As she makes clear with alarming frequency, former Bush press secretary Dana Perino knows very little and seems to remember even less. In 2007, Perino admitted her ignorance of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Then three weeks ago, she swept the bloodbath of 9/11 under the rug when she proclaimed, "we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term." Now in response to Barack Obama's 60 Minutes interview Sunday, Perino claimed that Obama's suggestion that "President Bush was too triumphant in his rhetoric when talking about war" is "demonstrably false."
Sadly for Perino, Obama's assessment that "that one of the mistakes that was made over the last eight years is for us to have a triumphant sense about war" is irrefutably true. We know this, because George W. Bush repeatedly told us so.
Back in April 2004, a stammering President Bush could not think of a single mistake he had made during his tenure in the White House:
"I'm sure something will pop into my head here...maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one."
PELLEY: You mention mistakes having been made in your speech. What mistakes are you talking about?
BUSH: You know, we've been through this before. Abu Ghraib was a mistake. Using bad language like, you know, "bring them on" was a mistake. I think history is gonna look back and see a lot of ways we could have done things better. No question about it.
Amazingly, Bush's more profound statement of regret about his tough talk came during Dana Perino's watch in June 2008. In London as part of his final swing through Europe before leaving the White House, President Bush told The Times of London that his cowboy rhetoric was perhaps his greatest regret:
President Bush has admitted to The Times that his gun-slinging rhetoric made the world believe that he was a "guy really anxious for war" in Iraq.
[...] In an exclusive interview, he expressed regret at the bitter divisions over the war and said that he was troubled about how his country had been misunderstood. "I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric."
Phrases such as "bring them on" or "dead or alive", he said, "indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace."
To be sure, George W. Bush had a lot to apologize for when it came to his use of phrases like "bring 'em on." As a grieving Mary Kewatt told Minnesota Public Radio in June 2003:
"We have some issues with the fact that President Bush declared combat over on May 1. Combat is not over. We don't even know who's firing at us right now, and all of our soldiers are at great risk of being picked off as Jim was. And that's a shame. And then President Bush made a comment a week ago, and he said, 'bring it on.' They brought it on and now my nephew is dead."
While Dana Perino may have forgotten it, the American people recall President Bush standing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003 with that "Mission Accomplished" banner behind him. In a case of premature Iraq elation, Bush declared:
"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."
One year later - and 10 months after the death of Kewatt's nephew in Iraq - President Bush joked about his fiasco there. His tasteless White House slideshow at the 2004 Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner made light of the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Coming one year and hundreds of American dead and wounded after the invasion of Iraq, President Bush the cut-up hoped to regale the audience with his White House hijinx. As David Corn of The Nation reported:
Bush notes he spends "a lot of time on the phone listening to our European allies." Then we see a photo of him on the phone with a finger in his ear. But at one point, Bush showed a photo of himself looking for something out a window in the Oval Office, and he said, "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere." The audience laughed. I grimaced. But that wasn't the end of it. After a few more slides, there was a shot of Bush looking under furniture in the Oval Office. "Nope," he said. "No weapons over there." More laughter. Then another picture of Bush searching in his office: "Maybe under here." Laughter again.
And so it goes. Just days after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush boasted about Osama Bin Laden, "There's an old poster out west, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'" But after just five months later in March 2002, Bush brushed aside the Al Qaeda chieftain's escape after the American failure at Tora Bora:
"So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you...I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him."
Dana Perino may have chosen to forget her boss' tough talk or that Osama Bin Laden is still at large, but even Bush himself acknowledged as much at a conference of business leaders in New Delhi this November:
Asked whether al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden could be alive, Bush said "I guess he is not dead."
He, however, noted that Laden is hiding and "not leading victory parades" or "espousing his cause" on TV.
Or declaring "mission accomplished."