The President's Words

Yesterday, I treated myself to the Presidential (Mis)Speak calendar. Now even President Bush's strongest supporters (and I count myself as one) know that the Chief has a certain, er, way with words. If you don't like the President, then his peculiar locutions won't make you like him any better. If you do, then such gems as "Is our children learning?" and "Families is where wings take dream" are just part of his appeal. In any case, it never hurts to keep a healthy sense of humor.

On a more serious note, though, my AOL News screen is carrying an AP story reporting that the President has expressed regret for his infamous comment of July 2, 2003, "Bring 'em on."

It's about time. This is probably the single worst thing President Bush ever said. Directed at the enemy militants killing American soldiers in Iraq, it sounded like an open invitation to attack Americans.

In typical MSM fashion, the article confuses the issue. First there's a gratuitous reference to the President's recent refusal "to identify any mistakes he'd made during his first term." I don't blame him for that; he wasn't claiming that he hadn't made any mistakes, but he was asserting his right to acknowledge his own shortcomings in his own way and in his own time. He was also declining to give the press a stick that he knew they would beat him with at the first opportunity. The AOL item also offers a sidebar poll on the merits of "Bush's style of tough talk". Good grief, aren't they tired of that phrase yet? I certainly am.

"Bush's style of tough talk" isn't the problem, and never was, except for the feckless copycrats who rule the press. The problem with "Bring 'em on!" was not one of style but of substance. The President simply had no right to say this. A defiant invitation to do battle - along the lines of "Do your worst!", or "Take your best shot!", or "Go ahead, make my day!" - is perfectly appropriate when one is risking only one's own safety, for example in a brawl or a gunfight. But for a President who lives in Washington and enjoys the full protection of the Secret Service, while young American men and women are daily sacrificing their lives in combat abroad, it is disgraceful. I have the highest respect for President Bush's service in the National Guard, and I believe he has every right to be proud of his performance as Commander-in-Chief. But he must never forget, not even for a moment, that it is other Americans who are being asked to risk their lives in this war. A common soldier, if he's feeling cocky, may be permitted to taunt the enemy to "bring it on"; but the President cannot do this.

I trust that President Bush will keep this lesson in mind as he prepares to begin his second term.