WASHINGTON — The "thank you" that ended President Bush's news conference today came not from the press corps but the President, thanking reporters for correcting several mistakes.
Bush verbally confused Iraq and Saudi Arabia and also said the main U.S. objective in sending troops to the Persian Gulf area was "the defense of the Soviet Union."
Asked at one point what persuaded him to send U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia, Bush replied, "If there was one it would perhaps be the Saudis moving south when they said they were withdrawing." As reporters murmured "the Iraqis," Bush said, "I mean the Iraqis moving south. Thank you very much. It's been a long night."
Later, Bush said, "We have a major objective with those troops, which is the defense of the Soviet Union."
As reporters chorused "Saudi Arabia," Bush laughed and corrected himself.
Bush also spoke of the pre-invasion substantial "boycott" of Iraqi troops on the Kuwait border. He caught the mistake himself, changing the word to "buildup."
Bush ended the brief news conference with these words:
"Thank you all very much and let me just say this on a personal basis. I screwed up a couple of times here, and I'm very grateful for your assistance in straightening it out.
"God, I'd hate to have had some of those answers stand," he added.