I don't even know what to make of this anymore. I know he needs his naps and bike rides for all these good, crisp decisions the rest of us have to live with, but jeebus. At some point you have to take the guy at his word, and figure he means precisely what he is saying. Bush will eternally be infamous for his oratorical imprecision, but that's his problem. Eventually people have to quit trying to divine "what he meant" and decide that, as a graduate of Harvard and Yale, he meant exactly what he said.
And what he said, it appears, is that he can live with the decisions that he has made, and by association the consequences. He thinks this is a blip, a comma in the inevitable narrative of history, and that future events will vindicate him. He thinks he is Truman, even though Truman, flawed as he was, got where he got with street smarts, muscle, and gall, rather than a bunch of daddy's rich friends buying him a political Porsche to wrap around a telephone pole.
This is positively delusional, and very dangerously so. By absolving himself thusly from his inept courses of action, he in turn escapes responsibility for future decisions that turn out to be catastrophic for everyone but himself. That is why he is so blithe about his review of the (flawed, but at least a step in the right direction, as opposed to the current strategery) ISG Report. That is why he is so unconcerned about addressing constant rumors of attacking Syria or Iran, neither of which is feasible without a lot of the usual collateral damage (and probably not even then).
"Pull this country together". I do not think that phrase means what Panetta seems to think it means. Seventy percent of Americans have consistently voiced their disapproval of Bush's handling of things. That sounds fairly unified to me. That sounds like a constituency which has "pulled together" just fine. That they have pulled together in opposition to Bush is a different matter, and one which might be better framed in terms of competence and vision, and the aforementioned emotional compartmentalization of what sensible people understand to be horrendously expensive and deadly mistakes that will take a generation to undo, if indeed they can even be undone.
It's nice that Panetta is trying to as diplomatic and ecumenical about this subject as he can muster, but it has been clear for some time that what Bush and his insular cadre have long needed is an intervention. The electoral drubbing they took last month was precisely that, and Bush has chosen to ignore it like he does everything else. So the Serious Thinkamators put on their Serious Centrist Face, and natter on about "graceful exits" and "peace with honor" and "pulling the country together" and such, as if any of those things appeared viable without about a dozen boilermakers under one's belt.
Yeah, I know. He "doesn't want to be rushed into making a decision". This has been a certifiable clusterfuck for about three years, and he doesn't want anyone "rushing" him. And when Baker of all people is voicing concerns about Mister Man cherry-picking this thing like a Chinese take-out menu, taking one from column A and one from column B and so on, that oughta be a pretty strong signal that that's exactly what's going to happen.
The metaphor has been played out to cliché level, but it is still inescapably true -- Bush is the proverbial bad gambler. His supporters in the base look at that as a good thing, that he's "laying it all on the table", as it were. He's "taking a calculated risk", with a "huge potential payoff", blah blah blah.
It would be bad enough if he was just an ordinary dipshit putting the deed to his house on 33-Black. Sure, the payoff is 35:1, but so are the odds. You hate to see people lose their houses, savings, marriages, families, etc., on stupid shit, but what are ya gonna do if they refuse to go to Gamblers Anonymous and confront their problem?
Now imagine that the same moron is insisting on putting your house on 33-Black, and he only wants to listen to people who think that 33-Black is the best available number on the wheel. How do you like them odds now?