Bush defends himself against a charge by a member of the Republican National Committee that he has behaved like a "socialist" because of his massive bailout spending. He says he still believes in less government spending, but when Henry Paulson, secretary of the U.S. Treasury, and Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, tell him that if he doesn't act, the result will be worse than the Great Depression, "you can sit there and say to yourself, 'well, I'm going to stick to principle and hope for the best, or I'm going to take the actions necessary to prevent the worst.'" He says the bigger deficit about which Americans should worry is the one he tried, but failed, to fix: Social Security and Medicare.
The president disagrees with his former secretary of state, Colin Powell, who has said Republicans should abandon the social issues, if they want to win again. "I have ... been a strong ... defender of the culture of life. And I believe that's an important part of our party's future. I will be the first to concede that laws change only after hearts change." And yet he clearly believes that a GOP committed to conservative social values can help change hearts and, thus, laws.
President Bush suggests that Barack Obama will soon find that he must shift some of his positions from campaign rhetoric, particularly on the Bush doctrine of pre-emption: "I think the new administration will take a sober look at the world in which we live and come to the conclusions necessary to protect the homeland."
Do attacks by Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid bother him? Reid last Sunday called Bush, "the worst president in history."
In the closest he comes to rebuking his critics, Bush says, "I believe there's a way to conduct ourselves in public life without resorting to name-calling. And ... so I won't. I tend to ignore that." He chalks up criticism to his "doing things" and having "an active agenda."
President-elect Obama has not asked him for advice, but Bush is "impressed by his demeanor and impressed by his love of his family. And I told him I'd be available after the presidency if he cared to ask my opinions. ... He's going to have to choose whose voices are most credible, as he sorts through these different issues that he'll face."
President Bush says he hasn't decided whether he will deliver a farewell address. He will, however, write a book. He regrets not tackling immigration reform before Social Security reform.
Saying he has been "strengthened by prayer" -- his own and those of others -- the president added, "...some days are happy, some days are not so happy, every day is joyous."
With that I leave America's greatest house, as will President Bush soon, to await the judgment of history. I suspect that judgment may be better than many now think.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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