But I do think that President Bush was stellar in one regard, and it is such an important area that it goes a long way towards making up for his other flaws. He is perhaps the only American leader who grasped the magnitude of the threat posed by radical Islam and he is surely the only world leader who has ever had the courage to do the only thing appropriate in the face of such a threat-wage a relentless and thorough war against the enemy.
So with that, I think that his farewell speech from yesterday should have gone like this:
"My fellow Americans. I know that I'm leaving the country in pretty bad shape, but I want to explain something to you. Most of you are naive. When Islamic terrorists first attacked the World Trade Center in the early 1990s, you didn't understand how serious the threat was. When Islamic terrorists attempted to destroy numerous passenger jets and assassinate the pope as part of Operation Bojinka in the mid 1990s most of you shrugged it off as an unlikely plot by a group of harmless bumblers. Later in the 1990s, as Islamic terrorists launch successful attacks on Americans at the Khobar towers and the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, you showed little concern as the attacks were so far from our soil.
And then, September 11 came and you saw with your own eyes how serious our enemies are. But in the days, weeks and months following September 11, the images of thousands of American corpses on the streets of American cities faded from your consciousness. Those images, and the threat posed by Islamic terrorists, never faded from my consciousness.
Many of you believe that the war in Iraq was and is unjustified and oppose the actions we've taken to discover the plans of those who seek to attack us again.
Seven plus years have passed since 9/11/01 and we haven't had a single terrorist attack in the United States. Do you think that our enemies have given up?
Just as you underestimated the threat posed by Islamic terror before 9/11, you have underestimated the continuing threat after 9/11. The strict measures we implemented, which included renditions, setting up the facilities at Guantanamo Bay and even subjecting certain suspected terror leaders to extreme interrogation measures, were necessary to keep you safe.
I was charged with making a choice on 9/11: Does the United States allow its citizens to be put at risk in order to maintain the moral and ethical high ground, or does the United States put the safety of its citizens first and undertake certain actions, repugnant as they may be to the traditions and history of this country, to ensure that we are not attacked again?
I made the hard choice and kept you safe for the past seven years. Some of you, perhaps many of you, would have rather seen me make the easy choice. Had I done that, thousands of you would likely have perished after 9/11.
So I made a tough decision that put lives ahead of principles. You can complain about torture from now until the end of days, but it was my position that I'd rather torture the guilty than allow the innocent to be slaughtered.
This is all hindsight, but I believe that in the next four years you will see that the words I've just spoken are the truth. A new President will be leading this country and he has pledged to not make the choices that I've made. Let's see if four years of terrorist attacks will be preferable to seven years of waterboarding our enemies."