Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored al Qaeda and stoned women in the streets to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school. 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.
Of course, the Taliban is still discouraging girls from going to school, with squirt guns filled with acid and other disenticements, while the number of Iraqi people who consider themselves friends of the United States is open to question. The superficial facts remain: neither country is ruled by an avowed enemy of this country, so Bush can say he's won. He can claim that Afghanistan and Iraq have moved from the dark side to the side that believes that "freedom is the universal gift of Almighty God." And without any apparent irony, he can add, "When people live in freedom, they do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror."
Regrets? He has a few, but then again, too few to mention:
Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks. There are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I have always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right. You may not agree with some tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.
He appears to offer the President-elect a vote of confidence, saying, "together, with determination and hard work, we will restore our economy to the path of growth. We will show the world once again the resilience of America's free enterprise system." In foreign affairs, however, he warns against complacency, against isolationism and protectionism, and against losing our "moral clarity."
I have often spoken to you about good and evil. This has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two there can be no compromise. Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere. Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right. This Nation must continue to speak out for justice and truth.
Is Mr. Bush shameless or merely clueless. He has just been telling us that "security and prosperity at home depend on the expansion of liberty abroad." Combined with his enduring conviction about the universal craving for U.S. style, "God given" liberty, that sounds like ideology to me -- and he has waged war to advance it, with collateral damage for all to see.
From there, he closes out with the usual Reaganesque personal anecdotes of inspiring individuals before sputtering to the typical finish. His last words are as unmemorable as Clinton's, except to the extent that they remind us of his inadequacies. No one will take historic phrases like "entangling alliances" or "military-industrial complex" from this filler. The words will be forgotten within hours, but the personality they purport to express will haunt us for some time longer....