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Thursday, April 25, 2013

John King Interviews Pres.& Mrs. George W. Bush

Part 1:

Part 2:

Transcript after the bump.


JOHN KING: Mr. President, Mrs. Bush.  Thank you for your time.  Let me start by saying congratulations.  This is a beautiful place.  And congratulations also on being new grandparents.
LAURA BUSH: Thank you very much.
GEORGE BUSH: She's a beautiful child.  (LAUGHTER)
JOHN KING: Interesting time in the life, right?
GEORGE BUSH: It really is.
JOHN KING: I want to spend most of our time on the lessons we will learn when we visit this place over years and why you did what you did here.  I just want to ask you sir.  The investigation is ongoing.  I don't want to get into the details.  But as the man who was Commander in Chief on 9/11, what went through your mind when you heard explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon?
GEORGE BUSH: I was reminded that evil exists.  And that there are people in the world who are willing to kill innocent people to advance a cause.  I don't know what this cause is.  But we'll find out.  During the same week, in a town close to us at Crawford, a plant exploded.  And both incidents remind me of how fragile life can be for some.  And both incidents, you know, made us weep knowing that somebody was hurting a lot.
JOHN KING: Let's focus on this place and it's beautiful and its brand new.  You're the librarian in the family.  (LAUGHTER) Are you the decider when it comes to this building?
LAURA BUSH: Well, (LAUGHTER) I was chairman of the design committee.
GEORGE BUSH: Yes.  Is the answer.  (LAUGHTER)
LAURA BUSH: But it was really fun for me to work on it.  Since I am a librarian and also I'm particularly interested in architecture. So we're very proud of the way it looks.  It looks terrific.
GEORGE BUSH: It's an elegant building just like the chairman of the of the design committee.  (LAUGHTER)
JOHN KING: You're going to have all of the living presidents…
JOHN KING: for the dedication.  What have you learned from the formers?  Your dad, President Clinton, President Carter about how to be most effective in a post-presidency?
GEORGE BUSH: Well, you learn that life doesn't end after you're president.  In other words, you're going a hundred miles an hour and in my case, we woke up in Crawford and now it's going zero.  (LAUGHTER) And so the challenge is how to live life to its fullest. In my case, I've chosen to do so outside the outside the limelight.  On the other hand, I am confident that when this chapter of our life is finished, we'll both be able to say that we've advanced the cause of peace and freedom and helped improve the human condition.
JOHN KING: One of the things I think that is fascinating about the library is that you've created this exhibit called the Decision Points Theater.
JOHN KING: Where any visitor can walk in and see some of the advice you got on the hard ones.
JOHN KING: And then make their own decision…
JOHN KING: based on what you saw at the time.  I want to go to one of those which is the Iraq decision which you know is something people always debate when they talk about that word you don't like, "legacy."  (LAUGH) People in that room will see what you saw at the time.
JOHN KING: I want to ask you, sir, based on what you know now, do you wish that instead of the Rumsfeld Doctrine which was lean and mean, you know, go in with a lighter force, that you had maybe had adopted what your dad did in the first Gulf War, the Powell Doctrine and gone in with overwhelming force?
GEORGE BUSH: In my book, I pointed out that there are some, you know, tactics that need to be revisited.  On the other hand, the removal of Saddam Hussein was the right decision.  America is more secure.  The Iraqi people have a chance to live in a free society.  The museum does give people the opportunity to hear the different points of view that I got on these particular issues.
The purpose of which is not to try to defend the policy.  The purpose of which is to try to show people what it's like to be the president.  And how you make decisions.  History will ultimately judge the decisions that were made for Iraq and I'm just not going to be around to see the final verdict.
JOHN KING: Not going to be around… an interesting way to put it.
GEORGE BUSH: (LAUGH) In other words, I'll be dead.  (LAUGHTER)
JOHN KING: As first lady, and now as part of the institute here.  You focused on the empowerment of women--
JOHN KING: Saw it a lot in Afghanistan, in the initial months after 9/11.  What's your sense now when you look at what you can do and what the institute can do, if you look at that region, whether it's Iraq, we just talked about, still a big question mark.
If you look around, look at Syria.  Look at Egypt.  The whole region is in this incredibly volatile stage.  And have the rights of women in some ways been set back because of all the changes or at least held hostage to all the volatility?
LAURA BUSH: Not necessarily, no. I think people really worldwide are looking at the rights of women and seeing how important women are to every society.  When you look at countries where women's rights are marginalized, and where half the population is locked out, left out,  you usually see a failing country.  That's what we saw in Afghanistan.  I'm still worried about the women in Afghanistan as we draw down our numbers of troops. But on the other hand women have made great strides in Afghanistan.
GEORGE BUSH: Democracies take time to evolve.  And Laura and I believe that women will help lead the democracy movements in these young democracies.  And part of our after life will be to enable and empower women.  And to remind our country through programs that we institute here that our involvement overseas is necessary to our national security.
JOHN KING: I want to ask you what will we learn from the theater and from all the memos that eventually will be made public about one of the toughest decisions of your presidency which was Katrina. Where you had to decide whether or not to send in the federal troops.  And you had a big debate about whether to overrule the governor.
GEORGE BUSH: Yeah, that's right. I think you'll just learn about the dilemma of federal law related to natural disasters.  I mean, natural disasters in our country have generally been left to the governors.  And the role of the federal government is to be supportive In this case, the natural disaster was so overwhelming and the infrastructure was so overwhelmed, that I had a tough choice to make.  And people will just learn the facts.  See, that's all I care about.  And that's why I wrote my book, which I'm sure you've assiduously studied.  (LAUGHTER)
JOHN KING: You talked about the idea that you have a southern governor, a woman governor in a state with a large African-American population.  A former governor, yourself--
JOHN KING: And people were telling you, "Mr. President, maybe you need to declare an insurrection."
GEORGE BUSH: Insurrection.  Which would have been pretty difficult.  Not pretty difficult, very difficult.  It just points out the dilemma--
JOHN KING: Do you wish in hindsight you had done it?
GEORGE BUSH: No, not really. There's no telling how history would have recorded the situation had I declared an insurrection.  I can tell you the decibel level would have risen even louder than it was.  The point is this helps Americans understand, 1) the decisions that I made during a massive storm. But also points out that the dilemmas that presidents face, not just me, but every president has got a series of conflicting advisors.  And you just got to pick.  And make the best judgment call you can.  And hopefully people will go to the Decision Points Theater and say, "Wow, I didn't understand that."  Or, "I now understand it better."  And it's interesting to me, how a president makes decisions and hopefully it'll help them make better decisions.
JOHN KING: Every president builds their library to at least make some contribution to the conversation about their legacy, don't they?
GEORGE BUSH: Oh sure.  I mean, particularly to record the events that took place during their presidency.  If, when, people go through there, I think they'll find that it's a lot more objective than they would have assumed.  In other words, I'm not, you know, saying, "I was right, you were wrong."  I'm just saying, "Here are the facts and-- here's what I did." In other words, if the museum and institute revolve around a personality, in 20 years it'll be irrelevant.
You know, when we're gone… I don't even know why I keep talking about being gone.  (LAUGHTER) I guess just because-- I'm 66.
LAURA BUSH: Since you're a grandfather.  (LAUGHTER)
GEORGE BUSH: Yeah, since I'm a grandfather.  New perspectives, John.  But, you know, we want this to be relevant.  A place that's relevant 30 or 40 years from now.

JOHN KING: Your friend and long-time advisor, Karen Hughes told me recently the combination of the rising opposition to the Iraq war and then Katrina came right at that moment.  She said that it cast what she called a, quote, "huge shadow over the rest of the presidency."  Is that a fair assessment?
GEORGE BUSH: You know the historians will judge that John.
JOHN KING: Was it harder though to get things done?
GEORGE BUSH: Well, I tried to get immigration reform done and it didn't happen.  And Social Security reform-- and those two issues didn't take place.  I don't think it was because of any shadows.  I think it was because, 1) Congress was reluctant to take on… it was reluctant to take on a difficult issue like Social Security.
In other words, the legislative body tends to be reactive.  And until a crisis is imminent, it's hard to get them to move forward.  And on immigration reform, a populace streak hit during the midst of the debate and made it difficult to do.  But, you know, the job of the president is to look beyond the moment and anticipate problems and encourage a legislative body to move.  Eventually these problems will get solved and--
JOHN KING: Elements of your party abandoned you on immigration.
GEORGE BUSH: And Social Security.
JOHN KING: Do you feel a sense of redemption now when you see leaders in the party--
GEORGE BUSH: You know--
JOHN KING: --saying we have to do something that looks a whole lot like-- (LAUGHTER)
GEORGE BUSH: No, I don't. I don't really view it as redemption, I view it as smart.  And logical.  And I was real proud of my little brother being out there, you know-- pushing the issue.  Because he understands the issue well.  Eventually these problems will get solved.  And a president just has to understand that not every issue gets solved during his presidency.  But he can contribute to the ultimate solution.
JOHN KING: I'm going to ask each of you. Looking back now that you're removed from the daily politics-- and you, especially at the end of the presidency was a pretty polarizing time.  How much do you think that the angst about Katrina, the opposition to the Iraq war just hardened some people so that they just couldn't see other things.
I'll mention PEPFAR for example.  Remarkable work against malaria and AIDS in Africa.  The Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, which under budget according to most costs, and yet many of your fellow Republicans say, you know, "Why did George W. Bush give us this liberal entitlement?" (LAUGHTER)
GEORGE BUSH: You know, John, I'm really not that concerned about why people did what during my presidency.  I'm more concerned about being an effective person for the rest of my life.
I know this that Laura and I gave the presidency eight years of our life.  We gave it our all.  Made the best judgment calls I could.  I didn't compromise my principles.  And I'm a content man.  And I am excited about what we're going to do here.
JOHN KING: You've made two trips to Africa since leaving office.  And I understand there's a third one coming up.
JOHN KING: What draws you there?
GEORGE BUSH: The human condition.  I think it's important to set priorities in life.  I always said that one of the principles that was important to me was human life.  We went to Africa and saw people dying, needlessly dying.  And there's nothing more important, I think, and Laura thinks as well, to help somebody live.
And so during my presidency I convinced Congress to spend taxpayers money to save lives not only from HIV but as well from malaria.  And it worked.  And we want to continue that type of work with cervical cancer.
JOHN KING: This will bring your team together.
Yes it will.
JOHN KING: The dedication.  (LAUGH) And we've talked to a lot of them in recent days.  At the end of the presidency, there was some strain with your vice president over some policy disagreements in the second term, over the Scooter…
JOHN KING: Libby pardon decision.  Is that relationship still strained?
GEORGE BUSH: No, it was never strained. I think that's the mythology that we've escaped.  In other words, there's a mythology in Washington.  There's a kind of a…
JOHN KING: He writes in his book that things were tense.
GEORGE BUSH: Not really.  They were on Scooter Libby.  Yeah, he didn't agree with that decision.  But people ought to look at the total picture.  And we're friends then and friends now.
JOHN KING: Can you enlighten us-- to the painting?  (LAUGHTER)
LAURA BUSH: Who would have thunk it.
JOHN KING: George W. Rembrandt? (LAUGHTER)
LAURA BUSH: George was looking for a pastime actually when gave up smoking cigars.  So he read Churchill's book, Painting As a Pastime
LAURA BUSH: And he's actually very good.  He's a very good painter.
JOHN KING: What do you get from it?
GEORGE BUSH: A lot of things, John.  I relax.  I see colors differently.  I am, I guess, tapping a part of the brain that, you know, certainly never used when I was a teenager.  (LAUGH) And I get the satisfaction out of completing a project.  And I paint people's pets.  (LAUGH) And I love to give them their pet as a gift.  And I readily concede the signature is more valuable than the painting.  (LAUGHTER)
LAURA BUSH: He's become a pet portrait painter.
GEORGE BUSH: It's hard to say if you say it quickly.  (LAUGHTER)
JOHN KING: This is my second dedication of a Bush Presidential Library.
GEORGE BUSH: There you go.
JOHN KING: I was at your father's, and I'm happy to be at this one.  Will I ever go to a third?
GEORGE BUSH: That's a good question.  (LAUGHTER) You know, I don't know. I think because of his example, his grandchildren and children admire his service and realize you can go into the public arena and not lose your soul.  And that you can be a good father and still be a political figure.  He's been an inspiration for me obviously, but as well brother, sister, and grandchildren.  And there's no telling… there is a nephew, a George P. Bush who is on the Hustings here in Texas.  And--
JOHN KING: You're not skipping Jeb, are you?
GEORGE BUSH: Well, big Jeb, you know, he's got a decision to make.  And if I could make it for him, it'd be, "run" but I can't.  And I don't know what he's going to do.  He'd be a great candidate and a great president.  But I do know his son, George P. has made up his mind.  And he's running for general land commission in Texas.  An important position.  And I think will do very well if given the chance to serve.
JOHN KING: Do you prefer the post presidency to the presidency?
LAURA BUSH: No, I loved it too.  I mean, I've loved every part of our life from when we were in Midland, Texas, to those eight years at the White House.  It was a huge privilege to live at the White House and serve the American people.  And here, back home in Dallas.
JOHN KING: Thank you both so much for your time.  Congratulations, and good luck with this place.
LAURA BUSH: Thank you.
GEORGE BUSH: Thanks, John.

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Anonymous said...

Good for Barbara Bush and her brazen, but always honest answer to Matt Lauer..."We've had enough Bushes in the Presidency."
Yes, Barbara true to form, pearls included, Laura and her girls, looked mildly amused and shocked at their grandmother and former First Lady's answer, but we are in agreement here.
Jeb, please give us a rest from the disaster your bro W. left behind. Own it, because George W. never will.

Anonymous said...

Yes, all four former Presidents and the current President Obama, agreed that the only good thing about W. was he "looked comfortable in his own skin."
Whatever that's supposed to mean.
And you could tell W. liked the sound of that because, like his Presidency, it was totally meaningless.