01/17/09 — Farewell address: President George W. Bush kept this nation safe

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Farewell address: President George W. Bush kept this nation safe

There is something about a campaign and a crisis that makes people look for a whipping boy -- somewhere to place blame for what, in the final analysis, might have been the fault of many.

The reason President George W. Bush's final press conference and final address to the nation seemed to be more than a little defensive is that for the past 12-24 months, he has been that whipping boy.

The Bush presidency has been filled with decisions made in the heat of battle and with a nation's security at stake. There were mistakes made along the way, but after all the analysis is in, the fact remains, this nation is safer than it was eight years ago.

The reason the U.S. launched the war in Iraq is simple: There was intelligence that was released to the British and U.S. governments suggesting that Saddam Hussein was aligned with terrorist organizations and was developing weapons of mass destruction.

And the possibility -- in 2001, after 3,000 innocent people were executed on our shores -- was too much of a concern to ignore.

It turns out that perhaps the intelligence overstated the case -- but to suggest that there was no reason to be concerned is simply ludicrous.

But in our zeal to critique the war, we second-guess those who were charged in a scary time with the preservation of this nation.

We discount that there were millions of people in shock at what had just taken place in New York City and Washington, D.C., and a whole administration trying not only to keep the country calm, but to make sure that no more lives were lost.

This nation needed to make sure that the message got out that anyone associated with a terror attack would be dealt with severely, that this nation was wounded, but still strong. It was a time for a leader to take the steps necessary to protect the people he had sworn that he would serve -- and that is what President Bush did.

And in the end, in addition to protecting our own interests, we freed a nation from a despot who was murdering thousands of people -- women and children among them.

And that -- not world popularity -- was the goal.

When you look back at the Bush years, you must remember the ecstatic Iraqis showing their thumbprints from their first votes, and you must remember that there has not been a terror attack since Sept. 11, 2001. That was the goal -- freedom and safety for two countries.

There have been missteps over the last eight years -- and there will be missteps by the new president, too. That is the nature of that job. You make the decisions you think are the right ones based on the information you have on hand.

But in the final analysis, President Bush remains a man of courage and conviction -- no matter how many jokes comedians make or how many criticisms are levied by those who were only observing from the cheap seats.

And that is a legacy worth defending.

Published in Editorials on January 17, 2009 11:41 PM