For Bush and his staff, a season of 'the lasts'

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The countdown clocks that President George W. Bush's chief of staff distributed 990 days ago are still ticking; his advisers tallied their remaining time last week and calculated fewer than 300 hours to go. Cardboard cartons are stacked in the West Wing, as files are carefully catalogued for the archives. By Friday, the last official work day of the Bush White House, all but the most senior officials will have turned in their government-issued BlackBerrys and badges.

This is what Bush is calling the season of "the lasts." But while life inside the White House may be winding down, the legacy-building is gearing up.

The White House Web site features an extensive recitation of Bush's "highlights and accomplishments," including a document titled "100 Things Americans May Not Know About the Bush Administration Record." (First on the list: "Kept America Safe.")

The final days of any administration are laden with wistful moments and political spin. But historians say this is especially true of Bush, who is leaving office with approval ratings so low that his former political strategist, Karl Rove, recently appeared before a liberal audience in New York City to debate the proposition that "Bush 43 is the worst president in the last 50 years." ( Rove said Bush would most likely not have invaded Iraq had he known that there were no unconventional weapons there.)

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