Fri, January 16, 2009
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Bush's last speech puts his record in best light

2009-01-16 04:03:10 GMT2009-01-16 12:03:10 (Beijing Time)  SINA.com

President George W. Bush (R) reaches past former Attorney General John Ashcroft (4th L) to shake hands with his replacement, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (2nd L) after the president's final live television address to the nation from the East Room of the White House in Washington, the US, January 15, 2009. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

President George W. Bush, delivers his farewell address to the nation, from the East Room of the White House, defending his tenure and arguing that he followed his conscience and always acted in the best interests of the nation, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009, in Washington, the US. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

U.S. President George W. Bush walks from the podium in the White House East Room at the end of his prime time live television address to the nation in Washington January 15, 2009. (REUTERS/Jason Reed)

In his final speech to the nation, President George W. Bush took pride in his record at home and abroad, describing hopeful events and accomplishments. But what he left unsaid was significant too.

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Afghanistan:

Bush said: "Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored al-Qaida and stoned women in the streets to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school."

He did not say that the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan has forced the U.S. to rush as many as 30,000 more troops there, seeking to turn the tide in fighting that has seen al-Qaida-linked militants and the Taliban make a comeback after initial defeats in the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

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Iraq:

Bush said: "Iraq has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America to an Arab democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United States."

He did not mention that violence in Iraq still persists despite improved security, that Iraq remains gripped by hostility between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, that most Americans think the war was a mistake, and that weapons of mass destruction — the original rationale for the war — were never found.

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Economy:

Bush said: "When challenges to our prosperity emerged, we rose to meet them. Facing the prospect of a financial collapse, we took decisive measures to safeguard our economy. These are very tough times for hardworking families, but the toll would be far worse if we had not acted."

He did not say that the largest of those decisive measures — an unpopular $700 billion bailout of the U.S. financial sector — has come under harsh criticism because of a lack of transparency and accountability about how the first $350 billion batch of money was spent.

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Education:

Bush said: "Across our country, students are rising to meet higher standards in public schools."

He did not say that one of the most common concerns about his No Child Left Behind education law is that some states set the bar too low because they are allowed to determine their own academic standards.

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Veterans:

Bush said: "Funding for our veterans has nearly doubled."

He did not say that embarrassing disclosures of shoddy conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other facilities in 2007 forced his administration to retool the system of care for veterans.

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Katrina:

Bush mentioned Hurricane Katrina only once in this speech, praising Tony Recasner, "a principal who opened a new charter school from the ruins" of the storm.

He did not say that his government's response to the worst natural disaster in U.S. history included key failures, as even a White House report later found.

(Agencies)

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