By The International Herald Tribune
We long ago gave up hope that President Bush would acknowledge his many mistakes, or show he had learned anything from them. Even then we were unprepared for the epic denial that Bush displayed in his interview with ABC News' Charles Gibson the other day, which he presumably considered an important valedictory chat with the American public as well.
It was bad enough when Bush piously declared that he hopes Americans believe he is a guy who "didn't sell his soul for politics." (We suppose we should not bother remembering how his team drove Senator John McCain out of the 2000 primaries with racist attacks or falsified Senator John Kerry's war record in 2004.)
It was skin crawling to hear him tell Gibson that the thing he will really miss when he leaves office is no longer going to see the families of slain soldiers, because they make him feel better about the war. But Bush's comments about his decision to invade Iraq were a "mistakes were made" rewriting of history and a refusal to accept responsibility to rival that of Richard Nixon.
At one point, Bush was asked if he wanted any do-overs. "The biggest regret of the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq," he said. "A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction" were cause for war.
After everything the American public and the world have learned about how Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney manipulated Congress, public opinion and anyone else they could bully or lie to, Bush is still acting as though he decided to invade Iraq after suddenly being handed life and death information on Saddam Hussein's arsenal.
The truth is that Bush, Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had been chafing to attack Iraq before Sept. 11, 2001. They justified that unnecessary war using intelligence reports that they knew or should have known to be faulty. And it was pressure from the White House and a highly politicized Pentagon that compelled people like Secretary of State Colin Powell and George Tenet, the director of central intelligence, to ignore the counter-evidence and squander their good names on hyped claims of weapons of mass destruction.
Despite it all, Bush said he will "leave the presidency with my head held high." And, presumably, with his eyes closed to all the disasters he is dumping on the American people and his successor.