January 12th, 2009
10:10 AM ET
11 years ago

Bush admits mistakes in his final news conference

Pres. Bush gave his last official press conference Monday morning.

Pres. Bush gave his last official press conference Monday morning.

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."

soundoff (258 Responses)
  1. Greg Pottstown, Pa.

    Aaron Valentino January 12th, 2009 11:33 am ET

    I didn't vote for the man.

    However, I'm endlessly entertained by folks who accuse the President of a perceived lack of intellectual curiosity, subtlety, nuance, and verbal dexterity with name-calling and profanity. For his critics who pride themselves on tolerance and openness to the "other," I think it's the apex of hypocrisy to demonize and hate because someone feels differently than you feel.
    Many posting hear could learn much from you. Well put.

    January 12, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  2. Matt

    @ Jim Colbert

    And how many years prior to 9/11 was it since we had been attacked. And prior to that? You people trying to give Bush credit for "keeping us safe" for the past 7 years are engaging in quite a funny little analysis, acting as if attacks on our own soil by foreign entities are and would be a regular occurence but for Bush trampling the Constitution and our international leverage into the ground. It's completely ridiculous.

    January 12, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  3. robert

    How could anyone have respected the office of president when the moron in chief Bush was making a disgrace of it? He mocked our contries founders, our guiding principals, our countires people and our reputation for his own ideological beliefs regardles of the cost.
    Good ridance and may God protect us from someone like him ever being elected to lead our country again!

    January 12, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  4. Jim


    I wonder if Mr. Bush concern for his own legacy (how he wil be remebered in history books) led to just that historically disastorous decisions and directions for the United State. After realizing those decisions were unjustifiable, he couldn't back-out and was so focussed on trying to cover himself politically, he paid no attention to the by-products of his presedency; High oil prices – No immigration reform – No energy strategy – No regulation of financial markets – No health care strategy – No social security leadership – The resurgence of our enimies and uneasy allies by all of the above – I could go on-and-on . . . Good-by and good-riddence . . .

    January 12, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  5. Hawaii Grad

    Even his admission is a non-apology: I watched this speech this morning with my 7 yr old: even she realized that Bush wasn't saying "sorry", which is something we work on at home, at school and at church, i.e., taking responsiblity for your wrongdoing and fixing the problem you caused. Bush is fifty years older than my daughter, and he doesn't understand this simple tenet. Let me rephrase that: he doesn't agree with that tenet – there's a huge difference.

    January 12, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  6. Ommy

    Two words: Bush Derangement Syndrome.

    January 12, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  7. Mike-Missouri

    I think he is being sincere, and I do believe that he want the best for America in general. First and foremost he sounds like he want the two parties to work as a team to bring this great nation back together again. That I give him KUDOS for – I didn't vote for Bush but give him a break – you guys want him out and he looks like he is ready to go and I don't blame him for that one! People we have work to do and it will not turn around in a year or so....

    Our new incoming Commander in Chief needs all the support he can get at this time. I respect Bush for his Honesty. Best Wishes to him and his family.

    January 12, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  8. Tony

    Right on! Let's maintain our leadership bar set at idiot. Are we really ready for a president who can articulate, organize, and LEAD. Ya, give Bush another four years of stumbl'n, bumbl'n, and mumbl'n.
    I hear the fundamentals of our economy are strong. hmmm how didn't he get elected??

    January 12, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  9. Dwayne

    Surprised Lisa in Florida was able to look up "Narcissistic", since she obviously can't spell it.

    January 12, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  10. beevee

    At least Bush admits that some mistakes were made by his presidency. He is much better than his Vice president Cheney who seems to think that there were no mistakes during their term. Where is the disconnect?

    January 12, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  11. Tim

    Weren't all these pseudo-intellectuals who blame everything last problem on Bush supposed to move somewhere when he got elected the last time?

    January 12, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  12. Ryan in Waynesboro, VA

    ...it kills me how many people can come on here and complain about others criticizing Dubya, yet spouting off at the mouth about how much worse Obama is going to be. If they were to take a moment to unplug from the Limbaugh Machine and stop taking heed of the fear tactics the extreme right wing keep pushing, we just might be able to heal this country. Granted, there are a lot of Bush Bashers on here, too, but the majority of them are at least able to point to something Bush has done, not claim the world is about to end becuase a *gasp* liberal is about to take office.

    January 12, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  13. Lance

    Lisa in FL: Looked up "narcisstic" and found a picture of Obama!!

    Do you really think Obama can possibly do worse than W? The dude ruined our country, hasn't brought the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks to justice and made stupidity a virtue in Florida.

    You get 'rm girl but don't let your dunce cap fall when you walk off the cliff with all the other toothless lemmings.

    January 12, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  14. What a mess

    TCM .. you are dead wrong

    lack of regulation and wall street greed are causing the meltdown

    even if you blame the entire freddiemac fanniemae on dems that doesn't account for job loss and executive corruption and incompetence

    they figured if americans will take that kind of incompetence and self serving arrogance from the top executive of the country, they could take it from wall street and coporate leaders too.

    January 12, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  15. David

    Did Jim Colbert forget who was President on September 11, 2001. It is the same administration that ignored the warning memos of what was to happen.

    The bombers of the world trade center when Clinton was in office are in jail. Where is Bin-Laden, a free man laughing his you know wat off.

    January 12, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  16. a little sad

    @Desperado January 12th, 2009 11:33 am ET

    Soon Nobama will take over and we will all be saved. You think its bad now. Wait to see what its like in the next 4 years

    I have seen many of the people here who post here claim the economy isn't Bush's fault because he 'inherited' a bad economy.

    How long do you think it will take them to claim that Obama isn't doing a good job because the economy won't fix itself overnight? It won't have anything to do with the problems that Obama inherits....

    January 12, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  17. kcmookie

    OT, Railing on "Jeff" does nothing to enlighten us anymore then Jeff's post, it simply makes it sound like you think you know more then Jeff. Many of us have endured 8 years of Bush & his policies, and were smart enough to NEVER vote for the clown. Feeling angry and frustrated with those foolish enough to give the keys of this once great Nation to this embicile, and forcing us to tolerate his idiocy has been enough to make otherwise rational people think about moving to a different country. So Jeff, rail on, I for one am disgusted with my peers the American people, because Bush should have GOTTEN OUT 4 years ago. Thank God Obama has a chance to fix this mess.....

    January 12, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  18. Fabian Blache, Baton Rouge, LA

    Lisa of Florida,

    If you looked up "narcissistic" why can't you spell it? Also, how is your rant germane to this article? Please enlighten us all.

    I'm just curious.

    January 12, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  19. Ric

    W has killed more Americans than Al Queda. W has killed more Iraqis than Saddam. He's a war criminal, but he's getting a library.

    January 12, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  20. Tammy

    That is all you can report on President Bush's speach. Typical, Typical, Typical. CNN, as always, should be ashamed of it's reporting practices.

    January 12, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  21. Roger

    Lisa, you are a true American. We need more like you to make this a better place.

    January 12, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  22. Franky

    'Sweet Dreams are made of these
    who wouldn't mind to disagree
    I travel the world and the seven seas,
    everybody is looking for something...
    Some of them want to use you...
    some of them want to get used by you...
    some of them want to abuse you...
    some of them want to be A-BUSE..."

    January 12, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  23. Florida Joe

    After painfully listening to (thank goodness) his last press conference, it is really clear how out of touch with reality W is.
    Funny how he didn't mention the surplus he got from the Clinton years, nor that Bush created 3 million jobs while Clinton created 21 million


    January 12, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  24. Not4MoreYears

    Just go home, pal.

    January 12, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  25. Rene Rosales

    Though a Republican, I readily admit that Mr. Bush made huge mistakes during his presidency, the biggest of which was going into Iraq, especially in the face of shaky (at best) UN support and practically ZERO support from world opinion. He destroyed America's already tainted perception as a moral leader and a fair and just police/peacekeeper in the world. I also believe that the runaway defense spending to pay for the war has also been a huge contributor to the bad economy (even though the money goes into our troops and defense contractors' pockets, it's federal money that could have been appropriated elsewhere or national debt that we wouldn't have accumulated). However, I have a couple of positive, conciliatory thoughts about his presidency:

    1. Mr. Bush reminded the world (terrorists) that America can be a terrible, relentless enemy if provoked. The incoming Obama administration is perfectly set up to about-face now and set things right with the international community, while the world remembers the heavy-handed Bush Doctrine.

    2. During his 2 terms, Mr. Bush's policies DID effectively prevent any further significant attacks against this country on our home turf by taking the fight to the enemy and tightening up (even if unfairly in some cases) internal security. We may have done well on the GWOT, but 9/11 also destroyed a lot of consumer confidence and a repeat of an event of that magnitude would have really devastated the economy to disastrous consequences. I do feel safer – the irony being that I am still a little fearful to travel abroad, but not so much from terrorism but more from feeling foreign resentment at the Bush doctrine.

    My 2 (maybe 3) cents.

    January 12, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
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