In Farewell Speech, Bush Says He Kept Nation Safe

As Americans get ready to turn the page on George W. Bush, the president offered his own first draft of history, saying that while his policies have been unpopular there can be little debate about the results: "America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil."

In a farewell address to the nation Thursday night, Bush harkened back to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, a time when the public rallied around him and his approval ratings soared.

"As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11," Bush said in a prime-time address from the East Room of the White House. "But I never did."

Leaving office with the highest disapproval rating since Richard Nixon, Bush said, "You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made, but I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions."

A bookend to eight years indelibly marked by terrorism, two wars and recessions, the 13-minute speech was Bush's last opportunity to defend his record before leaving office on Tuesday. His next scheduled public appearance will be greeting President-elect Barack Obama on Inauguration Day.

Seemingly upbeat and confident, Bush called the inauguration of Obama, the first black president, a "moment of hope and pride" for America.

The nation's 43rd president remained defiant about his own record. He claimed foreign policy successes in Iraq and Afghanistan while crediting his administration for improving public schools, creating a new Medicare prescription drug benefit and finding more money for veterans. With the United States facing the worst financial crisis in generations — under his watch — Bush said his White House took "decisive measures" to safeguard the economy.

"Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks," Bush said. "And there are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I have always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right."

Bravado gave way to nostalgia as soon as Bush left the podium. He walked alone down the red-carpeted hallway toward the residence. Then he returned to the room — full of about 200 Cabinet secretaries and allies, advisers and friends — still on their feet, cheering. Bush and first lady Laura Bush greeted the guests. Across the room, their daughter, Barbara, wiped tears away with both hands. Her twin sister, Jenna Hager, touched her on her shoulder as their father said his goodbye.

Bush's presidency began with the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil and ends with the worst economic collapse since the 1930s.

"These are very tough times for hardworking families, but the toll would be far worse if we had not acted," he said. "All Americans are in this together. And together, with determination and hard work, we will restore our economy to the path of growth."

On national security, he highlighted his administration's efforts to equip the nation with new tools to monitor terrorists, freeze their assets and foil their plots. But he also acknowledged some of his controversial policies, including the terrorist surveillance program and harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists.

While there has not been another attack on U.S. soil, the number of terrorist acts around the world has increased, Iran has gained influence in the Mideast, North Korea still hasn't verifiably declared its nuclear work, anti-Americanism abroad has emboldened extremists' recruitment efforts and a safe haven for terrorists remains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Bush said he leaves with a "thankful heart." He expressed gratitude to his family. "Above all, I thank the American people for the trust you have given me."

That trust, however, has eroded over the years. His approval rating soared to 90 percent after the Sept. 11 attacks, but he's leaving office as a new Gallup Poll puts it at 34 percent. That's up from 25 percent just before the November elections, reflecting a bump that presidents commonly get just before they leave office.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Tad Location: Jamesville on Jan 26, 2009 at 05:54 PM
    Anonymous, the Refluter don't know.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 25, 2009 at 09:07 PM
    Isn't Jehovah another word for God? So that would be like saying, God God? Just wondering
  • by Blog Refuter Location: NC on Jan 24, 2009 at 05:07 PM
    No one can dispute the fact that there have been no attacks since 9-11. Everyone should thank GOD JEHOVAH for that.
  • by alex Location: vanceboro on Jan 24, 2009 at 12:42 PM
    all of you pathetic haters cant dispute the fact there have been no attacks since 9-11. you should thank bush for that
  • by OK Location: NC on Jan 23, 2009 at 11:41 PM
    Real American Conservative on Jan 18, 2009 at 03:54 PM I agree with your post. I never thought that over spending or government handouts would be a concern with a republican in office. I think people should know what it means to be a democrat or a republican before they are allowed to register with a party. In high school I thought I was a republican. I had a teacher who mislead me. When I read for myself I was able to figure out on my own which party values I could relate to more.
  • by Coach M Location: Rocky Mount on Jan 22, 2009 at 01:23 AM
    Keith: I registered as a Democrate in 1983 when I turned 18. I always voted for the Candidate and not the party. When Clinton was in his second term I was ashamed to be associated with the party as they continued to take up for him as if he did nothing wrong. I switched to the Republican party and still vote for the candidate and not the party. I voted for President Obama and am not afraid nor ashamed to admit it. Just as I have stated on here before all my Presidential choices. I do not understand someone not wanting to say whom they voted for. If you have a good reason for voting for someone, why be afraid to admit it when asked? I doubt I am the only Republican that voted for President Obama just I'm sure that not all democrats voted for President Obama. Oh, and the people that know me, know who Coach M is.
  • by Keith on Jan 19, 2009 at 09:05 AM
    Blake, I for one come on here to see just how long it is going to take the Republicans to stop complaining because they lost the election. What no one understands is that the Obama won the election fair and square. They continue to backbit and then you have the other side biting back. This is a never ending thing that grows bigger with time. I think a lot of people use screen names because they don't want family and friends to know how malicious in mind and deed they are.
  • by Blake S. Location: Greenville on Jan 19, 2009 at 07:17 AM
    I've given my measley $0.02 woth already and I'll leave it at that. This will have nothing to do with Bush at all. This is just a simple statement to ANYONE on feels that they can stand so tall behind "screen names" and bash, criticize, and downgrade anyone and everyone who doesnt have the same feelings as you on the topic. GET OVER IT! If you were truly interested in letting them know you wouldn't have to hide behind your "screen names". Why does everything have to turn racial. IT'S PITIFUL!
  • by just blame bush on Jan 18, 2009 at 09:01 PM
    given the events of his presidency,im sure he made the choices he thought were best. had there been a democrat in office, im sure instead of being angry for being at war, half the country would be angry that we did not go to war (or maybe we would be angry at the democratic president who put us in a war). his presidency was not defined by the choices he made for america, but the choices he had to make due to the circumstances that landed on his presidential plate. i think that whether bush was president or not, people would still feel the way they do about america, and we would still be disrespected overseas. the poor guy is a scapegoat for everything that ever went wrong with the country, and because he isnt an amazing speaker, people assumed he was stupid. the problems that are going on in america are not due to bush. they are due to greedy people. but if it makes you feel better, go ahead and blame him. hope obamas up to saving the world.
  • by robert Location: newport on Jan 18, 2009 at 05:11 PM
    MY Fellow Americans...Now is the time to support your team. We have a new quarterback and a different front line. With out the support of you fans, the team will surely loose. I am looking to the future and am willing to forget the past. That is behind us and there is nothing we can do about it now. The blessings will be upon us if we unite and become a good United States Citizen. Look for the good in mankind, and try to forget the errors of humans...
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