SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — Former President George Bush told a newspaper he is sorry he maligned this area by describing American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh as "some misguided Marin County hot-tubber."
The Marin Independent Journal invited residents of the bucolic county just north of San Francisco to tell the former president about their home. The newspaper ran excerpts.
Many of the writers scolded Bush.
"Call off the dogs please," he wrote. "I apologize. I am chastened and will never use 'hot tub' and 'Marin County' in the same sentence again.
"I won't even try to explain my position except to say I was and remain so offended by John Walker Lindh that I hurt others' feelings," he wrote.
"In the opinion of your outraged letter writers," he added, "I condemned all of Marin County with a hot tub reference. Obviously, I struck a nerve.
"Now your readers have attacked me on my granddaughters, on my residence, on abortion, on Enron, on my being a Texan and on my pronunciation of Marin. You name it, a lot of angst has surfaced, and it's all my fault. Though I only garnered 23% of the vote in Marin in 1992, I was your president and I should have known better. I apologize to those who supported me that were offended, and I also apologize to the unenlightened who did not support me.
"I will now soak in my own hot tub and try to be more sensitive to the feelings of others--not John Walker Lindh, though," he added.
"My offhand comment struck a nerve I hadn't intended," Bush said in a telephone conversation Tuesday with Executive Editor Jackie Kerwin.
"When I saw the depth of feeling of the responses, I said, 'Why not just say you're sorry?' I believe if you screw up, you say you're sorry and move on."