President George W. Bush said farewell to the nation, but the nation wasn't paying attention. TV barely cut to him in time for his first words Thursday evening and couldn't wait to cut away when he finished 13 minutes later. Something unexpected and awesome had happened to shoulder him out of the picture: a jet gliding to a stop in the middle of the Hudson River, with everyone emerging safe. The departure of President Bush, by contrast, had become part of the world's mental wallpaper some time ago.
Bush spoke from the East Room of the White House, filled with a friendly audience drawn from his administration and honored guests. But the assembled crowd was merely the backdrop - the real audience was history. He knows he has lost the short-term argument, the one measured in opinion polls and approval ratings. This was a speech aimed at the long run.
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