Bush Defends Legacy in Final Presser

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WASHINGTON - For the last eight years, he's received national security briefings every day except Sundays. He's lead the nation through some of her most traumatic moments and has drawn harsh words from critics.

Today President George W. Bush told reporters he's never let those critics drive his decisions, during his 47th and last press conference as president.

Bush called the surprise press conference to thank the journalists who cover him. But the outgoing commander-in-chief had much more to say.

"Presidents can try to avoid hard decisions and therefore avoid controversy, that's just not my nature," he said.

On the ongoing violence between Israel and Hamas, Bush says the key to a sustainable ceasefire is working with Egypt to control the smuggle of arms from Iran into Gaza.

Here at home, the President warned his successor's that the biggest challenge will be preventing another attack on U.S. soil.

"I'm telling you there's an enemy that would like to attack america, americans again," he said.

America's Reputation 'Not Tarnished'

Despite the opinions of some European countries in the wake his administration's policies, Bush rejects the idea that America's reputation abroad is tarnished.

"You go to Africa, you ask Africans about American's generosity and compassion," Bush said. "Go to India and ask about their view of America."

He admits that mistakes were made. Putting a banner reading "mission accomplished" on an aircraft carrier was one of them, he says.

But the President defended the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina by reminding that 30,000 people were rescued from rooftops after the storm passed.

More recently, the President admits he pushed aside his free-market principals to bailout the financial industry, a decision he also defends.

"If you were sitting there and heard that the depression could be greater than the Great Depression I hope you would act, too," he said.

Life After the Presidency

In eight days Bush will walk out of the oval office for the last time. He'll head to the Capitol to watch his successor take the oath of office, a historic moment he says he'll feel fortunate to watch from the front row.

"President-elect Obama's election does speak volumes about how far this country has come when it comes to racial relations, but there's still work," Bush said. "There's always going to be work to deal with people hearts."

When his term expires, the President says he's getting off the stage.

The morning after President-elect Obama's inauguration, bush says he'll wake up in Crawford, Texas, make his wife Laura some coffee and think about what's next.

Bush leaves office at midday Jan. 20, when President-elect Barack Obama takes the oath and moves into the Executive Mansion, becoming the 44th president. The last time the president formally took questions from reporters was Dec. 14 in Baghdad.

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Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News Washington Correspondent

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