BEHIND THE NEWS: The last 8 years

January 12, 2009 1:10:22 PM PST
If we were asked to honestly assess what we've done in the past 8 years -- take a stark look at our accomplishments, our successes and failures, and our regrets -- how many of us would be able to accurately reflect and accurately characterize our lives since 2001?

I suspect it's a lot easier, and more realistic, to have others do that than to put the onus on ourselves.

But it's a fascinating question. In my own life, I can think of some things I've done that I'm proud of, and I can think of some things that I've done less well.

I won't bore you with the specifics -- but it's an interesting exercise, and I suspect many of us go through it, in one form or another, once a year.

I dread to think how we'd come off if we had to do it in public, or at least I dread to think how I'd come off.

But if you're the President, you're judged by a different standard.

And so we should analyze how George W. Bush views these past 8 years under his leadership. The President, with just a week left in his tenure, is, as is his wont, less than completely self-critical. He says he will leave it to history to judge what he did in Iraq or to the economy or the environment or the people of New Orleans, and what he didn't do in Afghanistan or the Middle East or in the U.S.

I urge you to watch the myriad clips that are available - either online or on our air tonight - to judge for yourself how the President's self-assessment fares. He is not known for embracing what in Mao's China was called Criticism/Self-Criticism. And showed that at various points in his farewell news conference today -- his 47th of his two terms, and his first since last summer.

But surely he's aware of the cold reality: his poll numbers remain at record lows, with just 30% approving of the job he's doing, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. In fact, in his second term, Mr. Bush has failed to crack the 50% approval rate -- and that's a record in and of itself, since Presidential polls started in 1938.

Remarkably, the highest approval rating for any President since 1938 was 92%. Wanna guess who got that? Yup. George W. Bush, on Oct. 9, 2001, right after the terror attacks, when he had the country, and much of the world, solidly behind him.

Highest disapproval rating? Yup again. GWB -- 73%, on Oct. 11, 2008.

Talk about swing in popularity.

- Longest stretch without majority approval, 48 months, January 2005 to present.

And talk about lame duckitis -- the room for Mr. Bush's news conference today at the White House, which would usually be filled, was only half full.

We'll have the latest on Mr. Bush's "farewell," tonight at 11.

It was quite a contrast, watching Mr. Bush this morning, and Barack Obama on Sunday Morning, on "this Week" on ABC. He, too, now has the country solidly behind him - even hardline Republicans have expressed support, at least publicly.

He is, in all fairness to Mr. Bush, fully engaged and present, or at least he was in his interview with George Stephanopoulos. We'll have the latest on the transition, at 11.

We're also in the Middle East again tonight, where N.J. Burkett has the latest from Gaza. He reports tonight from Egypt.

And a sad and frightening story in Suffolk County, where police are investigating a murder-suicide attempt. An off-duty NYPD Lieutenant was allegedly beating his wife and daughter; cops say he shot his wife and then tried, unsuccessfully to kill himself.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's chilly AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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