So to get the rant out of the way first: Omg, how could he say that it was hard to find fault with anything Cain or Kendra did?! HOW?! My jaw dropped the same way Lee's did. And then to say that Tigh was 'keeping him honest'. Puh-lease. I think that threw me out of the scene so much because I just entered rage about how batshit and warped Bill's view of the world is.
Anyway, watching again I think it's a really important scene, especially in light of Lee's decision to nuke the mission.
When Lee walks in he's quiet and hesitant, the tone of his voice is flat when he says 'you wanted to see me, Admiral'. He looks down, blinking, when Adama says 'Starbuck was here earlier'. I think he expects reproach from Bill for his decisions, but he steps forward to take what's coming anyway, ready to face the consequences. When Bill raises Kendra instead, he's surprised.
Bill's speech about the differences between Cain's position and his may not have worked for me but it DID speak to Lee judging by his body language. He first looks away, internalising what Bill's saying, when Bill mentions the president--he recognises the importance that played. And when Bill says I have 'you', Lee opens his eyes (in surprise?) then looks up again with a quizzical look on his face. When Bill says 'you see yourself reflected in their eyes', Lee grimaces. He turns away at this point, which works to show us that Lee is having difficulty seeing himself in his father's eyes. He DOES know what his father means--he doesn't argue any further about Kendra or Cain but instead brings up of his own accord what happened on the mission. He takes a drink and pauses after Bill says 'I stopped myself because I knew I'd have to face you the next day'. Lee is deep in thought by this time, his chin clenched, his cheek muscles twitching. Without preamble he says 'if you hadn't been in CIC I would have ordered that strike, Kara would be dead, so would the rest of the team'. He's gone fully into empathy with his father over this and also into self-flagellation mode.
The point being made here is that Bill acted as Lee's conscience just as Lee's acted as his father's conscience in the past. I don't buy that this makes them the same as Cain because we know she SHOT her conscience, but anyway...
Bill apparently had no intention of berating his son for that decision, saying he did nothing wrong. Bill's point is that they all made decisions to accomplish their missions. That's what being a military leader means. The point's not lost on Lee: he says he's like Cain and Kendra. But we know Lee respects neither of those figures so the fact that he puts himself in the same category as them shows how much this weighs on his conscience and how difficult he will find it to live with what's happened. His facial expressions as he's taking his leave from his father show that he's still struggling with this. That fits with what we know of Lee overall--that he may make the tough calls but he also tortures himself over them. I'm surprised he didn't bring this up on the stand in Crossroads and the only reason I can see for him not doing so is that the audience didn't know about it yet.
This scene also raises the question of how Lee will be judged. When Lee says to Kara just afterwards 'we've all got it coming' I think he's really thinking of himself--he looks back in the direction of his father's office, recalling the conversation they've just had.
I'm not sure Lee knew he was capable of making that call about Kara until he made it. The fact that he WAS capable of it is something he will wrestle with for a long time. And he'll ultimately come back to a position of wanting to defend and recapture his humanity. He'll leave the military after Kara's actual death, and on the stand in Crossroads he'll argue passionately for the need to retain civilisation and humanity even in the pressured circumstances. This makes me more curious than ever to see where they take him in Season 4. Having fully experienced what it means to be a military officer and having proving himself capable of making both immense self-sacrifice and the decision to sacrifice others, has he now found that he can't live with what that means any more? Just because he can do it doesn't mean he wants to or will want to keep on doing it, especially since the toll is so huge. I was already aware that Lee 'found himself' again in season three, but Razor has helped me see that it ran deeper than that--he found his humanity again.
Perhaps it took Kara's actual death to do that, to haunt him fully and to make him realise that that loss was so intolerable and immense he couldn't keep on pretending to himself--or rather trying to force himself to believe--that it wasn't.
what will he do now!? (RHETORICAL question only--no spoilers please!)