For quite a while, when the president was asked whether he’d made any mistakes in office, Bush would struggle to come up with something. More recent
June 11, 2008

For quite a while, when the president was asked whether he’d made any mistakes in office, Bush would struggle to come up with something. More recently, he came up with a stock answer: Bush thought it was a mistake to use warmongering rhetoric such as “bring ‘em on.”

This week, in the midst of a European trip, the president elaborated on this.

President Bush has admitted to The Times that his gun-slinging rhetoric made the world believe that he was a “guy really anxious for war” in Iraq. He said that his aim now was to leave his successor a legacy of international diplomacy for tackling Iran.

In an exclusive interview, he expressed regret at the bitter divisions over the war and said that he was troubled about how his country had been misunderstood. “I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric.”

Phrases such as “bring them on” or “dead or alive”, he said, “indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace”. […]

He also offered words of encouragement for another ally, Gordon Brown, whom he will meet on Sunday…. But he delivered a thinly veiled warning to Mr Obama that his promises to renegotiate or block international trade deals were already causing alarm in Europe and beyond.

This is interesting on a few levels. First, it’s kind hilarious that Bush is troubled by the notion that he’s not perceived as a “man of peace.” He, you know, launched a preemptive attack against a country that wasn’t a threat and then refused to leave. Bush is considered a “guy really anxious for war” in Iraq because he really was a guy really anxious for war in Iraq.

Second, it’s really hilarious to hear Bush suggest that leaders in “Europe and beyond” are worried about an Obama presidency. Trust me, they’re far more worried about Bush.

But the angle I hadn’t expected was the conservative outrage over Bush expressing regret in the first place. My friend Alex Koppelman has the story.

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