When George W. Bush gave a 2003 speech on an aircraft carrier in front of a banner that read "Mission Accomplished," the only way it could have been more American would have been if he had shot a communist after every sentence. But as time passed and Iraq grew more violent, what was supposed to be the president's crowning moment of badassery instead became a symbol of hubris and disdain over a supposedly easy conflict turning into a bigger quagmire than that game of Civilization you just can't get unstuck in.
But here's the thing: That banner wasn't Bush's idea. The Navy says they asked the White House to make the banner to celebrate the aircraft carrier's record-breaking deployment length. Other explanations have been batted around, but the general consensus seems to be that someone thought it would be cool to let the carrier crew celebrate their hard work, and then no one bothered to think through the optics, because giant banners are fun.
Juan E. Diaz/U.S. Navy
"Told you we should have gone with 'Git-R-Done.'"
That makes sense when you read the transcript of the speech, which includes things like "We have difficult work to do in Iraq" and "Our mission continues." In fact, Donald Rumsfeld personally kept the words "mission accomplished" out of the speech, because he'd seen Baghdad and knew it wasn't. Considering Iraq's current state, landing in a fighter plane and giving an upbeat speech still looks bad, but it wasn't the completely myopic clusterfuck we all remember it as. Political scandals are only ever allowed to be the greatest blunders ever or completely unjustifiable attacks, and in this case we settled on the former.