(Reuters) - President Bush said he had no regrets about donning a flight suit to give his "Mission Accomplished" speech on Iraq in May 2003 and would do it all over again if he had the chance, according to excerpts from an television interview released on Sunday.
When asked by Fox News if he still would have put on a flight suit to declare major combat operations in Iraq over, Bush replied, "Absolutely."
When Bush gave his May 1 speech fewer than 150 Americans had died in the war. Since then more than 900 have died.
The interview is to air on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor" on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, just before Bush and Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry face off in their first televised debate on Thursday.
Amid a rising U.S. death toll and a rash of abductions and beheadings in Iraq, some members of Bush's own Republican Party have criticized him for not doing enough to secure insurgent areas in Iraq sooner.
But Bush said he also did not regret the decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the rebel stronghold of Falluja earlier this year because he believed the conflict there could have jeopardized the June handover of sovereignty to Iraqis.
"A lot of people on the ground there thought that if we'd have gone into Falluja at the time, the interim government would not have been established," Bush said.
Also in the interview, the president was noncommittal about whether his top political aide, Karl Rove, knew in advance about ads by the group, "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" which attacked Kerry's military service in Vietnam. Bush himself did not serve in Vietnam.
On the issue of whether he knew ahead of time about the Swift Boat ads, Bush said "no," but replied "I don't think so" when questioned whether Rove had advance knowledge of them.
The Swift Boat ads accused Kerry of lying about the events that led to his decoration for bravery. As a so-called 527 organization, the Swift Boat group is barred under election rules from coordinating its activities with campaigns or political parties.
Democrats has accused the Bush campaign of colluding with the group, a charge the White House has denied.
Yet another example of Bush's inability to admit a mistake. Criminy this was a stupid statement to make. Dumber than "OB-GYN's" practincing their love, dumber than mispronouncing Abu Ghraib, or calling Lambeau Field, Lambert Field, and yes dumber than saying "I'd vote for the authorization again", for most of the these statements are maloprops, or in the last case, reflect nuances that cynical politicians can use because they think the typical voter is a chump.
But even Rove admitted on reflection that whole scene on the USS Abraham Lincoln was a mistake.
But not Preznit "Me No Make Mistake".
And there is more than just the "Mission Accomplished" error. The statement on Falluja is also really a non-admission of two mistakes in one. Bush ordered troops to hit Falluja hard back in April, and the pull out only reflected the realities of the first error, as opposed to the second.
The non-denial on the swift boats...just typical non-plain speaking from the man the press continues to laughably claim has that as his strength.