The president admits a mistake -- but not on Iraq

He says it's his fault that people think he's uninformed.

By Tim Grieve
Published December 13, 2005 3:05PM (EST)

News flash: George W. Bush has admitted a mistake. In an interview with NBC's Brian Williams, the president said it may be his own fault that so many Americans think he's uninformed about the world.

After explaining that he's not really in a bubble -- except insofar as he can't just go out shopping for Laura -- Bush said that he's probably to blame for creating the "myth" that he doesn't read newspapers. "Frankly, it is probably part of my own fault for needling people," the president said. "But it's a myth to think I don't know what's going on. And it's a myth to think that I'm not aware that there is opinions that don't agree with mine. Because I'm fully aware of that."

Bush told Williams that he reads a newspaper every day; that he gets more news from aides; that he sees protests on the streets when he travels but they're "smaller than they used to be"; and that he hears opinions from the families of fallen soldiers. When meeting with the families, Bush said, "I try to be patient and absorb the anguish of a family that's just mourning."

He's absorbing, but he's not changing. Asked whether he agreed that the war in Iraq was an "elective" war, Bush said it was in the sense that "troops don't move unless I give the order. So, from that sense it was elective. I mean, I could have said, 'No, we'll try to, you know, hope for the best with Saddam Hussein.'

"Remember, at the time we didn't know the facts on the ground. We -- everybody thought the guy had weapons of mass destruction. Everybody knew that he'd used weapons of mass destruction and had provided safe haven for terrorists. I mean, those were facts. Whether or not it had to happen is -- it didn't have to happen since a human being made the decision. Whether or not it needed to happen, I'm still convinced it needed to happen."

And he's still convinced, more or less, that Dick Cheney was right when he insisted that U.S. troops would be welcomed as "liberators" in Iraq. "I think we are welcomed," Bush said, "but it was not a peaceful welcome."

Tim Grieve

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

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