Bush gets a bounce in popularity as he prepares to say goodbye

January 15th, 2009 - 10:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 15 (IANS) President George W. Bush, who has of late been touting his image in India, received a bounce in his popularity at home too as he prepared to say goodbye in a farewell speech Thursday night.A USA Today/Gallup national poll indicates that 34 percent of Americans approve of George W. Bush’s job performance as president. That’s up five points from last month, and represents Bush’s highest approval in a USA Today/Gallup survey in a year.

As Bush sets out to define eight years of his presidency in his farewell speech, he may or may not talk about taking US-India relations to a new plane, a signal foreign policy achievement, but he and his trusted Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice have been gushing about it for days.

As his spokesperson Dana Perino noted Wednesday: “India and US relations have been exceedingly good during our administration, and I have no reason to expect that it won’t continue when Barack Obama becomes president next Tuesday.”

And Rice, who has been not only a trusted counsellor but a friend also, told Bloomberg TV that one of the first things Bush wanted to do when he came to office eight years ago was to build better relations with the world’s largest democracy, India.

“Talking with this president about what he wanted to do: he was always interested in the policy towards India, for instance,” she said. “And we’ve achieved a new breakthrough, a new heights in US-Indian relations.”

As he follows the script of presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter and many before them, he is expected to look back at his triumphs and tragedies and outline the biggest challenges ahead for Obama, who steps into his shoes Jan 20.

Bush and his supporters credit him with keeping the US safe from attack after the Sep 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, freeing the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, acting decisively when the economy tanked and sticking to principle no matter what his poll numbers.

On its Web site, the White House has even gone so far as to post “100 things Americans may not know about the Bush administration record”.

But critics suggest Bush wasted the world’s good will after 9/11 attacks, got the US into a catastrophic and avoidable Iraq war, presided over a staggering 2.6 million jobs lost in 2008, ran up debt, reacted slowly to Hurricane Katrina, did more dividing than uniting and refused to listen to the will of the people.

Bush will deliver his final speech at 8 p.m. (6.30 a.m. IST Friday) from the East Room of the White House, where the audience will include a few dozen people chosen for their personal stories, a practice normally reserved for a State of the Union address.

Life after the White House will find Bush in two homes, his beloved ranch in Crawford, Texas, and the new home that first lady Laura Bush picked for them in an affluent Dallas neighborhood.

At 62, Bush is younger after two terms as president than his father was before he got started in the presidency. He describes himself as a “Type A” personality, who will want to keep active after he turns the White House keys over to President-elect Barack Obama next Tuesday.

“I just can’t envision myself, you know, the big straw hat and a Hawaiian shirt sitting on some beach,” he said at his last press conference.

Bush also plans to write a book. He says it will probably focus on the toughest decisions he made, emphasising what he considers to be the forgotten context of the times, especially right after Sep 11, 2001.

He will also have a three-part presidential centre at Southern Methodist University: a library of artefacts of the Bush administration, a museum and an independent policy institute designed to promote freedom and key initiatives of his presidency, like efforts to combat AIDS and malaria.

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