[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/16/art.bushsign1216.gi.jpg caption="Pres. Bush signed an agreement with the Iraqi government in Baghdad Sunday."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As President Bush prepares to leave office and looks back over his tenure, he Tuesday continued to stand firmly by his decision to go to war in Iraq, calling the decision to send troops into harm's way the most important one he made he has made in the Oval Office.
"I listened to a lot of people before we went into Iraq. And I listened to a lot of people, including in my own administration, who said, 'it's just not working. Let's get out.' And I listened very carefully to them. And obviously, came to a different conclusion," President Bush told CNN's Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley during a tour of the Oval Office.
While he did not want to revisit his decision to go to war, Bush he was ultimately concerned about "whether or not we would succeed."
"I have worried about it in the past, in 2006 in particular. In Iraq, I was deeply concerned about whether or not we would succeed," he said. "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," he said.
The president said he "considered all options" when it came to Iraq and contemplated leaving but said, "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."
Returning to Texas
Bush and first lady Laura Bush will head to Dallas after they leave Washington to live in home the president has yet to see firsthand. He plans to open up an institute at Southern Methodist University and will write a book he hopes will present a fuller picture of his presidency than perhaps some of his critics have portrayed.
"I would like to share my experiences, and I think it's going to be important for people to remember what the actual history of my presidency was all about. History tends to shift very rapidly people forget what the environment in which the decisions were made," he said.
Crowley, who started covering the president when he was Texas governor in 1998, asked whether he was still the same person he was back then.
"I didn't change my basic values," Bush said. "I loved my wife then. I love her now. I realize my most important job was to be a loving father, and it is still my most important job. I believed in an almighty then my belief has been strengthened. You've got to say I'm a little wiser. My knowledge of the world is more profound."
Looking forward to a historic moment
Even though his days in office are winding down, the president said he is "not sitting around doing nothing," especially with the transition to President-elect Barack Obama's administration underway.
Bush said he hopes Obama, who will become the nation's first African-American president, is pleased with his administration's efforts.
"We care about him. We want him to be successful, and we want the transition to work," Bush said.
Looking ahead to inauguration, Bush said he is thrilled to "have a front row seat in an unbelievable moment in American history. And I was deeply touched by a lot of people I saw on election night with tears streaming down their face and saying, 'I never, ever thought I would see this day coming.'"
Bush said his "faith in Democracy" made him sure that someday an African American would hold the office he has occupied for eight years, and he is certain more changes will come.
"I believe there will be a woman president," he said. "I am amazed to have watched, you know, Barack Obama come from basic, relative obscurity to now be the - soon to be the president of the United States. And he gives a lot of people hope. And that's good for the country."