Wednesday, July 21

The Responsible President

Both President Bush and British Prime Minister Blair have each had to confront a damning report on the intelligence failures leading up to the Iraq war. Although both leaders still insist that the war was justified, Blair has since said "I accept full personal responsibility for the way the issue was presented and therefore for any errors made." Bush has yet to make any such statement.

This past Monday, veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas took on White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan on the issue.

White House Press Briefing, July 19, 2004.
Helen Thomas: Prime Minister Blair took full personal responsibility for taking his nation into war under falsehoods -- under reasons that have been determined now to be false. Is President Bush also willing to take full, personal responsibility --
Scott McClellan: I think Prime Minister Blair said that it was the right thing to do; that Saddam Hussein's regime was a threat.
Helen Thomas: Those were not the reasons he took his country into war. It turned out to be untrue, and the same is true for us. Does the President take full, personal responsibility for this war?
Scott McClellan: The issue here is what do you to with a threat in a post-September 11th world? Either you live with a threat, or you confront the threat.
Helen Thomas: There was no threat.
Scott McClellan: The President made the decision to confront the threat.
Helen Thomas: Saddam Hussein did not threaten this country.
Scott McClellan: The world -- the world, the Congress and the administration all disagree. They all recognized that there was a threat posed by Saddam Hussein. When it came to September 11th, that changed the equation. It taught us, as I said --
Helen Thomas: The Intelligence Committee said there was no threat.
Scott McClellan: As I said, it taught us that we must confront threats before it's too late.
Helen Thomas: So the President doesn't take full responsibility?
Scott McClellan: The President already talked about the responsibility for the decisions he's made. He talked about that with Prime Minister Blair.
Helen Thomas: Personal responsibility?
Scott McClellan: (Pointing to another journalist) Terry, go ahead.