This is amazing -- or maybe not so amazing if you've been paying attention for the last eight years. When I watched President Bush's last press conference this morning, he made a casual remark that struck me as the perfect epitaph for his administration, and I made a mental note to go back and write about this when the transcript became available online.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one who saw the devastating irony of Bush's comment -- someone in the White House press office must have, as well. Because even though -- as you can see by watching the video -- the president's wording is unmistakable, the official transcript on Whitehouse.gov has Bush saying something completely different, and it's even more ironic when you see the subject matter.
It was after the first question of the press conference, which had to do with the transition to Barack Obama and the release of $350 billion in federal bailout dollars. The president answered the question, and then continued to address his good rapport with Obama in a follow-up question. This is what I, and millions of viewers, heard Bush say:
He's -- you know, I've had my third conversation with him, and I generally mean what I say. I wish him all the very best. I've found him to be a very smart and engaging person. And that lunch the other day was interesting, to have two guys who are nearly 85, two 62-year-olders, and a 47-year-old -- kind of the classic generational statement.
When I heard that live, I thought: This is the perfect summation of his presidency, that "I generally mean what I say." Sure, generally, which is to say that Bush means what he says maybe, what, 70, 80 percent of the time that he speaks? Less? Certainly not when he told the nation the already-disproved notion that Iraq was buying uranium in Africa, or that there were ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, or that a country with no active weapons program could create "a mushroom cloud," or when he said he would fire anyone who leaked Valerie Plame's identity, or when he said that America doesn't spy without warrants, or....Well, you get the picture.
But..."Generally, I mean what I say."
Well, now the official transcript is out, and how ironic: Bush's words were magically changed. It reads:
He's -- you know, I've had my third conversation with him, and I genuinely mean what I say. I wish him all the very best.
So the word "generally" has been changed to "genuinely." Does that change the meaning a tad? Only by about 180 degrees. Is there any chance that I'm mis-hearing the remark? No. I've posted the video of the press conference from MSNBC at the bottom. The remark in question is 2:45 in.
Listen for yourself.
An administration that struggled with the truth for eight years gets in one last distortion on its way out the door. To use the phrase made famous by the columnist Jimmy Breslin, "beautiful."
But generally, the transcript was correct.