Bush should follow Dan's lead

Published September 21, 2004 1:47PM (EDT)

Protesters from the right will be marching on the offices of CBS News today, demanding that Dan Rather be fired for running a story about George W. Bush's past based in part on National Guard documents the network can't authenticate. Perhaps when they're done, they'll march down to the White House to demand that Bush be ousted for starting a war based on false intelligence.

And maybe if they do, Bush will begin to come clean on Iraq in the same way that Rather has on his 60 Minutes segment. If the president wants to apologize, Rather's mea culpa on the Guard documents provides an easy template for the job. With a little cutting and pasting -- that was hard on an IBM Selectric but it's easy with Microsoft Word -- the president could put out a statement in no time:

"I no longer have the confidence in the intelligence that led me to take our country to war. I find I have been misled on the key question of whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. That, combined with the complete lack of evidence that Saddam Hussein had any role in the attacks of Sept. 11, leads me to a point where  if I knew then what I know now  I would not have started a war in Iraq, and I certainly would not have done so if I'd known that more than a thousand U.S. troops and thousands more Iraqi citizens would be killed in the process.

"But I did start the war. I made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry. It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to make America safer.

"Please know that nothing is more important to me than people's trust in my ability and my commitment to keeping America safe. "

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan says the CBS case has raised "serious questions that need to be answered." The same could be said about the war in Iraq, of course, but the White House isn't asking those questions, let alone answering them.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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