STUART VARNEY, HOST: Private phone conversations President Bush had a couple of years before the 2000 election are now public. Doug Wead (search) secretly taped their conversations, for history's sake, he says. Many of the president's comments may surprise some, especially my next guest, whose name is mentioned. So what's his take on these secret tapes?
Joining me now is Steve Forbes, chairman and CEO of Forbes.
Steve, welcome to the program.
STEVE FORBES, CHMN. & CEO, FORBES: Good to be with you, Stuart.
VARNEY: What was your reaction when you first heard that you had been mentioned on these tapes and that there were, in fact, tapes made, the first reaction?
FORBES: Well, the fact that the tapes were made was an outrage. When you have someone you think is a friend, you don't think he's tape recording you to make money in the future off of what you think are private and personal conversations.
When I saw the transcripts as they were released, I thought that simply demonstrates the power of my ideas and my campaign. Obviously, the president had read my book, "New Birth of Freedom," where I outlined tax proposals, reforming the tax code, reforming Social Security (search), reforming health care, many of the same policies he's pursuing today. So I think it's a testament to the power of ideas.
VARNEY: Let me quote directly from the tapes, as I've seen the transcripts: "Steve Forbes is going to hear this message from me. I will do nothing for him if he does to me what he did to Dole. Period. There is going to be a consequence. He's not dealing with the average, you know, 'Oh, gosh, let's all get together after it's over.' I will promise you, I will not help him. I don't care."
That's kind of hardball politics. Did he ever, in fact, say that directly to you?
FORBES: Not at all. And I think in the heat of a campaign or a prospect of a campaign, people vent. He thought he was venting to a friend. And I think his public behavior was exemplary. Certainly, we got along in the debates and everything.
And I think the greatest compliment is that the ideas that I espoused became part of administration policy. So in that sense, that's the best compliment there is, that he steals your ideas.
VARNEY: Unfortunately, then Governor Bush also described you as preppy and mean-spirited. Now, those are rather personal terms. What's your response to that?
FORBES: Well, certainly on the preppy side, he and his family certainly would know something about that, as they all went to, many of them, to prep school.
And, again, I think you've got to put it in context. He's venting. He knows he's got a tough fight ahead. I think it's, again, an example of what the power of my ideas -- it certainly wasn't my charisma that he feared or the fact that I held high elective office. It was the power of the ideas.
And the fact that they purloining those ideas, starting with the tax code and then eventually Social Security, I think shows that even though the messenger -- i.e., me, didn't do very well, the message did. And I think the fact we're debating these issues today is testament to that.
VARNEY: Briefly, Steve, do you intend to take any kind of action, legal or otherwise, from now on about these tapes?
FORBES: The only action I'm going take is if he doesn't follow through on these ideas, particularly on the tax reform, like the flat tax and Social Security. If he drops the ball on those reforms, then I'll be a real agitator. If not, I'm going to be a supporter and hope these ideas see the light of day.
VARNEY: But you're not taking any legal action against Doug Wead for making the tapes on which you...
FORBES: Coming from the media and getting threatened with legal action all the time, I have no desire to make the lawyers richer than they already are. I want to put them out of business.
VARNEY: That's a final good last word. Steve Forbes, what a pleasure. Thank very much for joining us.
FORBES: Thank you.
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