Whoa there, Cowboy

Published January 13, 2005 11:03PM (EST)

On the eve of his reinauguration, President Bush has informed ABC News' Barbara Walters that he intends to tighten the reins when it comes to his rather unique rhetorical flair.

"I watch what I say," Bush told Walters. "I said some things in the first term that were probably a little blunt. 'Bring it on' was a little blunt. I was really speaking to our troops, but it came out and had a different connotation, different meanings for others."

Some of those others, as ABC notes, include insurgents in Iraq: "More recently, guerrillas in Iraq have used the president's words in a propaganda video narrated in English, according to the Reuters news agency. The narrator of the video says, 'George W. Bush, you have asked us to "bring it on." And so help me, [we will ] like you never expected. Do you have another challenge?' The video then shows explosions around a U.S. military vehicle."

Bush also said that the first lady gave him a talking to after he famously vowed, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, that the U.S. would get Osama bin Laden "dead or alive."

"I'll be more disciplined in how I say things," he said, adding, "I have to be cautious about conveying thoughts in a way that doesn't send wrong impressions about our country."

While Bush may be eager for a fresh start in that regard, he reiterated that the war on terror and the hunt for bin Laden will remain a top priority during his second term, even though he said he believes the al-Qaida leader "is not as strong as he was."

"We will stay on the hunt," the president said.

Though Bush made clear during his first term that he doesn't get around to reading the news very often, he might be interested in this recent report from the Sunday Times of London, wherein the CIA's recently departed executive director, AB "Buzzy" Krongard, suggested that the world may be better off if bin Laden is allowed to remain at large -- a new lease on the prospect for a never-ending war on terror, and right in time for Bush's official welcome back to Washington.

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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