- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 15, 2009

President Bush will say goodbye to the nation and defend his legacy Thursday evening from the White House in a style unlike any other president before him.

Rather than speak directly into a sterile TV camera or to a hostile Congress, Mr. Bush will speak to a friendly audience at the White House, combining the past practices of former presidents to make a personalized fit.

Not all presidents have delivered farewell addresses, but those who have chosen to do so — at least in the age of TV — have either traveled to Congress for a final State of the Union-style speech or spoken to the nation directly from the White House, via a live televised address.

Mr. Bush is cutting what he doesn’t like and keeping what he does. He loves speaking to live audiences and engaging with responsive faces.

But the problem with a farewell address to Congress is that it’s full of Democrats who wouldn’t exactly provide the home-court environment. Plus, Mr. Bush already has said goodbye to congressional leaders during a White House lunch Wednesday.

So, Mr. Bush will speak in the White House East Room to invited guests. To make it more like a State of the Union, there will be a small group of guests similar to the ones invited to sit with the first lady in the president’s box.

Mr. Bush will “reflect on his time in office and the ways our country has changed these past eight years,” and also talk about “the greatest challenges facing the country, and on what it will take to meet them,” said White House press secretary Dana Perino.

The 10- to 15-minute speech will be broadcast live on major networks beginning at 8 p.m.

On Friday, Mr. Bush will have a “goodbye lunch” with senior White House staff and then depart in the afternoon for one last weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

“It is a place that they have thoroughly enjoyed. They love having their family there, they’ve spent a lot of special moments there,” Mrs. Perino said.