Has Fox News' Baier boarded the Bush legacy bandwagon?
During an interview with President Bush that aired on Fox News' Special Report, Bret Baier asked Bush, "Do you believe that there hasn't been a terrorist attack on U.S. soil in more than seven years because of the policies your administration has implemented?" The question tracked a talking point reportedly contained in a "two-page memo" that the Los Angeles Times reported "presents the Bush record as an unalloyed success" and "mentions none of the episodes that detractors say have marred his presidency."
On the December 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Fox News chief White House correspondent Bret Baier aired an interview he conducted with President Bush, in which he asked Bush: "Do you believe that there hasn't been a terrorist attack on U.S. soil in more than seven years because of the policies your administration has implemented?" Baier's question tracked a talking point that the Los Angeles Times reported  was in a "two-page memo" that was sent by the White House "to Cabinet members and other high-ranking officials" and that "offers a guide for discussing Bush's eight-year tenure during their public speeches." The Times reported on December 9 that "the talking points state that Bush 'kept the American people safe' after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, lifted the economy after 2001 through tax cuts, curbed AIDS in Africa and maintained 'the honor and the dignity of his office.' "
The memo also reportedly "presents the Bush record as an unalloyed success" and "mentions none of the episodes that detractors say have marred his presidency: the collapse of the housing market and major financial services companies, the flawed intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war, the federal response to Hurricane Katrina or the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib."
Baier's question also echoed comments Vice President Dick Cheney made on the December 15 broadcast of Rush Limbaugh's nationally syndicated radio show. Cheney stated: "Well, I think probably the most significant thing during our time here, Rush, has been the fact that we've been able to stop or disrupt all further Al Qaeda attacks on the U.S. homeland. That doesn't mean there won't be some in the future, but I think the extent to which we've kept the country safe and secure now for the last seven and a half years has been probably the achievement that I'm proudest of. I think it required some very tough decisions by the president, and some remarkable work by some very capable military and intelligence folks who've worked with us."
As Media Matters for America has also noted , on the December 15 edition of Special Report, Fox News contributor and NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson echoed Bush's talking points regarding his legacy in Iraq, saying of Bush's handling of the war there, "I think that history will judge him pretty kindly." She later stated that Bush leaves "a war that's pretty manageable, if not almost won, to his successor."
From the December 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
BAIER: As for his public approval ratings, President Bush said he simply does not care about the polls.
BUSH: Look, everybody likes to be popular. Everybody wants to be liked, but what do you expect? We're in -- we've got a major economic problem, and I'm the president during the major economic problem. I mean, do people approve of the economy? No, I don't approve of the economy. So, you know, Bret, if you make decisions based upon polls, you'll be a failure as president. And I've been a wartime president. I've dealt with two economic recessions now. I've had, you know, a lot of serious challenges. What matters to me is I didn't compromise my soul to be a popular guy.
BAIER: Do you believe that there hasn't been a terrorist attack on U.S. soil in more than seven years because of the policies your administration has implemented?
BUSH: I -- yeah, I believe the policies that we worked with Congress on to better protect America are paying off. Now, the problem is, is that there's still an enemy, and they still want to attack, and -- but we have been successful, thanks to a lot of people.
BAIER: And you've heard the critics of the administration. You said the policies on interrogation techniques were -- amounted to torture, and the policies for surveillance amounted to illegal wiretapping --
BAIER: -- and that America's image was hurt around the world and that made us less safe.
BAIER: How do you respond now looking back to all of that?
BUSH: We always stay within the law, that we consulted with members of Congress, and that we have an obligation to put tools in place so that future presidents can better protect the country.
You know, I know there's a lot of urban myths about certain decisions I have made, but when the truth comes out, you know, people will say, "Oh, I see what he did." And -- but the idea, for example, of listening to a phone call from a known terrorist sure makes a lot of sense to me, or the idea of using enhanced interrogation techniques on the man that ordered the September the 11th attacks makes a lot of sense to me, and it makes a lot of sense to other Americans as well.
BAIER: Do you worry at all that the incoming administration will undo some of the things that you say have kept America safe?
BUSH: Well, I think the incoming administration is going to have to fully analyze the risks and the tools and come to their own conclusion. But one thing is for certain, I'm confident that President-elect Obama knows that one of his most solemn duties is to protect the American people.
From the December 15 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: What are you most proud of? I mean, everybody's focusing right now on negative things. We find ourselves in the midst of an economic circumstance that has people unsettled because they don't know yet where it's going in terms of where it's going to bottom out. In times like this, though, I mean, when you get reflective -- I have a theory that people, when they look back on times in their past, that they tend to remember the good things. What are those for you?
CHENEY: Well, I think probably the most significant thing during our time here, Rush, has been the fact that we've been able to stop or disrupt all further Al Qaeda attacks on the U.S. homeland. That doesn't mean there won't be some in the future, but I think the extent to which we've kept the country safe and secure now for the last seven and a half years has been probably the achievement that I'm proudest of. I think it required some very tough decisions by the president, and some remarkable work by some very capable military and intelligence folks who've worked with us.
LIMBAUGH: Does it bother you that that achievement is largely missing in present-day historical reflection, that, in fact, maybe it's mischaracterized as not the way you just said it? Does that bother you? Or you let -- you confident and content to let history handle things like this?
CHENEY: Well, I think you have to let history handle things like that. You know, we're -- we didn't do it because we thought we were going to be loved; we did it because we believed very deeply in our obligations to protect the country. And after 9-11, that next morning --
LIMBAUGH: See, I would expect to be loved for doing it. I would expect to be appreciated for saving my country from evil like we face.
CHENEY: Yeah, but it's hard to get credit for things that don't happen. And in a sense, that's what we had here. I think -- I hark back to that day. I was sitting at the same desk I'm at now here in the West Wing of the White House when we got word that there was a plane headed at 500 miles an hour toward the airspace here over the city, after the two buildings had already been hit in New York. And you never forget those moments.
But I think the response is -- speaks for itself. The Terrorist Surveillance Program, the Patriot Act, the interrogation program of high-value detainees -- all has made it possible for us to defend the nation.