Back in 2000, George W. Bush made "personal responsibility" one of his
campaign themes. Everybody understood that the phrase had two meanings:
first, the traditional Republican one of disciplining unruly children, whiny
minorities, complaining women, indolent workers and lesser breeds outside
the country club; second, an implied vow to keep his pants on in the Oval
Office. Only in the third year of President Junior’s court-appointed term do
we learn that it has another meaning as well: When Bush says he takes
"personal responsibility" for something, it means he’s run out of phony alibis,
so sit down and shut up.
Dutifully headlined "Bush Takes Responsibility for Iraq Claims" by The
Washington Post, here’s the entire exchange from the White House transcript
of the president’s press conference:
"Q. Mr. President, you often speak about the need
for accountability in many areas.
I wonder then, why is Dr. Condoleezza Rice not being held accountable for the
statement that your own White House has acknowledged was a mistake in your
State of the Union address regarding Iraq’s attempts to purchase uranium?
And also, do you take personal responsibility for that inaccuracy?
" THE PRESIDENT: I take personal responsibility
for everything I say, of
course. Absolutely. I also take responsibility for making decisions on war
and peace. And I analyzed a thorough body of intelligence—good, solid, sound
intelligence—that led me to come to the conclusion that it was necessary to
remove Saddam Hussein from power. "We gave the world a chance to do it. We
had—remember there’s—again, I don’t want to get repetitive here, but it’s
important to remind everybody that there was 12 resolutions that came out of
the United Nations because others recognized the threat of Saddam Hussein.
Twelve times the United Nations Security Council passed resolutions in
recognition of the threat that he posed. And the difference was, is that
some were not willing to act on those resolutions. We were—along with a lot
of other countries—because he posed a threat.
" Dr. Condoleezza Rice is an honest, fabulous
person. And America is lucky
to have her service. Period. "
Even a legendary shirker like Junior could hardly avoid taking responsibility
what came out of his own mouth. But he could barely hide his annoyance at the
reporter’s impertinence. Imagine if the question had been put to him as sharply
as Bob Somerby suggested on his Daily Howler Web site:
"Mr. President, we have been told that Dr. Condoleezza Rice did not
October’s National Intelligence Estimate and therefore did not know that the
State Department doubted the claim that Iraq sought uranium in Africa. We’re also
told that she didn’t read CIA memos on this subject. Are you concerned when
your national security adviser is so poorly informed on such a subject? And do
you now believe what you said in your State of the Union—that Saddam Hussein
‘recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa’?"
Of course, nobody believes the good doctor failed to do her homework.
The White House simply enlisted the smaller falsehood in service of the larger
one. In a courtroom, Bush’s answers would be called non-responsive. He
trotted out the same "12 resolutions" and "sound intelligence" over and
over, as if they trumped the facts on the ground.
There were, of course, no U. N. resolutions calling for "regime change."
If we had a press corps instead of a band of celebrity courtiers, somebody
would have asked him how he could send American soldiers to kill and die in
Iraq without reading, as the White House says he did not, the 90-page
National Intelligence Estimate. Exactly what, then, did he study before
parroting Tony Blair’s hysterical warning that Saddam could strike within
Bush told us that not to invade and occupy Iraq would be tantamount
"national suicide." Now he says he’s confident documents will prove that
Saddam had "weapons programs." Hardly the same thing. He has faith that
documents will also prove the Iraqi dictator’s "links" to al-Qa’ida, another
inflammatory charge that The Washington Post reports the National
Intelligence Estimate he failed to read contradicted.
From a purely psychological point of view, the most fascinating aspect
Bush press conference is watching this under-qualified aristocrat veer from
mild panic to smug arrogance within a few sentences. Here’s another example
of Bush-style "personal responsibility."
Why aren’t his economic policies producing jobs? Try to believe your
president said this: "Remember on our TV screens—I’m not suggesting
which network did this—but it said, ‘ March to War,’ every day from
last summer until the spring —‘ March to War, ’ ‘March to War.’
That’s not a very conducive environment for people to take risk,
when they hear, ‘March to War ’ all the time."
And whose fault was that? Anybody but Junior’s.
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