A confident George W. Bush took the podium Monday for what is likely the last press conference of his presidency, fielding a panoply of questions on the economy, President-elect Barack Obama, and what he sees as the failings of his term.
Speaking about the Administration’s claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction — which served as the cornerstone of the president’s justification for war — Bush laughed.
“Things didn’t go according to plan, let’s put it that way,” Bush said with a smile, then a grimace. The WMDs touted by Bush and his advisers were never found. More than 4,000 American troops have died as a result of the invasion; the toll for Iraqi civilians is in the tens of thousands.
“Clearly putting a mission accomplished on an aircraft carrier was a mistake,” he replied when asked what he’d done wrong under his watch. “Some of my rhetoric has been a mistake.”
“I’ve thought about Katrina,” he added, without identifying particular errors in judgment.
“Abu Ghraib obviously was a huge disappointment,” he continued. “Not having weapons of mass destruction was a big disappointment.”
Bush defended his decision in 2007 to send an additional 30,000 American troops to Iraq to knock down violence levels and stabilize life in the country.
“The question is, in the long run, will this democracy survive, and that’s going to be a question for future presidents,” he said.
Bush also refused to answer questions about pardons. Speculation is rife that the president may pardon I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, who was convicted of obstruction of justice in the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame.
This video is from CNN.com, broadcast Jan. 12, 2009.