I suspect that if you pressed President George W. Bush to offer one piece of moral advice to the youth of America, he would counsel, “You need to take responsibility for your actions.” The phrase is Bush’s verbal factotum. He uses it all the time.
In his days as governor of Texas, when death-penalty appeals from the Pardons Board crossed his desk, Bush would wash his hands, and explain that everyone has to take responsibility for their actions. Before the war in Iraq, he wagged his finger at Saddam and told him that he needed to take responsibility. What exactly does the president mean by his favorite piety? Some of his recent statements make me wonder.
In late July, Bush replied to questions about the accuracy of his State of the Union remarks on the alleged sale of uranium by Niger to Iraq. Prior to the press conference, he had responded to such queries by directing suspicion toward CIA director George Tenet and his national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice. In this media session, however, he stepped up to the mike and said, “I take personal responsibility for everything I say, of course.”
Usually taking responsibility implies forgoing excuses and explanations, but within a couple of sentences Bush was off on a full-scale defense of the Iraq War, and by implication the claim that Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction. So the intelligence reports about uranium sales were not...