From NBC's John Yang
President Bush returns to the White House from his Texas ranch this afternoon to begin his last full calendar year in office.
And what a long, strange trip it's been.. Bush took office seven years ago after a disputed election with his eyes firmly set on domestic policy, a stated disdain for "nation building" and an aversion to spend political capital on Middle East peace, as his predecessors had. Then came the 9/11 attacks. Since then, his presidency has been dominated by foreign policy -- efforts to rebuild Iraq after using a war to topple Saddam Hussein and now a last grab at a legacy is the goal of a two-state solution in Israel this year.
While in office, Mr. Bush has had to give up running -- damage to his right knee -- but he's still fond of running analogies. Until his predecessor is inaugurated January 20, 2009, he promises "a sprint to the finish." The route increasingly takes him overseas. Next week, he sets off on a nine-day trip to the Middle East to encourage Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. He also has trips scheduled to Africa to highlight his efforts to curb the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the continent, Beijing for the Summer Olympics, Peru for APEC and Japan for the G-8.