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George Bush's Farewell Address

Peter Maer is a CBS News White House Correspondent.

Tonight's farewell address will be George W. Bush's final opportunity to put his own imprint on his legacy before he leaves office. The White House says it will be his last major appearance before power transfers to Barack Obama on Inauguration Day.

(CBS)
In the nation's the first farewell address (actually a written message published in newspapers) George Washington issued "warnings from a parting friend." George W. Bush has already offered cautionary advice to Barack Obama. Mr. Bush said, "The most urgent threat he will have to deal with and other presidents will have to deal with is an attack on our homeland."

The nation and the world have changed dramatically since President Washington's 1796 call for "a careful foreign policy of friendly neutrality that would avoid creating implacable enemies or international friendships of dubious value..."

While Mr. Bush has repeatedly said historians will have to define his years in office, he has clearly tried to shape the retrospective with his final news conference, speeches and a series of interviews conducted in the closing days of his White House tenure. He has boasted of keeping the country safe from terror attacks since 9-11. He is proud of cutting taxes. Despite the worst economy in decades, he has pointed with pride to 52 months of job growth while he was in office. While he has admitted to mistakes and disappointments, his own list of accomplishments includes freeing the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Critics of course have a different view. They believe the moment the U.S. invaded Iraq, Mr. Bush lost the international goodwill and sympathy that was generated by the 9-11 attacks. On the home front, there are strong memories of the botched federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

Veteran Republican strategist Ed Rollins told the CBS News Early Show that through the years Mr. Bush has been "overly confident about a lot of things." The former Reagan advisor said, " There was no humility" as Mr. Bush appeared as a "conquering hero" when he wore a pilot's outfit on a flight to the carrier Abraham Lincoln where he stood under the banner that read " Mission Accomplished" long before major combat ended in Iraq. The president has since admitted that placing that banner was "a mistake."

Mr. Bush will certainly voice self confidence tonight. He recently told reporters, "I leave town with a great sense of accomplishment and my head held high."

CBS News will provide live radio and television coverage of the Bush speech at 8:00p.m.eastern time.