George W. Bush Makes Verbal Slip-Up While Discussing War in Ukraine

George W Bush made a verbal slip-up while discussing the war in Ukraine during a speaking event in Dallas, Texas, on May 18.

In a discussion titled ‘Elections — A More Perfect Union’ the former president referenced what he described as the “wholly unjustified and brutal invasion” — but said Iraq, instead of Ukraine.

Five minutes into the speech, referring to Vladimir Putin’s Russian invasion, Bush says: "The result is an absence of checks and balances and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq. I mean of Ukraine.”

Bush then laughs at this error and says, “Iraq too.”

The former president also referenced his recent Zoom call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, describing him as, “a cool little guy. The Churchill of the 21st Century.”

The Dallas event was hosted by The George W. Bush Institute, the Partnership for American Democracy, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Karsh Institute of Democracy at the University of Virginia. Credit: The Bush Center via Storyful

Video Transcript

[APPLAUSE]

GEORGE W. BUSH: Thanks for being here.

[APPLAUSE]

OK.

[APPLAUSE]

And Laura and I thank you for coming. I hope you can tell how proud we are of what we've built here. And I am really proud of a really good team of people who have made our institute meaningful and relevant.

It'd be Ken Hersh and Holly Kuzmich, our latest edition, David Kramer. Bridgeland is somewhere here. Where are-- he probably left already. Anyway.

[LAUGHING]

Anyway, he used to work in my administration. I was hoping to get to say hello to him, but he escaped. There's nothing more important than elections in a democracy. And that's what has been discussed on the panels prior to this. And that's what will be discussed by a pretty interesting panel after this.

Having gone through a lot of elections, I understand their importance in holding people accountable. I understand the importance of if people are tired of you, you get voted out. The thing about elections that are really important is they provide legitimacy to people who get elected. They provide a peaceful way to transfer power, which makes us pretty unique in the rest of the world. Now, Abraham Lincoln once said-- that would be one of my predecessors.

[LAUGHING]

"The ballot is stronger than the bullet." Pretty relevant these days. I hear a lot about today's political environment. There's a lot of angst around the country.

People are really worried. They don't like the anger. They don't like the finger-pointing. They expect better.

And if you've got a problem with that, the key thing is to vote. Because the interesting thing about elections and democracy is that it enables our democracy to heal. And if you study American history, you realize that our society has been able to heal itself and improve. That's because of elections. And I'm pretty confident we'll heal ourselves so long as people vote and take their duty as a citizen seriously.

I want to thank those here who talked about what it's like to be an election official on the front line. The truth of the matter is, our system works pretty well. We've got a large, complicated country with a variety of different interests in states. And yet, we've been pulling off elections for quite a while.

Have there have been aberrations and problems? Yeah, there have been. But the good thing about our society is we correct the problems. We address them.

You know, sometimes they're routes, and so there's nobody questions the legitimacy of the election. And sometimes there's nail-biters. If you know what I mean, honey.

[LAUGHING]

[CHUCKLES] The interesting thing, and this is what will be discussed a little later on, is-- and it's hard for a lot of Americans to understand this. But millions of people watch our elections. They pay attention to what happens in our democracy. And the results of our elections, obviously, have got a major effect on people around the world.

The way countries conduct elections is indicative of how their leaders treat their own people and how nations behave toward other nations. And nowhere is this on display more clearly than in Ukraine. Ukrainian people elected Vladimir Zelenskyy, with whom I Zoomed the other day, by the way. Cool little guy.

[LAUGHING]

The Churchill of the 21st century. He was empowered by electoral legitimacy. He won 72% of the vote. And now he's leading his nation heroically against Russian invading forces and defending his country.

In contrast, Russian elections are rigged. Political opponents are imprisoned or otherwise eliminated from participating in the electoral process. The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq. I mean, of Ukraine. Iraq, too. Anyway.

[LAUGHING]

75. Uh--

[LAUGHING]

Here's the thing I hope people take it away from this series of seminars and discussions is it's really important. And we have an obligation to stay true to our principles by holding free and fair elections. We have an obligation as citizens to take our duty seriously.

Good news is 67% of the people voted in the last election. It should be higher, but It's pretty high compared to other elections. Today, we're going to-- this evening, we're going to explore the intersection between our elections and those conducted elsewhere. And we've got two really important people joining us. Really smart people.

Natan Sharansky is one. Now, you've probably never heard of him. I have. He wrote a great book called "The Case of Democracy" which influenced my administration mightily.

He spent a lot of time in a Soviet gulag. He knows what it's like to live in darkness and light. And we're very fortunate to have him come.

And he'll be joined by the great Condoleezza Rice, Hoover Institute leader, former Secretary of State. One of the great moments of my presidency came when she and Yo-Yo Ma put on a concert in American Constitution Hall. A beautiful, smart, capable woman who also wrote a book on democracy which is worth reading. And she'll be interviewed by Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, who works here at the Bush Institute. Please welcome the three of them.

[APPLAUSE]

NICOLE BIBBINS SEDACA: Thank you. We have heard so much already about the importance of elections, about the quality of elections.

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