Tongue-twisted Bush is bent on self-harm

By Rupert Cornwell in Washington

The Independent

06 August 2004

Even by the previous standards of Bushisms, this was one for the ages.

Signing into law a new $417bn (£229bn) defence spending bill, the famously tongue-twisted 43rd President of the United States solemnly declared yesterday that his administration "will never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people".

The gaffe came as President George Bush was warming to his favourite theme of the terrorist threat faced by the US.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," he said. "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

Steeled doubtless by long experience of oratorical mis-steps by the President, the audience of senior military commanders and the Pentagon's civilian leadership gave no outward reaction.

Mr Bush quickly continued to his wider point, that "we must never stop thinking about how best to defend our country. We must always be forward-thinking."

Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said the mistake merely showed that "even the most straightforward and plain-spoken people misspeak."

But the American public knew that "this president speaks with clarity and conviction, and the terrorists know by his actions he means it."