US President George W. Bush expressed misgivings for two of his most famous expressions: "Bring 'em on," in reference to Iraqis attacking US troops, and his vow to get Osama bin Laden "dead or alive."
During a round-table interview Thursday with reporters from 14 US newspapers, Bush acknowledged that his tough language "had an unintended consequence."
On July 2, 2003, two months after he had declared an end to major combat in Iraq, Bush promised US forces would stay until the creation of a free government there. To those who would attack US forces in an attempt to deter that mission, Bush said, "My answer is, Bring 'em on."
"Sometimes, words have consequences you don't intend them to mean," Bush said Thursday. "`Bring 'em on' is the classic example, when I was really trying to rally the troops and make it clear to them that I fully understood, you know, what a great job they were doing. And those words had an unintended consequence. It kind of, some interpreted it to be defiance in the face of danger. That certainly wasn't the case."
In the week after the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush was asked if he wanted bin Laden, the terrorist leader blamed for the attacks, dead.
"I want justice," Bush said. "And there's an old poster out West, that I recall, that said, `Wanted, Dead or Alive.'"
Recalling that remark, Bush said Thursday: "I can remember getting back to the White House, and Laura said, `Why did you do that for?' I said, `Well, it was just an expression that came out. I didn't rehearse it.'"
"I don't know if you'd call it a regret, but it certainly is a lesson that a president must be mindful of, that the words that you sometimes say ... I speak plainly sometimes, but you've got to be mindful of the consequences of the words," Bush said.
"So put that down. I don't know if you'd call that a confession, a regret, something," the president said.
In his second debate last year with presidential challenger Senator John Kerry, Bush was asked to name three instances in which he had made a wrong decision.
At the time he declined to identify any specific mistakes.