On a Farewell Tour of Sorts, Bush (Finally) Reflects on His Record

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George W. Bush is not generally prone to introspection. "I really do not feel comfortable in the role of analyzing myself," he once said.

But with only weeks left in his presidency, the self-analysis has begun. After a year of relentless criticism from both parties, the departing president has embarked on a valedictory tour, touting his record in television interviews and public appearances while admitting, with some hesitation, that things did not always go as planned.

Bush asserts success in combating AIDS in Africa, preventing new terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and snatching a measure of victory in Iraq. And in a speech on the Middle East yesterday, the president sketched out a strikingly optimistic portrait of a region that has embroiled the United States in war and conflict for the past eight years.

"The Middle East in 2008 is a freer, more hopeful and more promising place than it was in 2001," he said at the Saban Forum in Washington.

Bush has also been notably open in recent weeks about his low popularity, his reliance on religious faith and his keen desire to steal away from the limelight after Jan. 20. He has admitted to a few previously unacknowledged errors, telling one interviewer that he was "unprepared for war" when he entered office and that his "biggest regret" was the failure of intelligence leading up to the Iraq invasion.

Yet even those remarks underscore Bush's enduring confidence in the path he charted through two wars, a major natural disaster and a global economic meltdown. While conceding faulty intelligence before the Iraq war, he declines to say whether he would have acted differently. While saying he is "sorry" for the economic crisis, he says most of the problems began before he took office.

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