U.S. President George Bush defended his record in office and wished his
successor well as he went before reporters for a farewell news
At times nostalgic, at
times defensive, Mr. Bush talked about the issues he faced as president and the
challenges that lie before Barack Obama saying, "I genuinely mean what I say - I
wish him all the very best."
He said preventing another terrorist attack
will be the biggest challenge facing the new chief executive.
urgent threat that he will have to deal with, and other presidents after him
will have to deal with, is an attack on our homeland," Mr. Bush said.
president was asked about his 2002 State of the Union address, when he first
referred to an Axis of Evil - Iran, North Korea and Iraq.
He said Iran
remains dangerous and North Korea is still a problem. But he pointed to progress
in Iraq, noting that his decision to send in extra U.S. forces helped turn the
tide of the war. He acknowledged the young Iraqi democracy is still
"The question is, in the long run, will this democracy survive
and that is going to be the challenge for future presidents," Mr. Bush
Mr. Bush also defended his policy in the Middle East. He was asked
if he thought the Israeli assault on Gaza might end by Inauguration Day. He did
not answer directly, but he said Hamas militants must stop rocket attacks from
Gaza into Israel.
"There will not be a sustainable cease-fire if they
continue firing rockets," Mr. Bush said. "I happen to believe the choice is
Hamas's to make."
Mr. Bush said he is not bothered by criticism of his
policies, and he strongly denied the notion that America's credibility around
the world has been damaged under his watch.
He also disputed accusations
that he has been a poor steward of the nation's economy.
inherited a recession and I am ending on a recession," said Mr. Bush. "In the
meantime, there were 52 months of uninterrupted job growth."
Bush said he has been discussing the economic situation with the
president-elect. He said he is looking forward to Inauguration Day, noting he
will have a front row seat for history as the nation's first African-American
president takes the oath of office.
"He will get sworn in, and they will
have the lunch and all the deal up there on Capitol Hill, and then he will come
back and go through the inauguration (the inaugural parade), and then he will
walk into the Oval Office, and there will be a moment when the responsibilities
of the president land squarely on his shoulders," said Mr. Bush.
keeping with tradition, President Bush will leave the Capitol immediately after
the swearing-in ceremony. He will board a helicopter to the side of the
inaugural platform and begin his journey back home to the state of Texas.