He made some mistakes but he admits and faces them like a cowboy; at least he did not tell US to be thankful.
WASHINGTON - PRESIDENT George W. Bush expressed regret on Monday that the global financial crisis has cost jobs and shrinking retirement accounts and said he will support more government intervention if needed to ease the recession.
'I'm sorry it's happening, of course,' Mr Bush said in a wide-ranging interview with ABC's World News, which was airing on Monday.'
'Obviously I don't like the idea of people losing jobs, or being worried about their 401(k)s. On the other hand, the American people got to know that we will safeguard the system. I mean, we're in. And if we need to be in more, we will.'
The retirement account known as 401(k) is a government-approved system that allows workers to save before-tax dollars in stock or other accounts, with tax to be paid only after retirement when the retiree can expect his income to be smaller and thus be taxed at a lower rate under the US progressive income tax system.
The US economy fell into a recession in December 2007, the National Bureau of Economic Research reported on Monday.
Many economists believe the current downturn will last until the middle of 2009 and will be the most severe slump since the 1981-82 recession.
On the war in Iraq, Mr Bush said the biggest regret of his presidency was the 'intelligence failure' regarding the extent of the Saddam Hussein threat to the United States.
With the support of Congress, Mr Bush ordered the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, a decision largely justified on grounds that Saddam was building weapons of mass destruction. That later proved to be false.
'A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein,' Mr Bush said.
'That's not a do-over, but I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess.'
Asked if he would have ordered the US-led invasion if intelligence reports had accurately indicated that Saddam did not have the weapons, Mr Bush replied: 'You know, that's an interesting question. That is a do-over that I can't do. It's hard for me to speculate.'
During a discussion about what Americans should know about what it is like to be president, Mr Bush was asked what he was most unprepared for going into the office.
'I think I was unprepared for war,' he said.
'In other words, I didn't campaign and say, 'Please vote for me, I'll be able to handle an attack.' In other words, I didn't anticipate war.'
Presidents - one of the things about the modern presidency is that the unexpected will happen.'
On the presidential election, Mr Bush called Mr Barack Obama's victory a 'repudiation of Republicans.'
'I'm sure some people voted for Barack Obama because of me,' said Mr Bush, who leaves office with low approval ratings.
'I think most people voted for Barack Obama because they decided they wanted him to be in their living room for the next four years explaining policy. In other words, they made a conscious choice to put him in as president.'
As he leaves office, Mr Bush said he felt responsible for the economic downturn because it is occurring on his watch, but he added: 'I think when the history of this period is written, people will realise a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over a decade or so' before he became president.'
He said he would like to see 'instant liquidity' in the markets given the extent of the financial rescue plan, yet he understands that fear has paralysed the markets.
'Slowly but surely the system is becoming unthawed, and it's going to take time for the system to become unthawed,' he said.
'What the American people have got to know is we've taken the steps to unthaw it, which is the first step to recovery.'
'It is hard for the average citizen to understand how frozen the system became and how over-leveraged the system became,' he said.
'And so what we're watching is the de-leveraging of our financial markets, which is obviously affecting the growth of the economy.'
Last week, the Bush administration and the Federal Reserve pledged US$800 billion (S$1.22 billion) to break through blockades on credit cards, auto loans, mortgages and other borrowing.
The latest moves raised US commitments to contain the financial crisis to nearly US$7 trillion - although no one thinks the government will spend that much.
The figures include loans that are expected to be repaid, loan authorities to back mortgages, purchases of stock in banks, guarantees to support loans among banks and pledges backing other transactions.
'This economy will recover,' Mr Bush said in the interview conducted on Wednesday at the Camp David presidential retreat.
'And when it recovers, many of the assets backed by the government now will be redeemed, and we will - could conceivably - make money off of some of the holdings.'
Later in the interview, he said: 'I can't guarantee that we'll get all our money back, but it's conceivable we could.' -- AP