In a nostalgic final news conference this morning, President George W. Bush defended his record vigorously and at times sentimentally. He also admitted many mistakes, from the “Mission Accomplished” banner during a 2003 Iraq speech to the discovery the alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction he used to justify war didn’t exist. After starting what he called “the ultimate exit interview” with a lengthy and personalized “thank you” to the reporters in the room who have covered him during the eight years of his presidency, Bush showed anger at times when presented with some of the main criticisms of his time in office. He particularly became indignant when asked about America’s bruised image overseas. “I disagree with this assessment that, you know, that people view America in a dim light,” he said.
Bush said he realizes that some issues such as the prison for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have created controversy at home and around the world. But he defended his actions after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including approving tough interrogation methods for suspected terrorists and information-gathering efforts at home in the name of protecting the country.
With the Iraq war in its sixth year, he most aggressively defended his decisions on that issue, which will define his presidency like no other. There have been more than 4,000 U.S. deaths since the invasion and toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003.