President Bush is heading to the Middle East to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - the man who, only months ago, Mr. Bush looked into the eyes of and was so "impressed" that he could tell how well things were going. True, at that visit Mr. al-Maliki actually showed up, something he hasn't guaranteed this time. And true, that visit took place in Baghdad, while this will be in safer Jordan. Then again, pretty much anywhere in the world is safer.
Mr. Bush says he wants to be bi-partisan, now that he's lost control of Congress. He says he understands what the people said in the election. Does he? He says so.
Differences of opinion get debated. But you can't dance around a man's actual words. So, as the President heads to Jordan, and America heads into the start of George Bush's lame duck term, it's appropriate to take a look back at some of those words.
After leaked material outed a CIA agent, an angry President demanded on February 11, 2004, that "If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is."
Of course, news later came that it was the President himself who authorized the leak. In fairness, apologists explained the President didn't do anything illegal. What Mr. Bush also didn't do is listen to his own words from an October, 2000, speech in Pittsburgh, when he was first running for President.
"It's time to clean up the toxic environment in Washington, D.C. In my Administration, we would ask not only what is legal but what is right, not what the lawyers allow but what the public deserves."
Okay, okay, it's not really fair to hold candidates to what they actually say. Hey, they're trying to get elected. That's what debates are for, the clear up the record.
This is why Mr. Bush stated emphatically during his first debate with Al Gore on October 3, 2000 - "We need to say that each of us need to be responsible for what we do. And people in the highest office of the land must be responsible for decisions they make in life."
And, well - surely the President is the people in the highest office of the land. So, personal responsibility had to be his priority when he answered John Dickerson's question on April 13, 2004, what his biggest mistake was:
"You know, I just - I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hasn't yet."
And sure enough, something did pop into his head only two years later, acknowledging on March 25, 2006, that he shouldn't have said, "Bring it on" (something schoolchildren had realized at the time). Hey, he's a busy man. A man who admonished others on April 6, 1999, that "I know this will be an era that stands in stark contrast to the last decade, which has said, 'if it feels good, do it' and 'if you've got a problem, blame somebody else.'"
Because when confronted about his now-discredited 16-word assertion that helped take the nation into war, he had a "the buck stops way over there" moment on July 12, 2003, pointing: "I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services." In fairness, he wasn't blaming them, just tattling. It's different.
And so, we went to war even though Iraq didn't actually have WMD's.
Now, sure, when Mr. Bush had that first debate with Al Gore, he did say, "...If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world and nation building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road, and I'm going to prevent that."
Make that one, "Big oops."
Yes, yes, some people might want to nitpick this and criticize the President. But they misunderstand his language. Iraq isn't nation building - it's rebuilding. It's not extending troops from Afghanistan - it's a completely separate war.
Sure, nearly 70% of Americans don't agree with his military policy any more. But let's be clear: that's not George Bush's fault. "...I'm a uniter, not a divider," he asserted to Salon.com on May 6, 1999. "I refuse to play the politics of putting people into groups and pitting one group against another."
Ah, the classic oops. To be fair, however, it's that "You misunderstood his language" thing again. He's not pitting one group against another. He's pitting all groups against another.
Yet standing like a uniting beacon are his heartfelt words as reported on June 12, 1999, on CNN AllPolitics:
"I am proud to be a compassionate conservative. I welcome the label. And on this ground, I'll take my stand."
Sometimes you almost weary of saying "Oops."
Because that ground has turned out to be quicksand. Then again, with a dismal record like this, who wouldn't welcome being labeled "compassionate"?!! Flying over the devastation of New Orleans, trying to privatize Social Security, under-funding education, vetoing stem cell research, ignoring greenhouse gas science, and so much more. It beats being labeled a "malevolent conservative."
In the end, as George Bush said in that aforementioned April 6, 1999, speech - "When a culture or an individual learns from their faults, it is not hypocrisy, it is maturity." And if anyone has taken personal responsibility, acknowledged his faults and changed the course when required, it must be George W. Bush.
Because he said so.
Actually, the question isn't so much, does the President care what he says - it's do the people who support him?