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At a Presidency’s End, Reflections on the Bush Legacy

President George W. Bush gave his final press conference Monday, admitting to some mistakes while defending his actions on national security and the economy. Analysts look back on Mr. Bush's eight years in office.

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    And we get four takes now on President Bush's eight years in office.

    They come from Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress — he's also co-author of the book "The Emerging Democratic Majority"; Byron York, White House correspondent for The National Review; Michael Gerson, columnist for The Washington Post — he served as President Bush's chief speechwriter from 2001 to 2006; and Trudy Rubin, foreign affairs columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Thank you all for being with us.

    It was quite a remarkable news conference.

    Trudy Rubin, to you first. What struck you about what President Bush had to say today?

  • TRUDY RUBIN, The Philadelphia Inquirer:

    What fascinated me was the way he framed Iraq, talking about disappointments when it came to not finding WMD and Abu Ghraib, but then really not talking about mistakes, and focusing on the fact that the surge has brought results.

    What interested me is that, looking back, he didn't look at all at what had caused the awful problems from which he was rescued by a strategy put forward by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. He didn't look at the appointment of Donald Rumsfeld, what was done during that period that led to the catastrophe. In fact, he said that everything was going well.

    And I don't think that history will judge it that way. He also didn't look at the repercussions on the region which president-elect Obama will have to deal with, which include increased power for Iran, increased power for Islamist parties, a discrediting in many quarters of liberal democracy, and a lowered chance for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that would lead to a two-state solution.


    Byron York, listening to the same thing, did you take away the same impressions?

  • BYRON YORK, White House Correspondent, The National Review:

    Well, the one question that Bush will not answer is, did you make a mistake in invading Iraq? He has said it over and over that you don't get a do-over.

    And I have asked him that question. Many people have asked him that question in various ways. And he simply — that's the one place he won't go. So, for him to say that not finding WMD was a disappointment, disappointment is as far as he's going to go.

    He actually did, I think, talk about a number of other — he actually characterized some things as mistakes, "Mission Accomplished" as a mistake, which he has suggested before. He — he wouldn't go very far on Katrina. But he said that bringing up Social Security and pushing it so hard in 2005 was a mistake, which I guess, if he had done that — he wanted to bring up immigration instead, which would have allowed him to divide the Republican Party a year earlier than he actually did.

    But the one place he is not going to go, and I think ever, is the invasion of Iraq.

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