This past week, the president of the United States decided to go for broke. Despite national sentiment against the war, despite condemnation on Capitol Hill, President George W. Bush ordered more than 21,000 additional troops to war-a gamble that may be a pivotal moment for his presidency and the country.
In his first interview since his address to the nation, Mr. Bush sat down with Scott Pelley at the presidential retreat, Camp David. 60 Minutes also traveled with the president as he explained his plan to the troops and, then, met with families of Americans killed in action.
Whatever you think of his policy, after this interview you won't doubt that Mr. Bush is a man determined to go his own way.
In his speech, the president mentioned that mistakes had been made. Asked what mistakes he was talking about, Bush tells Pelley, "Abu Ghraib was a mistake. Using bad language like, you know, 'Bring them on' was a mistake. I think history is gonna look back and see a lot of ways we could have done things better. No question about it."
"The troop levels…," Pelley remarks.
"Could have been a mistake. I…," the president replies.
"Were not - could have been a mistake?" Pelley asks.
"Yeah. And the reason I brought up the mistakes is, one, that's the job of the commander-in-chief; and, two, I don't want people blaming our military. We got a bunch of good military people out there doing what we've asked them to do. And the temptation is gonna be to find scapegoats. Well, if the people want a scapegoat, they got one right here in me 'cause it's my decisions," Bush says.
"Fair to say there were not enough American troops on the ground to provide security for Iraq?" Pelley asks.
"There's not enough troops on the ground right now to provide security for Iraq. And that's why I made the decision I made," Bush replies.
Asked if he thinks he owes the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job, Bush says, "Well I don't, that we didn't do a better job or they didn't do a better job?"
"Well, that the United States did not do a better job in providing security after the invasion?" Pelley clarifies.
"Not at all. I think I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude. That's the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq," Bush replies.
60 Minutes spoke to the president at Laurel Cabin at Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Maryland. It's a private place for him, rarely seen by the public. And he has never done an interview at Camp David. Laurel Cabin is where the war on terror began; four days after 9/11, his cabinet debated plans there for the invasion of Afghanistan.
"Back then the whole country was with you. And now you seem to have lost them. Why do you think so?" Pelley asks the president.
"The Iraq war hasn't gone as well as I had hoped at this point in time," he says. "And people are, you know, people are discouraged. They don't apprec- they don't approve of where we are. And so I think it's where the country is."