How Presidents Age in Office and RegretsJanuary 27, 2009
See the entire sideshow featuring “before and after” photographs of the US presidents on Time website.
Two former presidents reflected on their greatest regrets in office Monday, each looking back to issues that continue to plague the nation years later.
George H.W. Bush told the gathering, “I’ve thought a lot about it, but at the end of Desert Storm, the question was should we have kind of kept going on that road to death and all this slaughter until Saddam Hussein showed up and laid his sword on the table, surrendered. And the common wisdom was he wouldn’t do that.”
He added, “If we had tried to get Saddam Hussein to come and literally surrender and put his sword on the table, I think it might have been avoided some of the problems that we did have in the future from him.”
On a day that President Barack Obama dispatched George Mitchell to the Middle East as the latest U.S. envoy, Clinton discussed the failure to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“My No. 1 regret is that I was not able to persuade Yasser Arafat to accept the peace plan I offered at the end of my presidency that the Israelis accepted.
“If he had done that … we had had seven years of progress toward peace. We had one year in 1998, the only year in the history of Israel where not a single soul was killed in a terrorist act. The Palestinians had more control over West Bank then than they do today,” Clinton said. “And if he had taken that deal, we would have a Palestinian state and we would have had, I think now, normal peaceful relations with Israel and all of its Arab neighbors.”
Clinton also said he regretted not doing more to “stop the Rwandan genocide,” and succeeding on a new health care plan.