Sunday, January 16, 2005

Captain Ed on President Bush

President Bush says he now sees that tough talk can have an 'unintended consequence.'

During a round-table interview with reporters from 14 newspapers, the president, who not long ago declined to identify any mistakes he'd made during his first term, expressed misgivings for two of his most famous expressions: 'Bring 'em on,' in reference to Iraqis attacking U.S. troops, and his vow to get Osama bin Laden 'dead or alive.'

'Sometimes, words have consequences you don't intend them to mean,' Bush said Thursday.

''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. And those words had an unintended consequence. It kind of, some interpreted it to be defiance in the face of danger. That certainly wasn't the case.'

He also told the reporters that the 'dead or alive' comment about Osama bin Laden came off the cuff. Both comments received fierce criticism which continues to this day -- and the critics include Laura Bush, who scolded George for his defiant commentary, according to the President.

For myself, I feel that this is overblown. The 'dead or alive' comment was pure W -- he was angry and he vented, a human thing to do, and one which captured the spirit of Americans at the time. As for 'bring it on,' does anyone think that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi would have conducted himself any differently had Bush not said it? Would he have beheaded one or two fewer people in Iraq? Of course not. Politically, it was a bit tone-deaf, but operationally it's the biggest nothing in the past four years.

Speaking of tone-deaf, I wonder if Kerry will admit to any regret over picking up 'bring it on' as his campaign slogan. Always delivered in drawn-out stentorian tones, he intended its use as a tweak of Bush's nose. It worked out dramatically different for the erstwhile candidate, as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth hammered him for months about the Viet Nam experience he attempted to make the centerpiece of the campaign. By the end of August, he begged George Bush to call them off, making his challenge a satirical caption to the picture of incompetence his campaign became.

At least Bush chose those words in haste. Kerry learned the hard way after deliberately picking them up."

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