This is a partial transcript from the October 25 and 26 editions of "Hannity & Colmes" that has been edited for clarity.
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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Mr. President, thank you for being with us. It's good to see you.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sean, thanks.
HANNITY: All right. We're coming down the home stretch here, final week of the campaign. Look how many states are close. You got Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Mexico, New Hampshire. Everything will be this close when you look at these polls?
BUSH: Well, you know, I don't pay that much attention to the polls. I do feed off the crowds and our crowds are very big and very enthusiastic. Our base is united and fired up and so coming down the stretch, it's very important to me to continue to distinguish us between my opponent and myself, our differences, our big differences when it comes to securing the country or growing this economy or making sure that people got affordable and available health care, as well as thanking those who are going to be involved with voter turnout. And I feel very good about our chances.
HANNITY: That now becomes a ground game. So here you are. You're in the midst of this. You are out campaigning doing this four or five cities a day and do you always believe — because you're a competitor. You're an athlete. Do you always believe you're going to win? Do you ever allow the thought to enter your mind, well, maybe I'm not going to win. Does that ever creep into your mind?
BUSH: No it doesn't.
BUSH: I know I'm going to win and I operate under that belief and I'm going to win because people understand that I've got the capacity and the ability to lead this nation during dangerous times and that I've got a strategy to win this war on terror and keep America secure as well as growing our economy and other key issues. I — look, I understand democracy, that the great thing about our country is come the November 2nd, I'm not the decision maker. The people get to make the decision of who the president is and I got great faith in the people of this country.
HANNITY: We're going to continue on. I want to ask you a little bit about the debates, because in this campaign, there's so much emphasis on it. Some people thought maybe you were a little flat in the first one. You did a lot better in the second and third. Did you — do you think that was a fair analysis and do you think we put too much emphasis on it?
BUSH: No, the debates are an important part of any campaign. The incumbent — an incumbent president is at a little bit of a disadvantage simply because, by allowing an opponent on the stage, they are able to appear somewhat presidential and I understood that going into it, but I do believe there needs to be an open discourse about issues and I felt very good about the debates, because they pointed up big differences between my opponent and me. You know, in the first debate it's where he issued his proclamation that we wouldn't use force without a global test. I thought that was a very revealing moment about his attitude in this war on terror and about our differences. I don't think we ought to have a global test. I think we ought to work together, work with allies and friends, which I have done and will do, but we should never subject our national security decisions to international veto.
HANNITY: Particularly in the second and third debates, you really sort of stamped his forehead with the Massachusetts liberal. What does that mean to you and what do people — you even said to him at one point he was the conservative senator from Massachusetts. What does that mean?
BUSH: Ted Kennedy was the conservative.
HANNITY: Ted Kennedy was the conservative senator, right.
BUSH: Well, it means to me, on the domestic front, raising taxes. That's what that means and I'm actually convinced he will. He proposed over $2 trillion in spending and he's going to have to pay for it and he can't pay for it by his so-called taxing the rich. He's going to have to tax the middle class. I think that would be disastrous for our economy. I think on foreign policy, it’s the reluctance to use all the assets at a president's disposal to defend America. Again, he talked about the global test. He voted against the Gulf war when we removed Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. If that's not passing any global test, nothing will pass the global test and that is very dangerous thinking in this very complex and dangerous world we live in.
HANNITY: In the final weeks now in this campaign, John Kerry, John Edwards, they have been out there saying that you were going to do certain things if you're reelected and they say you have a January surprise to privatize Social Security. They say that you're going to bring back the draft and that they say you and the Republican party have a systematic effort this election to suppress African-American votes.
BUSH: Right. Well, that's the old scare tactics. I guess if you don't have anything positive to say, if you've got a cloudy vision for the future, the only thing to resort to is scaring people. I am very clear about the draft. There will be no draft so long as I'm the president. We don't need a draft. The all-volunteer Army is — will work. And one reason it will work is because we have supported our troops. We have raised pay by 21 percent since I've been the president. There's better housing for our families, better medical care for our families, the military families. Secondly, on Social Security, this is what they did in 2000. They told the seniors and states that if George W. gets elected, they won't get their checks and I'm going around the country like I'm going to do today in Florida, is remind the seniors I got elected and the seniors got their checks. But we've got to think differently on Social Security. A big problem for our children and grandchildren, I believe that one way to help to solve this problem is to let younger workers take some of their own payroll taxes and put it in a personal savings account to learn a better rate of return on their money and that it's an account they'll manage and an account they'll be able to call their own and I think it's a very important reform.
HANNITY: And every senior can stay in the current system. That promise, while you're president shall never be taken...
BUSH: When I say children and grandchildren, I'm talking about younger Americans because we're fine. Baby boomers are fine. The Social Security trust is relatively secure for baby boomers. But it’s those who have to contribute to my retirement that we need to worry about. That would be the younger children and...
HANNITY: Do you think that when he says these things, John Kerry, your opponent, you were in these three debates with him, do you think he knows he's not telling the truth? I mean...
BUSH: I'm not sure Sean.
HANNITY: You've been pretty clear on the issue, but yet he continues to go out there and say it. When I think of old people that I know that say to you, uh oh, somebody is going to take my Social Security and that scares them.
BUSH: It's kind of — I would put it this way. It's old style politics. It's really the politics of the past. On the Social Security issue, obviously I'm going to have to continue to reassure seniors that they'll get their checks. The good news is that they did get their checks for the time I've been president. So I've got evidence to make the claim they'll get their checks. But I do believe this issue is helping me, the Social Security issue is helping me, because many Americans fully understand we have a problem and most Americans expect the president to solve problems, not to just pass them on and hope somebody else will solve them.
HANNITY: A lot has been discussed about the tone and we know for example and your family is actively involved in this campaign and Theresa Heinz Kerry kind of took a shot at your wife and said she never had a real job and — I didn't know that being a mother was never a real job, but that's a side issue. You heard the comment during the debate of John Kerry bringing up Dick Cheney's daughter and her sexuality was brought up and then the next day it was told it was fair game, the daughter of a candidate. Does that bother you, upset you or does that concern you?
BUSH: Well, his comment was over the line and you know, our families go through a lot when they're — a dad or mom is in public life and it's really important for the system to protect family members I think. It's one thing to have your daughters out campaigning with you, but it's another thing to see them ridiculed or held up to become a political issue and I must say by far, most of the time in this campaign, our daughters have been treated well for which I'm grateful.
HANNITY: Were you upset about Theresa Heinz' comments about Mrs. Bush?
BUSH: Not really. It just kind of reflected the difference. Clearly women who work at home, raise their kids and stay at home and work in the house, provide a vital contribution and are whole people and are — it's an old kind of style mindset.
HANNITY: You've said one of the things you were most unhappy about is this issue of the tone in Washington. Let me just run down a list of prominent Democrats for a second here, because I can't remember a time in my life where it's been this bad. Your former opponent in the last election, Al Gore, screaming that you betrayed your country. You tried to reach out to Ted Kennedy on education and Ted Kennedy said, repeatedly called you a liar, that you concocted a war for political gains. Terry McAuliffe said you're AWOL. Howard Dean said - advanced the theory you knew about 9/11 ahead of time. Dennis Kucinich said you're targeting civilians for assassination. Joe Biden said you're
brain dead this week. You're the president of the United States. You're also leading troops in harm's way. This is the leader of the opposition party. Does that bother you? What does it say about them in your mind?
BUSH: You know, I — first of all, I understand that when you make hard decisions, people are going to react and I've made some very difficult decisions, but necessary decisions to protect this country. Secondly, I think all this vitriol ends up inuring to my benefit. I think most American people want to see a civil discourse. Most of the people are interested in policies that will keep us secure and keep us prosperous and I think they — look, I think they tend to look at these kind of comments and say, well they must not be able to offer anything positive, so therefore let's try to denigrate the president. I've got thick skin.
HANNITY: You need it.
BUSH: Well and one reason why I do is because I truly believe the decisions I have made are right for this country. I understand how dangerous this world is and it's essential that the American president be resolute and firm as we deal with terrorists and be wise about implementing a strategy that is comprehensive in nature so that our children can grow up in a peaceful world. My biggest desire is to be able to look in the camera after my service as the president and say we left behind a better world, a more peaceful world, a freer world and a safer world so that our children, your children, my grandchildren can grow up in a free and peaceful society. We have a chance to change this world for the better and that's what I intend to do.
HANNITY: Now let me ask you about this because John Kerry says he's —never changed his position on Iraq. We know when his foreign policy advisor Richard Holbrooke said it is not a war on terror in a literal sense, you referred to this in a speech you said yesterday and you said about John Kerry that he has flipped-flopped his way into a dangerous position. He has finally settled on a strategy, one of retreat, and he sent a signal that America is — their overriding goal in Iraq is to leave...
HANNITY: ...so my question is, If John Kerry were president would he make this country more vulnerable and more susceptible to terror attacks?
BUSH: You know, that's ultimately the decision the people are going to have to decide in this campaign and it is by far one of the biggest issues in the campaign. What I say is that his point of view is dangerous because it's very limited in nature. He says this is primarily a law enforcement and intelligence-gathering operation. He says we must pass a global test. He says that — he hasn't changed his position on Iraq. He has changed his position on Iraq. A lot. And I think all of that adds up to is a — in my judgment — is a strategy that would not enable us to win. And he said he wanted to reduce terrorism to a nuisance. To me that is not the right strategy in the world in which we live in. The strategy should be to defeat these terrorists in the short term by bringing them to justice using all the assets at our disposal. In the long term by encouraging free societies to emerge. I think one of the most hopeful and amazing things that has happened in recent history is the fact that millions of people in Afghanistan went to the polls to vote for president. The first voter was a 19 year old woman. I cannot tell you how exhilarating and hopeful that makes me feel about my deep belief that every person wants to be free in the world. It just was proved and Sean, I would ask you to go think about what public opinion was like as to whether or not — several years ago — as to whether or not a democracy would ever emerge in Afghanistan. It is an amazing phenomenon — I love to tell the youngsters in the crowd that come and see me to think about — and I want you to remember what has happened in a brief period of time. A society has gone from darkness to light because freedom is on the march.
END PART ONE — Aired October 25, 2004
PART TWO — Aired October 26, 2004
HANNITY: Let me ask you in this sense — nobody thought what happened on 9/11 could ever happen here...
HANNITY: You get to see things that we will never get to see. That's your job. You have to look at the intelligence briefings every day. You have to assess the nature of the threat that is facing this country. Is it possible — is it a reality that we could turn on our television sets one day — Fox News Channel I hope — and find out that America is — that a nuclear weapon has gone off here — that a biological agent has been released or a chemical agent — is that a reality?
BUSH: Yes it is. That's the biggest threat we face and we know that a terrorist organization like al Qaeda wants to acquire a weapon of mass destruction of some kind or another to kill on a larger scale than they did. You see, it's very important, Sean, for the American people to understand that — when I talk about terrorists I'm talking about people who have embraced an ideology — I would call it an ideology of hatred but it is an ideology. It is a worldview based upon a — kind of a very narrow and negative view of a great religion — in other words they've hijacked their religion to justify their killing. These people have no conscience. You cannot negotiate with them.
BUSH: You know sometimes you kind of hear of a theory that well maybe only if we didn't — weren't on the offensive perhaps these terrorists would change their way. I think that is naive thinking. These people are bent upon — acquiring territory — to like they were trying to do in Afghanistan — they are bent upon creating a foothold in the Middle East. They are bent upon destroying free societies and so the nexus of weapons of mass destruction and these terrorist organizations is a very real threat and that's why it's essential we stay on the offense, deny them sanctuary, deal with threats before they fully materialize. And when I say comprehensive strategy on the war, that is what I'm talking about.
HANNITY: Do you or when you think of, for example, what happened in Spain prior to their last election there was an article recently that showed that you were presented with the possibility by your CIA director and others that — I think September 15th they presented this to you - it was written up recently - that this is a potential threat here but we still have area vulnerabilities so we — is that always going to be the case? Is that something we are always going to have to live with?
BUSH: Yes because we have to be right 100 percent of the time in disrupting any plot and they have to be right once. We're better. Much better. As a matter of fact the 9/11 commission reports that America is safer under the course of action we've taken but not yet safe. Whether or not we can be ever fully safe is up — you know, is up in the air. I would hope we could make it a lot more safe by staying on the offensive. We have no actionable intelligence. I mean, if I knew that there was a plot getting ready to happen, we would be all over it. We have no actionable — but we do believe that they have — because of what happened in Madrid — that they do think about whether or not they can try to disrupt our elections. Again, I don't want to alarm anybody because I don't — I just — there's nothing specific at this point in time — a kind of general intent.
HANNITY: I guess what it comes down to is that national security is the number one pressing issue in our time and you are talking extensively about staying on the offense to secure American cities here. When you look at your vision — the Bush doctrine, if you will...
HANNITY: And you compare it to the Kerry doctrine, what would be the difference? What would be the — as you see it...
BUSH: Well taking Senator Kerry's own words in our debates and on the campaign trail — he has a limited vision. He basically says this is primary intelligence and law enforcement. That — he says that Iraq is a diversion from the war on terror. I think Iraq is an essential front on the war on terror. We are fighting terrorists and Mr. Zarqawi, who had been in Afghanistan training with others to kill was routed out of Afghanistan by our troops and moved to Iraq. And he's in Iraq now. And he is confronting us. And I would rather defeat Mr. Zarqawi there than face him here and — as I say to people in these speeches, I say what do people think Mr. Zarqawi would be doing if we weren't in Iraq, do they think he would be kind of a peaceful small business owner? A shopkeeper? No. He would be plotting and planning and trying to hurt us.
HANNITY: Your faith has been the subject of a lot of press. You've spoken openly how important it is in your life. Explain to — in terms of a daily basis — how you go about keeping your faith strong — what do you do?
BUSH: Well, I pray a lot. And — first of all my faith is a very personal matter and I am very mindful that a person in public life like me should never try to impose my religion on anybody. One of the great things about America is that we can choose to be religious or not religious and be equally patriotic and if you choose to believe in the Almighty, you can be a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim and be equally American. That's the wonderful thing about our country. Personally I get great strength from prayer, not only my own personal prayers but also knowing that people are praying for me and my family and so I am — this year I am reading Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost to the Highest," — it's a way for me on a daily basis to be in the word.
HANNITY: Last question. You saw John Kerry in Ohio, all-important swing state, he put on brand new camouflage.
BUSH: He did.
HANNITY: Said he's a hunter. I understand the gun he had — I'm not sure if it was one of the ones he proposed to ban and he said he — of course — he wants to tax guns. When you see something like that is...
BUSH: My reaction was when it comes to taxes — he can run even in camo but he cannot hide. When it comes to healthcare — it was just a moment in the campaign...
HANNITY: Mr. President, good to see you. Thank you for giving us, being so generous with your time. We appreciate it. Thank you very much.
BUSH: Thanks Sean, great. Good to see ya!
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