No Big Shifts in the Wind for Bush's 'Legacy'

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President Bush is entering his final year in office, the year when many past presidents have changed some long-standing positions as they think about their legacy. NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr wonders about President Bush's approach.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

DANIEL SCHORR: When a president enters his last year in office, he may begin to think of his legacy and change some longstanding position.

HANSEN: NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: The soldier-president Dwight Eisenhower left office with a blast against what he called the military industrial complex.

Lyndon Johnson, announcing he would not run again, spent some of his last months in office trying to find a way out of the Vietnam War.

Cold warrior Ronald Reagan, encouraged by his wife, abandoned his evil empire rhetoric and clasped hands with Mikhail Gorbachev at one point, proposing that both sides scrap their nuclear weapons.

So now, President Bush embarks on his last year in office, and the question arises: What may he change as he contemplates his place in history? We know he's planning a lot of foreign travel starting on January 8th with an eight-day trip to Israel, the West Bank, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates.

He will presumably try to breathe some life into the faltering post-Annapolis effort for an Arab-Israeli peace agreement. If he fails, he can at least claim credit for trying.

Brokering a peace treaty would make a handsome legacy trophy for any president. But not since President Carter and the Camp David treaty between Israel and Egypt has any president actually succeeded in bridging the gap between two warring parties.

For the rest, I cannot sense any policy changes in the wind. On the Iraq war, President Bush seems to live in a bubble of isolation that divides the world into patriots and nonbelievers. He seems at peace with himself on this less and compassionate, deficit-induced restraints on social spending.

On a variety of issues, the waterboarding to stem cell research, he shows no sign of any big shift.

Perhaps, we will know what's happening until it suddenly happens. But it will be interesting to see what Mr. Bush will do as the word legacy looms over him.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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