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George Bush's farewell
Bush, his critics, and his admirers size up his presidency
 

What happened
President Bush held his final White House news conference on Monday, defending his record on fighting terrorism but confessing to several mistakes in what he called “the ultimate exit interview.” (The New York Times)

What the commentators said
“Bush's inability or unwillingness to admit his own failures is well known,” said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial, “but his pained efforts to address them Monday only made them seem more glaring.” The errors he admitted to were “few and grudging,” and he actually denied that his administration had diminished America’s moral standing abroad.

The man clearly has not been paying attention, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. Waterboarding? Abu Ghraib? Guantanamo? It will take years to repair the damage Bush has done, which is why “both President-elect Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, felt the need to promise to restore America's honor and standing in the world.”

Bush has clearly opened up a little about what went wrong during his eight years in office, said Rich Lowry in National Review online. For example, he said hanging a “Mission Accomplished” banner on the tower of the USS Abraham Lincoln was a mistake. But the mistakes that really counted came largely because he delegated too much—deferring to his generals, accommodating a GOP Congress, “not taking charge during Katrina”—instead of “taking a stronger hand.”

The postmortems on the presidency of George W. Bush are all “twaddle,” said Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard. Liberals insist he has weakened the country’s position in the world, and conservatives give him credit for “the surge that saved Iraq” but little else. Bush consistently did the right thing even when it wasn’t popular—junking the disastrous Kyoto treaty, enhancing terrorist interrogations, rebuilding presidential authority. “He deserves better.”

 

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