Opponents criticized Bush's historic jet landing on the carrier as an overly theatrical and expensive stunt. For instance, they pointed to the fact that the carrier was well within range of Bush's helicopter, and that a jet landing was not needed. Bush's press secretary Ari Fleischer admitted that Bush "could have helicoptered, but the plan was already in place. Plus, he wanted to see a landing the way aviators see a landing." Bush was a passenger — not the pilot — of the plane. Unlike his father, who was a Navy pilot, George W. Bush was never trained to land on a carrier.
The banner stating "Mission Accomplished" was a focal point of controversy and criticism. Navy Commander and Pentagon spokesman Conrad Chun said the banner referred specifically to the aircraft carrier's 10-month deployment (which was the longest deployment of a carrier since the Vietnam War) and not the war itself, saying "It truly did signify a mission accomplished for the crew." It is noteworthy however that in the speech Bush said "in the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."
The banner came to symbolize the irony of Bush giving a victory speech only a few weeks after the beginning of a relatively long war. Many in the administration came to regret the slogan. Karl Rove later stated, "I wish the banner was not up there." In November 2008, Bush indicated that he regretted the use of the banner, stating in a CNN interview, "To some, it said, well, 'Bush thinks the war in Iraq is over,' when I didn't think that. It conveyed the wrong message." In January 2009, Bush said that "Clearly, putting 'Mission Accomplished' on an aircraft carrier was a mistake."