In the spin cycle with Laura Bush

By Tim Grieve
Published October 13, 2004 2:54PM (EDT)

Laura Bush and the twins are everywhere on the campaign trail this week in what the Kerry campaign calls an attempt to "soften" the harsh anti-Kerry rhetoric emanating from the mouth of the man of the family. Maybe that's what Laura Bush was doing on "Larry King Live" Tuesday night. She was "softening" the president's image.

Or maybe she was just making stuff up.

The adoring wife is certainly entitled to think that her husband "did great" in his disastrous first debate, and maybe she can even delude herself into thinking that the president's problems -- the stammering, the scowling, the inability to present coherent arguments -- were caused by the "the magnification of television."

But when Larry King asked about Bush's refusal, during the second debate, to admit having made any mistakes -- other than in the appointment of some people he wouldn't name -- the first lady ventured off into the land of make-believe. "Well, no, I mean, he said, of course, he made mistakes," she said. "He said, I'm human and I've made a lot of mistakes, and there's no doubt about it and history will judge what they are."

Oh, really?

What we heard -- what the debate transcript shows, is this: ". . . [I]n a war, there's a lot of -- there's a lot of tactical decisions that historians will look back and say: He shouldn't have done that. He shouldn't have made that decision. And I'll take responsibility for them. I'm human . . . [H]istory 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."

"Of course he made mistakes"? "A lot of mistakes"? That's not exactly what he said. What he said was that -- aside from the appointment errors -- historians might someday say he made mistakes, and if he does he'll take responsibility for them.

So why can't the president just acknowledge some of those mistakes now? The first lady says it's a "trick question" because any admission will be used against him. "He said that he is willing to accept the responsibility of the job he has, which is, you know, all the mistakes are assigned to him."

Tim Grieve

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

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