Bush Regrets “Bring it On” Statement — Still

In what is being termed “a stunning admission,” President Bush yesterday told reporters that he regretted some of the more flippant language he used during the early days of the war.

[I]n an unusual admission of a personal mistake, Mr. Bush said he regretted challenging insurgents in Iraq to “bring it on” in 2003, and said the same about his statement that he wanted Osama bin Laden “dead or alive.” Those two statements quickly came to reinforce his image around the world as a cowboy commander in chief. “Kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people,” Mr. Bush said. “I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner.”

Crooks and Liars has the video.

Peter Daou exclaims, “The significance of this shouldn’t go unnoticed. Bush has now admitted what the progressive blog community has said all along: Bush’s tough talk was wrongheaded and cost lives.”

Joe Gandleman notes that, “After years of being criticized for not admitting mistakes, Bush finally did and now he’s being criticized by both sides (the right, for saying it; progressives, for waiting so long and by his defenders who had steadfastly insisted for years that there was nothing wrong with his words).”

Oddly, however, this admission is neither stunning nor new. This has been his stock answer for months in response to the “What mistakes did you make?” line of questioning. See, for example, this January WaPo piece by Dan Froomkin. Steve Soto, Brad DeLong, and others debated it at the time.

Bush seems to be reflecting on whether wartime presidents should use sound bytes that play well to the crowd but might appear jejune to world leaders. He is certainly not admitting that those words “cost lives.” Indeed, it’s rather unfathomable that they did. It’s not as if, prior to his utterances, the jihadis were failing to “bring it on” and were roused from their non-violent ways in response to Bush’s urging.

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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.


  1. It just seems obvious looking at the reaction to these comments why the President (and United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair) have not previously yielded to the incessant calls to admit mistakes — and to be very specific about those mistakes.

    I heard the wrap up on NPR yesterday after the news conference and they finished by agreeing that neither the President nor the Prime Minister had satisfied them by indicating when troops would be coming home. Alas, the President gave a very clear and unambiguous answer to that question but phrased his answer in terms of completing the mission rather than offering a date on the calendar that can be used as a bludgeon by Big Media and a call to action by our enemies. I find it dreadfully telling that these educated, and in theory, responsible people insist on being so duplicitous about this.

    Any undertaking of this magnitude will be fraught with mistakes so long as you can use the benefit of hindsight. Think of something substantially easier like the building of a house. You have a plan, a budget, chances are the contractor has plenty of experience building houses, no one is shooting at you or your contractors, and yet, when it is complete there is no shortage of things you had wished you had done differently.


  2. RA says:

    Bush should have said “I have no regrets and I make no apologies. Buzz off Buffered”.

  3. Steven Plunk says:

    When addressing the troops “bring it on” seemed appropriate. The President has since learned that the world listens to every syllable of each word he utters or stutters.

    Reagan let slip the order to bomb Russia, Clinton did no have sexual relations with that woman, Johnson apparently like to show his dingaling to reporters. These guys are human you know.

    James Joyner has it 100% right when pointing out the jiahdis were already at war with us. Bush didn’t provoke the violence with that statement.

  4. Greywolf says:

    RA is right.
    Bush only seems to be bowing to the PC and MSM pussies.

  5. Roger says:

    With the polls in the dumps, this was another attempt to try and appear a bit humble on Bush’s part, guys. Rove can’t quite figure out what to do now that the country has decided the Pres is arrogant and incompetent–a very bad combo–so expect many, many trial balloon efforts such as this to see if something gets a positive response the Bushies can then try to play on. It’s desparation, so don’t think it’s always going to be pretty.