What Has Bush Learned From His Mistakes?:
At his press conference Wednesday, the president was asked what lessons he's learned after five years of war. He's been asked a version of this question many times since he had such trouble answering it in April 2004. He has tried various responses over the years and none has been satisfying. This morning's answer also fell short: "It is important for us to be successful going forward is to analyze that which went wrong, and clearly, one aspect of this war that has not gone right is the sectarian violence inside Baghdad."
It is progress of a kind for the president to talk about the need to examine past failures—there was a time when he didn't even admit them—but the answer still failed. First, Bush didn't actually answer the question. He talked about what went wrong, but not what he learned. Second, Bush seemed to suggest that the sectarian violence in Iraq was unforeseen—not so much something that went wrong, but a surprise they didn't anticipate. But war planners did know the sectarian violence was coming. The State Department, Army War College, and CIA analysts all predicted that the Shia and Sunnis would go after each other (apparently they've been at it for a while). The president and his team ignored or discounted these assessments.
It's hardly surprising that the president didn't answer a question at a press conference. Bush regularly answers the wrong question at length to give the appearance of answering without actually doing so. He gives a response when what we want is an answer. (Even his dodge Wednesday was familiar.) What's so curious is why Bush is keeping up this avoidance act while at the same time trying to rebuild his trust with the country. By not answering this specific question, he trades away perhaps his only chance to get people to listen to him again.