This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Jan. 3, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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BRIT HUME, HOST: As our senior White House correspondent Jim Angle reported earlier, former Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton have agreed to lead the call for more private tsunami relief donations over the coming months. As they spoke with Jim earlier today, Mr. Bush said neither man could have turned down the president’s request.
FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: This one touches my heart, and it — I know it does President Clinton’s. We went to these four embassies today and you see a woman that had lost her mother, her father, and was it her brother?
FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Sister.
BUSH: Sister that was killed. You see the king of Thailand (search) has lost one of his close relatives. You see these horrible pictures and say, gee, if we can help a little bit, if we can show what’s in our own hearts, it’s worth it. So, that’s why I’m here.
ANGLE (on camera): Well, government agencies are already doing a lot. What can private groups do that government agencies cannot?
CLINTON: Well, there are first of all, if you go to the Web site, I think it’s USAFreedomCorps.Gov, that’s the White House, you’ll see that they have a list of private agencies that will tell you that. But I’ll just give you a few examples.
The government has to provide the helicopters that put the supplies in. But a lot of the life saving, water purification equipment, the tablets, the salt mechanisms, even the machines that purify small amounts of water, all that is being provided by private donations.
The government may have to provide even more transportation, but we’ve got antibiotic shortages. We’re trying to keep people from getting malaria and cholera (search). Well, the government doesn’t make the medicine, the private sector does and people have to pay for it and get it over there or give it away. So, there are lots of things that the private sector can do.
The same thing is true with a lot of the temporary shelter. The government doesn’t have enough tents to put up all these refugee camps overnight everywhere in the world. And there are people — let’s not forget, there are people all over the world giving this money. There are agencies representing other countries, too. But it’s just a staggering, staggering need.
BUSH: It’s better to do something in cash than it is to get your neighborhood to send 2,500 tents, because you have getting them there. So by doing it this way, and you can get the best suggestions from this Web site, Freedomcorps.gov, you can get the aid there sooner and get it where it’s needed.
CLINTON: If I could make just one other little point.
ANGLE: Yes, sir.
CLINTON: Over what President Bush just said. A lot of people will say, well, gosh. You know, I could give four t-shirts out of my closet, but I don’t make any money. I can only afford $10. Send the $10 either to one of these charities or now AOL and Apple have also put up Web sites. And I think AOL checked like $7.5-odd million in 36 hours, all small contributions. So, you have got to understand, the small contributions can be efficiently raised and distributed. So, I did want to emphasize that.
Sure, somebody can give us $1 million; we’d like to have it. But if you have got $5 or $10, and you’re 8 years old and you’re listening to us, don’t think your dollar doesn’t count. And the Internet now makes it possible to efficiently distribute that money.
ANGLE: Let me ask you both a political question about this. Early on, there was some criticism of President Bush for not appearing before the cameras sooner. And some criticism that the U.S. wasn’t doing enough early on to help the victims of this disaster. What is your sense of that? President Clinton, you first.
CLINTON: Well, first of all, I have no comment about the timing because I’ve been there. And a president makes hundreds and hundreds of appearances and has other claims on his time. None of us know what the facts are. And I think it’s clearly irrelevant now whatever the facts are.
In terms of America’s doing enough, I just think any criticism there is wrong. President Bush has committed $350 million. He said he expects there will be more. The private sector has been overflowing with money. Colin Powell (search) is in the region today with Governor Bush, and the head of FEMA.
I was very impressed when the three of us went to these embassies today and we were sitting in Sri Lankan Embassy. And the president — I got talking about bringing in water filtration equipment. And he started asking the Sri Lankan ambassador how high the mountains were in the middle of the island and what the aquifers were like and how — he knew how quick the water would return. In other words, he cares about this.
Americans care about this kind of stuff and our president cares about it. And I just think it’s a bum rap. We’re going to do what we’re supposed to do. America gives between 25 and 30 percent of the disaster aid of the whole world every year. They did when I was president, they did when he was president, and we’re going to now. The Republicans and the Democrats in Congress are going to support it.
It’s just not a fair criticism. You can say other foreign aids were too low and Europe is too low and Japan is too low. But on disaster assistance, we’re there.
ANGLE: Any thoughts on this, President Bush?
BUSH: I think the president handled it correctly. There seems to be a game, if he did it 24 hours sooner. The big thing is are we doing what’s right? And I think the government is doing what’s right. And President Clinton and I hope that we will be contributing to something that is right.
ANGLE: Last thing for you. How long do you expect this effort to last? How long do you think you’ll be helping?
CLINTON: Well, I don’t know. I think we’re willing to work as long as it’s though that we can be helpful. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the nature of what we’re doing changes dramatically three months from now, what it is today. Today we’re trying to, you know; get the level of giving up, shift from in kind to cash as much as possible. Three months from today we may be trying to get a particular project funded, because with all the giving it wasn’t. So we’re just going to play it by ear and do what’s right, and help people.
BUSH: I couldn’t agree more. We’re not looking for a job. I’m certainly not, at 80 years old. Good God. I get plenty to do around the home front with Barbara.
BUSH: If you get the feeling in your heart that you’re doing something that matters. That you’re helping some little kid or something, that’s all I need. And I know it’s all that President Clinton’s looking for.
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