Published September 23, 2003
The full text of President Bush's exclusive interview with Fox News' Brit Hume aired Monday night:
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Tell me one thing. How often do you talk to your dad?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, probably once every two weeks.
HUME: Really? Because I think a lot of people would imagine that you guys would be in touch constantly.
BUSH: No, I'm in touch constantly -- you mean like in terms of asking him...
HUME: Oh, yeah, calling up, saying, what about the Saudis, you know, you've dealt with them, what about them, and what should I do here, dad? You had a war with Saddam Hussein (search). What about that? I mean, sort of, you can understand how people would imagine that.
BUSH: No, I can understand. First of all, I talk to him really as son to father. I am worried about the fact that he is worried about me. You know you a very good question, did I take criticism of him or me easier, and the answer is, I take criticism of me easier.
Now it's reverse. He reads everything -- he listens to everything, and I know he agonizes over every, you know, every tough word. And...
HUME: So you end up calling to comfort him?
BUSH: I call him to comfort him, really, yeah absolutely. And let him know that, you know, I'm doing good, don't worry about me. Seriously. And the -- but in terms of advice on how to make decisions, the best advice to get is from people like Rice and Powell and Rumsfeld and Cheney and Tenet and Snow and Evans and Card. I mean, the people that are actually living these issues on a daily basis. It doesn't hurt my dad's feelings, because he knows that they are more up to speed than he is. He does not get the daily briefs. He does not know all the insides and outs of what's going on here.
HUME: What about your brother Jeb? How often are you in touch with him?
BUSH: Maybe once a month.
HUME: Really? That few times. That's very hard -- a lot of people would find it very hard to believe.
HUME: Fellow politician, right? Finger on the pulse of a bit state.
BUSH: We're busy. Understand that. So when he makes a phone call, it's really not to spend a lot of chit-chat time. I do spend time with my brother Marvin and my sister Dorothy.
HUME: But they're right here, too.
BUSH: Right. And they come up for the weekends, to Camp David (search) with us. And it's a good chance to be with them. I love to be with my family, but we are not pick up the phone chit-chat people that much.
BUSH: I've hurt my knee, and...
HUME: How bad is it?
BUSH: It's bad enough that I cannot run.
HUME: What is it? Is it...
BUSH: It may have been a little meniscus. I might have torn it a little bit. I pulled my calf, then I hurt the meniscus, and I am hoping to find a lot of sympathy around here, but I haven't found any yet.
HUME: Looks like you hit the wrong town.
BUSH: Wrong place, exactly. Maybe I ought to go up to Capitol Hill...
HUME: Oh, yeah, that's a hotbed up there. What are you doing for exercise?
BUSH: Exercise...here at the White House during a t-ball game, I believe it was, suggested that I go to the swimming pool back over there and run in the pool, put a little floaty on and run.
HUME: Did it work?
BUSH: Yeah, it has, it's good exercise.
HUME: How often do you do it?
BUSH: I do it about three times a week now. And lift weights.
HUME: ... putting green out here.
HUME: Now, who put that in?
BUSH: President Clinton (search) had I think...
HUME: Put in the putting green?
BUSH: Well, it used to be there under Ike, and then dad had a synthetic putting green, which is kind of -- yeah, you don't play a lot of synthetic greens around when you play.
HUME: Do you use it?
BUSH: I do.
HUME: How often?
BUSH: I'll come out here -- see my man Barney over there?
HUME: I see Barney over there.
BUSH: He loves to play golf.
HUME: Oh, he does? Does he chase your ball?
BUSH: So in the evening, we'll come out here and play, and I'll come out here maybe once a week and walk the dogs...
HUME: So you're more of a golfer than people know?
BUSH: Kind of, but I haven't played much since I've been president. As a matter of fact...
BUSH: I played once or twice this summer, maybe.
HUME: And what about at Camp David?
BUSH: They got a little green you can pitch to and a driving range.
HUME: You use it -- you use a range?
BUSH: I got a couple of 80-yard drives.
HUME: Now, how about this big lawn out here? How did that get here?
BUSH: Isn't it fabulous? Well, we've come out here -- you know, a lot of times, well, after I -- after I made the decision -- not made the decision -- told Tommy Franks and Don Rumsfeld that they had -- that they had the orders to move in on Operation Iraqi Freedom, I was in the Situation Room, and it was a dramatic moment. It was a heavy moment for me, and I wanted to come outside and reflect, so I came out and got the dogs and we walked around the South Lawn a couple of times. And it was -- for me it's like going to walk in a forest. You know, it's my chance to...
HUME: You couldn't get away out here?
BUSH: Well, you learn to adjust.
HUME: I guess.
BUSH: But this was getting away, and I came and walked a couple of times and gathered my thoughts and thought very seriously, a serious reflection about what I had just done, and said a prayer or two.
HUME: Now, your faith is an integral part of your life. How often do you pray? Where you do you pray? Talk to me about that.
BUSH: Well, I pray daily, and I pray in all kinds of places. I mean, I pray in bed, I pray in the Oval Office. I pray a lot. And just different -- as the spirit moves me. And faith is an integral part of my life. I -- I...
HUME: How do you hold the situation in Iraq in juxtaposition to your faith?
BUSH: Well, I -- first of all, I would never justify -- I would never use God to promote foreign policy decisions. I recognize that in the eyes of an almighty, I am a lowly sinner, and I ask for strength and wisdom and I pray for calmness when the seas are storming, and I pray for others. I pray for -- I pray a lot for families who have lost a life. I went to Walter Reed, was struck by the braveness -- bravery of our soldiers, and kind of got a quiet moment afterwards and prayed for them and their families.
The other thing about America that is amazing is a lot of people pray for me. And -- little old me. Seriously. And it's a powerful thought when you think about it. I'm not so sure how you translate that into would I behave differently or not, but it gives me strength and humility, to think others would take time to pray for me.
HUME: When things go badly, as many people would feel they have been in Iraq with the continuing casualties and struggles and difficulties, do you ever doubt?
BUSH: I don't think they're going badly. I mean, obviously I think they're going badly for the soldiers who lost their lives, and I weep for that person and their family. But no, I think we're making good progress. As I said I pray for calmness when the seas are storming, and I -- you know, my faith is an integral part of being who I am, and I'm not going to change.
HUME: So we walk into the Oval Office here.
HUME: How often -- how early do you get here?
BUSH: Get here about 6:50, and first thing I'll do is flip open the threat matrix. Prepared...
HUME: Is that a book or...
BUSH: No, it's just a couple of pieces of paper, prepared by the -- now the Department of Homeland Security. They take information from the FBI, the CIA, and they analyze the threats, potential threats to America. I look at them here, I go through mail. Remember I told you I can pick up the phone and call my mother and dad occasionally rack them out of the sack early. And then at 8:00, generally Andy Card will be here when I walk in. He's here earlier than I am. And he'll be here with the latest, and I'll ask him what's in the newspapers worth worrying about, or, you know...
HUME: And he'll say, nothing?
BUSH: No, he'll say something. Then at 8:00, Tenet, vice president, Condi, Andy and a CIA briefer come in. And shortly thereafter, Tom Ridge, Bob Mueller, and John Gordon, national security adviser for all my security will -- and Fran Townsend will complete the room, and we'll analyze the threats. And Tenet will have gone through things that will be strictly overseas business, and then we'll go through, analyze the threats and then either go downstairs for a big National Security Council meeting or...
HUME: How often do those occur?
BUSH: Once a week, or twice a week.
HUME: That's the full National Security Council, attorney general present and all that?
BUSH: No, that would be...
HUME: Sort of your security advisers...
BUSH: Well, that would be secretary of state, secretary of defense plus vice president, Tenet...
HUME: That's in the Situation Room?
HUME: And how often did you say, once or twice a week?
BUSH: Once or twice a week, and obviously during the war we met daily. During the different wars, the war in Afghanistan and the march into Baghdad. You've got to know, these are battles as part of a war.
HUME: Right. Now, this was a desk famously used by John F. Kennedy (search).
BUSH: It was.
HUME: Why did you choose it? I guess you got a whole slew to pick from.
BUSH: I do. I chose this because I love the way it looks. And the history is fantastic. Let me take you over here to the front. This door was put on the desk by Franklin Roosevelt (search) to cover his infirmities.
HUME: Because he had the braces...
BUSH: He had the braces, sat in a wheelchair.
HUME: Now, that's the door that the famous picture of little John...
BUSH: Little John came out.
HUME: Right, came out, yeah.
BUSH: And his dad was looking out the South Lawn, as I recall.
HUME: And this little shaver stuck his head out.
BUSH: Right here. And, I'll show you something really interesting on this that I didn't realize was true until somebody pointed out to me the eagle looks at the talon with the arrows, and if you look at this seal...
HUME: Now, this is a...
BUSH: Famed seal, that the eagle looks at the talon of the olive branch.
HUME: Now, this rug, and there have been a series of them in here, this is one of your...
BUSH: Laura designed this rug. She designed this rug.
But it's interesting that the eagle looks at the talon of the olive branch on this presidential seal. On this one, he looks at the talon of the arrow, so something happened between Franklin Roosevelt and me, and what happened was, Harry Truman said, we'll look at peace not at war, after World War II. So the eagle looks -- and of course, you've got to make sure you got plenty of arrows, so when you look at peace you leave a lot of presence...
HUME: When you look at other presidents, apart from your dad, sort of identify with them, or think about what they would have done? Who comes to your mind often?
BUSH: Lincoln, who I've got on the wall over there. The reason why is because I can't imagine what it would be to be president when the United States at war with yourself. People killing each other here in America on a massive basis. Just can't imagine what it would be.
HUME: Have you asked yourself, what he might have done, or how he might have handled the situation?
BUSH: Well, I think -- he inspires me because from this way, throughout his entire presidency he thought about the United States of America, and the toughest job for a president is to unite the country, to achieve objectives, and I believe the president must set big objectives. And I set big objectives. And -- and yet, when you read the other presidents' writings, they always complain about the press and the fact that Washington is too political, it's not very civil. In other words, it's a hard task to unite the country. Lincoln kept it united. And so -- he is inspiring, from that sense. I mean, he helps me recognize that one of my most important jobs is to set big goals and unite the nation to achieve them.
Hume: The President also has on his wall, a Western oil painting whose name is his own personal motto.
This painting is called "A Charge To Keep" by W.H.B. Kerner. Obviously a Western type painter. It was given to my friend Jan -- I mean, Joe O'Neill, when he married Jan O'Neill, by his father. And we knew them in Midland. What's interesting about the O'Neills is that they introduced Laura and me in Midland in 1976, 1977.
HUME: The first thing I saw and others who were part of this team here saw when we came in, that guy looks like a Bush. Don't you think?
BUSH: Yeah, kind of, I guess, you know.
HUME: He looks a little bit like your dad, and looks a little bit like you. That wasn't painted with that in mind, this is an old picture, right?
BUSH: I'd hate to put that curse on him. Yes, it's a really old picture. And he's determined. And he's on a tough -- he's riding a tough trail. You don't know how many horsemen are behind him, you know at least two.
BUSH: It could be 2,000. You just don't know. But you do know it's a pretty rough looking trail, and there is absolutely no question in your mind he's going to make it. What makes this interesting is that it's based upon the Methodist hymn "A Charge To Keep I Have", and that's one of the verses. To serve the present age my calling to fulfill, oh may that all my powers engage to do my master's will. This painting to me says that it's very important for all of us in life to serve something greater than ourselves. As a man of faith, that is the Almighty's will. As a president, my job is not to promote a religion, my job is to call people to serve our country. The painting says two things to me: One, it speaks to my personal faith, but also speaks to the job of the president, which is to capture the spirit of America and call people to service
Let me start off talking about Iraq. A few weeks back, when these terrorists began to appear on the scene evidently from outside, you said, "Bring 'em on." What did you mean by that?
BUSH: Well, I was really talking to our troops. I was saying to our troops in the theater that some in the region felt like they could come and take you on. Some felt like -- some terrorists, that is -- felt like they could beat us. And my point was we're plenty tough and we will take them on there.
They've chosen to fight. They, being al Qaeda types, Ansar Islam types, terrorist groups have chosen to fight American and coalition forces in Iraq. And we are prepared to battle, and we will.
HUME: From a military point of view, do you regard that as a welcome or unwelcome development?
BUSH: That's an interesting question, because you know I'm a man of peace. And obviously I would hope that we wouldn't have combat. I also live in a real world of being the president during a war on terror. So I guess I would rather fight them there than here. I know I would rather fight them there than here, and I know would rather fight them there than in other remote parts of the world, where it may be more difficult to find them.
HUME: Such as?
BUSH: Well, such as Yemen or -- you know we're chasing down al Qaeda types and former remnants of the Taliban regime in the wild regions of Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan. That's difficult terrain. And so the fact that they've chosen to fight us in Iraq is -- we've adjusted and we're ready to fight and take them on.
HUME: There are people who suggest that, look, you wouldn't have to be dealing with these people at all if you hadn't gone into Iraq. That these, in some sense, are newly recruited or newly minted terrorists. What's your view of that?
BUSH: That's probably the same type of person that says that therapy would work in convincing terrorists not to kill innocent life. There is a terrorist network that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001 that is active, that is engaged, that is trying to intimidate the civilized and free world. And this country will continue to lead a coalition against them. You know, there is -- in my judgment, the only way to deal with these terrorists is to stay on the offensive, is to find them and bring them to justice before they hurt us again.
HUME: What is your theory about what Saddam Hussein did with his weapons of mass destruction?
BUSH: I think he hid them, I think he dispersed them. I think he is so adapted at deceiving the civilized world for a long period of time that it's going to take a while for the troops to unravel. But I firmly believe he had weapons of mass destruction. I know he used them at one time, and I'm confident he had programs that would enable him to have a weapon of mass destruction at his disposal.
HUME: What do you say to the notion -- you're beginning to hear it more and more now -- that actually he got rid of them but he didn't want his neighbors to know that, you see, because he wanted to be able to continue to intimidate them? What do you say to that?
BUSH: I think, like I said, be patient. The truth will be out. I told David Kay (search) to go find the truth and to bring back reports based upon his own timetable that are solid reports about what he has found. We're analyzing miles and miles of documentation, we're interviewing all kinds of people in Iraq. Some of the famous cards in the deck of cards, and just average citizens who are bringing information.
We've been there for about four months. And David is spending a great deal of time learning the truth. And the truth -- we'll find out the truth.
HUME: You go to the U.N. to make a speech, and your speech of a year ago became famous. It was the speech in which you challenged the U.N. to do something about Iraq. Now you go back, different setting.
What's your message this time?
BUSH: My message is, is that although some of you didn't agree with the actions we took, now let's work together to rebuild Iraq, rebuild Afghanistan, fight AIDS and hunger, deal with slavery, like sex slavery, and deal with proliferation. Let's work together on big issues.
I will make it clear that I made the right decision and the others that joined us made the right decision. The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. The U.N. is going to be -- has a chance to be more effective as a result of 1441. That's the resolution that said if you don't disarm there will be serious consequences. At least somebody stood up and said this is a definition of serious consequences.
HUME: You're looking for another resolution. Suddenly, the Germans seem amenable.
HUME: And France seems perhaps amenable. What has happened with the Germans? Have you been in touch with Schroeder? What's going on there?
BUSH: I haven't had a chance to visit with him yet. I will. And I think it's Wednesday -- either Tuesday or Wednesday of this next week.
I just look forward to talking to him. I think that the idea of -- he needs to answer this question better than me, but I think he got into an election and the German people are essentially pacifists because of their -- many still remember the experience of World War II. And they may not have seen Saddam Hussein as evil a person as a lot of other people have.
But having said that -- and he made the choice not to commit troops -- they are willing to help train police in Iraq, for example. They are taking an active role in Afghanistan. And I appreciate that support.
HUME: In a run up of the Kosovo war, there was no attempt really to get the U.N. involved because of the belief that Serbia was a historic ally and friend of Russia, and that Russia would stand in the way.
HUME: Didn't there exist a similar relationship between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and France that our government may have, to some extent, miscalculated by not recognizing?
BUSH: I don't know. I mean, look, I -- the French made a calculated decision to try to lead a lot of nations against what we were trying to do. And that created a lot of angst here in America. I heard from a lot of people who said, "Look, we've got relatives who died on French soil to help with their security. Why would they not only resist what many Americans thought was necessary with Saddam Hussein, but lead a coalition?"
And you hear all kinds of rumors as to why the French do what they do. And some of it is this notion about having a multi-polarity. That means to offset -- something to offset in Europe the ambitions of America.
My attitude about all that is our goals and ambitions are noble. We believe in peace. We strongly believe in freedom. Where we see suffering we will help. And rather than try to offset a nation, why not join nations together to achieve those kind of big objectives?
HUME: What about the French? How did you feel about them at the time? And how do you feel about France and Jacques Chirac now?
BUSH: Oh, well, I -- you know, when I went to France, the response from the people on the street was great. I mean, they were waving and smiling. And Jacques Chirac is a -- he's a strong-willed soul that -- he and I have had some pretty frank discussions before about issues. I will continue to remind him, though -- and he needs to hear this clearly from me, which he will -- that America is a good nation, genuinely good. And when we see suffering, we do something about it. And when we see threats, we will deal with the threats, we will deal with the threats before they come back to our shore. And hopefully he will over time understand more clearly why I had made the decisions I had made.
HUME: Do you now believe, based on what you're hearing from the Germans and the French, the Russians perhaps as well, that you're going to get another resolution?
BUSH: I think we will, yes. The key to the resolution, however, is to -- we need a resolution in order to encourage others to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq and hopefully into the security of Iraq. But the key is to make sure the political timing stays in tact, that the political time that Bremer, our ambassador in Iraq, thinks is necessary. And that is that a constitution be written first, and then there'd be elections, and then sovereignty be turned over to the elected body in Iraq. And, therefore, the U.N. must understand that we are very firm on the sequencing of events.
HUME: The refrain you keep hearing from others is a larger role for the U.N. You have consistently spoken of a vital role...
BUSH: A vital role, right.
HUME: ... a vital role for the U.N. Would you be willing to grant a larger role to the U.N. in the political developments there to make way for a resolution?
BUSH: Well, for example -- I'm not so sure we have to, for starters. But secondly, I do think it would be helpful to get the United Nations in to help write a constitution. I mean, they're good at that. Or, perhaps when an election starts, they'll oversee the election. That would be deemed a larger role.
I also -- you know when I think U.N., I mean, I also think of member states within the U.N. And of course we would like a larger role for member states of the United Nations to participate in Iraq. I mean, after all, we've got member states now, Great Britain and Poland, leading multinational divisions to help make the country more secure. And, you know -- the key on any resolution, however, is not to get in the way of an orderly transfer of sovereignty based upon a logical series of steps. And that's constitution, elections, and then the transfer of authority.
HUME: You're hoping to get some more troops in there from foreign -- from other sources. But when you ask the question, how many, the answer comes back apparently not very many, maybe 20,000 at the outside.
BUSH: Well, that would be very helpful.
HUME: We keep hearing from U.S. officials that, well, our force structure is find, but we do need other troops.
HUME: The question I have is, if you can't get them from elsewhere, it's going to have to be more American troops. Or is it?
BUSH: Well, maybe not. You know, that's an interesting question. I've spent a lot of time talking to Secretary Rumsfeld about this subject, and he believe that the current troop level we have will be sufficient, particularly as security improves, and particularly as we begin to train more Iraqi citizens to serve in their own army.
We're a little slow at that. One of the reasons why is because, as I understand, the training money was stripped out of the last supplemental. In other words, there wasn't money available for training. Although, we have made pretty good progress -- more than pretty good, good progress in getting 60,000 Iraqi citizens to be involved with one aspect or another of law enforcement.
HUME: Can you then -- or will you do this with U.S. forces only if you have to, or do you have some other option in mind?
BUSH: Well, we'll succeed in Iraq. I mean, because a success in Iraq -- by success, I mean a constitution, elections, orderly transfer of sovereignty. At the same time, reconstruction, as well as making Iraq more secure. That's essential to the long-term security of the United States.
And the reason why it's essential to our security is that peace and freedom and democracy in the midst of a reason that has fostered terror is in our long-term interests. I firmly believe that a free Iraq will be a catalyst to other substantive and important changes in that part of the world.
HUME: What do you say to Americans who might have thought that war was won and that we were on our way to our objectives there, who now see this drip, drip of American casualties and deaths, daily attacks, sabotage, and so on, and might very well wonder if that was anticipated? What about that?
BUSH: Yes. Well, I think in my speech on the Abraham Lincoln, if they looked at the words, I said it's still a dangerous place. I declared the end of major military actions. By that I meant, you know, tight movement armored divisions and massive airstrikes, that we wouldn't need, you know, the USS Abraham Lincoln deployed there.
But I did know it was going to be dangerous. Like any other situation, we weren't exactly sure as to the nature of the terror that was being inflicted upon the people. We know there would be Ba'athists that would be angry at the fact that they weren't in power. We knew there was a lot of kind of loose operatives around the country.
And we had a feeling that groups like Ansar al-Islam would want to stay active I thought they were very active during Saddam's period -- that's the terrorist organization.
HUME: And their camp there in the north.
BUSH: Yes, it is, northeast.
HUME: And you bombed that camp and killed a bunch of them.
BUSH: Yes, we did.
HUME: Did a lot of them get away, though?
BUSH: Yes. Some got away.
HUME: And they're back?
BUSH: Well, they're operating. Yes, they're back. Ansar al-Islam is an al Qaeda-affiliated group. You'll remember they were involved with this guy al-Zarqawi, who ordered the killing of our own Mr. Foley who was working in Jordan.
HUME: How many do you think are there now from outside?
BUSH: No idea.
HUME: What about Syria? They were supposed to help us by shutting the border. Have they helped?
BUSH: Well, we've asked them to do some things, and one of them was to shut the border. They initially -- the initial issue with Syria was to make sure that Ba'athists and Saddam loyalists didn't escape into Syria. And I would say that the cooperation on that was fair as far as we can tell.
HUME: How about the cooperation on the other issue?
BUSH: Pardon me?
HUME: How about the cooperation on keeping these...
BUSH: On Hezbollah, for example...
HUME: ... from keeping outsiders from coming into Iraq?
BUSH: Yes, well it's a big border. I would give them -- they can do a better job.
HUME: How are you going to deal with that?
BUSH: With Syria?
BUSH: Well, we've had discussions with them, and we'll continue to have discussions with them. We know when we say things we're serious about it in America. That's an important part of our diplomacy, that people take our words seriously. And we've had some serious discussions with them.
HUME: Let's turn to the Mideast more broadly for a moment, and to specifically the Palestinian question. Yasser Arafat now appears to be back in the saddle, having dispensed with Mahmoud Abbas, a man I think you all had such high hopes for. We're not dealing with him.
HUME: With Arafat, I mean.
HUME: What are you going to do about him?
BUSH: With Arafat?
BUSH: Just convince the Palestinians if they want a Palestinian state, at least with American support, get an interlocutor that is truly committed to fighting terror.
HUME: Now the Israelis have indicated that they might get rid of him one way or another, exile, killing him. What would be our reaction to that? I mean, we keep hearing that he's an enemy of peace, an obstacle to peace, and yet when the Israelis said, well, OK, let's get rid of him, the answer up in the U.S. government is, whoa, not so fast. What about it?
BUSH: Well, the best way -- in America, we believe in getting rid of people through a peaceful, orderly process, and the Palestinian people should make that decision by getting a government that represents their will. Because I believe most Palestinians believe in peace.
No question Arafat has failed. And, you know, the sad thing is that we're really the only country in the world who says that. The Palestinians have suffered under his leadership, and hopefully new leaders will emerge that will be committed to peace, willing to fight terror, and out of that will come a Palestinian state.
And I believe it's in everybody's interest that there be a Palestinian state. But it will not happen so long as the interlocutor, the so-called representative of the people, won't fight terror. And that's the problem with Mr. Arafat.
HUME: On domestic issues, the economy, the complaint that's heard that this is a jobless recovery. And there is some validity to that. And there are a number of economists who have suggested that, in order for this economy, with the productivity that is now in it, to begin to create jobs in any number, you're going to need a lot faster growth rate than has been true in the past.
What's your view of that?
BUSH: I agree.
HUME: So how...
BUSH: Well, I think there's two aspects on the job -- let me refine my answer there. First, there is a lag. There's an employment lag that generally accompanies a recovery. The economy gets going and after a while employment catches up. But this is an unusual marketplace in that, as you said, productivity is very high, which means growth has to be higher than productivity in order to add jobs. Or productivity has got to level off some and growth be robust.
I believe we're going to add jobs, because I believe this economy is strong.
HUME: How soon do you expect that to start happening?
BUSH: Well, you know, I don't know. You ask these economists, they'll say, on the one hand here and the other hand here.
HUME: You're not the first President to object to it.
BUSH: That's right. You know, listen, so long as somebody is looking for work, I hope it happens tomorrow. And I know we've taken good action.
We've cut taxes, which has not only helped shallow a recession that we inherited, but has added momentum to growth. There are other things we can do. We need to make the tax cuts permanent.
We have some here in Washington saying, wait a minute, we don't need this tax relief plan. Well, any time there's uncertainty, it's hard for people to plan. And we need to make them permanent.
HUME: Some of your critics have said that you're not exactly a tightwad, some of your conservative critics. That you've been -- that you -- not just because of the war -- and many other areas as well. You haven't vetoed a single bill, spending levels are going through the roof.
What do you say, Mr. President?
BUSH: Well, I would say that we've done a very good job of exacting some fiscal discipline here in Washington by getting budget agreements. And if you've noticed, the last two budget cycles, because of the agreements we put in place -- and Congress has worked with us to hold the line. We've got a capital and discretionary spending or agreement on discretionary spending not to exceed four percent. And I will hold Congress to that.
Now we have spent money, as you mentioned. My attitude is that when we put a youngster in harm's way, somebody who wears our nation's uniform in harm's way, he or she deserves the absolute best. And we are at war. And, yes, we've spent money on fighting and winning these wars.
HUME: Is there a perception in the country, do you think, that we are a nation at war, or that we are a nation engaged in a long sort of twilight struggle with a evil or a problem that the world has been grappling with for a long time that we're only real kind of now getting on to, and regarded as a literal war is perhaps not as accurate as regarding it figuratively more like the war on poverty or the war on drugs, that sort of thing
BUSH: That's a great question. I believe it's a combination of both. First of all, a lot of Americans understand that we must never forget the lessons of September 11, 2001. And that is, there is an active enemy that has got the capacity to strike and kill.
That's pretty literal. And, therefore, they expect their government to go find them before they hit us. And I expect our government to go find them before they hit us. And that's exactly what we're doing.
But there is a longer-term issue as well, and that is, how do you change attitudes? What is necessary to defeat that sentiment that causes people to be suiciders and just kill innocent people for the sake of religion or a fake religion? And my judgment on that is the best way to do it is to spread freedom.
I equate freedom and peace. And I believe America, given its position in the world, must use our power to promote freedom. And that's precisely what this administration is doing.
That's why the reconstruction of Iraq is essential for world peace. A free Iraq will be a significant dynamic in changing attitudes in the Middle East. A free Iraq will become a catalyst for a whole new thought process in a part of the world that has spawned terror.
And, so, yes, our Americans citizens, I think they're wise enough to realize there's still a threat, because it's only been two years since people flew our own airplanes into buildings killing thousands. And many Americans also understand what I know to be true: free societies are peaceful societies. And that's why I will continue to promote what I would call an active foreign policy.
HUME: How should Americans view the fact that we've been two years without an attack on our soil, as a significant major achievement and advance in the war on terror or as the kind of lull you might expect from a determined terrorist organization regrouping to hit again? There have been lulls in the past.
BUSH: Well, there have been lulls on our soil, but there haven't been lulls in the world. Bali -- and I can raise a whole list of attacks that have taken place. These people -- these people being the terrorists -- will take innocent life anywhere. And so there has been no lull on the war on terror, there has been a lack of activity on our own soil.
HUME: Should we be comforted by that or simply regard that as...
BUSH: No, I think we ought to be thankful. But I don't think - I mean I think we also ought to know that we've got to continue to stay on the offensive. I mean, I occasionally hear people say, well, you know let them lie. You know, don't stir them up. Don't go after them.
You know, as I said, they're not going to change, in my judgment. And they, being the terrorist killers. And we will go after them. We must go after them. And keeping them on the run is the best way to help defend America.
I've told the American people we're going to keep them on the run and we will find them. And that's precisely what will happen.
HUME: How close have we been to finding Saddam Hussein? Have you gotten a call saying we're on -- we may have him tonight or anything like that.
BUSH: Well, I occasionally get a report that, you know, we thought we had him or, you know, we were close to him or something like that.
HUME: But not before the fact notifications of an operation that was going to get him...
BUSH: They're pretty good about not creating -- raising expectations here in the Oval Office.
HUME: How about Usama bin Laden? The same thing?
BUSH: Not really. I mean, he's pretty well hidden. As I like to jest, he's not leading any parades. I mean, he's isolated. But I'm confident we'll get both of them in time.
HUME: Let me turn back to some domestic issues. Your FCC (search) chairman has engineered a change in relaxing the regulations on ownership of television stations by large companies. The Congress has certainly turned against it. The House and Senate have acted.
Will you veto a repeal of that?
BUSH: Well, we're going to work with the Congress. My advisers sent up a recommendation to Congress and we'll continue to work with them. I support what Michael Powell did. He took a long, deliberative process.
Michael's the chairman of the FCC. He took a long deliberative look and a lengthy process about what was fair and not fair, and we supported his actions.
HUME: You sound as if talking to Congress about this as if there might be some middle ground, some compromise, some adjustment in what the FCC did that would...
BUSH: There's always a chance before Congress finally acts.
HUME: Turning to the Democratic field, how do you account for the rise in Howard Dean?
BUSH: Not paying attention to it.
HUME: Not at all?
BUSH: Well, occasionally it blips on my radar screen, but not nearly as much as you would think. I've got a job to do. I'm occupied.
HUME: But you've got nine people out there in permanent positions who are getting a lot of coverage, and they are beating the daylights out of you. You must know what they're...
BUSH: Their slogan is: Vote for me, I don't like George Bush? Well, you know, look, the American people are going to make that ultimate judgment as to whether or not I ought to be reelected.
HUME: When you were governor of Texas, you always had a reputation of being an easy going guy, got a long very well with the Democrats in the state of Texas. Now you have -- there's a certain virulence in the things that they're saying about you.
I mean, you had Senator Kennedy the other day accusing the administration of the fact that you were bribing foreign leaders, of a fraudulent war. This is pretty strong medicine in a town that you -- where you hope to change the tone. How do you account for this intensity of the Democrats' feeling about you?
BUSH: I don't know. I should be asking you that question, I guess. But I do -- I'm disappointed in the tone of some of these senior statesmen.
I mean, Senator Kennedy, who I respect, and with whom I have worked, should not have said we were trying to bribe foreign nations. I mean, my regret is -- I don't mind people trying to pick apart my policies, and that's fine and that's fair game. But, you know, I don't think we're serving our nation well by allowing the discourse to become so uncivil that people say -- use words that they shouldn't be using.
And my attitude about all of this -- and I really don't pay that much attention to it. Obviously, I'm aware of who the candidates are. I have yet to watch a debate. Because I understand that the field will whittle down to one of these days, and that is when we'll have a good healthy debate. And hopefully I will be able to elevate the discourse in a way that makes people proud of the political dialogue that goes on in the country.
HUME: Do you think that it's not politically dangerous for you to wait to respond to some of these criticisms?
BUSH: No. I've got a job to do, and I'm going to be judged upon whether or not the world is more peaceful and whether or not America is more prosperous and more compassionate.
HUME: Did you feel more intensely the criticism that was directed against your dad when he was president, or do you feel it more intensely now?
BUSH: I repeat, I'm really not paying attention to it. I know you don't believe me, but...
HUME: But you must hear it. But I'm just wondering, I do remember that when your father was president, particularly in that reelection year...
BUSH: Yes, I didn't like that. I was pretty...
HUME: Well, how does that compare with how you feel about some of the stuff that goes on now?
BUSH: First of all, it's much easier.
HUME: How so?
BUSH: Well, you know, look, I love my dad a lot. And I didn't like it when people said bad things about him.
And I'm kind of a feisty guy at times and made it clear I didn't like what they said. But I'm in a different position. I'm in a position now where I must set goals and inspire and lead. And I believe firmly that I'm doing the right thing for our country by promoting an active foreign policy that makes the world more peaceful and more free.
And I believe I've done the right thing in reacting to tough economic times and tough circumstances. And we'll just let the results lay out there for the American people to decide. I've got faith that they'll, when it all comes down to it, say, well, this man is a man who showed he knows how to lead and he's not afraid to make tough decisions.
HUME: How do you get your news?
BUSH: I get briefed by Andy Card and Condi in the morning. They come in and tell me. In all due respect, you've got a beautiful face and everything.
I glance at the headlines just to kind of a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves. But like Condoleezza, in her case, the national security adviser is getting her news directly from the participants on the world stage.
HUME: Has that been your practice since day one, or is that a practice that you've...
BUSH: Practice since day one.
BUSH: Yes. You know, look, I have great respect for the media. I mean, our society is a good, solid democracy because of a good, solid media. But I also understand that a lot of times there's opinions mixed in with news. And I...
HUME: I won't disagree with that, sir.
BUSH: I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news. And the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world.
HUME: Mr. President, thank you very much.
BUSH: Thank you, sir.