By the fall, however, it was clear that the mission had not entirely been accomplished. More American soldiers had been killed in seven months of occupation than had died in the initial invasion and Bush's approval rating, as measured by polls, fell from seventy one to fifty per cent.
On October 28th, Bush attended the tenth solo press conference of his presidency. Asked whether the "Mission Accomplished" banner was premature, Bush declared that it "was put up by the members of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished." It was not an idea from his staff, he said.
Some time later, the Administration admitted that the banner had in fact been approved, designed, produced, paid for, and delivered by the White House.
["I guess the next thing we're going to hear," General Wesley Clark rmarked, "is that the sailors told him to wear the flight suit and prance around on the aircraft carrier." Bush's blunder also provided ample fodder for comedians: "This week the federal government announced that the US economy grew by 7 percent in the 3rd quarter, the largest increase in almost 20 years," Conan O'Brien announced in October 2003. "The White House is already taking credit for it: today President Bush landed on an aircraft carrier, dressed as an accountant."]
[In his 2000 book Eyewitness to Power, David Gergen, who worked for Bill Clinton and for three Republican presidents, remarked, "In my experience over the past thirty years, every White House save one (the Gerald Ford White House) has on occasion willfully misled or lied to the press."]