During the latest stop in his book tour Thursday, former President George W. Bush told NBC’s Jay Leno that he regretted standing in front of the “Mission Accomplished” banner, not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and flying over New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
The Tonight Show host opened the interview by thanking Bush for a decade worth of opening monologue jokes.
“Thank you for all the material!” Leno said to Bush. “Does any of that bother you?”
“You know, I hate to tell you — I don’t want to hurt your feelings — but I was asleep,” Bush replied.
The two went on to discuss Bush’s new book Decision Points.
The loudest applause came after Bush told the audience, “I don’t think it’s good for the country to have a former president criticizing his successor.”
Leno played Bush several clips of the more embarrassing moments in his presidency. Of an funny incident where Bush encountered a stuck door at a press conference in China, the former president said, “That’s the definition of a man without an exit strategy.”
The interview turned serious during the third segment when Leno asked Bush about the seven minutes that he sat in a classroom while America was under attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I had been in enough crises as the governor of Texas. I knew that if you were the head of an organization, you should not create in sense of panic. In other words, if you are ever in a crisis and people are counting on you, you ought to project calm,” Bush said.
Leno asked Bush what his biggest disappointment was. “Not bringing Osama to justice” was Bush’s first regret.
Not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was another. “Although, I would remind people — and I do in this book — that he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction.”
“There was a lot of disappointments as president,” he said.
“There are some things I would like to do over,” Bush continued. “I wouldn’t be standing in front of ‘Mission Accomplished‘ sign on an aircraft carrier.”
USA Today reported that the original “Mission Accomplished” banner will be hung in Bush’s presidential library.
“I wouldn’t fly over Katrina in an airplane and have my picture released from 10,000 feet above the damage.”
“I probably would have been a little less blunt in some of my language. ‘Dead or alive,’ perhaps,” Bush said.
This video is from NBC’s The Tonight Show, broadcast Nov. 18, 2010.