George W. Bush And Apology

Obama has never apologized for America, merely at times acknowledged its mistakes (like torturing prisoners against clear prohibitions in domestic and international law) alongside its strengths (like being one of the the most stable and benign democracies in history). I don't see this acknowledgment of fallibility and error over time as some kind of craven weakness, but actually the kind of strength that a successful, self-confident democracy can deploy when necessary. Democracies can admit when they have screwed up; dictatorships cannot. I regard that as a strength. Romney for some reason regards it as a weakness.

But even George W. Bush differed from Romney on this. And so it was that after some US troops were found using the Koran for target practice, George W. Bush apologized to the prime minister of Iraq:

"He apologized for that in the sense that he said that we take it very seriously," White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "We are concerned about the reaction. We wanted them to know that the president knew that this was wrong."

Bush apologized for Japanese-American internment (sorry, Michelle Malkin):


Here he is in Africa on the legacy of slavery:

"Human beings delivered, sorted, weighed, branded with marks of commercial enterprises and loaded as cargo on a voyage without return," Mr. Bush said. "One of the largest migrations in history was also one of the greatest crimes of history." The president recited a litany of Africans and African Americans who made contributions to American society, from the arts to politics: abolitionist Frederick Douglass, slave-poet Phillis Wheatley and Martin Luther King Jr.

"The stolen sons and daughters of Africa helped to awaken the conscience of America," he said. Mr. Bush did not apologize for slavery but noted Americans throughout history "clearly saw this sin and called it by name."

Here is the statement that Mitt Romney called "disgraceful", issued before a mob attacked the Benghazi consulate:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

The only thing we learned last week is that Romney and Netanyahu know they are losing this race so far and are desperate to use anything to turn it into a polarizing, global religious conflict where they think they can win. That's why Romney did this week what no president should ever do: see a brushfire of anti-Americanism and pour some more gasoline on it. And why Netanyahu is standing by with a few more barrels if necessary.