George Bush, who has seemed increasingly reflective (and exhausted) in recent weeks, just wrapped up what was likely his last press conference in office. At the start of what he called the “ultimate exit interview,” he recognized the press corps — some by first name — for all their hard work over the past eight years. “Sometimes I didn’t like the stories you wrote or reported on,” he said. “Through it all I have respected you.” He even joked that the reporters sometimes “misunderestimated” him, but that he “appreciated” working with them. As he thanked them, he appeared (and we may have hallucinated this) to choke up.
He was thoughtful about Barack Obama, talking about the oddity of the presidential lunch last week, during which the President-elect appeared to be an entire generation younger than the other men in the room. He described the moment when, after all the inauguration festivities, Obama would walk into the Oval Office and “the responsibilities of the president land squarely on his shoulders.” He also predicted the return of the Republican Party, if they can manage to get across the message “that different points of view are accepted.” When asked about mistakes he’s made, he listed putting “Mission Accomplished” on an aircraft carrier, and pushing Social Security reform when Congress wasn’t ready. (Not having WMD’s was categorized as “a disappointment.”) And, when asked about the insane ire with which he is regarded by some of his critics, he thought for a bit. “I don’t see how I [could] get back home to Texas,” he said slowly, “and look at myself in the mirror and be proud of what I see, if I allowed the loud voices, the loud critics to prevent me from doing what I thought was necessary to protect this country.”