On July 2, 2003, President Bush cavalierly dismissed violence in Iraq when he infamously proclaimed, “There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring ‘em on.
His comments were swiftly criticized. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) called them “irresponsible and inciteful.” The UK Guardian dubbed the remarks a “gesture of presidential bravado.” Even Bush himself seemed to regret his comments, telling reporters in January 2005:
Sometimes, words have consequences you don’t intend them to mean. ‘Bring ‘em on’ is the classic example, when I was really trying to rally the troops and make it clear to them that I fully understood, you know, what a great job they were doing. [...]
I don’t know if you’d call it a regret, but it certainly is a lesson that a president must be mindful of, that the words that you sometimes say. … I don’t know if you’d call that a confession, a regret, something.
But as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) reveals in his new book, Bush again used that infamous phrase as recently as 2007. Last night on MSNBC, Reid said that on the anniversary of 9/11 last year, he was “complaining” to Bush about the situation in Iraq. Bush replied, “Bring ‘em on. We’re killing them. We’re killing them.” Watch it:
At the time of Bush’s comments in September 2007, 78 percent of Iraqis were saying that “things are going badly for the country overall.” Iraqi civilian deaths had risen for both the two previous months, and monthly U.S. troop casualties were surpassing those in 2006.
As in 2003, the last thing that Iraqis and the U.S. military needed was to “bring ‘em on.”
OLBERMANN: We really passed that fifth anniversary on the first of this month, since the “Mission Accomplished” declaration on the aircraft carrier. In this book of yours, the new book, “The Good Fight: The Hard Lessons from Searchlight to Washington,” you describe a private meeting that you had with the President — on a different anniversary, which was Sept. 11, 2007 — about Iraq, and he made a statement that you wrote, left you somewhat incredulous.
What you wrote, to quote exactly: “To understand what he said is to understand something profound about the problem at the heart of this administration.”
What did the President say to you last 9/11 anniversary, and what does it tell us about his leadership?
REID: Well, I was complaining about what was going on and he basically said, “Bring ‘em on. We’re killing them. We’re killing them.”
REID: The terrorists.
OLBERMAN: Oh, dear.