Bush Reflects In Final News Conference

(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
An uncharacteristically reflective George W. Bush just wrapped up the final press conference of his presidency.

It was not likely to be the last time the nation hears from Mr. Bush before he leaves office: As CBS News' Peter Maer reports, Press Secretary Dana Perino said that a presidential farewell address is "customary and likely."

But today's press conference had the feel of a final hurrah for Mr. Bush, who was perhaps more reflective this morning than he has been at any point in his presidency.

The president had kind words for the press corps, despite the fact that "[s]ometimes I didn't like the stories that you wrote or reported on."

After joking that some members of the media had "misunderestimated" him, the president said, "but always the relationship, I have felt, has been professional, and I appreciate it."

Mr. Bush characterized members of the press corps as "just people that are trying to do the best they possibly can."

The president also admitted mistakes, among them his speech below the now infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner in 2003, where he said "in the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

In Iraq, Mr. Bush told reporters, "not finding weapons of mass destruction was a significant disappointment."

He also suggested his push for Social Security reform following his reelection was a tactical error, and said he was disappointed by what took place at Abu Graib.

Mr. Bush, who campaigned as a "uniter, not a divider," said he was "disappointed by the tone" in Washington during his presidency. He said he hoped President-elect Barack Obama would be treated with respect and that the tone during Mr. Obama's administration would be more positive.

The president also defended his administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, for which he came under heavy criticism.

"Don't tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs," the president said.

But Mr. Bush was by no means unwilling to acknowledge where he believes he went wrong, in contrast to many of the news conferences he has given over the course of his two terms.

A president who had come to be defined in part by his confidence and desire to "stay the course" suggested that he had at times gone too far with his words, telling reporters that "some of my rhetoric" had been misguided.

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