As his administration enters its final days, President Bush is trying to set the record straight. This week at his final major news conference, he spoke about his administration’s shortcomings in an effort to salvage his reputation. The attempt, like so many others over the past eight years, fell woefully short.

Bush admitted that the administration blundered in declaring the “mission accomplished” less than two months after the Iraq War began. He said that he wished he had spent more time on immigration reform and admitted that the Abu Ghraib scandal was a “huge disappointment.”

But these limited confessions didn’t stop Bush from asserting that his administration had put together a “good, strong record.” Nor did they stop him from claiming that America’s moral standing hasn’t been damaged since he entered office. These flippant rationalizations are simply erroneous.

The administration thoroughly botched the first three years in Iraq, ignoring mistakes made in American operations in Somalia, Haiti and Panama. He turned a surplus into a major budget deficit, which will reach $1.2 trillion this year. He failed to sufficiently prepare for Hurricane Katrina and allowed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to utterly mismanage the crisis. He ruthlessly expanded the power of the executive by implementing warrantless wiretaps under the USA Patriot Act. That policy and others mired the nation in partisan bickering.

We acknowledge that Bush has been dealt a bad hand at times: Sept. 11, bad Iraq intelligence, Hurricane Katrina and the recent financial crisis were, in some ways, unavoidable. But circumstances don’t justify poor performance. Successful presidents solve problems by uniting the country and working with both sides in Congress. Bush’s misguided rhetoric and divisive policies are largely to blame for the state of the nation.

The administration’s successes should not be forgotten. Bush is the first president to take aid to Africa seriously, with his Millennium Challenge Corporation initiative for economic development. No terrorist attacks have shaken American soil since 9/11. Iraq appears to be turning around at last, thanks in part to the 2007 troop surge. Bush also deserves credit for the passage of the Colombian Free Trade Agreement.

But the president still wants to dodge criticism. “There is no such thing as short-term history,” he said. This feeble diversion cannot hide the truth. Overall, Bush has achieved a weak record in office and has damaged America’s international standing. With our best wishes in retirement, we bid him goodbye with relief.

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