This is a partial transcript from the September 28, 2004 edition of "The O'Reilly Factor," that has been edited for clarity.
Watch Part III of the interview on Wednesday, September 29 at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET! Catch "The O'Reilly Factor" every weeknight at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and listen to the "Radio Factor" weekdays on Westwood One.
BILL O'REILLY: HOST: How will the federal government ever pay off the federal deficit, in your opinion?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: By being fiscally wise and growing our economy.
O’REILLY: Do you think it can be paid off in our lifetime, though?
BUSH:: The deficit, yeah. You mean, for,— have the revenues exceed the expenses in the budget?
O’REILLY: See, we have a big deficit here…
BUSH: You're talking about the debt or the deficit?
O’REILLY: The deficit.
O’REILLY: Well people are saying that because we have to fight this war on terror, because of the tax cuts, oh and you know how the propaganda, it’s all over the place…
BUSH: No, I think we can — of course I think we can balance the budget — as a matter of fact, I put out a hand, a budget that says we’ll cut it in half in five years, now, that's going to mean that the Congress has got to be fiscally wise, with our money.
O’REILLY: Has that ever happened?
BUSH: Yeah, it’s happening. Seriously. One other, you know, I get accused for not having vetoed any budgets. One reason why is because I’ve worked with Speaker Hastert (search) and Leader Frist (search), and formerly worked with Leader Lott (search), to develop a budget that trunked discretionary spending, that was reasonable about the growth in discretionary spending. It’s now, — non-defense, non-homeland, discretionary spending — is less than one percent in our budget. And that was growing at one, less that one percent, when I became President, it was growing at fifteen percent. So we’ve made some progress. The reason I believe tax cuts were necessary is because we were in a recession and we needed to grow this economy.
O’REILLY: But I’m rich and I’m getting a tax cut from you. Tax cuts for the rich, what do you think when you hear that?
BUSH:: I think that — if you're going to have tax cuts, everybody who pays taxes ought to get relief. I think…
O’REILLY: Even the rich bad guys like me?
BUSH:: I think that — I think thirty-five percent is enough for anybody to pay in federal taxes. I also know that when you're talking about tax, taxing the rich, really what you're talking about is taxing many small business owners. Ninety percent of the small business owners are sub-chapter S corporations, or limited partnerships. They pay tax at the individual income tax rate, and so when you hear the politicians saying tax the rich, you're talking about taxing job creators as well.
O’REILLY: And entrepreneurs, like me.
BUSH: Entrepreneurs like you. I think raising taxes would be a mistake, and my opponent’s going to raise taxes.
O’REILLY: Do you think the federal government has a moral obligation to pay Americans’ health bills?
BUSH: A moral obligation to pay, now, I think the federal government has an obligation to help those who cannot help themselves.
O’REILLY: Even if they're alcoholics or drug addicts…
BUSH: That's why, well that's why I’ve put community centers, and that's why I am for — providing places where people can get preventative care, as well as primary care — without going to emergency rooms and hospitals. That again is a wise use of taxpayers’ money. Secondly, I believe that the federal government must help seniors. It’s an obligation we took on when Lyndon Johnson was the President. And the Medicare proposal that I, — the Medicare bill I signed — is one that modernizes Medicare, gives seniors more choices. It says there’ll be a prescription drug benefit for seniors. It provides preventative care for seniors so we can diagnose early. It is a good piece of legislation that honors an obligation to our seniors. I think we also ought to help the people who are uninsured find insurance by doing practical things such as allowing small businesses to pool risk across jurisdictional boundaries, these are called association health plans, so they can buy insurance at the same discount big companies can.
O’REILLY: But aren’t we becoming an entitlement society here with the government helping, and I understand, I mean, you’ve got to be a compassionate person, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican. But it, the government gets bigger and bigger and bigger, now we’re in prescription drugs, we’re in…
BUSH:: Well, let me stop you on the prescription drugs just for a second. Prescription drugs is a part of medicine. And we provide it, we said to the seniors, we’ll provide you medicine. We would put, we’d put the money up to, for heart surgery, we wouldn't put the money up for the prescription drug coverage necessary to prevent the heart surgery from happening in the first place. So that's a wise use of modernizing Medicare. I think it’s going to save us money in the long term. I know it’s going to provide our seniors better coverage and care, and seniors are going to have a choice in this plan. In other words, we’ve introduced market reform into Medicare for the first time, and that's why it was opposed by my opponent, and many people who believe we ought to nationalize healthcare. This is, you — what you're talking about is an issue in this campaign, and that is, do we increase the reach of the federal government to the lives of our citizens?
BUSH:: My answer is no. We shouldn’t. On healthcare, for example. I believe that we ought to have health savings accounts and expand them and provide incentives to small businesses, to provide health savings accounts for their uh employees. I believe low-income working Americans ought to be given a tax credit to apply to a health savings account, all aimed at making sure that the decisions between uh, uh between the doctor and patient are central to the healthcare decision-making process.
O’REILLY: Here, I asked your wife this question. Why is the country so divided? All the polls show divided on Iraq. Divided on the presidential race. Why? You ran on a uniter, not divider, ticket.
BUSH:: Right. Well, it was pretty divided in the 2000 elections, [LAUGHTER] I recall.
BUSH:: Well it’s just — it’s just one, a period of history, you know, and I’m doing my best to bring people together. We’ve been united at times during my presidency. We were united after [CROSSTALK] September the 11th, we were united going into Afghanistan.
O’REILLY: But why did it go, why did it go out, is there one thing that's polarized the nation?
BUSH:: I, well, you know, we’ll see how polarized it is on Election Day, for starters. But, if I, — the Iraq war was a, — is a polarizing event, because a lot of people didn't see the wisdom of going into Iraq.
O’REILLY: The big mac world picture. The big picture about fighting terrorism through Iraq.
BUSH: Well I think, uh, yeah, I mean, there was, I believe that we have to take threats seriously before they fully materialize, I saw a threat in Saddam Hussein. Everybody saw a threat in Saddam Hussein. My opponent saw a threat in Saddam Hussein,
O’REILLY: Not Jacques Chirac?
BUSH:: Well, he voted yes at the Security Council.
O’REILLY: Yeah, but he stabbed you guys in the back, you thought he was going to help you and he didn't.
BUSH:: Well, the, in the first resolution that took place in — right after my, well not right after my speech, but shortly after my speech, at the General Assembly in 2002, — the resolution said, the resolution said, disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences, and France voted aye. When it came time, after diplomacy had failed, to define serious consequences, that's where we had a divergence of opinion. I believe when international bodies speak, they ought to, — they ought to mean what they say. And I believe when a President speaks, he ought to mean what he says.
O’REILLY: What’s Chirac’s problem?
BUSH:: In Iraq? Well he...
O’REILLY: He hasn’t been a great ally to the U.S. since 9/11, they won't, he doesn’t want NATO (search) forces to protect elections in Afghanistan, come on, I mean, this guy’s…
BUSH:: Well they're helping us in Afghanistan some, they’ve helped us in Haiti some. But you know, he’s, — he just didn't see the wisdom of the action in Iraq and I think history’s going to prove him wrong. I would, I …
O’REILLY: You think it was political, you think he’s playing to his left-wing base in France?
BUSH: Well, you’d better get him on your show “Factor,” because I don't want to put words in his — I’ll tell you this. I’ll tell you this. — If Saddam Hussein were in power today, we’d be a heck of a lot worse off. And it’s really important for our citizens to understand that. This is a guy that had the capability of making weapons. I believe he was trying to delay and hope that the world would turn its head once again, and remember, there was what, seventeen different U.N. resolutions…
O’REILLY: Oh, it’s ridiculous. I, mean…
BUSH: That had been totally ignored.
O’REILLY: On that one, I’m with you.
BUSH: He would have been completely strengthened if the United States and the world had not acted.
O’REILLY: Well what about the guys who died in the first Gulf War, when you sign a cease-fire that he disobeyed seventeen times…
O’REILLY: We’re supposed to let those guys just be buried in the sand and not do anything? Look I’m, everybody knows I’m with you on that one.
All right. In light of the CBS document fiasco, do you think you get a fair shake from the network news and the elite media like the “New York Times?” Do you think your administration and you get a fair…
BUSH:: That — O’Reilly, you know I’m smarter than that, to be taking on the press in the middle of a campaign.
BUSH:: What do you want…
O’REILLY: Philosophically, let’s talk philosophically. Do you think you get a fair shake?
BUSH:: Look I, that's up for the people to decide that. You know, I — I just tell people what I think. And I try to be as clear as I can be. You know, when it’s all said and done, and people look at this campaign, they're going to have to decide whether or not they want somebody who tells them what he believes and doesn’t change positions based upon pressure and polls or, or articles in newspapers.
O’REILLY: A guy over at “Newsweek,” Evan Thomas, one of the editors over there, said eighty percent of the elite media favors Kerry.
O’REILLY: That doesn’t surprise you, does it?
BUSH:: Not really.
O’REILLY: Do you have any theory on why college professors pinhead press people?
O’REILLY: And I’m in one of those, by the way, — I’m a pinhead press figure —why they go into the liberal realm?
BUSH: No, I, I don't, I really haven’t…
O’REILLY: Cause you went to Yale and Harvard.
BUSH: I did.
O’REILLY: And they’re all, pinhead liberals over there, right?
BUSH: I haven’t spent a lot of time why professors feel the way they feel…
O’REILLY: You just wanted to get out of the class. I was the same way. I don't care what you think.
All right, do you think you got any preferential treatment getting into the Air Guard during Vietnam?
BUSH:: No. I don’t. As a matter of fact, the general that or the commander of the unit Buck Staudt, said, said the same thing. No.
O’REILLY: So you don’t think you got any preferential treatment because you were a Bush?
BUSH: I don't. If I did, I have, I’m not, — I’m not aware of it, and again, the, commander of my unit, Buck Staudt, said the other day, publicly, I got no preferential treatment.
O’REILLY: If you had to do anything again during those years, if you had to live, re-live them, would you have done anything differently?
BUSH: No, I fulfilled my duty, and was honorably discharged. I think I had about five hundred and seventy flying hours, and…
O’REILLY: So all this is propaganda, all of this…
BUSH: I was on active duty for a little over a year and a half and I proudly served.
O’REILLY: And they…
BUSH: And had my unit been called up, I’d have gone.
O’REILLY: They say you didn't register in Massachusetts, is that bogus?
BUSH:: I fulfilled my duties, I mean, this is...
I did exactly what my commanders told me to do.
O’REILLY: OK. Do you think the Swift Boat vets charges against Kerry are unfair?
BUSH:: I think that these ads — first of all, I said clearly — all these ads, these 527s, where billionaires fund the campaigns, ought to be gone.
O’REILLY: Yeah. I agree.
BUSH: I thought I signed a bill that did that, but you know, evidently they, regulatory bodies didn't agree. And uh, we’ve now just got money flooding into the system, and it’s been flooding in for over a year, into the system, that not only puts TV ads up, but also [CROSSTALK] disrupt the ground game…
O’REILLY: Excuse me. It’s just corrupt, and we know it. But the Swift Boat guys against Kerry, do you think that was fair?
BUSH: As I said, I was asked about whether or not Kerry lied, I said, no, he didn't lie. That was my judgment, I don't know enough about the Swift Boat people. — I do know that they’ve got strong opinions, and I, believed that those ads as well as other types of ads shouldn’t have been on the air.
O’REILLY: You didn't know anything about the Swift Boat ads before they went on the air, did you?
BUSH: No. I didn't.
O’REILLY: Did Karl Rove (search) know anything about it?
BUSH: I don't think so. In other words, you're asking if anybody coordinated this in our campaign?
O’REILLY: No, whether they’d give you a heads up they were going to do it.
BUSH: Not to my knowledge.
Watch Part III of our exclusive interview on Wednesday, September 29 only on "The O'Reilly Factor" at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET!