The Bush Legacy Debate Begins
With only eight days left in office, George W. Bush is looking back. And so is The Post.
All week, Post Investigations will examine the president's eight years in office, from the Iraq war to Katrina, from intelligence gathering after Sept. 11 to the financial meltdown. Expert opinion from The Post's Bob Woodward and Bart Gellman, along with relevant links to past coverage and commentary, will be included.
In many ways, the debate over Bush's legacy has already begun.
At a press conference today that Bush himself dubbed "the ultimate exit interview," he defended his policies on Iraq, intelligence gathering and domestic affairs as a "good, strong record."
"You know, presidents can try to avoid hard decisions and therefore avoid controversy," he said. "That's just not my nature."
At one point, responding to a question about why he had evoked such passionate criticism in some circles, Bush likened himself to a now-heralded past president -- Abraham Lincoln.
"I've been reading, you know, a lot about Abraham Lincoln during my presidency and there's some pretty harsh discord when it came to the 16th president, just like there's been harsh discord for the 43rd president," he said.
Woodward, who has written four books on the Bush presidency, noted a different comparison that the soon-to-be-ex commander-in-chief might be partial to.
"Ah, Bush of course hopes that (the Iraq war is) going to turn out well and there is an outside chance that it's possible and he'll be Harry Truman," Woodward said during a roundtable discussion on Bush's and Vice President Dick Cheney's legacies. "It's also possible that its not going to, and the preponderance of the evidence is that it may not turn out well."
Bush also made a point of acknowledging some of his professional failings during his eight years in office, namely his speech in 2003 aboard an aircraft carrier less than two months after the United States-led invasion of Iraq.
In that speech, Bush said "the United States and our allies have prevailed." He spoke under a "Mission Accomplished" banner. Insurgent attacks and U.S. troop deaths would later spike, sparking condemnation for the optimistic miscalculation.
"Clearly, putting 'Mission Accomplished' on an aircraft carrier was a mistake," Bush said. "It sent the wrong message."
Woodward noted that Bush had a "freedom agenda," and looked at the overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as an "opportunity."
"I think when he stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier with the well-remembered sign, 'Mission Accomplished,' he has that sense," Woodward said. He said the Bush people were thinking: "They've done it, they've really pulled something off that was going to be important."
By Derek Kravitz |
January 12, 2009; 2:55 PM ET
The Bush-Cheney Legacy
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