- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 15, 2009


President Bush, in his farewell address Thursday evening, will ask the nation to understand that he always acted in their best interest and he hails his successor’s impending inauguration as a “moment of hope.”

“I am filled with gratitude. I thank the American people for the trust you have given me,” Mr. Bush will say, according to excerpts of the presidents speech released Thursday afternoon by the White House.

Mr. Bush’s speech will be nationally televised at 8:01 p.m. Eastern Time from the White House East Room. He will speak to a small audience of about 45 people, including ordinary citizens representing the policies he is most proud of.

The excerpts show a speech that looks back on his eight years in office and attempts to explain all of his most controversial decisions through the prism of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11. But I never did,” he’ll say.

The president plans to say that though there is “legitimate debate” about his most hotly debated decisions, such as the invasion of Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, warrantless surveillance of Americans, and harsh interrogation techniques some call torture, “there can be little debate about the results.”

“America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil.”

And the president, in his last planned public remarks, will show more deference to his critics than perhaps at any point in his presidency.

“Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks. There are things I would do differently if given the chance,” he’ll say. “Yet I have always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right.”

Mr. Bush, who has suffered from the lowest approval ratings of any president in the modern era, will make something of a plea to those who have disagreed with him.

“You may not agree with some tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions,” he’ll say.

But as for his successor, President-elect Barack Obama, Mr. Bush has nothing but praise.

“Five days from now, the world will witness the vitality of American democracy,” Mr. Bush plans to say of Mr. Obama’s inauguration Tuesday.

“Standing on the steps of the Capitol will be a man whose story reflects the enduring promise of our land. This is a moment of hope and pride for our whole nation.”

Mr. Bush, however, will implore the nation to “resist complacency” in the fight against international terrorism.

The president will also point to some of his guests in the audience to highlight his successes in office.

Among the presidents guests are a recipient of health care under the presidents aid package to Africa to fight HIV/AIDS, a retired firefighter from New York, the founder of Teach for America, the principal of a New Orleans charter school, and others.

“I think the president wanted to be with people for his farewell address,” said Ed Gillespie, Mr. Bushs counselor.

But Mr. Gillespie said that the idea of going to speak to members of Congress at the Capitol, like some other presidents have done, was never seriously discussed.

“This seemed to be a very comfortable way by which to do this,” Mr. Gillespie said of the decided upon format.

Mr. Gillespie said that the president also wanted to “reflect on his time in office” during the 13-minute speech.

“You go through a lot together, and the president, I think, is thinking of all that we’ve been through and all the people who’ve been through it with him,” he said.

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