I have recently had occasion to see both the play and the movie about the famous David Frost interviews with ex-President Richard Nixon in 1977.
I was struck all over again by the way that Nixon, having insisted that what a president does cannot be illegal, finally broke down in a misty-eyed mea culpa.
"I have impeached myself," he said. "I let down my friends. I let down the country. I let the American people down. And I have to carry that burden with me for the rest of my life."
As I listened to Nixon on film, I thought of President Bush. While still in office, he is having to respond to questions of critics — but not only critics — as to whether he let the American people down, primarily by launching an invasion of Iraq in search of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.
Interviewed by Charles Gibson of ABC, the president said his greatest regret was "the intelligence failure" that led to the war.
As to whether he would have gone to war if intelligence had been right, Bush said, "That's a do-over that I can't do."
But Bush's expressed inability to look back avoids the issue. It is now generally accepted that after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush, urged on by Vice President Dick Cheney, was determined to find a target for American anger.
The decision was made to go to war to topple Saddam Hussein. In the words of a British government memorandum, the intelligence and facts were "fixed" to support that decision. Efforts were also made to establish some link between Iraq and the Sept. 11 terrorists. Unsuccessful, but no matter.
As he prepares to leave office, Bush might want to look at the Nixon interview and consider doing a do-over — reconsidering the wisdom of invading Iraq.