WASHINGTON (CNN) - Addressing reporters in his final news conference before leaving office, President Bush admitted Monday to several mistakes during his tenure in office.
"Clearly putting a 'Mission Accomplished' (banner) on an aircraft carrier was a mistake," Bush said. "It sent the wrong message."
"Obviously," the president continued, "some of my rhetoric has been a mistake."
Bush also said that he should have pursed a comprehensive immigration overhaul after the 2004 election, instead of Social Security reform. Bush argued that Congress did not have the political willpower to tackle Social Security at the time because the program was not facing an "imminent" funding crisis.
Bush defended his widely-criticized decision not to visit Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.
Bush said that if he "landed Air Force One in New Orleans or Baton Rouge" shortly after the hurricane, "law enforcement would have been pulled away from the mission." The media, Bush claimed, would have then asked how he could have
"possibly have flown Air Force One into Baton Rouge" when "police officers that
were needed to expedite traffic out of New Orleans were taken off the task to
look after you?"
Bush said he was "disappointed with the tone in Washington" and that he had "tried to do his part" to change the political environment for the better.
But "the rhetoric got out of control," Bush said.
Asked about the federal bailout, Bush said that President-elect Obama has not yet asked him to request the release of the remaining $350 billion in TARP funds.
Bush said he has no intention of doing so unless Obama asks him to do so.
Turning to the the situation in Gaza, the president said that a "sustainable cease-fire" could only be accomplished when "Hamas stops firing rockets into Israel."
Bush said that the "choice is Hamas's to make." He also stated that the best way to get a sustainable cease-fire is to "work with Egypt to stop the smuggling of arms into... Gaza.
"Countries that supply weapons to Hamas have got to stop," Bush said.
Turning to the question of his plans after leaving office, Bush said, "When I get out of here, I'm getting off the stage. I believe there ought to be one person in the klieg lights at a time."