Bush says farewell to White House press corps

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President George W. Bush held what he called "the ultimate exit interview" on Monday, using the final news conference of his presidency to deliver a vigorous defense of "the decision I have made to protect the homeland" and a pointed warning to President-elect Barack Obama that, despite the turbulence in the economy, his most urgent priority must be protecting the United States against "an enemy that would like to attack America and Americans again."

The president confessed a litany of mistakes, cautioned Republicans to be inclusive and wondered aloud what it would feel like to make his wife, Laura, coffee at their ranch in Crawford, Texas, on the morning after Obama's inauguration.

"Clearly, putting a 'Mission Accomplished' on an aircraft carrier was a mistake," Bush began, referring to his speech in May 2003 from the deck of the Abraham Lincoln declaring that major combat operations in Iraq had ended. "It sent the wrong message. We were trying to say something differently, but nevertheless, it conveyed a different message. Obviously, some of my rhetoric has been a mistake."

The president has said repeatedly that he believes history will be the judge of his presidency, and he said so again Monday: "There's no such thing as short-term history. I don't think you can possibly get the full breadth of an administration until time has passed."

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