Rights Act and Voting Act as well as his Great Society programs. Johnson was a very good President when he wasn’t trying to invade anybody.

    We were talking about Worst in terms of Global affairs.

    I’ll not defend LBJ on The Great Society, as I think it was a failure of ideology in the end. Implementing programs for the sake, rather than setting a target and trying things to meet the target goal as FDR would have done.

  54. 54

    LBJ was what I call a high standard deviation guy – some great things and some really awful things during his 5 years – but the damage the Iraq war has done to this country internationally is likely to dwarf the cost of Vietnam, although nothing next to the results of nuking Iran if it really comes to that.

    That’s what General Odom has said as well. Iraq has damaged US credibility in such a large way, at a point and time where we don’t really have many allies who need us. That is, with the collapse of the USSR and the rise of the EU and Asian economies, we can’t even force people to play nice with us.

  55. 55
    Otto Man says:

    I’ll not defend LBJ on The Great Society, as I think it was a failure of ideology in the end. Implementing programs for the sake, rather than setting a target and trying things to meet the target goal as FDR would have done.

    Well, I’ll stick up for the Great Society. Especially the War on Poverty, which for some reason everyone assumes was a failure. (Reagan had a classic line about it: “We declared war on poverty, and poverty won.”)

    Truth is, LBJ managed to make a significant dent in poverty. In the six years between the start of the War on Poverty and the time he left office, poverty rates in America underwent their sharpest decline in the postwar era. In 1964, 17.4% of Americans lived in poverty, while in 1969, just 10.4% would. After that, the poverty rate would rise in later decades, hovering at 13% in the 1980s and 1990s. Even today, the rate is still higher than it was when Johnson left office.

    And if you look at the census data for two groups targeted by the administration, African Americans and Southerners, the impact is even more apparent. Poverty rates in the South were cut in half over the course of the 1960s, falling from 35% to 17%, while poverty rates for blacks across the nation fell from 54% to 30% during the decade.

    Sounds like a target set and met to me.

  56. 56
    Otto Man says:

    Oh, and the rest of the Great Society wasn’t too shabby either. Here are four highlights.

    The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act helped secure many of the demands of the civil rights movement and, importantly, ushered in a truly democratic state of affairs throughout the South.

    Furthermore, LBJ ended four decades of racist immigration policies, with the 1965 Hart Celler Act. The 1920s racist restrictions on immigrants from Asia and SE Europe were lifted as a result of the bill, allowing for a new influx of people from both regions.

    The Great Society significantly increased federal aid to education, in terms of Head Start, K-12, and college funding. The Higher Education Act was a real success. By 1970, one out of every four college students in America was receiving some form of financial assistance from the HEA. The law facilitated a huge expansion in college enrollments. In 1950, only 15% of the 18-to-21 age group attended college, by 1970, it was up to 34%. By 1990, it was up to 52%.

    And Medicare and Medicaid might not have fulfilled Truman’s old vision for universal health care, but it did a great job of providing medical aid to the elderly and the poor. They’re a fixture of the American welfare state, as much as FDR’s Social Security.

    Not a bad record. If it weren’t for Vietnam, liberals would probably love LBJ even more than FDR.

  57. 57
    Pooh says:

    Voting Rights Act

    Though probably better than nothing on this front, many actual provisions of the VRA (and surrounding legal precedent) are an enormous mess. There is too much crucial terminology that is inexactly defined, if defined at all.

  58. 58
    Matt says:

    Blair said the leaders did not accurately predict immense challenges such as the strength of the insurgency. “It should have been very obvious to us,” the prime minister said.

    Personally, I’m holding out for “It was very obvious to us, we just didn’t care.”

  59. 59

    Especially the War on Poverty, which for some reason everyone assumes was a failure.

    Aspects of it were failures.

    Welfare was a disaster. Johnson had good success in the early years, but as the program continued it only encouraged more people to stay on welfare rather than work. A large part of the problem was that the programs didn’t encourage or help people get off them. If you found a job, your welfare was yanked cold turkey. In many cases it was economically more viable for someone to stay on welfare than to work even if they could. Especially amongst single parents.

    It wasn’t until Clinton that we had Democrats finally recognizing what an abject failure the program was and a desire to do something about it. Unfortunately for 20 years, democrats defended failed programs blindly instead of recognizing the failures and doing something to fix them. This allowed Republicans to point out these failure points, and gain political traction.

  60. 60
    craigie says:

    Well, now that Shrub feels bad, I guess the whole thing just goes away, and all those dead kids come back to life. Phew! For a minute there, I thought this whole Iraq thing was some kind of fucking disaster. Silly me.

  61. 61
    Slide. says:

    But as far as greatest damage done on a global scale, that was probably Lyndon B. Johnson, as we’re still feeling the repurcussions of Vietnam to this day.

    Vietnam was definitly a disaster but even though so many more Americans died in that conflict than will likely die in Iraq, the Iraq conflict is much more detrimental to US interests globally than Vietnam ever was.

    The thing that gets me about Iraq is how it was exactly what bin Laden would have wanted us to do. Its amazing how Bush and the very naive neocons played right into the hands of the guy that is said to live in a cave. The WHOLE idea of terrorism is to goad the other side into overreacting and producing a backlash that swell the ranks of wannabe terrorists. Bin Laden said the US would invade an oil rich arab country and that we are only interested in their natual resources so what did we do? Invade and oil rich country and we did it on, what is now conceeded to be, the discredited claim of WMD. We gave bin Landen a huge propaganda victory which is played out on a daily basis on Arab TV. We have demonstrated weakness not strength in our inability to “accomplish” the mission. We’ve squandered our national treasure in this failed endeavor that could have gone to hardening our domestic targets of potential terrorist attacks. We’ve taken our eye off of the ball (al Qaeda). We’ve turned worldwide public opinion against us, not only in the Muslim world but among those that are traditionaly our allies. We’ve lost the moral high ground with torture, secret prisons, abu Gahrib and now Hadita. .

    Bin Laden must have a framed photograph of George Bush on his cave wall because nobody had done more for his cause than the Great Decider. Try as I can, I really can’t imagine how we could have done any worse. Iraq is going to go down in history as one of biggest foreign relations blunders of all time. Vietnam, painful as it may have been, pales in comparison.

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