In his farewell address, President George W. Bush wished his successor well, defended his record, admitted he would do some things differently, warned of terrorist dangers, and looked to the future with optimism.
His 13 minute talk from the White House East Room was, “a final opportunity to share some thoughts on the journey we have traveled together and the future of our nation,” Mr. Bush said.
Administration officials said the talk was the last time Mr. Bush would appear in public before greeting Barack Obama on the North Portico of the White House Tuesday morning for their trip together to the Capitol for Obama’s inauguration.
Thursday evening’s address was the final element in a series of speeches and interviews by Bush framing the administration’s accomplishments and rebutting its critics as the end of his term drew near. He leaves office with approval ratings not seen since the days of Richard Nixon. In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, President Bush had a 27 percent approval rating. Some 67 percent of those polled disapproved of his conduct of the office.
Early in the talk, Bush referred to his first speech to the nation from the White House, following September 11, 2001. He argued that while many Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11, “I never did.” He added, “I vowed to do everything in my power to keep us safe.”
He listed a variety of steps including military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, starting the Department of Homeland Security, and a transformation of the FBI and the intelligence community. “There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions. But there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil,” Bush said.
No, Chimpy, you don’t get to choose when the clock starts. The worst terrorist attack on American soil occurred on your watch! No matter what the people who are allowed in your bubble say, you were and are and will always be an abject failure. Good riddance.
From Tom Shales at The Washington Post (read the whole thing, kids):
Only his remaining ardent supporters would probably classify last night’s TV appearance by President Bush as reality television. On the other hand, detractors — a sizable group, judging by popularity polls — would likely say George W. Bush’s farewell to the nation, delivered from the East Room of the White House, had the aura of delusion and denial.
America is suffering what is commonly being called the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression, for example. Yet in Bush’s speech, that crisis was euphemized into “challenges to our prosperity,” as Bush took credit for bold steps to remedy the situation.
Then there’s Bush’s view of Afghanistan. He included the implication that America’s presence there helped it go from a sexist to a feminist state.
And when Bush paid tribute to “those who night and day” do their utmost to keep the country safe from terrorists’ acts, he implicitly included himself. Others returned to their pre-9/11 lives after the infamous attack, Bush said, “but I never did.” And on this went.
Bush began his speech in Oscar-acceptance style, thanking those who contributed to his presidency, first and foremost on the list being Vice President Cheney. Then came Laura Bush, Bush’s daughters and — though surprisingly not in attendance (unless cameras couldn’t find them) — Bush’s parents.
After the speech, during biting analysis on the lively MSNBC cable channel, Chris Matthews went after Bush’s philosophy with a vengeance, calling it “scary” and less faith-based than Cheney-based — an adherence by the president, Matthews said, to the thinking of so-called neoconservatives that led to catastrophe in the Mideast, not glory. Matthews called Bush’s speech “a score card that only he could design, and of course he did well on it.”
Keith Olbermann, anchor of MSNBC’s “Countdown,” asked rhetorically whether “the only thing missing” from Bush’s presentation “was another ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner,” a reference to the banner that flew on an aircraft carrier from which Bush spoke early in the Iraq war that he championed.
Bush ended his speech with becoming eloquence, telling viewers it had been “the privilege of a lifetime to serve as your president” before his benediction: “And so my fellow Americans, for the last time, good night. May God bless this house and our next president, and may God bless you and our wonderful country.”
Bush’s farewell address may or may not have been his best speech, but it will probably prove among his most popular — if only because it was his last.