During a prime time press conference in April 2004, President Bush was asked to name one mistake he had made since taking office and explain what he had learned from it. He couldn’t do it. (We gave him 100 to choose from.)
“Maybe I’m not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one,” he said at the time. But that’s clearly not the problem. Bush was asked the same question today. A year and a half later, he still couldn’t bring himself to acknowledge a mistake.
See for yourself:
For his part, Bush did come quite close to acknowledging an error: he admitted preparing Iraq’s Army more than its civilian security forces. But he quickly clarified that he was merely adjusting his tactics “to meet the changing tactics of an enemy.”
Full transcript below:
QUESTION: Sir, you’ve shown a remarkable spirit of candor in the last couple of weeks in your conversations, speeches about Iraq. And I’m wondering if, in that spirit, I might ask you a question that you didn’t seem to have an answer for the last time you were asked.
And that is: What would you say is the biggest mistake you’ve made during your presidency, and what have you learned from it?
BUSH: Answering Dickerson’s question. [Laughter]
The last time those questions were asked, I really felt like it was an attempt for me to say it was a mistake to go into Iraq.
And it wasn’t a mistake to go into Iraq. It was the right decision to make.
I think that there’s going to be a lot of analysis done on the decisions on the ground in Iraq. For example, I’m fully aware that some have said it was a mistake not to put enough troops there immediately — or more troops.
I made my decision based upon the recommendations of Tommy Frank. And I still think it was the right decision to make. But history will judge.
I said the other day that a mistake was trying to train a civilian defense force and an Iraqi army at the same time, but not giving the civilian defense force enough training and tools necessary to be able to battle a group of thugs and killers. And so we adjusted.
And the point I’m trying to make to the American people in this, as you said, candid dialogue — I hope I’ve been candid all along — but, the candid dialogue, is to say we’re constantly changing our tactics to meet the changing tactics of an enemy. And that’s important for our citizens to understand.