George, Jeb Bush expound on a host of issues including Iraq, Afghanistan and the economy with special edition of “State of the Union” with Candy Crowley.
On Iraq: “I tried to solve the issue with Saddam Hussein peacefully. And if people read the book, they’ll see the notion of coercive diplomacy.”
43 on his legacy: “And so, no, I think there is a lot of ways to judge a presidency. And, you know, but legacy, I mentioned to you earlier, I’m very comfortable. I — now, I gave it my all. I didn’t compromise my principles in order to satisfy, you know, the moment.”
Jeb on 2012: “I answer the questions forthrightly about 2012.”
FULL TRANSCRIPT: From CNN’s “State of the Union with Candy Crowley”
CROWLEY: Good evening from Florida, the state that played a big role in
the political legacy of the Bush family. The state that the threw the
2000 presidential election into overtime and ultimately the Supreme
Court. The state that twice elected Jeb Bush, whose time as governor
included the Florida recount. For the past two years the brothers,
George and Jeb, have kept a low profile until now. The roll out of the
former president’s book “Decision Points.” This afternoon, the two of
them sat down to talk with me here in Coral Gables.
Former President Bush and I last spoke in December of ’08, one of his
final interviews as president. It was a subdued time. Republicans were
routed by the landslide victory of Barack Obama.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We care about it. We wanted to be successful and want
the transition to work.
CROWLEY: President Bush left behind an economy in recession, a situation
so dire that one of his last acts was to pump out $25 billion to save
the auto industry. And he set up a $700 billion taxpayer bailout for a
banking industry so burdened by its own bad investments, the country’s
entire economy was threatened.
GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, I feel a sense of obligation to my successor
to make sure there is not a — you know, a huge economic crisis. Look,
obviously have made a decision to make sure the economy doesn’t
collapse. I’ve abandoned free market principles to save the free market
Having said that, I’m very confident that with time the economy will
come out and grow and people’s wealth will return.
CROWLEY: I’m Candy Crowley, and this is a STATE OF THE UNION special.
“Bush Two Years Later.”
CROWLEY: Mr. President, thank you for being here with us. I want to
start with the economy because that’s what the American people are
thinking about now.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Right.
CROWLEY: And I listened to that exchange with you, and I wonder if you
knew two years ago, when you were talking about, I think, the wealth
will come back. It hasn’t.
GEORGE W. BUSH: No, I understand…
CROWLEY: Still struggling.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes.
CROWLEY: Was it as bad — was it as bad as you thought it was, or worse
than you thought it was at that time?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, when I talked to you, I had just finished making a
very difficult decision, and that is, use tax-payers’ money to prevent
the economy from collapsing, or preventing a depression.
And I believe that those decisions made in the fall of ’08 did prevent
the economy from heading into a depression.
I knew we were hurt. I don’t think a lot of us realized how long it
would take to get out of the mess. I will tell you this, though, that
the TARP, the — you mentioned the $700 billion, we spent half of it
when I was president, and it has been repaid with interest to the people
of the country.
And the president has, you know, obviously made decisions he thinks are
necessary to grow the economy. And so far the growth has been sluggish.
CROWLEY: A lot of times we do hear from this administration that they
had no idea — that the reason it’s taking so long is they had no idea
how bad it was. That they got into office and they really didn’t
understand how bad it was.
Did you understand how bad it was? Did you think that you and I would be
sitting here in two years talking about an economy of people talking
about their “201(k)s” (ph) now, they’re talking — you know, it’s 9.6
percent unemployment rate. So it’s still a scary place.
Did you think two years later it would still be this bad?
GEORGE W. BUSH: I wasn’t a very good economic prognosticator. I did know
we were in deep trouble. And that’s why I made the decision I made. And
in my book, I chronicle the history of the meltdown and then the
decisions I took to prevent the economy from cratering.
There is a lot of people who said, well, the economy, we wouldn’t have
seen a depression. The problem is, when you’re the president, you don’t
have the luxury of being — talking about the theoretical.
I was advised by people who I trust. I trusted Hank Paulson and Ben
Bernanke that we had better do something. And so I did set aside my free
market principles and made a very difficult decision.
CROWLEY: But never regretted it.
GEORGE W. BUSH: No, I don’t. I really don’t.
CROWLEY: I want to — this was — is from your book, and you were
talking about the economy at this point. And you said: “I felt like the
captain of a sinking ship. This was one ugly way to end the presidency.”
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, yes.
CROWLEY: You bring up Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, also had Larry Lindsey
as an economic adviser. And I guess I think, when I think of the White
House, I think, they bring in all of these big brains, and these people
all know about global economies and this and that, and nobody saw it coming.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Right.
CROWLEY: Now you talk about, I didn’t see it coming, I didn’t know I
was, you know, angry at what the banks had done. And, you know, to me,
I’m thinking, why isn’t anyone accountable for this? Why did it slip
past all of these big brains that you like so much?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, everybody is accountable. I mean, private and
We did anticipate a problem, and that is that the implicit government
guarantee of Fannie and Freddie, the government mortgage institutions,
the fact that they weren’t regulated — implicit government guarantee,
plus the fact that they weren’t regulated, was creating a problem. And
therefore, I did go to Congress and strongly urged them to regulate
those two entities, and, of course, was rebuffed until the crisis hit.
CROWLEY: But this was really broad. This was broader than Fannie and
Freddie. They were a big problem, but —
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. I also put in the book this was not a case of
regulation, this was a case of bad decisions in the private sector. But,
CROWLEY: But how did we not know that? Why didn’t — did you say to
Bernanke, “How did this happen? Why didn’t you see it?”
Did you say to Larry Lindsey, “How come you guys don’t know?” Did you
look at Hank Paulson and say, “Excuse me?”
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, Larry wasn’t there at the time.
CROWLEY: Oh, that’s right. He had already left.
GEORGE W. BUSH: He was gone. You know, I don’t think anybody really saw
the size of the catastrophe.
CROWLEY: But doesn’t that kind of make you think, what’s your people’s
job but to help me do this?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I don’t think our job is to over-regulate an
economy. Our job was to provide reasonable regulation, which we tried to
do but were thwarted by the Congress.
Look, I’m not trying to pass the blame on anybody, but I think it is
very difficult for a president or an administration to see the size and
scope of a downturn. I mean, economics is an inexact science, and we did
see a problem coming. That’s why we tried to boost consumer spending in
January of 2008.
But the interconnectedness of the world and the risky investments that
many made compounded into the perfect storm. And it was a very difficult
situation. And my job at that point was to make a decision as to whether
or not we’re going to risk a complete economic collapse, and I chose not to.
CROWLEY: I guess if I’m just a consumer out there — and I remember
distinctly being on the campaign trail. At that point, I think we were
with John McCain. And it just seemed like the world was falling apart.
It was sort of like everything was going fine, and then all of a sudden,
it was, the world’s falling apart. If we don’t act now, the banks are
going to fail and this will happen.
And I guess right now, if I’m listening to you out there, I’m thinking,
so, it could happen again because no one is out there watching this?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. No, I think there’s a lot of people watching. And I
remember Bear Stearns fails in the spring of 2008, and we acted. But the
interconnectedness of the situation and the money flowing into the
country as a result of trade deficits, and foreign investors looking for
greater returns, and the housing — the assumption that the housing
prices were going to go up, all led to this, you know, house of cards.
And when it started to collapse, it really started to collapse. And
obviously if there was some way to have stopped it, I would have liked
to have done so. But it was — I hope it’s a once-in-a-lifetime
situation, but they said the Great Depression was a once-in-a-lifetime
situation as well.
The problem is, you’ve got to be very careful, Candy, not to
over-regulate, because if you try to over-regulate, then investment’s
not going to flow. And if investment doesn’t flow, then people aren’t
going to be able to find work.
CROWLEY: Except I would think, wow, if somebody had set some standards
for loans, these banks would not have been stuck with so much bad paper.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, yes, that’s right. There were sloppy lending
practices, no question about it. And I wish they would have paid a price.
CROWLEY: But isn’t that regulation?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, the regulations are on the books about sloppy
lending prices. And, yes — the danger is, is that — I mean, the logic
of your questioning is, OK, now in order to prevent a future collapse
from happening, we must over-regulate, or regulate a lot. And the danger —
CROWLEY: Or regulate more.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I mean, it depends on what you’re talking about.
The problem is regulation tends to stifle capital investment. And
capital investment is what’s necessary to grow the economy. So you’ve
got to find the right balance.
CROWLEY: Do I take it from that that you didn’t think much of the
financial reform bill that passed?
GEORGE W. BUSH: You can take that I’m not going to criticize my
successor and that —
CROWLEY: I just wanted to ask what you thought of the bill.
GEORGE W. BUSH: It’s a wonderful attempt to do so.
GEORGE W. BUSH: No, there needs to be some regulation. I talked about
some of the regulation in my book. Hank Paulson, in the summer of 2008,
with my approval, laid out a plan as to how to better regulate the
economy without stifling investment.
CROWLEY: I want to turn you quickly to Social Security, because you —
it was one of the things on your agenda. You had talked about this in
your book —
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes.
CROWLEY: — and had gone out to say we’re going to reform Social
Security, as some other presidents have done.
We now have this new, what are we going to do about the deficit and
overspending? And one of the things in it from a friend of yours, I
think, Alan Simpson, who’s one of the co-chairs of this, is let’s raise
the retirement age over a period of time to 69.
Is it any easier now than it was when you tried it? I mean, is there
anything that leads you to believe, OK, good idea, people will get on board?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I do discuss the issue in my book, and recount
seeing where leaders from our party in the Congress came and said,
“We’re not going to support your Social Security reform.” And I said,
“Why?” And they said, “Well, we’ll probably lose seats.”
And my view is that legislative bodies tend to be reactive, and it’s
going to require a president to be proactive to convince Congress that
the crisis is severe enough to take some political risk by passing a
plan. I also laid out specifics. I might have been the first president
to ever detail how best to deal with the unfunded liabilities inherent
in Social Security. And not reforming Social Security was a huge
CROWLEY: Stick with me. When we come back, I want to talk to you a
little bit about your role as commander in chief.
We’ll be right back.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Thank you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH: If you ever make decisions based upon your political
skin with troops in harm’s way, you, as commander in chief, will have a
lot of problem keeping the respect of the military.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Mr. President, I wanted to ask you — something stuck with me
about the speech that you gave post-9/11 at the National Cathedral, and
talked about how this came out of nowhere, surprised us, but the end
would be in a way and at an hour of our choosing.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. It’s a rhetorical device to lift the spirits of the
country and say that the attack was unprovoked and that we had to respond.
CROWLEY: But it’s not going to end, is it?
GEORGE W. BUSH: It will end when freedom helps extinguish hope. In other
words, the extremists become marginalized with time as freedom advances.
And it won’t end if America retreats within our borders and doesn’t help
people realize the blessings of freedom.
CROWLEY: But that’s a tough sell, as you know.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, of course it is.
CROWLEY: We still have young men and women in Iraq, men and women in
Afghanistan — 50,000 in one, over 100,000 in the other. We’re already
seeing signs that people are restless about Afghanistan.
And yet, I was struck by an interview in one of the morning papers about
the head of British forces, who said we’re never going to defeat al
Qaeda. We can make ourselves more secure, but we’re talking about a
30-year battle here.
What do you say to the American people who say, oh, Afghanistan, I mean,
it’s time to get out, it’s time to pull out, to say you’ve got to stay?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, there’s — first of all, Afghanistan was the site
where extremists were able to find a safe haven to attack.
CROWLEY: But they’re mostly gone at this point in Afghanistan.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I wouldn’t make that assumption. Oh, in Afghanistan,
yes, but it’s not to say they couldn’t come back if a regime that was
welcoming them would give them safe haven again.
I would say that, put yourself in the position of a young girl in
Afghanistan, and realize that her life will be incredibly brutalized
and/or thwarted by people like the Taliban. And the fundamental
question, is it worth it? That’s the question we’ve got to ask.
Does it matter to our own national security, or does it matter to our
conscience that women will be mistreated? I argue it does. And I
understand it’s difficult.
CROWLEY: It is. And women are mistreated in a lot of different parts of
GEORGE W. BUSH: Nothing like they were during the Taliban.
CROWLEY: It was brutal. It was brutal. I guess, you know, people look
and say, but there’s a lot of places we could go.
But I want to just sort of get this to the notion of nation-building —
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes.
CROWLEY: — which I remember in your campaign you talked against.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, I was against.
CROWLEY: And then here’s what you said in your book, talking about the
war in Afghanistan: “I knew it would take time to help the Afghan people
build a functioning democracy. Our government was not prepared for
GEORGE W. BUSH: Right.
CROWLEY: How did the George Bush that campaigned and said, this is not
what we do —
GEORGE W. BUSH: Right.
CROWLEY: — go from that person to, listen, we’re going to be in
Afghanistan for a long time because we’ve got to build a nation?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Because when I made that statement in the 2000 campaign,
I did not anticipate that we would have to remove a brutal regime that
had harbored al Qaeda. But once the decision was made to remove the
regime, to deny al Qaeda safe haven, and to hold people to account who
harbored terrorists, then we had an obligation not to leave.
We had an — in other words, we removed the government. We had an
obligation to help the Afghans develop a democracy —
CROWLEY: It’s been nine years.
GEORGE W. BUSH: — so they could — yes, of course.
CROWLEY: Did you expect it would be nine years?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, South Korea took a long time as well. In other
words, there’s examples of where societies evolve from strongmen to
democracy. And it does take time. And I wish it had taken a lot quicker,
no question about it, but your question a while ago was the right
question. Does it matter to the United States?
It mattered to the United States to remove the Taliban. Does it matter
to the United States at this point in time to help this really poor
country develop into a democracy? And I make the case in the book that
CROWLEY: Another thing you said in the book — and this is just sort of
setting up where this comes from. You’re about to start the surge in Iraq.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes.
CROWLEY: Afghanistan is literally blowing up — lots of IEDs. It’s
getting worse in Afghanistan.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, it is getting worse at that time, right.
CROWLEY: And you say to your advisers, “Damn it, we can do more than one
thing at a time. We cannot lose in Afghanistan.”
Is it possible — because so many people have said — in fact, President
Obama won on the notion that we took our eye off that ball — that we
would not still be there, nine years later, in a war that people are
weary of, where Americans are still being killed, had we not ventured
off into a war that began at least on one great, false premise, unknown
at the time?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, right. Well, I’m not sure which part of the
question to answer first.
First of all, I tried to solve the issue with Saddam Hussein peacefully.
And if people read the book, they’ll see the notion of coercive diplomacy.
I do believe it was his choice to make as to whether or not he would be
held to account for the demands of the free world at the time, which was
disclose, disarm or face serious consequences.
Secondly, what happened in Afghanistan was that our NATO allies turned
out — some of them turned out not to be willing to fight. And
therefore, our assumption that we had ample troops, U.S. and NATO
troops, turned out to be a not true assumption. And so we adjusted.
And I completely disagree with the take eye off the ball. I found that
to be empty political rhetoric.
CROWLEY: I want to move to Iraq for a minute, but I’m curious what you
think of President Karzai negotiating with members of the Taliban.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. I’d be very careful, because the Taliban are the
people who brutalized the society when they were in power.
CROWLEY: The whole reason we went, was to drive them out.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. Well, I don’t have enough — I’m not involved with
the process now. My reaction when I first heard that was, these are the
guys who harbored al Qaeda. Now, maybe there’s reasonable Taliban. I
don’t know. I’m out of the loop at this point, on this issue.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you about weapons of mass destruction. You’ve talked
about how sick you felt to your stomach when you found out there were no
weapons of mass destruction.
Can you bring me to that moment? Did someone walk in and say, “We’ve
stopped looking, they’re not there”?
GEORGE W. BUSH: No. No.
CROWLEY: Who was it? And how did that happen?
GEORGE W. BUSH: It just kind of was a — it evolved. The fact that there
wasn’t weapons evolved. I mean, I was — you know, when we first got in
there, started looking around you didn’t find anything, that kind of
sinking feeling that, oh. And then time went on. And then we got tips,
you know, they’re — I’ll never forget the tip that there was crates
buried, you know, hidden in the Euphrates River. Maybe these are them.
And they sent frogmen and there was nothing there.
And so — and then, of course, George Tenet had the, you know, the
inspectors go back in or — or David Kaye and Duelfer and that pretty
well put the — was the period at the end of the sentence there.
And yes, I felt terrible about it. And on the other hand, those reports
did point out that Saddam Hussein was very dangerous and he had the
capacity to make weapons that — and I’m convinced that if he were in
power today, the world would be a lot worse off.
CROWLEY: One of the things, I think, that I thought about at the time —
and I wonder if you did — and you talk a lot in the book about Abu
Ghraib and how outraged you were about that, about not finding WMD when
you had a CIA director with the slam dunk.
GEORGE W. BUSH: No, no. He said slam dunk at the case. He didn’t say
slam dunk weapons. He — his point, just to you know, is that the case
was a solid case. In other words, presenting the case would be a solid
case to the people.
CROWLEY: A solid case that there were WMD.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Right, that the evidence showed that he had WMD. I’m not …
GEORGE W. BUSH: … we’re splitting hairs. Sorry.
CROWLEY: Well I — but my question is when you look at those things
about Abu Ghraib about the WMD, it seems as though no one ever paid for
that. we went to war largely on that basis. And I know you argue that
you – you know, that there is an argument that we’re better off with
just — without Saddam Hussein. It was a brutal dictator and a horrible
man. But the fact of the matter is that we sent young men, women there
who were killed. As you know, you know better than anybody else. And no
one ever — you never said you’re responsible for this. You’re out.
And so the American people, I think, began to kind of lose confidence in
GEORGE W. BUSH: I can see that.
First of all, I was responsible. And the 2004 campaign was partially
about that responsibility but yes, I mean, I — the Commander In Chief
responsible and — now I wish we’d have found weapons of mass
destruction. However, that doesn’t make the cause a lost cause.
CROWLEY: Right. And something — I mean that’s something you had to argue.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I believe that free Iraq is going to be — be
transformed within the Middle East. It’s not going to happen under our
lifetime. We’re going to have to — you and I’ll — well I know I’ll be
long gone. But I think some day…
CROWLEY: I’m sticking around.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I hope so. But I think somebody’s going to look back
some day and say thank goodness the United States believed in the
universality of freedom and liberated 25 million and gave the Iraqis a
chance to have their own free — free society.
CROWLEY: Stick with me a little longer. When we come back, we want to
talk about the trials of the presidency that President Lincoln knew so well.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Thank you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH: I think he’s taught presidents the importance of
speaking with moral clarity on certain truths. And secondly, when you
start to feel sorry for yourself, just look at Lincoln.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: I was at the Truman Library at one point and they have
showcased there as one of their exhibits a letter that was written to
Harry Truman during the Korean war. They found it in Harry Truman’s desk
after he died. And it was a medal and this letter.
As you’ve been directly responsible for the loss of our son’s life in
Korea, you might just as well keep this emblem on display in your trophy
room as a memory of one of your historic deeds.
Our major regret at this time is that your daughter was not there to
receive the same treatment as our son received in Korea.
Signed, William Banning (ph).”
What struck me was that this was in his drawer.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes.
CROWLEY: That it — it affected him in a way and I know we’ve heard a
lot of touching stories of people who lost their children and came to
the White House who were so supportive of you. But I know that there
must have been others.
I’m interested in how those who are so angry — and we understand their
anger — how those affected you?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, it hurts, of course. And when I met a mom who —
who I was hoping to console, and she says, you’re as big a terrorist as
Osama bin Laden.
CROWLEY: Sticks with you.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, of course it does. And I just hope that some day
there be enough success in Iraq so that hurt will be healed. And I fully
understood it. And, yes..
CROWLEY: And do you — I guess there’s no way then of consoling, because
here you really are confronted with people who think you’ve done the
exact wrong thing.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Right. That’s right.
CROWLEY: And I think in some ways, as lovely as it is to be able to
console someone who wants your consolation…
GEORGE W. BUSH: Right.
CROWLEY: … that you might sometimes go to bed at night thinking…
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, I felt — right after that meeting I certainly felt
that. The difference, of course, between Truman’s era and my era is that
ours is a volunteer Army where the kids volunteered. And it really does
make a difference, because their moms probably said, you sure you want
to do this, and they would say, absolutely.
And 70 percent of the military today signed up after September the 11th,
so there was — but it still doesn’t — I’m not trying to justify what
I’m telling — in other words, I saw probably less of that than Harry
Truman did. But never — I did see, and I understand…
CROWLEY: Whether they volunteered or not, it still…
GEORGE W. BUSH: Hurts. It really hurts.
CROWLEY: I wanted to play something for you. You know this, General
Hayden, who was head of the NSA…
GEORGE W. BUSH: And I admire him greatly.
CROWLEY: He has been on our show a couple of times. And I asked him if
knowing what he knew, whether he was less scared than I was of what’s
out there, or more. And here was his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), FORMER NSA DIRECTOR: I used to get in the
car every morning. They’d give me the president’s briefing and a bunch
of other cables. I used to spend my first hour just kind of going
through the last 24 hours’ events. It is hard to have faith in human
nature or to be an optimist after that 60 minutes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. Well, Mike and I read a lot of the same
intelligence during my presidency. And what a lot of people forget — I
think forget, is that this country was under severe threat. And I
believe we still are. I don’t get the intelligence now that the
president gets, nor should I.
But there is an enemy out there who would still do us harm. And
therefore, it’s important for the president and the Congress to work
together to, you know, help — and to work with local authorities to
help protect our country.
CROWLEY: And when you — but you’re at the base of it an optimistic man
who thinks that we can win this war on terror.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I do. I do.
CROWLEY: But it is a pretty scary place out there, at least according to
the — one of your top spies.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, because there are some brutal people who kill the
innocent to advance their agenda. And the difference between other
ideological struggles like that with communism or fascism, there is not
a single nation state or nation states.
This is kind of a shadowy group that kind of burrows in society and is
very lethal. And, of course, the biggest danger facing our country is a
terrorist group ending up with weapons of mass destruction, biological
weapons or chemical weapons.
And that’s why I view Saddam Hussein as a threat, because he was an
enemy of the United States. We all thought he had weapons of mass
destruction. And the danger is, he could give those to a surrogate group.
CROWLEY: You had a chapter about your stem cell research decision in
your book. And one of the things I thought was fascinating was a
paragraph that you had about what people were calling you.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Right.
CROWLEY: Called you a Nazi, among other things. And it is interesting to
me that I have now seen two presidents who came into office going, I’m
going to change the tone. You did not. And so far President Obama has not.
Are we past the point where that is possible?
GEORGE W. BUSH: I hope not. One thing I didn’t do is get involved with
the name-calling that went on in Washington. I tried to protect the
institution of the presidency.
CROWLEY: Well, people felt that you did — that your administration did
try to paint people who didn’t agree with you on the war on terror as
not being patriotic.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes…
CROWLEY: There were lots of things that they felt…
GEORGE W. BUSH: Some of that. You know, that’s mainly — I mean, for
example, I don’t remember doing that personally. And that was uncalled
for, if that’s the case, because patriotic people disagree with my
decisions. There is no question in my mind.
You know, there are some who criticize for not punching back after I’d
been called these names, but I chose not to do that. The truth of the
matter is it didn’t bother me. I mean, it’s — you know, I saw my dad
vilified and that did bother me.
And so by the time it came time for me to be the target, I just kind of
shrugged it off.
CROWLEY: I want to bring up the legacy question.
GEORGE W. BUSH: OK.
CROWLEY: And this came from Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal,
November 9th, timed with your book, actually: “More than most
presidents, George W. Bush belongs to history, history will judge him
almost solely by what he did after a single historic day, September
11th, 2001, in short, by the war on terror and the wars in Afghanistan
and Iraq. If in time they succeed, he was a good president. If they
fail, his presidency fails.”
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. Well, I don’t know Mr. Henninger very well. I’m
sure he’s a smart man. I would hope that people will judge my presidency
on a lot of things besides just Iraq and Afghanistan. One of which is
that we weren’t attacked.
Secondly, I left behind structure to help presidents deal with the
threats of the world. Thirdly that we help reform education. That we led
CROWLEY: Don’t you think the war is sort of…
GEORGE W. BUSH: No — well, if you’re a person who received
anti-retroviral drugs on the continent of Africa as a result of our
PEPFAR initiative. You’re probably saying, thanks, America, for helping
save my life.
If you’re an Indian citizen, I think you’ll be appreciative of the fact
that my administration changed — or helped change the relations between
India and the United States.
And so, no, I think there is a lot of ways to judge a presidency. And,
you know, but legacy, I mentioned to you earlier, I’m very comfortable.
I — now, I gave it my all. I didn’t compromise my principles in order
to satisfy, you know, the moment.
And I know history will take time. And I’m simply not going to be around
to see the objective history of my — the objective analysis of my
administration. It’s all you can do in life is give it your all.
CROWLEY: I’m going to bring in some reinforcement now and bring in your
brother, Jeb, who you, at least, have some ambitious for him, and did so
even two years ago.
Have you told Jeb to run for the U.S. Senate in Florida?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes.
CROWLEY: Is he going to?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Don’t know?
CROWLEY: You really don’t know?
GEORGE W. BUSH: I really don’t know. I wish he would. He would be a
CROWLEY: We are now interviewing the Bush brothers in Coral Gables, at
the classic Biltmore Hotel.
Thanks for joining us for this.
I have to know, publicly or privately — let’s put it that way — what’s
your biggest political disagreement with your brother?
JEB BUSH, FMR. FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I will tell you that I’m the only
Republican that was in office when he was in office as president that
never disagreed with him. And I’m not going to start now. Why would I do
that now after two years?
CROWLEY: Oh. Wait. Not one time would you call up and say, “You know
what? Don’t do that”?
JEB BUSH: I’m not going to start now. It’s just ’till death do us part.
CROWLEY: Those are between you. So it’s not that there are not political
differences, it’s just that you don’t do that to each other publicly?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, here’s the problem —
JEB BUSH: He might. I wouldn’t.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Of course I wouldn’t do that, because the news isn’t the
disagreement. The news is the brothers. There’s a schism with the
brothers. And we love each other and we’re very close, and we would
never do that to each other.
CROWLEY: And that sort of continues sort of through your whole family,
right? I mean, you sort of formed a protective gate around your dad when
he was running. You talked about that in the book — which I know you
haven’t read, but you’ve nonetheless bought it. But in it, he describes
Lee Atwater, and both of you had sort of a trepidation about —
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. What she’s referring to is the time when dad had us
at Camp David and we questioned Lee’s loyalty.
Jeb issued the great line that said, “If there’s a grenade rolling next
to down, Lee, we expect you to be diving on it first.”
JEB BUSH: Beating us to it.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Because we love our dad. And, you know, it’s hard for
people to understand that — how much we admire him and how much we love
him and how much our admiration for him motivated us to go into public
CROWLEY: I want to ask you about — the Republican Party had a great
election, in case you were too busy selling a book to notice.
CROWLEY: And new infusion of excitement. You held with Marco Rubio down
here in Florida, so lots of exciting new folks for Republicans coming to
There seems to be these two ways to go. One is, stop all things Obama.
And the other is, let’s find a way to move forward.
What way should the Republican Party go?
JEB BUSH: I think it can be both. I mean, I think you have to, on
principle, oppose this dramatic expansion of government, but at the same
time, find common ground where there can be common ground.
Not everything is ideological. We could have an energy policy in our
country if we put aside our partisan differences. We certainly could
have a free trade agreement in Korea, Colombia, Panama. We could find
maybe common ground even in immigration if the border is controlled
sufficiently. So a lot of things that — education policies and other
I don’t think you can be against everything just because someone has a
“D” by their name and you have an “R” by your name.
CROWLEY: You know in Washington that very often, what happens is
bipartisanship is that the other person agrees with you.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes.
CROWLEY: So you heard that list of things. Do you see those openings as
well? Because I know you came to Washington hoping for these sorts of
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, actually, we did achieve some bipartisan pieces of
legislation, No Child Left Behind being an example. Tax cuts, another
And right after 9/11, there was great bipartisan cooperation. And so
there are moments when you’re able to come together, and, of course,
there’s very divisive moments as well. And all of us in the country hope
that people can find common ground.
CROWLEY: When these elections were over and we looked at the voting
totals, 2-2, the Latino vote, Democratic — 2-1, Latino voters went for
Why is that?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Es un problema.
CROWLEY: Yes, it is. And why is it un problema?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, because there’s a lot of Latinos who ought to be
CROWLEY: But they’re not. So why is that?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, that’s not to say they won’t next time. And I got
a lot of the Latino vote when I ran for president, as did Jeb.
CROWLEY: You did.
And so did you as governor.
But something is wrong here. Is it not?
JEB BUSH: Rick Scott got a majority of the Hispanic vote in Florida. We
elected two Hispanic governors, Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval.
There were congressmen and women elected of Hispanic origin.
I think the problem is not just a West Coast problem, but it is a
big-time California problem. And I think part of it relates to tone.
If you’re watching TV, and someone is kind of legitimately angry that we
can’t control our border, and sending signals that it’s them and us,
and, by the way, you’re not “us,” you’re “them,” it doesn’t matter what
else people turn out. If they’re not — feel like they’re welcome,
they’re not going to listen to the message.
CROWLEY: And how does the Republican Party sort of reach out on that?
Because immigration reform, you tried.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I did. And I believe the best way to secure the border
is to have a comprehensive approach, and said so during an Oval Office
The language got carried away though. I mean, people — the issue kind
of spiraled out of control and sent bad signals.
I think the Republican Party can attract Latinos through good education
policy, good small business policy, good policy toward our veterans. And
there have been times when Latinos have voted Republican and times when
they haven’t. And so we always need to learn from the past and be
sensitive about the future.
CROWLEY: Because, totally — because the Republican Party had to move
right of center, at least in this election — we saw a lot of — Latinos
(ph) really took a harsh language toward Latinos, the idea that everyone
coming across the border was a criminal, that somehow terrible things
were happening. I remember you talking so much during the campaign about
family values not stopping at the Rio Grande, but you’ve lost that tone
in the Republican Party.
JEB BUSH: Yes. And at the same time, Latino, or Hispanic, as we call
people of Hispanic origin in Florida, Hispanics want the border
controlled. A great nation has to control its border for national
security purposes, for all sorts of purposes. And so I don’t know
anybody that says, yes, let’s just open up our border to create chaos.
So, once the border is controlled, and people view it that way, and
there’s a perception, it’s benchmarked, and people say yes, then I think
you’re going to find that there is common ground to change our
immigration policy to help us grow faster as a nation and to welcome
people that work hard and play by the rules to create prosperity for us.
CROWLEY: I’m going to ask the former governor and the former president
to stick with me for a minute.
When we come back, we’re going to talk about what your father was saying
about two years ago this time.
We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Does your dad want him to run?
GEORGE W. BUSH: I haven’t talked to my dad about whether or not he wants
Jeb to run. First of all, knowing my dad, I bet he would say, “I want to
Jeb to do that which is best for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So we just heard your brother talking two years ago, saying,
look, what my dad wants is what’s good for Jeb.
What’s good for Jeb right now?
JEB BUSH: What’s good for Jeb is to fulfill his duties as a husband and
a father, which I really feel compelled to do. I think it’s the right
thing to do.
I got to be governor for eight years. It took about two years to get it,
get the job. So that’s a decade out of my life in public service.
I enjoyed it immensely. I’m still involved, but I really have to stay
focused on this goal of achieving some financial independence, financial
security for my family.
CROWLEY: And that doesn’t —
JEB BUSH: And it’s as simple as that. No one believe it, because in the
Washington world, I guess there’s such a deep discount for the truth in
politics. You know, politicians never say what they actually believe or
So I’m asked this question a lot. You would think after about 10 times
you’d be done with it, but I keep answering it honestly.
CROWLEY: You’ll be happy to know that Governor Christie said he wasn’t
sure what he had to do to convince reporters that he wasn’t running for
president other than kill himself.
CROWLEY: However, I will sort of out your brother here, who was asked
about 2012, who said, “Well, I’m not going to be getting into it,
because my candidate isn’t running, my brother Jeb.”
So, you are kind of contributing to this.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I am, no question about it. And I urged him to seriously
consider running for president, because I think he’d be a great
president. But he’s chosen not to run this time, and I finally have
CROWLEY: See? So you’re getting some place. And you noticed “this time.”
JEB BUSH: You know what? You never say never about anything. I answer
the questions forthrightly about 2012.
I’m going to be involved. I have an education reform foundation, trying
to improve the plight of our education systems around the country. And
I’m helping candidates that I believe in.
And you know what? Switzerland, as it relates to national Republican
politics, which gives me a chance to have my voice heard quietly, the
way I like it.
CROWLEY: Your mother recently — and it was in conjunction with an
appearance you had on “Oprah,” I think — somebody asked something, and
she said, “You know, I think the country’s Bushed out right now.”
CROWLEY: Which very much sounded like your mom.
If your brother’s last name were not “Bush,” A, would you have run? B,
would you have had a better shot?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, first of all, it’s hard to disassociate the man
sitting here with how he was raised. And we were both raised by great
parents who gave us unconditional love and taught us values and the
nobility of serving. So that’s a hard question to answer.
It’s kind of the old classic, if my name were “George Jones,” wouldn’t’
I have —
JEB BUSH: You’d be a country western singer.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Now wait a minute. That’s my line.
JEB BUSH: I liked it so much, I stole it.
CROWLEY: And that’s what brothers do.
I have to ask you — there’s lots of chatter — and you’re right. I
mean, I think you can say as many times as you want you’re always going
to get this. Well, then, what about 2016 and what about 2020?
So let’s leave that there, because the chatter in Washington now if
you’re out reading your blogs, is that you would be great as the
chairman of the Republican National Committee. Would you be interested
JEB BUSH: No. I mean, if I’m trying to achieve financial security for my
family and I’m not running for office, I certainly wouldn’t run for RNC
CROWLEY: And why do you think all this talk is always out there? First,
let me ask you, why is this talk always out there about your brother?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Because he’s a successful person. He’s smart. He’s
honest. And he had an unbelievably good record as the governor of Florida.
CROWLEY: And that’s – I mean – and you’re last name is Bush. And so
there’s always sort of chatter about that.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah, but had he been a failure as governor of Florida
they wouldn’t be touting him. And if he wasn’t an honest guy, they
wouldn’t be touting him. And if he wasn’t, you know, a decent person who
had a great heart, they wouldn’t be touting him.
CROWLEY: I want to read you something – I think you know Florida state
rep Evan Jenne, at least – a Democrat in the State House here who said
in April, and this was when you were very open support of Marco Rubio
who is now the Senator-elect from Florida and this is what he had to say
about – talking about you. “It’s like Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter,
you can’t speak his name, but you know he’s there.”
JEB BUSH: I never got a chance to serve with Evan. When I was governor
he was not a state House member. But I kind of like that reputation if I
You know, you try to fill the space. And sometimes you get – you know,
things get attributed to you that aren’t even close. But I like that,
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah, the reason why – I don’t know the man, either, but
I suspect the reason he said is that if you ask most Floridians about
Jeb, they say, man what a good job he did.
CROWLEY: I think he was talking about your influence on the Marco Rubio
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I think he’s talking about his influence on the
state in general.
JEB BUSH: I think he was probably talking about the legislature.
CROWLEY: We all sort of see what – it’s like a Rorschach test here.
If you had to write your brother’s political legacy, a lot to talk
about, this is his swipe and we’ll talk about that, but this is his
attempt to kind of help shape the legacy, if you had to write your
brother’s political legacy, what would be your opening statement?
JEB BUSH: He kept us safe.
CROWLEY: And you would go with that?
GEORGE W. BUSH: First of all, I don’t want to correct you, but I will.
I’m not trying to shape my legacy, I’m trying to provide data points for
future historians. I want people who are going to write an objective
history of this administration to know what it was like. And as far as
our fellow citizens here, there’s going to be some people that didn’t
agree with my decisions even after they read the book, but at least
they’ll have a better feeling about why I decided what I decided.
See, I don’t believe in shaping legacies. I think the – I think the…
CROWLEY: It’s hard to do.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, the history has been done. I mean, the decisions
have been made. And now it’s a matter of time.
CROWLEY: The one question for you, and one question for you. Who do you
think was the better president, 41 or 43?
JEB BUSH: 15 yard penalty, loss of down. You can’t…
GEORGE W. BUSH: Go with 41.
CROWLEY: You always say go with the dad, you know.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Absolutely.
CROWLEY: You know, I think that says something about your relationship.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Particularly with the mother.
JEB BUSH: You know you dealt with the conditions that you serve as
president really define a lot of the presidency. Your dealt with
circumstances. And both of them were dealt with completely different
circumstances and did great. How about that?
CROWLEY: That was very, um, political of you. Very good political answer.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Diplomatic.
CROWLEY: That’s right, diplomatic.
You’re father, 41, has said that he looks at Bill Clinton like another
son. So whose been the better brother, Jeb or Bill?
JEB BUSH: I knew that was coming.
GEORGE W. BUSH: You did? Why didn’t you warn me? Jeb.
We’re fond of Bill Clinton. He’s – I tell you, he’s been incredibly
gracious to our dad. And if somebody is gracious to our father – he
ingratiates himself to us. And we are grateful to Bill Clinton.
CROWLEY: Who’d a thunk it? That’s a pretty bipartisan – I mean, would
have going into – I mean, you know, you’re out there restoring honor to
the White House and…
GEORGE W. BUSH: Listen, Clinton and I are buddies. First of all, we’re
born one month apart. We’re now members of the former president’s club.
We have done speaking engagements together. And I generally like him.
– END -