Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

No Soul, No Regret: George W. Bush's Non-Mea-Culpa Tour 2009

David Corn

 by Mother Jones

George W. Bush the wise and somber presidential veteran.

Spare me. But as Bush prepares to leave office, he's trying to
strike that sort of tone. I suppose it's easier to pontificate about
the office of the presidency than to say, "Boy, did I screw up, I'm
outta here." So at a press conference on Monday morning--probably his
final as president--Bush discussed the burdens of presidential
leadership and noted there will come a moment next Tuesday when Barack
Obama, after taking the oath of office and watching the parade, settles
into the Oval Office and says to himself, "Oh, my." (Maybe he will add,
"Is this my beautiful house?")

But being president is really not that bad, Bush said. According to Fox News, he remarked: "Disappointments will be clearly a minority irritant." (Was that a Freudian slip? Or just another Bushism? According to the official transcript of the press conference, Bush actually said, "minor irritant.")

But the most surprising (I suppose) element of his non-mea-culpa is his insistence that he is unpopular because he did the right thing. For instance, he said
that it would have been wrong for him to back the Kyoto global warming
treaty just to be popular. Of course. But that doesn't mean trashing it
was the correct thing to do. Bush seems to believe that popular disgust with some of his actions is a signal that he made the hard and right choice. See Iraq.

On Fox News Sunday, Bush had this telling exchange with Brit Hume:

HUME: People who come to see you here and meet with you,
from the outside, are continually taken by surprise by your evident
good humor and good mood and the fact that with low poll ratings and
various troubles besetting the country and all you've been through,
that you're not down -- that you're fine. And everybody remarks on it.
How do you explain that?

G.W. BUSH: Well, I'm better than fine. I am proud of the
accomplishments of this administration. I am thankful for the people
that have worked so hard to serve our country. I know I gave it my all
for eight years. And I did not sell my soul for the sake of popularity.
And so when I get back home and look in the mirror I will be proud of
what I see.

At the press conference, while discussing what he might have done to be more "popular," Bush defended his handling
of Hurricane Katrina: "Don't tell me the federal response was slow when
there was 30,000 people pulled off...after the storm passed....It's a
pretty quick response."

What cable news was he watching at the time? Even Fox News reporters
and anchors were then decrying the administration's handling of the
catastrophe. Bush lost an American city, and he appears to believe that
he responded adequately. And should he have done a better job just to
be popular?

At the press conference, he also said:

"I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral
standing has been damaged. It may be damaged amongst some of the elite.
But people still understand America stands for freedom; that America is
a country that provides such great hope."

But poll after poll shows people abroad have a more negative view of
the United States than before Bush invaded Iraq. Is he delusional?
(That's a rhetorical question.)

On Fox, asked about his Republican Party and its recent losses, Bush
remarked, "Look, obviously we got whipped in 2008. And there will be a
new wave of leadership arriving on the scene." But it was his
leadership that led to the whipping--and to many of the problems the
nation faces today. Bush clearly has not processed all this.

At his Monday face-off with reporters, Bush said that when gets back
to Texas he will be able to look into the mirror every day without
regret. How nice. Is it disturbing (or harrowing or frightening) that
this nation, during such consequential times, had as a leader a man
with so little depth? After all, only people without much soul have no
regrets.


© 2021 Mother Jones

David Corn

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington, D.C. bureau chief.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Fears of Escalation as Ukraine Answers Russian Missile Onslaught With Strike Deep Inside Invader's Territory

Ukrainian drones bombed two air bases more than 300 miles inside Russia, reportedly killing three soldiers, wounding four others, and damaging multiple warplanes.

Brett Wilkins ·


Patient Groups Push Congress to Combat Big Pharma Greed in Spending Bill

"As Congress works toward finalizing an end-of-year budget package, we urge the chambers to include bipartisan legislation to address abuse of the Food and Drug Administration's citizen petition process in order to reduce drug prices and save the government hundreds of millions of dollars."

Brett Wilkins ·


10,000+ Sign Open Letter Demanding Biden Order Paid Sick Leave for Railway Workers

"No one, especially in the world's richest nation, should have to choose between forgoing pay or working through severe illness and family emergencies," says The Lever's letter.

Jessica Corbett ·


Right-Wing SCOTUS Majority Signals Support for Anti-LGBTQ+ Reactionaries

"It does not bode well for the future of civil rights law that Gorsuch believes a state imposes 'reeducation training' on employers when it reminds them how to comply with nondiscrimination rules," said one court observer.

Julia Conley ·


Report Reveals Corporate Capture of Global Biodiversity Efforts Ahead of Summit

"Their 'solutions' are carefully crafted in order to not undermine their business models; ultimately they do nothing for the environment," said one Friends of the Earth campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo