WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House is trying to clarify something: President George W. Bush is “a commander guy” but not “the commander guy.”
Or something like that.
On Wednesday, speaking to a friendly audience, Bush talked about his troop buildup in Iraq and rejected efforts by the Democratic majority in the U.S. Congress to force him to accept a withdrawal timetable.
Bush, whose approval ratings have dropped as the Iraq war moves into its fifth year, contended that he had the authority to send the troops.
“The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear — I’m a commander guy,” Bush said.
The official stenographer of the event recorded Bush as having said he was “the commander guy” and some reporters did as well. It was not far off from his past description of himself as “the decider.”
But the quote prompted chuckles around Washington that Bush had given a new nickname to his constitutional role as the commander in chief.
So the White House sprang into action to try to put the toothpaste back into the tube.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino took to the podium on Friday to clarify, while acknowledging to reporters that “you might find it a little strange.”
“It’s been reported that the president said, ‘I’m the commander guy.’ He did not. What I recalled was that he said ‘I’m a commander guy,’ meaning that he’s one of the people that listens to the commanders on the ground,” Perino said.
“Does he consider himself over the other commanders?” a reporter asked.
“He is the commander in chief,” Perino said. “But the context of what the president was saying is that when it comes to making decisions about Iraq or war policy, that the president listens to commanders on the ground, not politicians in Washington.”