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President Bush for Busy People

Selected excerpts from President Bush's press conference earlier this week (or skip to the end for the condensed version):

Q Do you feel a sense of personal responsibility for September 11th?

THE PRESIDENT: I feel incredibly grieved when I meet with family members, and I do quite frequently. I grieve for the incredible loss of life that they feel, the emptiness they feel.

There are some things I wish we'd have done when I look back. I mean, hindsight is easy. It's easy for a President to stand up and say, now that I know what happened, it would have been nice if there were certain things in place; for example, a homeland security department. And why I -- I say that because it's -- that provides the ability for our agencies to coordinate better and to work together better than it was before.

I think the hearings will show that the Patriot Act is an important change in the law that will allow the FBI and the CIA to better share information together. We were kind of stove-piped, I guess is a way to describe it. There was kind of -- departments that at times didn't communicate, because of law, in the FBI's case.

And the other thing I look back on and realize is that we weren't on a war footing. The country was not on a war footing, and yet the enemy was at war with us. And it's -- it didn't take me long to put us on a war footing. And we've been on war ever since. The lessons of 9/11 that I -- one lesson was, we must deal with gathering threats. And that's part of the reason I dealt with Iraq the way I did.

The other lesson is, is that this country must go on the offense and stay on the offense. In order to secure the country, we must do everything in our power to find these killers and bring them to justice, before they hurt us again. I'm afraid they want to hurt us again. They're still there.

They can be right one time; we've got to be right a hundred percent of the time in order to protect the country. It's a mighty task. But our government has changed since the 9/11 attacks. We're better equipped to respond; we're better at sharing intelligence. But we've still got a lot of work to do.

[...]

Q Mr. President, I'd like to follow up on a couple of these questions that have been asked. One of the biggest criticisms of you is that whether it's WMD in Iraq, postwar planning in Iraq, or even the question of whether this administration did enough to ward off 9/11, you never admit a mistake. Is that a fair criticism? And do you believe there were any errors in judgment that you made related to any of those topics I brought up?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think, as I mentioned, it's -- the country wasn't on war footing, and yet we're at war. And that's just a reality, Dave. I mean, that's -- that was the situation that existed prior to 9/11, because the truth of the matter is, most in the country never felt that we'd be vulnerable to an attack such as the one that Osama bin Laden unleashed on us. We knew he had designs on us, we knew he hated us. But there was a -- nobody in our government, at least, and I don't think the prior government, could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale.

The people know where I stand. I mean, in terms of Iraq, I was very clear about what I believed. And, of course, I want to know why we haven't found a weapon yet. But I still know Saddam Hussein was a threat, and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. I don't think anybody can -- maybe people can argue that. I know the Iraqi people don't believe that, that they're better off with Saddam Hussein -- would be better off with Saddam Hussein in power. I also know that there's an historic opportunity here to change the world. And it's very important for the loved ones of our troops to understand that the mission is an important, vital mission for the security of America and for the ability to change the world for the better.

[...]

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Two weeks ago, a former counterterrorism official at the NSC, Richard Clarke, offered an unequivocal apology to the American people for failing them prior to 9/11. Do you believe the American people deserve a similar apology from you, and would you be prepared to give them one?

THE PRESIDENT: Look, I can understand why people in my administration anguished over the fact that people lost their life. I feel the same way. I mean, I'm sick when I think about the death that took place on that day. And as I mentioned, I've met with a lot of family members and I do the best I do to console them about the loss of their loved one. As I mentioned, I oftentimes think about what I could have done differently. I can assure the American people that had we had any inkling that this was going to happen, we would have done everything in our power to stop the attack.

Here's what I feel about that. The person responsible for the attacks was Osama bin Laden. That's who's responsible for killing Americans. And that's why we will stay on the offense until we bring people to justice.

Here's the version for you if you're busy:

Q Do you feel a sense of personal responsibility for September 11th?

THE PRESIDENT: No.

Q It's said that you never admit a mistake. Is that a fair criticism? Have you made any errors in judgement?

THE PRESIDENT: No.

Q Are you prepared to apologize to the American people for failing them prior to 9/11?

THE PRESIDENT: No.

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