Transcript: Bush, Clinton on Tsunami Visit

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: After the tsunami hit South Asia over Christmas weekend, President Bush recruited two heavy hitters to lead private U.S. fundraising efforts: his father, former President Bush, as well as former President Clinton. The two men are now on a tour of the region, getting a firsthand look at the devastation and the relief effort. And they join us now from Sri Lanka.


President Bush, President Clinton, we are honored to welcome you to "Fox News Sunday."

It's not unusual for presidents to tour natural disasters, but I wonder, how does what you've seen over these last couple of days compare to other disasters that you've seen?

President Bush, you're the senior man, so why don't you start?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm the oldest man. I don't know about senior.

But in any event, I've never seen anything like this. As you properly say, we've been to disaster areas, but never anything where the devastation is so overwhelming, the human tragedy so great.

WALLACE: President Clinton, what is it about it that stands out that makes it so different from other natural disasters that you visited as a president and governor?

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The size of it. I mean we had that 500-year flood in Mississippi that destroyed a couple of towns and some bad hurricanes. And I saw the awful hurricane damage in Central America, which I thought was the worst thing I'd ever seen. But I've literally never seen anything like this.

We visited a village today where 6,500 people lived and only 1,000 survived, and everything was gone and they have to begin again.

WALLACE: President Clinton, I'm sure one of the toughest things is to see these young children whose entire families had been wiped out.

CLINTON: Yesterday, in Thailand, President Bush and I visited with several of the orphans, who gave us each a drawing, one to President Bush showing his mother drowning, and one to me showing the Americans in the helicopters delivering the supplies and trying to save lives.

And I think that pretty well sums up how people feel. They're burdened and broken-hearted by the tragedy and heartened by the efforts that are being made to put life back together.

WALLACE: President Bush, the total commitment of public and private aid to tsunami relief is $7 billion, but are public and private sources making good on their pledges, because we've heard some stories that there have been problems there?

BUSH: Well, I think it's too early to really definitively answer the question. But we heard no complaints on that from any of the three countries we've been to. And I think they will.

See, what's happening is the big reconstruction money is just about to start being needed. Until now, it's been rescue and relief and these kinds of things, which are terribly important.

But I don't think it's fair to say that people are reneging on pledges, nor do I think it's fair to say that we hadn't gotten it there soon enough, because when you see the devastation, you realize you just have to take some amount of time to clean things up and then start building again.

WALLACE: President Bush, there was an astonishing figure that I read that one-third of all American households have contributed to tsunami aid relief. And the question I have for you, sir, is: Can you assure those Americans who dug into their pockets and contributed, can you assure them that their money is being properly spent, that it's not going to the bureaucracies, but is going to the people who need it?

BUSH: A lot of the money that President Clinton and I have tried to raise comes from private sector, from individuals, as you point out, and also from — it will go to the NGOs. We can't assure them that every single dime that's sent to some cause or another in these countries will be properly spent. But we're going to the best we can.

And what's happening is, on the ground, they're establishing — some of these NGOs, they're getting set up to bring the money to bear where it's needed.

And I think — I haven't heard one — maybe you did, Bill, on the — any complaints about that.

CLINTON: Well, I think, at least to date, very little has been wasted, Chris.

The White House put up on its Web site,, a list of maybe three dozen charities that were highly reliable. They gave us a list of a dozen to suggest for large contributions. Even UNICEF, for example, has given up the normal administrative take it removes from contributions. They've just given it up to send it all to water and sanitation.

So I think there's an extraordinary effort being made here. And when we were with the president of Indonesia earlier today, he said that he was setting up a special unit in Aceh to monitor the expenditure of all money as long as the reconstruction is going on, which I think there will be three to five years.

BUSH: If I might add one thing.

WALLACE: President...

BUSH: Chris, it...

WALLACE: Yes, sir.

BUSH: The response to the U.S. military here has just been overwhelming.

BUSH: In Sri Lanka, in Indonesia, Thailand, they all have said that our military went in there with the right attitude, simply to help people. I remember early reports saying it might be, you know, people might object to that.

But the reports we've gotten are just overwhelmingly positive. The way in which the Marines and the other sailors went in there has been just a way to do it, with partnership with the people. And I'm very impressed with what they've done.

WALLACE: President Clinton, it's a fact of the technological world we live in that when something like the tsunami happens, the whole world focuses on it and that's the good news. But then a week or so later, we move on to the next big thing. Is it getting tougher to raise money? And how do you keep people, as we're now two months away, interested in continuing to help out?

CLINTON: Well, President Bush and I have been doing these public service announcements. We were asked to be a part of the Super Bowl pre-game show. The NBA has done a public service announcement with us. We're doing a lot of this kind of work. And I feel quite good about it.

The American people, as you pointed out, about a third of our households have already given and many of them, $10, $15, $25. It's just stunning. I've never seen anything like it.

The president has sent up a request to Capitol Hill for $950 million more. So I think America will do its part.

And to go back to your earlier question, I think once we do our part, it will be easier for me next month, when I take over this U.N. job, to ask the Europeans and others to give theirs.

WALLACE: Finally, gentlemen, I'd like to ask the two of you about the two of you.

President Bush, I know you have called this pairing of you and President Clinton "the odd couple." And I think people back here at home are fascinated to see it in action.

Two questions, first of all — and let me start with you, President Bush — how are you two getting along? And secondly, why is it that political opponents only seem to be able to get along and be civil to each other once they're out of office?

President Bush, why don't you start?

BUSH: I don't think it's out of office. You heard the gracious remarks that President Clinton made at his library about "the" president of the United States. That would be G.W. Bush.

And I think it's, you know, when you're not competing, when you're not running for election against somebody, I'll admit that's easier. But people won't believe this, but I've been friends with Bill Clinton when he was governor. I remember working closely with him for education, governors' conference.

So when you get into the fray, you get into combat, I admit it's not seen.

But I'll tell you one thing about it, Chris, wherever we go, people indicate that it's a wonderful thing — abroad — for them to see a Republican, a Democrat, both of whom had been president, working together. I think it's resonating, not just at home, hopefully there, but around the world.

CLINTON: You know, Chris, I think — first I want to support what President Bush said. I worked very closely with him beginning, actually, when I was a governor and he was vice president. And then I represented the governors when he called us together to set up national education goals in 1989.

So I've always liked him. I've always admired him. I never felt any personal animosity toward him at all.

I think that we want hard debates in elections. But after that we want to stop demonizing each other. And I think that it's not just a problem in America, it's a problem all across the world.

And who knows? Maybe we'll have a little positive impact.

While we're doing this interview, Hillary's in Iraq and Afghanistan with Republican senators. I think there's maybe a little bit more camaraderie than people know. And I hope that the visual image of our going out here and trying to do something good for America and the world will help others to do more things like this.

WALLACE: President Bush, President Clinton, I want to thank you both so much for your continued service. Safe travels and come visit us again soon.

CLINTON: Thank you.

BUSH: Thanks, Chris.