- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2008

President Bush on Tuesday said that he regrets having spoken in front of a huge “Mission Accomplished” banner on a U.S. aircraft carrier in 2003, six weeks after the invasion of Iraq, which became a haunting moment as the war stretched on for years.

“I regret that that sign was there,” Mr. Bush said, during an interview with CNN in New York, following a speech marking Veterans Day.

Mr. Bush sat for the interview aboard a refurbished aircraft carrier, the Intrepid, which is now a museum in New York, and said being on the ship reminded him of his speech more than five years ago.

It was the first time that Mr. Bush himself had expressed remorse over the sign, according to an informal review by The Washington Times.

Former top adviser Karl Rove said in 2004 he wished the banner had not been there, and White House press secretary Dana Perino said earlier this year that the Bush administration had “paid a price” because of the way it was interpreted.

The White House has always maintained that the sign referred to the sailors and pilots on board the USS Lincoln, who were returning home from their tour in the Middle East.

Mr. Bush repeated that explanation Tuesday, saying that “it was a sign aimed at the sailors on that ship.”

“However, it conveyed a broader knowledge,” he said. “To some it said, ‘well, Bush thinks the war in Iraq is over,’ when I didn’t think that. But nevertheless it conveyed the wrong message.”

Mr. Bush also said he regrets having said he did not care whether al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was captured “dead or alive,” and wished he had not said of terrorists, “bring ‘em on.”

“My wife reminded me that, hey, as president of the United States you better be careful of what you say. I was trying to convey a message. I probably could have conveyed it more artfully,” he said.

But the president, less than 10 weeks away from his last day in office, said his overwhelming emotion as the end nears is one of pride in the American people and U.S. military.

“I cannot tell you what an inspiring experience it’s been to be the president of this country because we’re a nation full of generous, courageous, decent people,” he said

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