By BEN FELLER,Associated Press Writer AP - Sunday, October 12WASHINGTON - So how will it end?
President Bush is down to his final 100 days in office as of Sunday. Don't expect a quiet fade into the Texas night.
The bleakest economic downturn in decades has changed the dynamic drastically, keeping Bush and his financial team in activist mode to the end.
While the powerful heads of the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve keep making radical moves, no one elected them. Bush is the one charged with reassuring the nation that an abysmal economic period will give way to better days, even if he is long gone from Washington by the time that happens.
The president will keep speaking about the economy, calling world leaders about it, meeting with business owners, perhaps attending an overseas summit. His final act will be overseeing the $700 billion buyout of devalued assets from banks, in hopes that credit will start flowing to an anxious, weary country.
"It looks like I'm going to have a lot of work to do between today and when the new president takes office," Bush said this past week.
The scope of the credit crisis is so vast that it will likely overshadow anything else Bush does before he leaves office on Jan. 20.
"We will stand together in addressing this threat to our prosperity. We will do what it takes to resolve this crisis. And the world's economy will emerge stronger as a result," the president said Saturday in the Rose Garden after meeting with finance ministers from the world's economic powers.
People are panicked about their retirement accounts and the markets are reeling. Behind the daily drumbeat of bleak economic news, Bush leaves behind a national debt that has soared from less than $6 trillion when he took office to more than $10 trillion now. That staggering bill will fall on future generations to pay.
Beyond the financial mess, there is a daunting list of unfinished items for a president who has a history of making bold promises. But hope and time are diminishing.
Before his presidency ended, Bush wanted a Mideast peace deal built around the outlines of Palestinian state. That is unlikely. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned in a corruption scandal, negotiations stalled and the same issues that have divided the parties for decades seem as irreconcilable as ever.
The ambitious priority of pushing an international effort to rid North Korea of its nuclear arms is in jeopardy. The U.S. says North Korea must allow a verification of its nuclear program. The communist nation is balking and wants to be lifted from Washington's terrorism blacklist first.
Bush's diplomats are working diligently to salvage the deal.
Perhaps most notably, the United States and Iraq still are without an agreement governing the presence of U.S. forces after Dec. 31, when the U.N. mandate runs out. The two sides are hung up legal jurisdiction for U.S. troops and contractors, and a timeline for U.S. withdrawal.
On top of that, White House staff members are devoting valuable amounts of time to pave the way for the next president. The transition between administrations, always a complicated endeavor, is the first in the post-Sept. 11 world. And it comes with the U.S. at war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bush has made clear to those who work for him that he wants a smooth transition to the next president. In terms of the sheer time and energy involved, Bush counselor Ed Gillespie said, "I suspect the last 100 days are going to feel more like the first 100 days than any of us would have hoped."