Bush on the war: “Whether or not it needed to happen, I’m still convinced it needed to happen.”
Maureen Dowd, on this bit from the interview [sorry, NY Times select]: “The Bubble Boy can even contradict himself and not notice.” It does seem like a deeply irrational thing to say, yet it clearly is not a contradiction, per se. In fact it seems like a disjunctive variation on Moore’s paradox. Bush’s version (inadversion, rather) is perhaps rather interesting. “Whether or not P, I believe P” has the same truth-conditions as “I believe P”. So one can turn any of one’s own belief statements into a Bushian bit of madness without impairing its truth. (Just try it at home.)
Bonus points for working in the following lines from the interview:
Bush: “I’m interested in the news. I’m not all that interested in the opinions.”
Brian Williams: “So what is truth, Mr. President?”
Getting back to the paradox, I think the proper diagnosis of the peculiarity of Bush’s statement must run as follows. For Gricean reasons, you wouldn’t preface a belief statement with a tautology, in this way, unless you meant to conversationally implicate the irrelevance of one question to another. (That’s not adequate, and there’s got to be a better way to say it.) Example: ‘whether Bush sincerely believes the war was a good idea or not, I believe the the war was a bad idea.’ That’s completely coherent. (It also highlights the inadequacy of my brief gloss: obviously I don’t think Bush’s mental state is totally irrelevant to an assessment of the wisdom of the war plans. But I think the question about the war plans can be answered without settling that other thing.) Anyhoo, to complete the thought: what is odd about Bush’s statement is that he is conversationally implicating that facts about P are irrelevant to/do not determine his beliefs about P. An epistemic bubble, yes, but not a logical contradiction.