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Bush's Farewell Address Recalls Tough Decisions

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne. Last night, President Bush gave his farewell address from the East Room of the White House. Although he leaves office with very low approval ratings and a dismal economy, the president also claimed successes. NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports.

MARA LIASSON: The speech was George W. Bush's last chance to define his presidency on his own terms. Although the early verdict on his legacy is a poor one, President Bush delivered his own scorecard last night, and it included a government transformed to better fight terrorism, Afghanistan no longer ruled by the Taliban and the situation in Iraq heading towards stability.

(Soundbite of speech)

President GEORGE W. BUSH: There's legitimate debate about many of these decisions, but there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil.

LIASSON: The president claimed a legacy in domestic affairs as well, pointing out that after his eight years in office, every taxpayer pays lower income taxes, and the Supreme Court includes Samuel Alito and John Roberts. He even cited his handling of the economic crisis.

Pres. BUSH: When challenges to our prosperity emerged, we rose to meet them. Facing the prospect of a financial collapse, we took decisive measures to safeguard our economy. These are very tough times for hardworking families, but the toll would be far worse if we had not acted.

LIASSON: And like other presidents before him, Mr. Bush had some parting words of warning.

Pres. BUSH: In the face of threats from abroad, it can be tempting to seek comfort by turning inward. But we much reject isolationism and its companion, protectionism. Retreating behind our borders would only invite danger.

LIASSON: Although the president has admitted the result of the 2008 election was in part a repudiation of him, he can count on the incoming president to build on much of what he's done without completely reversing course in foreign policy and even in dealing with the financial meltdown. And Mr. Bush had kind words for his successor, who will be sworn in on Tuesday.

Pres. BUSH: Standing on the steps of the Capitol will be a man whose history reflects the enduring promise of our land. This is a moment of hope and pride for our whole nation, and I join all Americans in offering best wishes to President-elect Obama, his wife Michelle and their two beautiful girls.

LIASSON: The speech was President Bush's last scheduled public event before he sits in the front row at Barack Obama's inauguration and then welcomes the new president and first lady on the portico of the White House. Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Mara Liasson
Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.