George Bush has been making the farewell round of interviews before leaving office and Washington, and returning to Texas. His first such interview with the avuncular Charles Gibson reminded me of why we should be glad he’s leaving. There were two particular questions that were answered in such a way as to let us see the essence of this man who has attempted to lead the free world in a manner as ill-prepared as the answers to these interview questions.
When asked what he would change or “do over” if he could, the President fumbled a bit and came up with something about getting better intelligence about WMD in Iraq and then realized that that answer was not about doing anything differently from his part. So at that point Gibson queried him as to whether he would not have begun the war if he had known there were no weapons of mass destruction. The President paused, seemed a bit at a loss for words and then actually came out and “corrected” himself by saying that if he could change anything, there would have been WMD in Iraq! What a startling remark.
Did he realize that he was revealing he wanted to go to war, but would have felt better about it if the WMD charge had been borne out. In other words, what his critics have been charging about making war with Iraq no matter what seems to be correct. And yet, he said nothing about himself or his policies that he would have changed or revised. Are we to assume that he believes his policies were so on target that nothing could have been done better? Interesting thought to chew on.
The second point was Gibson’s question to Bush to pinpoint what he considered the highlight of his presidency, when he felt that , yeah, this is good, this is the way it’s supposed to be. Without any hesitancy, Bush smiled that slow smile of his and replied that the 2004 Inauguration was the pinnacle of his time in office, because he knew he had won the election and he felt marvelous about it. I was astonished that the President did not even attempt to come up with something less self-serving. If he would have said the administration’s work in Africa on AIDS, I could imagine some people at home silently applauding. But, instead, his answer once more tells us how self-absorbed and insular he is. To George W. Bush, the importance of his job has been to be president, not doing the job, but being the personage.
President Bush knew he was having this interview and could have prepared what one would expect to be asked, and those two questions are so elementary for such an interview. But he seemed, as usual, totally unprepared. That he could find no "high point" that could reflect anything he or his administration did, as opposed to merely winning the office, was quite revealing, inasmuch as he noted that he's leaving office with his head high (well, I guess he should consider himself lucky he gets to keep his head). But when he kept reiterating how he's always kept to his principles and never wavered from his ideals, I kept waiting for Gibson to ask him what those ideals were. I guess Gibson didn't expect a coherent answer so didn't bother.
To be fair, he is not the only president in history to fall short, though few have fallen so abysmally low. And it has always been to the detriment of the rest of us when we endure such an administration as we have for the past eight years. Let’s hope the next few years see inroads made on the mess that has proliferated during the past eight years across our country. It would be encouraging to see things done differently and a president who might look at the world through a different lens.