Meet the 'New Bush'

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, November 9, 2006; 1:06 PM

What a difference this election has made. It was, in some ways, a whole new President Bush who appeared before the assembled press corps for a post-election news conference yesterday afternoon.

Meet the New Bush: Owning up to all sorts of unpleasant realities; Speaking well of Democrats; Vowing to act in a bipartisan fashion while acknowledging voter skepticism on that point and pledging to overcome it with deeds; Self-deprecating, rather than bullying.

And -- oh yes -- jettisoning Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the quintessential symbol of his administration's obstinate refusal to acknowledge that the current strategy in Iraq is failing.

So is this New Bush to be taken at his word?

It probably depends on whether you think the president's badly eroded credibility has been restored by his admission that he lied during the campaign -- or whether that just adds to the damage.

Because possibly the most startling aspect of a consequential press conference on a incredibly tumultuous day was Bush's repeated acknowledgment that things he said when he was campaigning were either no longer operative -- or were outright deceptions.

Most notably, it was just one week earlier that Bush had told wire-service reporters in an interview that he wanted Rumsfeld (and Vice President Cheney) to remain with him until the end of his presidency.

Here's how Bush tried to explain that yesterday:

"[Associated Press reporter Terence] Hunt asked me the question one week before the campaign, and basically it was, are you going to do something about Rumsfeld and the Vice President? And my answer was, they're going to stay on. And the reason why is I didn't want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign. And so the only way to answer that question and to get you on to another question was to give you that answer."

It is quite telling that rather than duck the question -- which Bush is more than capable of doing -- Bush chose to lie instead.

But, amazingly enough, that wasn't the only example of Bush saying he didn't really mean what he was saying in the run-up to the election. Bush repeatedly -- and casually -- asserted that many of the major elements of his stump speech were, in fact, not to be taken seriously any longer.

Consider this passage in his introductory remarks:

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