Bush Apologizes: The Farewell Interview We Wish He'd Give

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I don't know. It kind of feels like there should be more there.
Well, later on, they explained that we had to attack Iraq before Saddam had a chance to give his weapons of mass destruction to other terrorists. George Tenet told me we had a solid case — a "slam-dunk," he called it.

But it wasn't.
That's not what they told me at the time.

Again with the "they."
OK, fine, fuck it — it was a stretch, all right? But we were trying all kinds of stuff back then. Just kind of winging it. It was an exciting time. You felt like you could say anything and people would just believe it. In those days I could have said the moon was made of string beans and CNN would have rushed it on the air [sighs]. Not like now.

The point is, it seems like you only talked to people who told you what you wanted to hear. If you didn't ever talk to anyone who would give you bad news, how was bad news supposed to get in?
That's unfair. If there was bad news, I certainly wanted to be part of it.

Really? What about the time you fired economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey after he predicted the war would cost $200 billion? Or had General Shinseki forced out after he predicted you would need several hundred thousand troops to occupy Iraq? Or demoted Richard Clarke when he insisted there was no connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda? You fired pretty much everybody who disagreed with you.
Well, that's stretching things. I didn't fire everyone who disagreed with me.

Can you name one person in your administration who disagreed with you in public and didn't get fired for it?
Sure, I can. Anthony Zinni, for instance.

The former Middle East Centcom commander? The guy who said the occupation of Iraq would require several hundred thousand troops, back when Rumsfeld was touting that whole "lean and mean fighting force" business?
Right. Him.

He was fired.
Really? They told me he was sick.

For five years?

Was there any dissension in the ranks after the war started? Did anyone at any time voice any disagreements?
Well, sure. Obviously you had the Powell-Rummy thing, which was just ongoing, never-ending. It got to be kind of a serious problem. Colin, you think he's this buttoned-up guy, but something about Rummy just made him nuts. Every time Don opened his mouth about anything in the Oval Office, I swear to God, Colin would be sitting there moving his lips and screwing up his eyes, pretending he was Rumsfeld talking. Like right in front of Rumsfeld. Don would suddenly stop talking in midsentence, just to catch Colin at it — but Colin would immediately stop moving his mouth. Then as soon as Rumsfeld started talking again, Colin would start back up. It drove Rummy crazy. One time Don got so pissed off that he jumps out of his seat and screams at Colin, like, "Fuck you, Colin! You're always fucking doing that!" And I swear to God, just at that moment, the top row of Rummy's dentures flies out of his mouth and lands on the carpet, right in the middle of the Oval Office. Like with a thud. None of us even knew he had dentures, and there they are, pink and covered in spit, just sitting there.

And immediately, and I mean immediately, Barney — I've never been prouder of that animal — he jumps up from the corner, runs over, picks up the dentures like he's been waiting years for this moment and runs out the door. Everything's quiet, except you can hear the dog's tags clinking as he runs down the hall. Rummy is just staring at us in a rage with that leathery face of his and no teeth. He looked like one of those ghosts in Jacob's Ladder. I can guarantee you that was the best day of Colin's life. From that point on, every time he came into the Oval Office, he brought Barney a bag of beef snacks.

Still, you turned out to be totally unprepared for the insurgency in Iraq. Did you really tell Pat Robertson
before the war, "We're not going to have any casualties"?
I may have. But if I did, I certainly meant it in the sense of "We're not going to have soldiers getting killed." Not in
the sense that you're implying.

[Confused] What sense am I implying?
I don't know, but I think you're trying to make something negative about it.

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Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He’s the author of five books and a winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary. Please direct all media requests to taibbimedia@yahoo.com.