During a round-table interview with reporters from 14 newspapers, Mr. 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, Mr. Bush promised U.S. forces would stay until the creation of a free government there. To those who would attack U.S. forces in an attempt to deter that mission, Mr. Bush said, "My answer is, Bring 'em on."
"Sometimes, words have consequences you don't intend them to mean," President 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, Mr. Bush was asked if he wanted bin Laden, the terrorist leader blamed for the attacks, dead.
"I want justice," Mr. Bush said. "And there's an old poster out West, that I recall, that said, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive."'
Recalling that remark, Mr. 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. So put that down," the President said. "I don't know if you'd call that a confession, a regret, something."
The newspapers participating in Thursday's round-table interview were the Detroit Free Press, the St. Petersburg Times, The (Portland) Oregonian, the (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, The Miami Herald, The Kansas City (Mo.) Star, The (Phoenix) Arizona Republic, the Portland (Maine) Press Herald, The Hartford (Conn.) Courant, the Orlando Sentinel, The (Columbia, S.C.) State, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the St. Paul Pioneer-Press.