President Bush, in what the White House said was his first interview with online news organizations, declined to say Tuesday that he had been misled leading up to the war in Iraq five years ago.
Speaking with Mike Allen, chief political writer of Politico.com, Bush covered an eclectic collection of topics -- including the erroneous intelligence that formed part of the foundation of his case for invading Iraq, his choices for building a top-dollar baseball team, and his rating of the comedians cast as him and his father on NBC's "Saturday Night Live." (He chose Dana Carvey's George H.W. Bush over Will Ferrell's George W. Bush.)
The interview, a joint effort by the online and paper political journal and the Internet portal Yahoo.com, was posted in transcript, video;lang=en%27%2C%27playerWindow%27%2C%27width=792%2Cheight=666%2Cs crollbars=no%27));%22 and news-report formats about six hours after Bush talked with Allen at the White House.
Answering a question submitted online -- whether he thought he had been misled about Iraq -- Bush said he felt Saddam Hussein's regime did have weapons of mass destruction. "You know, 'mislead' is a strong word; it almost connotes some kind of intentional -- I don't think so. . . . Intelligence communities all across the world shared the same assessment. And so I was disappointed to see how flawed our intelligence was," Bush said.
"Do I think somebody lied to me? No, I don't," he went on. He said he thought "they analyzed the situation and came up with the wrong conclusion."
Members of Congress were told, as was he, Bush said, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and they voted for the resolution supporting the war. "And, of course, the political heat gets on, and they start to run and try to hide from their votes," he added.
His decision to give up golf in 2003 was a result of the war, he said. "I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf. . . . I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal." When his father ordered troops to the Persian Gulf in the summer of 1990, he was criticized for regularly golfing.
Bush was particularly tart in response to criticism from former President Carter. Told that Carter had said the next president could change the United States' image in 10 minutes by promising in the inaugural address to rule out torture of prisoners or attacks on other countries unless U.S. security was directly threatened, Bush said: "What he really is implying is -- or some imply . . . if you want to be popular in the Middle East, just go blame Israel for every problem."
Responding to questions about his climate-change policies, he said that he could have signed the Kyoto Protocol, which set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions but which he described as a "lousy treaty." He added: "I don't think you want your president trying to be the cool guy and not end up with policies that actually make a difference."
Bush offered an acknowledgment that Sen. Barack Obama, an African American, would probably be the Democratic nominee. Asked whether the nation was facing "a kind of ugly conversation about race this fall," he responded that "race will only enter in if it's provoked by the press."
As for his baseball pick, his first choice to build a team is Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies. "There's nothing better than having a good person up the middle that can hit," said Bush, a former part-owner of the Texas Rangers.