"We'll all be dead"

Published October 9, 2004 5:13AM (EDT)

In Catholic school, they teach you about the pope's "infallibility," and as a kid I remember thinking what it must be like to always be right. Catholic school kids out there watching Friday night's debate must have thought they were watching the pope up there talking, not a president. Here is a man who would have us believe he's incapable of making mistakes.

We know this about Bush already -- in April, he embarrassed himself by flailing around in a live televised press conference hemming and hawing while he searched his brain for things he'd done wrong. He had several months to come up with a few examples of mistakes he's made -- little ones even -- to appear more human and more honest when he was inevitably asked again. But when a woman put the question to Bush at Friday's debate -- to name three mistakes in all of the thousands of decisions he has made as president -- he again came up empty. Sort of.

The closest Bush came to admitting he'd done wrong was saying he "made some mistakes in appointing people, but I'm not going to name them." So people who work for him have made mistakes, apparently -- not the same thing as admitting fault or taking responsibility.

Bush wants to leave it to the historians to do the work of judging his presidency. "History will look back, and I'm fully prepared to accept any mistakes that history judges to my administration, because the president makes the decisions, the president has to take the responsibility," he told that woman on Friday night.

So Bush is saying he won't take responsibility now -- he'd prefer to take it later, after the historians have had their say. In an interview with Bob Woodward, Bush revealed why leaving his record to the historians to sort out is attractive to him. "History, we dont know," he said. "Well all be dead.

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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