But in this rare interview with the British Times Online, he’s unusually candid about thoughts we haven’t heard before.

In an exclusive interview, he expressed regret at the
bitter divisions over the war and said that he was troubled about how
his country had been misunderstood. “I think that in retrospect I could
have used a different tone, a different rhetoric.”

Phrases such as “bring them on” or “dead or alive”, he said,
“indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace”. He said
that he found it very painful “to put youngsters in harm’s way”. He
added: “I try to meet with as many of the families as I can. And I have
an obligation to comfort and console as best as I possibly can. I also
have an obligation to make sure that those lives were not lost in vain.”

Bush is on his farewell tour in Europe this week, and he seems to be
using the time to look back with introspection, and let his party look
forward with some detachment from his administration’s performance.

The unilateralism that marked his first White House term
has been replaced by an enthusiasm for tough multilateralism. He said
that his focus for his final six months in office was to secure
agreement on issues such as establishing a Palestinian state and to
“leave behind a series of structures that makes it easier for the next
president”…

Mr Bush told The Times that when his successor arrived and assessed
“what will work or what won’t work in dealing with Iran”, he would
stick with the current policy.

If his successor is Barack Obama, that’s questionable, given Obama’s
stated willingness to hold conversations with Iran’s defiant and
radical president. Bush can’t do anything about that, but while he
still can, he’s pulling away from his party’s candidate for president.
Especially since the Obama campaign has made a slogan out of linking
McCain with Bush.

The President knows that Republican nominee-in-waiting
John McCain will have to distance himself from the current
Administration. “He’s an independent person who will make his decisions
on what he thinks is best.”

That’s always been characteristic of McCain, this independent
renegade reputation, and the press used to love him for it. He hasn’t
changed, but they have.

And Bush is finally showing that he has, too.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....