By Reid Wilson
Posted: 12/01/08 02:30 PM [ET]
Calling the 2008 elections a â€œrepudiation of Republicans,â€ President Bush shouldered at least some of the blame for his partyâ€™s poor results in November.
â€œIâ€™m sure some people voted for [President-elect] Barack Obama because of me,â€ the outgoing president said.
Though he has long refused to play political pundit, Bush said Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) would have had a difficult time winning the presidency thanks to disastrous economic conditions, though he deflected total blame for the outcome.
â€œObviously the economic situation made it awfully difficult for John McCain to get a message out,â€ Bush said in an interview with ABC News. â€œAnd I felt that Barack Obama ran a very disciplined campaign. I mean, he inspired a lot of people and was in a position to take advantage of the inspiration. It was well-organized, he raised a lot of money, and ran a textbook campaign.â€
Looking back on his own administration, Bush says the intelligence failure leading up to the war in Iraq is among his biggest regrets during his eight-year tenure in the White House.
â€œA lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein. It wasn't just people in my administration; a lot of members in Congress, prior to my arrival in Washington, D.C., during the debate on Iraq, a lot of leaders of nations around the world were all looking at the same intelligence,â€ Bush said in the interview. â€œI wish the intelligence had been different, I guess.â€
Still, the outgoing president insisted that war with Iraq was inevitable, given Saddam Husseinâ€™s unwillingness to allow inspectors into the country in compliance with numerous United Nations resolutions. Bush refused to speculate as to whether the country would have gone to war if Iraq proved it had no weapons of mass destruction.
â€œThat is a do-over that I canâ€™t do,â€ Bush said.
The president also expressed disappointment that his efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform fell short.
â€œI firmly believe that the immigration debate really didn't show the true nature of America as a welcoming society,â€ Bush said of the harsh rhetoric that raged on Capitol Hill before the 2006 elections. â€œI fully understand we need to enforce law and enforce borders. But the debate took on a tone that undermined the true greatness of America, which is that we welcome people who want to work hard and support their families.â€
Political analysts see those debates as a catalyst in moving Hispanic votes away from the Republican Party. In 2004, Bush won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, while John McCain won just 31 percent of the Hispanic vote this year, according to national exit polls.
Bush's promise to restore civility to Washington fell short as well, he admitted, and the city has become more divided during his eight years in office. "I didn't go into this naively; I knew it would be tough. But I also knew that the president has the responsibility to try to elevate the tone," Bush stated. "And, frankly, it just didn't work as well as I'd like to have it work."