updated 1/16/2007 5:37:42 PM ET 2007-01-16T22:37:42

President Bush said Tuesday the chaotic execution of Saddam Hussein looked like “kind of a revenge killing” and showed that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “has still got some maturation to do.”

In his toughest assessment yet, Bush criticized the circumstances of Saddam’s hanging and the execution of two top aides, including Saddam’s half-brother.

“I was disappointed and felt like they fumbled the — particularly the Saddam Hussein execution,” the president said in an interview with PBS’s Jim Lehrer.

A cell phone video of the Dec. 30 hanging of Saddam showed the deposed Iraqi leader being taunted as he stood on the gallows with a noose around his neck. An official video of the execution of Saddam’s half-brother showed that the hangman’s noose decapitated him.

Bush said he had expressed disappointment to al-Maliki about the way Saddam’s execution was handled.

“The message is that it’s a confusing message,” the president said. “It basically says to people, ‘Look, you conducted a trial and gave Saddam justice that he didn’t give to others. But then, when it came to execute him, it looked like it was kind of a revenge killing.’ And it sent a mixed signal to the American people and the people around the world.

“And it just goes to show that this is a government that has still got some maturation to do,” Bush said in the interview, to be telecast Tuesday evening on PBS’s “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.”

Bush response to pollsters
Polls show that Americans are overwhelmingly unhappy with Bush’s Iraq policy. Seventy percent oppose sending more troops to Iraq, as he intends to do, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll last week

Bush said if a pollster asked for his opinion about Iraq, “I would be one of those that said, ‘No, I don’t approve of what’s taking place in Iraq.”’

The president, who announced what he said was a new strategy last week, said that keeping his same policies in place in the war could lead to “a slow failure,” while withdrawing from Iraq, as some critics suggest, would result in an “expedited failure.”

“I am frustrated with the progress,” he said. “A year ago, I felt pretty good about the situation. I felt like we were achieving our objective, which is a country that can govern, sustain and defend itself. No question, 2006 was a lousy year for Iraq.”

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