I must admit to feeling let down by Bush's admission that he was "unprepared for war" in the interview with Charlie Gibson that aired last night.
When I first heard about the exchange, it sounded like an impressive moment of candor from a guy who once had trouble coming up with a single mistake he had made in office. I mean, most of America long ago recognized that Bush was not prepared to be a wartime commander-in-chief. It would be lovely to think that he had finally come to that realization as well.
But then I actually watched the clip:
"I think I was unprepared for war. In other words, I didn't campaign and say, 'Please vote for me, I'll be able to handle an attack.' In other words, I didn't anticipate war. Presidents -- one of the things about the modern presidency is that the unexpected will happen."
From this, it seems pretty clear that Bush isn't acknowledging that he was poorly qualified to handle a war so much as that he didn't manage to intuit that one was coming--which is a vastly less impressive insight.
Sure, a leader who could foresee (and forestall) war would be great. But nobody really expects that. What we do have a right to expect, however, is a leader able to deal with "the unexpected." Bush, as it turned out, lacked the experience, the judgment, and the temperament for such a job--as, alas, did many of the key people with whom he surrounded himself.
But my suspcion is that we won't be hearing anything along those lines in his valedictory interviews.