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Bush defends his record for farewell address

 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, left, presents President George W. Bush with a memento displaying the flags of European nations that entered NAT...
 President George W. Bush visits the State Department in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009, for a farewell ceremony with diplomats and Secretary of ...
 Graphic shows key events and approval ratings for President Bush from 2001 to 2008; 3 c x 3 1/4 in; 146 mm x 82.55 mm

Bush Foreign Policy

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, left, presents President George W. Bush with a memento displaying the flags of European nations that entered NAT...

Bush Foreign Policy

President George W. Bush visits the State Department in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009, for a farewell ceremony with diplomats and Secretary of ...

BUSH APPROVAL

Graphic shows key events and approval ratings for President Bush from 2001 to 2008; 3 c x 3 1/4 in; 146 mm x 82.55 mm

President George W. Bush on Thursday staunchly defended his record at home and abroad, insisting he had kept America safe since the September 11 attacks as he mounted a farewell bid to polish his troubled legacy.

"There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions. But there can be little debate about the results," the Republican president said in excerpts of his final televised address to be delivered five days before handing over the presidency to Democrat Barack Obama.

"America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil," he added.

Some of Bush's actions after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, such as establishing a detention center for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo and approving harsh interrogation methods that human rights groups said amounted to torture, severely damaged America's image abroad. Obama has vowed to close the facility.

With the clock ticking down on a presidency many historians are already ranking among the worst ever, Bush and his aides used his last day of public events before Inauguration Day to try to put a positive spin on his two terms in office.

Even as he focused on what he sees as his administration's successes, Bush was preparing to leave Obama with unfinished wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a bitter conflict in the Gaza Strip and a U.S. economy deep in recession.

He repeated his warning that the gravest challenge facing his successor is the threat of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

There was no reference in Bush's prepared remarks to the battered economy, which polls show tops Americans' concerns. Obama will inherit the worst financial crisis in 80 years, a meltdown that has sent shockwaves across the globe.

Farewell speeches are a ritual for departing U.S. leaders, but the stakes are especially high for Bush, who will step down with one of the lowest public approval ratings of any president in modern times -- in the mid-20 percent range.

In a final ceremony at the State Department earlier on Thursday, Bush defended his foreign policy record -- from the unpopular war in Iraq to nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. "We have made the world freer," he said.

The Iraq war, launched without U.N. authorization in 2003, undercut U.S. credibility abroad and contributed to a resounding victory by Obama against John McCain, the nominee of Bush's Republican Party, in the November election.

Bush also made clear he saw his failed effort to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians in his final year as not completely in vain, despite a 3-week-old Israel-Hamas war in Gaza with no end in sight.

Bush also lauded his administration's handling of Iran and North Korea, both of which have faced U.S.-led campaigns against their nuclear programs.

"We worked in a multilateral fashion to deal with issues like Iran and North Korea," he said of his efforts to isolate two of the countries he once branded part of an "axis of evil." Obama has said he would pursue direct diplomacy with foes.

In thanking U.S. diplomats for their work overseas, Bush also alluded to Afghanistan, where the Taliban is resurgent seven years after being ousted by U.S.-led forces. Critics say he neglected the conflict because he was distracted by Iraq.


Updated : 2021-08-05 16:56 GMT+08:00