Bush Farewell Speech Analyzed

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President Bush has delivered his farewell speech to the nation. In his address, the president said he had acted in the nation's best interests.


Tonight President Bush gave his farewell address to the country. Mr. Bush spoke in front of a live audience from the East Room of the White House. Although he leaves office with a very low approval rating and a dismal economy, tonight the president claimed some successes, and he spoke about guiding principles for the future.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: If America does not lead the cause of freedom, that cause will not be led as we address these challenges and others we cannot foresee tonight. America must maintain our moral clarity. I have often spoken to you about good and evil. And this has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two, there can be no compromise.

BLOCK: NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins me now. And Mara, the message from the president today - tonight a lot of hope and pride, also resilience, and some caution for the future.

MARA LIASSON: Yes, he gave himself his own report card and he gave himself some pretty good grades. You know, he talked about seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil. He talked about how the nation's tools to fight terrorism have been transformed. The military, the intelligence community, and the FBI, he seems pretty confident that that kind of transformation is not going to be undone or changed by his successor.

He talked about Iraq going from a brutal dictatorship now to a sworn friend of the United States. Every taxpayer, he says, pays lower income taxes. Sam Alito and John Roberts are on the Supreme Court. And he said even with the economic crisis, he said that facing the prospect of a financial collapse, we took decisive measures to safeguard the economy, and it would have been worse if we had not acted. So although there is obviously a big debate about his view about all of those achievements, that's how he sees his presidency.

BLOCK: And there is a longstanding tradition of the farewell address. Is this basically legacy burnishing or...

LIASSON: Well, sure.

BLOCK: For somebody who had such an unpopular presidency.

LIASSON: Well, sure. I mean, he's given a flurry of press conferences and interviews. He's been talking a lot in these final days. And I think this address and all those other conversations were really an attempt by President Bush to define his presidency on his own terms with no filter. The media filter for him has been pretty harsh. I mean, people have been rendering some pretty negative judgments about his two terms, and this is a chance for him to give a different view of the record. And of course as he said many times, history will take quite a long time before the final verdict on his presidency is in.

BLOCK: Yeah. Mara, in the past, presidents have used this opportunity to warn the nation about dangers they saw on the horizon with President Eisenhower, he was warning about the military industrial complex in his farewell. Similar - a different kind of warning, but also a caution from President Bush tonight.

LIASSON: Yes. President Bush warned about isolationism and what he called its companion, protectionism. He said retreating behind our borders would only invite danger. He said if America does not lead the cause of freedom, that cause will not be led. So that was the warning that he left the country with.

BLOCK: OK, NPR's Mara Liasson, thanks for joining us.

LIASSON: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: And let's go out on the end of the president's address from his farewell speech to the nation tonight.

President BUSH: It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as your president. There have been good days and tough days. But every day I have been inspired by the brightness of our country and uplifted by the goodness of our people. I have been blessed to represent this nation we love, and I will always be honored to carry a title that means more to me than any other - citizen of the United States of America. And so my fellow Americans, for the final time, goodnight. May God bless this house and our next president. And may God bless you and our wonderful country. Thank you.

(Soundbite of applause)

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