Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bush's Farewell: Touching but short; no surprises

When President Dwight David Eisenhower left office, his farewell address to the nation was agonizingly prophetic: beware the military industrial complex in America.

And for most of the decade of the 1960s, Americans died in woeful numbers in a place called Vietnam.

By the time it was over, more than 58,000 of our best and brightest citizens had died and so many more had their lives ruined. The heroism over there was just as great in World War II. Yet this nation compounded the mistake of that war by treating its veterans with no respect.

We cannot do enough to apologize to these men and women and their families.

Tonight, President George W. Bush -- who I had the honor to interview twice in the White House -- delivered his farewell to the nation after two terms in office.

His speech to an audience in the East Room did not deliver any surprises or great visions of the future, good or bad.

He touched first on the tragedy of 911 and his poor choice(my words) of taking the battle on terrorism into Iraq, where there were no weapons of mass destruction. It is good to bring freedom to people. But that was not the purpose given to the people of this nation to go over there.

Bush unfortunately cited the bailout of Wall Street and America's large banks as an achievement. It has been a failure. The credit markets remain locked. And Wall Street continues to drop in keeping with rising layoffs.

As he claimed tonight, Bush did make some hard decisions. And the nation has not been attacked again during his watch. That is an accomplishment worth noting. And Bush said another terrorist attack remains the greatest threat to this nation.

"We must never let down our guard," he said.

But the president also encouraged America to reach out across the world, promoting liberty. Yes, we can promote it. But not at the cost of more than 4,000 American lives and the loss of more than 100,000 civilians and an infrastructure still lagging behind standards before we bombed the nation.

And we still do not know if Iran will simply walk in and take over after our troops leave the land they secured with blood.

Bush noted the hope of better days for America. because of the character of its people.

"America is a young country, full of vitality. Even in the toughest times, we lift our eyes to the bright horizons ahead."

"It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as your president. Everyday, I have been uplifted by the good of our people."

Good luck, Mr. President. Your time in Washington was unprecedented for the unique challenges presented to you. The passage and enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act will be your greatest legacy. And I am afraid, after all our troops are home, that Iraq will be your greatest failure.

Still, Godspeed and rest in your life as a citizen, sir. Your country thanks you.

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