This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," October 30, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: And welcome to "Hannity & Colmes." Thank you for being with us. I'm Sean Hannity.
Earlier today, I joined President Bush at a campaign stop in Statesboro, Georgia, for an exclusive interview:
HANNITY: Mr. President, great to see you again.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, sir. Thanks.
HANNITY: All right, so there you are. You think the GOP holds both houses. You're confident. You made the statement that your opponents, Democrats, are picking out the drapes a little bit too early.
BUSH: That's right.
Well, you know, in 2002, a lot of the pundits didn't get the off-year elections right. In 2004, a lot of people thought I was going down eight days before the election. And in 2006, there is a lot of predictors saying that, you know, the Democrats will sweep the House and maybe take the Senate.
And I just don't see it that way, because I think most people, when they take a look at the candidates and the positions of the candidates, realize that protecting this country and keeping this economy going are the two most important issues. And you can't protect the country if you retreat from overseas, and you can't keep the economy growing if you raise taxes. And that's exactly what the Democrats in the House would like to do.
HANNITY: That's what you want voters — before they go into that voting booth, you want them to compare and contrast?
BUSH: Yes, look, I mean, I want them to understand there's this difference of opinion and that there's a consequence for their votes. And one consequence — look, I feel that it's important our professionals have the tools to keep the enemy — you know, to stop their attacks.
One is listening to them — appropriately, I might add. Two is questioning them. And three is giving our professionals on the front lines the tools to protect you, like getting rid of walls that prohibited their discussion and sharing intelligence. And the Democrats didn't agree with those policies. How do I know? Because they voted against them when they came up on the floor of the House and the Senate.
So, in other words, it's a clear vote. And so the American people have got a touchstone: Which party voted for the tools necessary to protect America and which party didn't? And that's what I'm trying to get people to focus on.
HANNITY: Everyone says, you know, to what extent do you think this is a referendum on the Bush administration and the decisions — you're not running — but on the decisions maybe you made, do you think?
BUSH: Well, I think, to a certain extent the economy and these decisions I made to protect the country matter a lot, but also these congressional races are local races. We're down here in Statesboro, Georgia, today. Max Burns used to teach at the college where we had the rally.
Well, I suspect people are going to vote for Max because they know him as local boy who's got — share their values. Now, values matters well in a race. And this is different from a presidential campaign, because it's not necessarily a national election, in that each congressional race really depends upon the candidates and how they carry the message.
HANNITY: Let's talk about a little bit more about the war. Karl Rove used the term "pre-9/11 mentality." You said, "I question whether they understand how dangerous the world is." That raises the question about Democrats: If they're elected, do they make the country more vulnerable, more susceptible? Are they weaker?
BUSH: Well, I think this: I think that if you don't think we're in a war that you can't win the war. And I think a lot of the national Democrats believe that, you know, Iraq is a distraction and not part of the War on Terror. They've said so. And I strongly disagree.
One reason I disagree is because Usama bin Laden feels like Iraq is a part of this War on Terror. He has made it clear that he would like for us to leave before Iraq can defend itself or govern itself and sustain itself, so that he could have a safe haven from which to launch further attacks, a safe haven from which to topple modern governments, a safe haven from which to, you know, be able to get a hold of oil resources.
Now, you can imagine these radicals getting a hold of a country where they're able to pull oil off the market to run the price of oil up to extract concession. What concession would they like? Well, one concession would be to retreat. In other words, you don't retreat, we'll raise the price of oil.
Another concession would be to abandon our alliance with Israel, which is an objective of these radicals: the destruction of Israel. And so, I — and then when you mix it all up, Sean, with a country with a nuclear weapon in their midst, like Iran, then people begin to see the real dangers of not completing the mission.
Where we find young democracies, we need to help them. Where we find the enemy, we need to fight them. And that's exactly the Bush policy.
And it's tough fighting. You know, I know your viewers are — I suspect a lot of them are saying to themselves, "Well, we understand getting rid of Saddam, but do you have a plan for victory?" And we do have a plan for victory; that's what these folks have got to understand.
It's a plan that says, "Look, we're going to help the Iraqis defend themselves. We'll help the Iraqis govern themselves. We'll help the Iraqi economy flourish. We will make sure we defeat the enemy there, though, so we're constantly after Al Qaeda in Iraq."
HANNITY: She's been against the Patriot Act, voted against the creation of the Homeland Security Department, has cut intelligence, voted against the border fence. Is it then fair to say she is weak on national security issues?
BUSH: I think it's fair to say that, as I say in my speeches: They are not unpatriotic, they're just wrong. They have a different view of the world that then makes — that — and, therefore, their policies would weaken us.
I don't see how you can fight and win this War on Terror if you don't give our agents the capacity to question detainees. I mean, once those detainees — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Sean, and you know who he is. Maybe your viewers don't. He was the man who the intelligence folks think was the mastermind of September the 11th. He was one of the top Al Qaeda guys.
We captured him in Pakistan and we detained him so we could question him. And the reason why I asked the CIA to do that is because, if he knew there was another attack coming, we need to know about that. If he knew where Al Qaeda trained, we need to know about that.
And we've got a lot of information from these detainees that help prevent other attacks. You know, some of the leaders, Democrat leaders in Washington, evidently don't believe that's an important program. It is an important program, and it's a mistake not to give our professionals the tools necessary to question people.
HANNITY: When we go and look at the rhetoric that has been used — specifically, you've been a big target of the Democrats, as you know — some of the rhetoric has been really harsh.
HANNITY: Let me give you some examples and get your reaction to it.
HANNITY: Nancy Pelosi, you're mentally unstable. Harry Reid called you a loser in front of schoolchildren. Ted Kennedy has called you're a liar. He's said you concocted the war for political gain. Al Gore screamed at the top of his lungs...
... that you betrayed your country. When you hear that — these are the leaders, the prominent leaders of the Democrats — does that offend you? Does that bother you? What does that say to you?
BUSH: First of all, I believe I've made the right decisions. And, therefore, I don't let those screeches bother me.
It's sad that we can't have a civil discourse in the midst of historic times. You know, the president has got to make decisions, and I — these folks know why I made the decisions I've made. And, you know, I'm sorry that politics has gotten to that point. I'm not the first president, however, that has been — you know, that they've called names, and I won't be the last.
HANNITY: They call talk show hosts names, too.
BUSH: Do they? Well, join the club then.
HANNITY: But rhetoric like that, though, coming from leaders, do you think it — our enemies hear it, our allies hear it, our troops hear it?
BUSH: All I can tell you is that I know the enemy, allies, and troops hear what I say. And, therefore, when I speak — and people have got to understand this — that my audience is more than just the American people. I want the Iraqis to understand that we are with them and that they have to make tough decisions, and we'll help them make those tough decisions for this country, for this democracy to survive. And they've made some tough decisions.
I want our enemies to understand that don't think that their violent acts are going to cause this president to leave before the job is done. And I want our troops to understand we respect them and that the sacrifices they make are noble and necessary for peace.
HANNITY: We'll have more of my exclusive interview with President Bush coming up in just a moment.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: We now continue with more of Sean's exclusive interview with the president of the United States.
HANNITY: Let me ask, then, about when comments have been made about the troops in particular — and it's got a lot of news — when John Murtha, for example, said the Marines are killing innocent civilians in cold blood. John Kerry made the comment our troops are terrorizing women and children in Iraq in the dark of night. You know, that was outside of you. They're saying about your troops...
BUSH: Listen, I don't mind them saying things about me. I do mind them saying things about those young, brave men and women who have volunteered. That's offensive to me that people would say those kind of comments about Americans who have volunteered to take the fight to the enemy.
And it's really important for our troops to understand our country supports them. They may not support my decisions necessarily, but they support those kids. And these leaders ought to be very careful about their language, because we ought to be thanking them. No matter what your politics is, we ought to be thanking these people for volunteering.
HANNITY: What does it mean to you — let me go one more question about Iraq...
HANNITY: ...in this sense in the past. You know, going back to the vote that took place in Iraq, you know, if I told you who said the following, I wondering if you could guess: "If you don't believe Saddam is a threat with nuclear weapons, don't vote for me. We need to disarm Saddam. He's a brutal, murderous dictator whose WMDs pose a real and grave threat to America." You know who said that? Your opponent in the last election.
BUSH: Oh, yeah?
HANNITY: That was John Kerry in the lead-up to the war.
HANNITY: And now look at the positions they've taken today.
BUSH: Well, that's called the flip-flop. You might remember the '04 campaign. You know, I can remember standing in front of those thousands and thousands of crowds, people screaming, "Flip-flop," because people started changing their positions for political purposes, it seemed like to the American citizens. But go ahead.
HANNITY: No, no, but that's...
BUSH: Well, my attitude is, Sean, that, you know, people made their votes on Saddam Hussein based upon the same intelligence as I had and that my judgment is you stand by your vote and you stand by your principles. That's not to say that — can you say that, well, we should have done things better.
But this notion about trying to chase public opinion is just not how you can make good, sound decisions. One man who stood by his decision is Joe Lieberman. He understands the consequences. And the Democrat Party ran him out of the party because he stood on principle.
The thing that amazes me is the Democrat Party used to be the party of, you know, Harry Truman and John Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt, people that understood that you need to confront problems and do the hard work necessary so a generation of people could grow up in peace.
And, you know, it sounds like to me some of their leaders are becoming isolationist and that's dangerous. Some of our people are isolationist, by the way. I mean, the country — if we were to withdraw, your children are going to grow up in a dangerous world, Sean. We've got a lot of influence, and we need to be using that influence, not only to protect ourselves, but to create the conditions of peace. And I believe, not only can the United States do that, I believe we must do that.
HANNITY: Would you support Joe Lieberman's re-election?
BUSH: I am studiously staying away from that race.
HANNITY: OK. There was a controversy as it relates to the words "stay the course."
HANNITY: Do you want to explain what you meant?
BUSH: Well, what I meant was, "Don't leave before the job is done." But in my line of work, words always get, you know, kind of put in different contexts and, you know, I guess they use words to suit their purposes. Stay the course, when I said that, was we will get the job done, because I understand that if we leave Iraq before the job is done, it will make the world a very dangerous place and make this country more vulnerable to attack. But I also say that, as a commander in chief, I listen to those generals over there and, of course, the diplomats, as well.
My question is: What does it take to win? What do you need? And my point is, is that they're constantly adjusting tactics. This is not a war being fought out of the White House. This is a war being fought in conjunction with the Pentagon and our commanders on the ground, where the commanders on the ground have the flexibility necessary to adjust tactics.
You know, when the enemy first started showing up with IEDs, we started to adjust tactics. We spent money on new technologies to protect our troops, and we're constantly adjusting tactics to meet the objective. So my point to the American people is, "We'll get the job done." And I want to tell you something: If I didn't believe we could get the job done, I'd pull our men and women out of there.
HANNITY: Let me put it in this contest. You said, "I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation. I'm not satisfied either." Compare that to maybe Howard Dean, "The idea that we're going to win this war is just plain wrong."
BUSH: Yes. Well, listen, there's a lot of pessimists who don't believe, one, we should have been there and, two, that we can't succeed. And that is just plain wrong that people can't — believe we can't succeed. We have done hard work before.
But, Sean, this is an ideological standoff between those of us who like liberty and freedom and have, you know, support a hopeful philosophy versus extremists and radicals who, you know, hate everything we stand for. And this is going to be a long struggle.
Iraq and Afghanistan are the beginning of the long struggle. That's not to say there are going to be military conflict everywhere, but it does say that the United States must continue to work with young democracies, young — work with groups of people who yearn for freedom, because the only way to defeat this ideology of hate in the long term is to defeat it with an ideology of hope.
And pessimists say we can't do this. Well, we've done it before. We were able to help Europe become whole, free and at peace by helping democracies thrive. We defeated a communist empire with an ideological standoff. There were people who said we couldn't succeed after World War II, couldn't succeed during the Cold War. And, fortunately, the leaders then didn't listen to the pessimists.
We've had pessimists throughout our history say America can't do things. What the people have got to understand is: I'm optimistic that, once again, we will do what it necessary to protect our country.
COLMES: And we'll have more of Sean's exclusive interview with the president in just a moment.
HANNITY: And we continue now with more of my exclusive interview with President Bush.
HANNITY: Is this a struggle literally between good and evil?
BUSH: I think it is.
HANNITY: This is what it is? Do you think most people understand that? I mean, when you see the vacillating poll numbers, does it discourage you in that sense?
BUSH: Well, first of all, you can't make decisions on polls, Sean. You've got to do what you think is right. The reason I say it's good versus evil is that evil people kill innocent life to achieve political objectives. And that's what Al Qaeda and people like Al Qaeda do.
HANNITY: There's a lot of criticism when you first used the term axis of evil.
HANNITY: Well, here we are. We've got Ahmadinejad. He wants to annihilate Israel, wipe them off the map and pursue nuclear weapons. Kim Jong-Il, we see him, his missile tests, his nuclear tests going on. Is there more to that? Would you identify an axis of evil today, or is it the same?
BUSH: Well, I think there's a radical and extremist movement in the Middle East that is very evil and very dangerous that we must deal with, and we are in Iraq.
And I also believe that the proliferation of nuclear weaponry is dangerous, and that's why we're dealing with this in a multilateral way. The issue of Iran or North Korea, we've got other nations to join us at the table, putting pressure on these regimes, basically saying, "Look, there's a better way forward for your people than confronting the world with a nuclear weapons program." And, you know, hopefully we'll be able to prevail.
HANNITY: The whole plan is beginning with liberty and freedom, to sort of transfer or take the place of evil and this ideology where it's justified to strap bombs on children and send them into pizza parlors. How long does that take? Because one of things we're...
BUSH: Yes, well, first of all, let me make this — there is a — that is the ultimate clash. In the meantime, there are societies where people are so hopeless that they're desperate for, you know, something. In other words, imagine the type of society in which a 16-year-old kid agrees that maybe the best thing for him is to listen to an elder and strap a suicide — you know, conduct a suicide operation.
You'll notice, by the way, that Usama bin Laden doesn't actually — is not the suicider. He finds desperate people who are the suiciders or propagandize people. And so my point to you is, is that what liberty will end up doing is creating the conditions such that it is — that these radicals and extremists become marginalized.
The ultimate clash, if we retreat, however, is that their philosophy becomes more entrenched, becomes, you know, a real part of the governing doctrines around the Middle East. And then we've got, you know, kind of the ultimate ideological clash. Right now, there's an ideological conflict going on and — but freedom will end up doing is preventing the totalitarian point of view from gaining even more traction than it has.
HANNITY: You go back to the 9/11 Commission. They said it, not a matter of "if," it's a matter of "when."
HANNITY: Is America going to be hit again, in your estimation?
BUSH: I think so. And we've got to do everything we can to stop them. That's why these tools of listening to the terrorists or detaining the terrorists and questioning them are very important to be able to stop the next attack.
That's why the homeland security measures we've taken are very important. That's why sharing intelligence is important. And that's why keeping pressure on them is important. In other words, obviously, you know, if they're on the run or hiding in a cave, it's much more difficult to, you know, plan and conduct their operations.
The issue that becomes more dangerous is that they've begun to morph. In other words, these are organizations that — there's look-alike or, you know, sympathetic organizations to Al Qaeda. Witnessed some of those bombers in Great Britain that we helped Great Britain detain. And, by the way, the British did a wonderful job of finding those people before they got on airplanes to protect us.
HANNITY: How important is getting Usama bin Laden in the War on Terror?
BUSH: Well, it's important, and that's why we're after him every single day. But so is getting Zawahiri important, and so is getting the number-three guy, whoever he is when they pop up. You know, we've got this guy, Zarqawi.
It's always important to bring these people to justice. It's — you know, most of the people involved with September the 11th, the planners and masterminds, have been captured and/or killed. And so it's really important to keep the pressure on them.
The American people would love to see Usama bin Laden brought to justice, and so would I. He's in some remote region of the world. He's hiding. And if we find him — when we find him, not if, he'll be found — when we find him, he'll be brought to justice.
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