In the latest in a series of exit interviews, President Bush said today that he considered pulling troops out of Iraq in 2006, when violence and US casualties peaked.
"In Iraq, I was deeply concerned about whether or not we would succeed," he said on CNN. "A lot of people in Washington, were saying, let's get out now. And I obviously chose not to do that. But, that was a very difficult period."
"You know, ultimately I had great faith in the universality of liberty," the president added. "I had great faith in our military. I had faith in the Iraqis who had suffered so much. And I could not live with myself, if I had chosen to just leave and leave behind the valor and the sacrifice of a lot of our young men and women. I would have never been able to face their loved ones."
"You know, the military looks at the president and wonder whether or not the president's going to make decisions based upon victory. Or, whether or not the president would be making decisions based upon its political skin. And if you ever make decisions based upon your political skin where troops are in harms way, you as commander-in-chief will have a lot of problems keeping the respect of the military."
Bush also discussed the much-dissected, much-watched episode on his surprise visit to Iraq over the weekend, when an Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at him as a sign of protest and insult.
"I didn't much time to reflect on anything," Bush said, according to a transcript provided by CNN. "I was ducking and dodging. And I -- first of all, it has got to be one of the most weird moments of my presidency. Here I am getting ready to answer questions from a free press in a democratic Iraq, and a guy stands up and throws a shoe.
"And it was bizarre. And it was an interesting way for a person to express himself. I was asked about it immediately after the incident and I said, here's a person that obviously was longing for notoriety and he achieved it. But I donít feel this is Ė Iím not angry with the system, I believe that a free society is emerging and a free society is necessary for our own security and peace."
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.