Monday, January 12, 2009

Bush Admits, ‘I Chucked Aside My Free Market Principles’

Bush Admits, ‘I Chucked Aside My Free Market Principles’
Monday, January 12, 2009
By Susan Jones, Senior Editor
(President George W. Bush holds his last formal news conference at the White House on Monday, Jan. 12, 2009. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President George W. Bush holds his last formal news conference at the White House on Monday, Jan. 12, 2009. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
( – President Bush on Monday defended his economic record, noting that he’s taken “extraordinary measures” to deal with the frozen credit markets.

He said the main question for the president is not when the problem started, but what action was taken once the problem was recognized:

“And I readily concede that I chucked aside some of my free market principles when I was told by chief economic advisers that the situation we were facing could be worse than the Great Depression,” Bush said at a White House news conference.

Bush said thanks to the multi-billion-dollar financial industry bailout, credit spreads are beginning to shrink, and lending is beginning to pick up. “The actions we have taken, I believe, have helped thaw the credit markets, which is the first step toward recovery.”

Bush said he inherited a recession when he first took office, and he’s ending on a recession. “In the meantime, there were 52 months of uninterrupted job growth.”

Bush noted that he’s been a staunch defender of tax cuts, and he will continue to defend them “as the right course of action.”

Immigration reform

If he had it to do over again, President Bush says he probably would have pushed for immigration reform rather than Social Security reform at the beginning of his second term.

“Legislative branches tend to be risk-averse,” he noted. “Sometimes legislatures have the tendency to ask, ‘Why should I take on a hard task when the crisis is not imminent?’ And the crisis was not imminent for Social Security as far as members of Congress were concerned.”

Bush said he does agree with the conventional wisdom that Social Security is the “third rail” of American politics. He said in the future, refusal to talk about fixing Social Security will be detrimental to a politician’s career.

Asked about mistakes and regrets at a Monday morning press conference at the White House, President Bush also mentioned the following items:

-- Bush said he wonders if he could have done something different about Hurricane Katrina.

-- "Clearly, putting 'Mission Accomplished' on an aircraft carrier was a mistake," Bush said. The banner went up shortly after Saddam Hussein was forcibly removed from office.

-- "Some of my rhetoric" has been a mistake, Bush said. He was widely criticized for daring terrorists to "Bring it on!"

-- The abuses at Iraq’s Abu Graib prison were a “disappointment,” Bush said, and so was failing to turn up weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. “I don’t know if you want to call those mistakes or not, but things didn’t go according to plan, let’s put it that way,” he said.

Bush said historians will be better able to judge his mistakes when time has passed.


President Bush said he “strongly disagrees” with the notion that America’s moral standing has been damaged by the way it interrogated enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

America’s moral standing “may be damaged among some of the elite, but people still understand America stands for freedom – that America is a country that provides such great hope.”

He noted that some countries criticized America for incarcerating enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, “but when it came time for those countries that were criticizing America to take some of those detainees, they weren’t willing to help out.”

Bush says he never worried about being popular, but always did what he thought was best for the country.

Gaza conflict

President Bush said he still hopes for a “sustainable ceasefire” in the Middle East that includes a cessation of Hamas rocket fire into Israel. “I happen to believe the choice is Hamas’s to make,” he said.

Bush said the best way to ensure a sustainable ceasefire is to get Egypt to help stop the weapons smuggling into Gaza. He also said the international community needs to pressure countries (such as Iran) to stop supplying weapons to Hamas.

Bush said Israel “has a right to defend herself,” although he hopes Israel will “continue to be mindful of innocent folks” and work to “expedite the delivery of humanitarian aid.”

National Security

President Bush said the biggest threat facing the Obama administration is another attack on the homeland. “There is still an enemy out there that would like to inflict damage on America – Americans,” he warned, and this will continue to be the case.

Bush said North Korea is still a major problem, and he said Iran is “still dangerous.”

As for Iraq, in the long run, he said, the question is will democracy survive there? He said that’s going to be the challenge for future presidents.