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Monday, May 8, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Best moment as president was catching a largemouth bass, Bush says

WASHINGTON — President Bush says his best moment as president was the time he caught a 7 -pound largemouth bass.

During his more than five years in office, Bush has traveled to the world's most impressive cities, met with world leaders and entertained celebrities.

But when the German newspaper Bild asked him to name his best and worst moments as president, Bush gave an offbeat answer about the best moment, while giving a more predictable response about his worst.

"The most awful moment was September the 11th, 2001," Bush said, adding that it took time to understand the depth of the terrorist attacks on the United States. "I would say the toughest moment of all was after the whole reality sunk in and I was trying to help the nation understand what was going on, and at the same time, be empathetic for those who had lost lives."

Bush admitted it was not easy to pick a best moment because "I've had a lot of great moments," according to a transcript of the Friday interview released Sunday.

"I would say the best moment was when I caught a 7 -pound largemouth bass on my lake," Bush said eventually.

Bush appeared to be joking about the catch, especially since a 7-plus pounder wouldn't wow any angler in the Lone Star state. A largemouth bass has to be more than 15 pounds to crack the top 50 biggest catches, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

But his answer was a whopper for political observers who have watched his administration stumble over the past year with the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, a CIA leak probe and the Dubai ports deal — all of which have dragged his approval ratings into the low 30 percent range.

It also was reminiscent of a 2004 press conference when Bush was asked to name his biggest mistake, and he couldn't come up with any.

"At least this is balanced," said Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "He can't think of the worst mistakes or his best moments. Maybe that's how he survives.

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But he added: "I doubt his wife will be pleased. If he wasn't going to name some official moment, the least he could have done was name some moment with Laura."

Bush also said Sunday he gained a glimpse into German Chancellor Angela Merkel's soul when they met in Washington last week.

Bush told Germany's ARD television that Merkel had described her youth in communist East Germany at a White House dinner Wednesday.

"She talked about — you know, her dad was a pastor and she talked about the different pioneer clubs and the schools. It also gave me a chance to get a glimpse into her soul," Bush said.

His comments about Merkel's soul echo ones he made about Russian President Vladimir Putin five years ago. "I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country," Bush said then.

His relations with Putin have since soured as Washington has grown increasingly critical of the Russian leader's record on democracy, human rights and press freedom.

Compiled from The Associated Press, the New York Daily News and Reuters

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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