The Missing Wing

For a president whose tenure was so memorably filled with serious errors in decision-making, and amusing gaffes, the Bush library is noticeably (although not surprisingly) missing a number of his most famous low points.

Absent is the “Mission Accomplished” banner before which, on May 1, 2003, Bush declared that “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended” – eight years before the war actually ended. Nowhere amid the numerous touchscreens, videos, and interactive displays is the 2002 video of Bush callously following up a sober statement on a deadly terrorist attack with an invitation to reporters to “watch this drive.”

Some of the most infamous photos to be taken during the Bush administration – the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib – are left out of the section lauding Bush’s approach to the War on Terror. Bush’s proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which he declared as important as the “many serious matters of national concern” previously addressed through constitutional amendments, isn’t given the same attention as other failed priorities like Social Security privatization. Other politically loaded absences include the U.S. Attorney firings and the revelation of Valerie Plame’s status as a CIA agent.

And two of the most powerful – and controversial – figures in the Bush administration are barely mentioned. Dick Cheney, thought to be one of the most powerful vice president in history, isn’t afforded library space remotely equal to his reported influence over Bush and his administration. Meanwhile, the displays mostly avoid the role of political “architect” Karl Rove, who ushered Bush through his two campaigns and was one of his closest White House advisers.


“Mission Accomplished”

On May 1, 2003, In Front Of “Mission Accomplished” Banner, President Bush Delivered “Notorious, Premature Speech In Which He Declared American Operations Had Ended In Iraq.” According to MSNBC, “Ten years ago today, then-President George Bush delivered his now-notorious, premature speech in which he declared American operations had ended in Iraq. With a banner draped behind him saying ‘Mission Accomplished,’ Bush in 2003 delivered the televised address off the coast of San Diego from the USS Abraham Lincoln. ‘Major combat operations in Iraq have ended,’ he told the crowd. ‘In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.’” [MSNBC, 5/1/13]

War In Iraq Lasted Eight Years After “Mission Accomplished” Speech. According to MSNBC, “While the speech was well-received at the time, the war lasted another eight years. Congress decided to send in 20,000 more troops into the country in 2007. The war claimed the lives of at least 190,000 people–the bulk of whom were civilians, in addition to 4,488 U.S. soldiers and 3,400 U.S. contractors.” [MSNBC, 5/1/13]

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President Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln (May 1, 2003)
U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Tyler J. Clements. (RELEASED)

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President Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln (May 1, 2003)
U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Lewis Hunsaker. (RELEASED)

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Sailors on the USS Abraham Lincoln (May 2, 2003)
U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Lewis Hunsaker. (RELEASED)


President Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln (May 1, 2003)
U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Tyler J. Clements (RELEASED)

Vast Majority Of American Troop Deaths In Iraq Occurred After “Mission Accomplished” Speech. The following chart was made with data reported by The Atlantic:

atlantic fatalities

[The Atlantic, 5/10/13]

Bush In 2008: “Mission Accomplished” Sign “Conveyed The Wrong Message.” According to CNN, “On Tuesday, the president also referenced the moment aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, during which he declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq. ‘They had a sign that said ‘Mission Accomplished.’ It was a sign aimed at the sailors on the ship, but it conveyed a broader knowledge. To some it said, well, Bush thinks the war in Iraq is over, when I didn’t think that. But nonetheless, it conveyed the wrong message.’” [CNN, 11/12/08]

Bush Named “Mission Accomplished” Gaffe When Asked About His “Single Biggest Mistake.” From a transcript of President Bush’s final press conference in office on January 12, 2009:

Q: Four years ago, you were asked if you had made any mistakes.


Q: And I’m not trying to play “gotcha,” but I wonder, when you look back over the long arc of your presidency, do you think, in retrospect, that you have made any mistakes? And if so, what is the single biggest mistake that you may have made?

THE PRESIDENT: Gotcha. I have often said that history will look back and determine that which could have been done better, or, you know, mistakes I made. Clearly putting a “Mission Accomplished” on a aircraft carrier was a mistake. It sent the wrong message. We were trying to say something differently, but nevertheless, it conveyed a different message. Obviously, some of my rhetoric has been a mistake. [George W. Bush Press Conference Transcript, 1/12/09]

“Now Watch This Drive”


Bush Followed Serious Statement About War On Terror With Showoff Golf Swing. According to a video on Time, Speaking to reporters on a golf course, President Bush stated, “We must stop the terror. I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you. Now watch this drive.” [Time, accessed 6/14/13]

Abu Ghraib

Report Found “Sadistic, Blatant, And Wanton Criminal Abuses” At Abu Ghraib. According to the New Yorker, “Specifically, Taguba found that between October and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of ‘sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses’ at Abu Ghraib. This systematic and illegal abuse of detainees, Taguba reported, was perpetrated by soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company, and also by members of the American intelligence community.” [New Yorker, 5/10/04]

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Abuses At Abu Ghraib Included Beatings, Sexual Assault, And Use Of Dogs To Threaten Prisoners. According to the New Yorker, “Taguba’s report listed some of the wrongdoing: Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.” [New Yorker, 5/10/04]

Perpetrators Took Photographs Of Iraqi Prisoners They Were Tormenting. According to the New Yorker, “There was stunning evidence to support the allegations, Taguba added—‘detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence.’ Photographs and videos taken by the soldiers as the abuses were happening were not included in his report, Taguba said, because of their ‘extremely sensitive nature.’ The photographs—several of which were broadcast on CBS’s ‘60 Minutes 2’ last week—show leering G.I.s taunting naked Iraqi prisoners who are forced to assume humiliating poses.” [New Yorker, 5/10/04]

Most Abu Ghraib Prisoners Were Civilians, And Included Women, Teenagers, And People Picked Up In Random Sweeps. According to the New Yorker, “Most of the prisoners, however—by the fall there were several thousand, including women and teen-agers—were civilians, many of whom had been picked up in random military sweeps and at highway checkpoints. They fell into three loosely defined categories: common criminals; security detainees suspected of ‘crimes against the coalition’; and a small number of suspected ‘high-value’ leaders of the insurgency against the coalition forces.” [New Yorker, 5/10/04]

Abu Ghraib Prisoner Who Was Never Charged With A Crime: “For 32 Days I Was Without Clothes.” According to CNN, “The next day, he was processed and put into Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. ‘They made us take off all our clothes, even our underwear,’ recalled the man who is afraid to reveal his identity, instead offering up the alias of Abu Ahmed. ‘They walked us in front of all the cells, about 50 or 60 cells, in front of all the detainees, in front of the soldiers, of the female soldiers. They got us in the cells, still naked, and they locked us inside,’ he said, tears welling in his eyes. ‘They made us stand in the corner of the cell. We were not allowed to sit down. We were not even allowed to talk.’ That treatment went on and on, Abu Ahmed said. ‘For 32 days I was without clothes, even if we wanted to pray, we had to pray naked. […] Abu Ahmed has never been charged with a single crime.’” [CNN, 5/21/09]

Bush Wanted to Enshrine Marriage Discrimination in the Constitution

Bush Called For A Constitutional Amendment Banning Same-Sex Marriage. According to the New York Times, “President Bush said today he supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, declaring that such a measure was the only way to protect the status of marriage between man and woman, which he called ‘the most fundamental institution of civilization.’ In an announcement fraught with social, legal and political implications, Mr. Bush urged Congress to act on the amendment quickly and send it on to the state legislatures. Quick action is essential, he said, to bring clarity to the law and protect husband-and-wife marriages from a few ‘activist judges.’” [New York Times, 2/24/04]

Bush: “Preservation Of Marriage” As Important As “Serious Matters Of National Concern” Previously Addressed By Constitutional Amendment. According to the New York Times, “‘An amendment to the Constitution is never to be undertaken lightly,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘The amendment process has addressed many serious matters of national concern, and the preservation of marriage rises to this level of national importance.’” [New York Times, 2/24/04]

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Gay Marriage Amendment “Soundly Defeated In The Senate.” According to the Washington Post, “A constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, backed by President Bush and conservative groups, was soundly defeated in the Senate yesterday after proponents failed to persuade a bare majority of all senators to support the measure.” [Washington Post, 6/8/06]

U.S. Attorneys Scandal

Bush “Stood By” Gonzales During Attorney Firing Scandal. According to the New York Times, “Mr. Bush repeatedly stood by Mr. Gonzales, an old friend and colleague from Texas, even as Mr. Gonzales faced increasing scrutiny for his leadership of the Justice Department over issues including his role in the dismissals of nine United States attorneys late last year and whether he testified truthfully about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.” [New York Times, 8/27/07]

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President Bush nominating Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General (November 10, 2004)
White House photo by Paul Morse


President Bush making a statement on the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (August 27, 2007)
White House photo by Chris Greenberg

Justice Department Considered Firing A Third Of U.S. Attorneys. According to the Washington Post, “Sources yesterday identified four additional prosecutors who were considered for termination, bringing to 30 the number of prosecutors who were placed on Justice Department firing lists between February 2005 and December 2006. That accounts for about a third of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorney positions. Nine were fired last year.” [Washington Post, 5/18/07]

Inspector General: Process Used To Remove Attorneys Was “Unsystematic And Arbitrary.” According to a report from the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility, “In sum, we believe that the process used to remove the nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 was fundamentally flawed. While Presidential appointees can be removed for any reason or for no reason, as long as it is not an illegal or improper reason, Department officials publicly justified the removals as the result of an evaluation that sought to replace underperforming U.S. Attorneys. In fact, we determined that the process implemented largely by Kyle Sampson, Chief of Staff to the Attorney General, was unsystematic and arbitrary, with little oversight by the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, or any other senior Department official. In choosing which U.S. Attorneys to remove, Sampson did not adequately consult with the Department officials most knowledgeable about their performance, or even examine formal evaluations of each U.S. Attorney’s Office, despite his representations to the contrary.” [Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility Report, September 2008]

Inspector General: Justice Department “Considered Political And Ideological Affiliations” When Hiring Attorneys. According to a report from the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility, “In sum, our report found that [Civil Rights Division Deputy Assisstant Attorney General Bradley] Schlozman considered political and ideological affiliations when hiring and taking other personnel actions relating to career attorneys, in violation of Department policy and federal law, and his actions also constitute misconduct. We also believe he made false statements to Congress about his actions.” [Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility Report, July 2008]

Bush White House Denied Involvement In Scandal, But Report Showed Bush Aides Were “Closely Involved.” According to the Los Angeles Times, “When the unusual midterm firings of the U.S. attorneys came to light early in 2007, the Bush administration denied that the White House played a role. Then-Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales initially referred to the dismissals as a routine personnel matter. But several congressional hearings and a lengthy report by the Justice Department’s inspector general released last year showed that Bush aides in both the White House and the Justice Department were closely involved in the firings.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/12/09]

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Resigned After Giving “Tangled Account” Of Attorney Firings. According to the Washington Post, “Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, one of President Bush’s closest confidants and a key architect of his controversial counterterrorism policies, announced yesterday that he is quitting after seven months of bitter confrontation with Congress over his honesty and his competence to run the Justice Department. […] But his political undoing stemmed from his tangled account of having approved the dismissals of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 while denying detailed knowledge of the circumstances or reasons. The events that led to his resignation began with a Democratic-led inquiry into those firings, and they included accusations that Gonzales had lied to lawmakers.” [Washington Post, 8/27/07]

Many Fired Attorneys Were Subject To GOP Complaints They Were “Lax On Voter Fraud.” According to the Washington Post, “Nearly half the U.S. attorneys slated for removal by the administration last year were targets of Republican complaints that they were lax on voter fraud, including efforts by presidential adviser Karl Rove to encourage more prosecutions of election- law violations, according to new documents and interviews. Of the 12 U.S. attorneys known to have been dismissed or considered for removal last year, five were identified by Rove or other administration officials as working in districts that were trouble spots for voter fraud — Kansas City, Mo.; Milwaukee; New Mexico; Nevada; and Washington state. Four of the five prosecutors in those districts were dismissed. It has been clear for months that the administration’s eagerness to launch voter-fraud prosecutions played a role in some of the firings, but recent testimony, documents and interviews show the issue was more central than previously known.” [Washington Post, 5/14/07]

Outing of CIA Agent Valerie Plame

CIA Agent Valerie Plame’s Identity Was Revealed In A Robert Novak Column. According to the Huffington Post, “Washington Post columnist Robert Novak essentially ended [Valerie] Plame’s CIA career July 14, 2003, when he wrote a piece revealing her identity. The leak was believed to be retaliation against her husband, U.S. diplomat Joe Wilson, for speaking out against invading Iraq.” [Washington Post, 4/12/13]

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Investigation Found Leak Of Plame’s Identity Came From Within Bush Administration. According to Time, “A lengthy investigation found the alleged leak to have come from inside the Bush administration. Valerie Plame Wilson resigned from her position at the CIA.” [Time, 6/10/13]

Plame’s Outing Occurred Shortly After Her Husband, A Diplomat, Publicly Criticized The Bush Administration’s Justifications For Invading Iraq. According to the Washington Post, “On July 6, 2003, former diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV went public with his conclusion that it was highly doubtful that Saddam Hussein had sought uranium from Niger for a weapons of mass destruction program. That called into question one of the central claims made by the Bush administration prior to the invasion of Iraq. Eight days later, syndicated columnist Robert Novak wrote that ‘two senior administration officials’ told him that Wilson had been suggested for the trip by his wife. Novak identified her as Valerie Plame, a CIA ‘operative on weapons of mass destruction.’” [Washington Post, 10/28/05]

Cheney Aide Scooter Libby Was Convicted Of Perjury And Obstruction Of Justice, But Bush Commuted His Prison Sentence. According to CNN, “President Bush on Monday spared I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby from prison, commuting the former White House aide’s 30-month prison term. The prison time was imposed after a federal court convicted Libby of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators in the probe of the leak of the name of a CIA operative. [CNN, 7/2/07]

Dick Cheney

Cheney “One Of the Most Powerful Vice Presidents In History,” But Extremely Unpopular. According to CNN, “Twenty-three percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday say that Cheney is the country’s worst vice president, when compared with his predecessors. […] Although extremely unpopular, Cheney will leave office as one of the most powerful vice presidents in history. He played a crucial role in many of the Bush administration’s crucial policies and was a major proponent of using and expanding executive powers.” [CNN, 12/22/08]

Cheney “Is Regarded As One Of The Main Articulators And Architects Of The Bush Administration.” According to BBC, “Dick Cheney is regarded as one of the main articulators and architects of the Bush administration. Descriptions of him include ‘eminence grise’, the ‘most powerful vice president ever’ and even ‘Darth Vader’, a reference he has picked up himself. There was joke in Washington after Mr Cheney’s heart condition became known that ‘George Bush is just a heartbeat away from the presidency.’” [BBC, 10/29/06]

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President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney during the 2005 presidential inauguration (January 20, 2005)
White House photo by Paul Morse


President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney (August 14, 2006)
White House photo by Eric Draper


President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates with the Joint Chiefs of Staff (August 31, 2007)
Defense Department photo by Cherie A. Thurlby


President Bush with Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ( January 13, 2005)
Defense Department photo by Master Sgt. James Bowman, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

Bush Let Cheney Pick Most Of His Administration. According to a Slate article about the movie “The World According to Dick Cheney,” “Most of the film, though, centers on the first term of the George W. Bush administration, the zenith of Cheney’s powers. Bush was insecure and overly trusting of his advisors, and Cheney ran circles around him. Late in 2000, Bush let his Vice President choose almost the entire Administration, ensuring a power structure more personally loyal to Cheney than to the president.” [Slate, 1/23/13]

Cheney Exercised Control Over Bush’s Access To Information. According to a Slate article about the movie “The World According to Dick Cheney,” “After the 9/11 attacks, Cheney for a while actually seems to run the country, using his favorite technique: controlling what information the President is exposed to. […] At some point Cheney hid too much information from the President for too long. Cheney and his legal counsel, David Addington, had limited regard for the Watergate-era statutes meant to limit the power of the president. The Justice Department leadership, in contrast, believed the administration must obey laws even when they happened to disagree with them, and they refuse to approve an illegal wireless wiretapping law they consider illegal. Cheney leaves Bush in the dark until Bush finds out, independently, that much of the leadership of the Justice Department is about to resign in protest, creating a major scandal before the 2004 election. Blindsided, Bush finally begins to distrust Cheney; by the end of his presidency, he refuses Cheney’s phone calls and meetings.” [Slate, 1/23/13]

Karl Rove

Rove Was The “Architect” Of Bush’s Campaigns And A Powerful Policy Adviser. According to PBS’ Frontline, “After surviving one of the roughest presidential elections in modern times, President George W. Bush singled out one member of his team in particular, calling Karl Rove the campaign’s ‘architect.’ But Rove, a longtime Bush adviser and confidant, is much more than a political guru, he is also the single most powerful — and ambitious — policy adviser in the White House.” [PBS’ Frontline, 4/12/05]

Rove Advised Bush On “Virtually Every Issue That Involved Political And Public Opinion.” According to ABC News, “Once Bush was in the White House, Rove served as a senior adviser and chief political strategist to Bush. He continued to have the ear of the president, advising him on virtually every issue that involved political and public opinion. And his reach extended even further into the Republican party, helping to select Republican political candidates nationwide. Some Washington insiders wonder if Rove has too much influence and interaction with the president. But he has often denied that he ever had the type of access that some said made him so powerful.” [ABC News, October 2005]

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President Bush and Karl Rove after Rove announced his resignation (August 13, 2007)
White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

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President Bush and Laura Bush with Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove after Rove announced his resignation (August 13, 2007)
White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

Rove A “Savage Political Competitor” Who Has Been Accused Of Dirty Campaigning. According to ABC News, “Through the years, Rove developed a reputation as a savage political competitor who understands politics from the top of the federal government to the grassroots county level. Many competitors have complained that Rove used dirty campaign tactics and eagerly made use of negative attack ads. But few questioned his success at winning elections.” [ABC News, October 2005]

Rove Was The Source Of The Valerie Plame Leak And Played A Part In Attorney Scandal. According to the Washington Post, “Rove was identified as a source of the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name to columnist Robert Novak in 2003, sparking a federal investigation, though Rove was never charged. He played a key role in the firing of federal prosecutors whom Republicans complained were not aggressively investigating Democratic misdeeds. And he was accused of pressing for the conviction of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D) on federal bribery and conspiracy charges as part of a five-year effort to prevent Siegleman from winning a second term in 2002 and 2006. Rove denied involvement.” [Washington Post, accessed 6/17/13]