The president’s USS Lincoln speech came under scrutiny almost immediately. Democrats claimed the White House wasted taxpayer dollars and sailors’ time on a publicity stunt.
Despite initial claims that the ship was too far out to sea for a helicopter landing, forcing the president to use a jet, the Lincoln was actually within helicopter range when Mr. Bush arrived.
The jet flight was much more dramatic than a helicopter arrival would have been, as the president took the control stick for part of the flight and emerged on deck wearing a flight suit and helmet.
In addition, Pentagon officials told the Washington Post that after the president’s speech, the Lincoln waited offshore for hours while he slept rather than heading into port after its 10-month voyage.
At the time, it appeared that every detail of the day’s events had been carefully planned, including the president’s arrival in the co-pilot’s seat of a Navy S-3B Viking after making two flybys of the carrier.
The exterior of the four-seat S-3B Viking was marked with “Navy 1” and “George W. Bush Commander in Chief.”
The Banner:George W. Bush, October 28, 2003
The “Mission Accomplished” sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed some how to some ingenious advance man from my staff — they weren’t that ingenious, by the way.
The Banner:The Real Story
“I wish the banner was not up there,” said White House top political adviser Karl Rove in April, while speaking with the editorial board of The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. “I’ll acknowledge the fact that it has become one of those convenient symbols.”
For months, the Bush administration denied that it was responsible for the banner, blaming the aircraft carrier crew itself. Since then, White House officials have acknowledged it was their idea.
“We put it up. We made the sign,” [former White House Press Secretary Ari] Fleischer said. “But I think it accurately summed up where we were at the time, mission accomplished… the mission was to topple Saddam Hussein.