Former President George W. Bush steadily refuses to criticize his Oval Office successor, but in a live-cast interview Monday with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the 43rd president doled out a few light-hearted jabs mixed with advice for the young hoodie-wearing social media mogul.
Dressed in a casual button-down shirt and jacket, the former president visited Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California to promote his memoir "Decision Points," released in early November. Close to 7,000 users tuned in to Facebook Live to watch the unlikely pair discuss the social networking company, their shared passion for education, and Wikileaks.
"The truth of the matter is, I am shamelessly marketing," the former president said when asked why he chose to appear on Facebook. "You got a lot of people paying attention to us, and I'm trying to sell books."
Bush, who has referred to the World Wide Web as "the Internets," said he has over 600,000 Facebook friends. "I use the Facebook as a way to stay in touch with people who are interested, and who, you know, worked in our administration and are interested in what Laura and I are doing," he said.
Bush joked that one of his "dear buddies," Northern California local Condoleezza Rice, might be watching the Facebook broadcast as he spoke. "If you're listening Condi, how come you're not in the audience? Or have you bought the book?"
The former president says that in addition to being a member of the social networking site, he's taken a special interest in how it has evolved. "I've watched your company grow. First let me say I love entrepreneurship, and I love a country that enables somebody like you to have a dream and actually make it work," he told Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg, who according to Forbes is the world's second-youngest billionaire, has faced angry users citing issues from privacy concerns to intellectual property rights violations to child safety. Bush had some advice for the 26-year-old in dealing with criticism. "It just comes with the territory. When you're president, or when you're a successful CEO, you get criticized," he said. "The fundamental question is how you deal with it. And if you believe in what you're doing, then the criticism means nothing."
"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out, or a college graduate, for that matter," Bush teased Zuckerberg, who is a fellow Ivy Leaguer, but didn't finish college.
What you're saying rings true," Zuckerberg said of Bush's leadership advice, adding that many Facebook decisions are "a lot clearer" internally than they are to the public. "It's one of the things that I've always admired about you...you've really always stuck to what you thought was the right thing to do, and pushed through," he told the former president.
Bush also passed on a bit of advice he said he received from an Arizona ranch foreman. "It's important not to be book smart and sidewalk stupid," he said, after trading pleasantries with Zuckerberg over attending prep school. "In other words, you get so caught up in kind of intellectual airiness that you can't be a commonsensical person. And I've always remembered that for some reason."
Bush added that running Facebook requires both common sense and vision, but laughed that he sounded like he was "pandering."
"You've made fun of me enough, you can keep it coming," Zuckerberg replied.
Asked why he wouldn't make President Obama the butt of any of his jokes, Bush said he didn't think it would be good for the presidency. But he did offer an answer when asked to name something Democrats have done well since 2008. "I think they've handled Afghanistan well. I mean, I think the idea of putting more troops in was something I can applaud. I also appreciate some of the education position, as I understand it. They do believe strongly that accountability is necessary in order to achieve excellence in classrooms."
And while he characteristically resisted initially when asked to comment on controversial current affairs, Bush gave in to offer his thoughts on Wikileaks. "Leaks are very damaging, and people who leak ought to be prosecuted," he said.
"I haven't studied these cables, but when you have a conversation with a foreign leader, and it ends up in the newspaper, they don't like it," he said. "I think it's going to be hard, in some cases, to keep the trust of foreign leaders."
As a final word of advice on pivotal moments in a presidency or company, Bush said, "You've seized the moment here at Facebook, and I congratulate you for living live to its fullest and going for it...you'll get dealt a hand you didn't want to play, and that's going to happen to all of us." He added, "The question is, how do you play it? And I'm playing it as best as I can possibly play, and I've just got a new chapter in what I hope ultimately, in what I think will be a fulfilling life."
And Bush added that after fourteen years of public service as a governor and president, he's glad to lead a quieter life away from the "lights" of the media, noting that even the content on his iPad has been pared down these days. "Oh well, that's not true," he deadpanned on second thought. "I've got 'Decision Points' on my iPad."