In Rare Talk Show Interview, Bush Defends Decision on War

President Bush said Saturday that he did not want the commission he appointed to be hurried in evaluating prewar intelligence about Iraq’s banned weapons, and he said voters would have plenty of opportunity to evaluate the decisions he made about the war even though the commission will not report until nearly five months after Election Day.

In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” to be broadcast on Sunday, Mr. Bush also gave a vote of confidence to George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, saying his job was not in jeopardy “at all.”

The unusual appearance by Mr. Bush on a Sunday morning news show marked the beginning of a new phase in his re-election campaign. NBC released excerpts from the interview on Saturday and showed parts of it on its evening news show.

Asked by Tim Russert, the host of “Meet the Press,” whether the war was worth 530 American lives and thousands of injuries even though inspectors have found no stockpiles of banned weapons in Iraq, Mr. Bush said it was “essential that I explain this properly to the parents of those who lost their lives.”

Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi leader, “was dangerous, and I’m not just going to leave him in power and trust a madman,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush invoked the judgment of David A. Kay, the former chief weapons inspector in Iraq. In addition to concluding that Mr. Hussein did not have the weapons stockpiles the president had cited as a primary justification for the war, Mr. Kay told interviewers last month that Iraq might nonetheless have been more dangerous than the United States had judged.

“For the parents of the soldiers who have fallen who are listening, David Kay, the weapons inspector, came back and said, in many ways Iraq was more dangerous than we thought,” Mr. Bush said.

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.