Former President George W. Bush has been responsible for some pretty embarrassing gaffes in his time. But his latest flub was a real doozy.
During a speech in Dallas on Wednesday, in which he held forth on domestic and international threats to “our democracy,” Bush committed a verbal blunder that has drawn ridicule from just about everyone, in a rare spirit of nationwide bipartisanship.
“In contrast, Russian elections are rigged,” Bush said in his speech. “Political opponents are imprisoned or otherwise eliminated from participating in the electoral process. The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq. I mean of Ukraine.”
Former President George W. Bush: “The decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq. I mean of Ukraine.” pic.twitter.com/UMwNMwMnmX
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) May 19, 2022
Now just about everything in that paragraph is unintentionally hilarious. Rigged elections, as well as the imprisonment and obstruction of political opponents are crimes that are hardly unique to Russia these days, given recent political developments in the United States. But, of course, the most glaring faux pas was the Freudian slip at the end: “…the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq,” the former president said.
Was he referring to Vladimir Putin, or to himself? Bush immediately corrects himself, and then laughs.
“Iraq, too,” he mutters, to scattered nervous laughter, and shrugs. “Anyway…uh…seventy-five,” he adds by way of explanation, referring to his age.
The Iraq war was, of course, launched by the former president, and many have indeed criticized it as an “unjustified and brutal invasion.” The invasion of the country, and the deposition of its authoritarian leader Saddam Hussein, was launched after a bipartisan authorization by Congress in October of 2002. Lasting intermittently until 2011, the war resulted in the deaths of over 4,000 US troops, to say nothing of many more casualties, and estimates of around 200,000 Iraqi civilians killed during the war and its ensuing chaos.
Critics have accused Bush of instigating the war on a pretext—Hussein’s stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, which were never found—and have condemned the invasion as unjustified both from the standpoint of its stated cause and from its end result. Bush’s muttered “Iraq, too” remark might seem to indicate that he agrees with them.
It didn’t take long for the Twitterati to have some fun at the former president’s expense.
If you were George W. Bush, you think you’d just steer clear of giving any speech about one man launching a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion. https://t.co/8zdH0ogOAy
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 19, 2022
“Oof,” former Rep. Justin Amash tweeted. “If you were George W. Bush, you think you’d just steer clear of giving any speech about one man launching a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion.”
Others were a little less generous.
He wasn’t the most eloquent orator back in his presidential days, so this is on-brand for him.
— Clint Olsen (@clintolsen) May 19, 2022
I wish he would have been this honest and critical of himself 20 years, countless lives, and trillions of dollars ago. pic.twitter.com/d8nhcZ981d
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) May 19, 2022
Don't say Iraq. Don't say Iraq. Don't say Iraq. Don't say Iraq. Don't say Iraq. Don't say Iraq. Don't say Iraq.
Ladies and Gentleman, George W. Bush: https://t.co/rWfO1SmByf
— Gerry Callahan (@GerryCallahan) May 19, 2022
It’s going to be a long time, if ever, before Bush lives this one down. Meanwhile, elsewhere in his speech, Bush took the time to praise Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whom he called a “cool little guy,” and waxed eloquent about Ukraine’s electoral system, and how it reflects on the health of its democracy.
“The way countries conduct elections is indicative of how their leaders treat their own people, and how nations behave toward other nations,” he said. “And nowhere is this on display more clearly than Ukraine.”
Bush, in lockstep with the Swamp, has repeatedly “rejected” widespread evidence of irregularities and voter fraud in the 2020 United States presidential election.
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