This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," January 23, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Tonight, we are live at the George Bush presidential library and museum in College Station, Texas. Former president George Herbert Walker Bush just returned from a trip to Pakistan. He was there as part of a U.N. mission to help rebuild Pakistan after an earthquake killed more than 75,000 people and left 3.5 million homeless.
Former President Bush joins us now live in Texas. Good evening, sir.
GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks for coming all this way.
VAN SUSTEREN: President Bush, it's so different to see things than to watch it on TV. What did you see when you were over there?
BUSH: Well, what I saw was a lot of kids that are hurting. That's the thing that gets to me, the children. And I felt the same way when I was with President Clinton in the tsunami area, and to some degree, in Katrina, when we came here to Houston to see those that had been displaced. But over here, there was a certain, you might say, hopelessness to it, but on the other hand, they're doing a good job. Everybody's in a little tent. It was cold, though. And we didn't get up in the mountains, which I wanted to do, but the weather kept us.
But we saw a lot of despair, and yet you found some determination. We want to go back. We want to go back to our area. We want to go back to my father's homes and all of that kind of thing. But they can't. The houses out there just were collapsed like this, a lot of them. And it was so tragic, and made me quietly count my own blessings, which I guess people do when they see that kind of deprivation.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, we can see it on TV, though, and you think, Oh, it's so it's terrible, but when you actually are there, it rightly is so more profoundly worse.
BUSH: It is. It really is. And we found that. Barbara and I went to the Sahel years ago, and the drought was on and you see these tiny, little starving kids. This had some of that same poignancy, but it was bad. It was really bad. And we only saw one camp because we couldn't go up into the Kashmir area, where the real devastation took place. But the camp — they're teaching them. They're all sitting on the floor. Sometimes there's a carpet down or sometimes it's just dirt floor. And they have the kids learning their lessons. And it breaks your heart. It just makes you want to try to help.
VAN SUSTEREN: There's one picture — we're going to put it up for the viewers to see — that caught my attention, you with a little boy. It looks almost like it would be a grandson. There it is in the picture. I don't know if you can see it right there.
BUSH: The cutest little guy. And his father was there in the tent. The mother stayed way back. The women stay way back in the back of the tents. They didn't come out to say hi. And the father — in this case, I think there were three other kids. And I said, Can I hold — Oh, yes. And they were — I mean, they were forthcoming. And the people told me, well, they appreciate the fact the United States is trying to help. I think that was it. The United Nations, in this case, but the U.S. has done an awful lot, too.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is the reason why you didn't get up into the other area because of weather?
BUSH: Purely weather problem. All helicopters were grounded. All roads were closed. I mean, a devastating snowstorm, and then that resulted just before that in mudslides. So they go through this terrible trauma after the trauma of losing their homes. We could not fly, and we tried to. We wanted to. But nobody flew. We were going to go in some U.S. choppers or U.N. choppers or some Pakistani choppers, nothing — nobody could fly.
VAN SUSTEREN: The numbers of dead, though, 75,000 from this earthquake. I mean...
BUSH: Just awful.
VAN SUSTEREN: Unbelievable.
BUSH: It really is. I've jotted down, just to give you a contrast — tsunami, in all four or five countries, 300,000 deaths. Pakistan, 73,000, 74,000 whatever it is, 75,000. And in Katrina, 1,500. Now, you don't measure the devastation by — only by people that have lost their lives, but that's a huge difference, Greta. And it's just horrible, but — and the damage is so bad. It's so hard to get there, to get the relief in and the recovery going. But it's worth a shot. It's worth a chance.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did you have a sense that relief was getting to them, I mean, in spite of the weather and in spite of all the hardships of...
BUSH: I was assured that it's getting to them in terms of staying alive from food. Now, they can't account for all the outposts, all the people up in the mountains that might have been isolated. But yes, they assure me, the U.N. Agencies — I'm an envoy for the U.N., for — a special envoy for Kofi Annan. So I met with all the U.N. agencies. And they and the Pakistani government told me that they have food — everybody's got some food — and they're pretty confident about health care.
So far, there's been no great, you know, plagues or no great sweeping through there of diarrhea or some horrible diseases. And they're hopeful that that will continue. They have isolated cases, of course. So on food and medicine, they can always use more, but they're doing pretty darn well. Where their big problem is right now is on shelter because the tents they've got are not — they're not — they're waterproof maybe, but they're not — not wind-proof and ice-proof, and so they — and they don't want them to build fires in the tents. In fact, there's a prohibition about heating inside a tent with a fire.
VAN SUSTEREN: So what's going to happen? I mean, winter is now upon us.
BUSH: Winter's upon us, so what they're doing is putting sheets over the top of the tents, this kind of plastic stuff they think will help. They used a lot of that corrugated metal. And you see pictures of people — I didn't see this, but I've heard about it and saw pictures of them taking these great, big metal sheets and carrying them to what's left of their homes in some of the areas up near the Kashmir area.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did they realize that a former president of the United States was coming to help them?
BUSH: I don't think they knew who the heck I was. The Pakistani government did, and they were very nice about it. And — but I don't think — I asked somebody, and you know, I didn't expect they would, but I don't think most of the people in those tents, who'd been, you know, suffering, and their families hurt — I don't think they had the vaguest idea who I was.
VAN SUSTEREN: When you think about it, those are the lucky ones, too. With 75,000 dead, 3.5 million homeless, as deplorable as this sounds, are the lucky ones.
BUSH: Well, that's true. I mean, it's — they were lucky, and they are hoping they can go back. And I think — nobody — nobody doesn't want to go back. They all want to go back to their homes. They live in kind of isolated enclaves in the mountains, and there'll be a little village of maybe 10 families. And they want to go. That's their community, and they want to get back up there and they want to live there and they want to herd there and they want to grow there. An
so there's a determination, I felt, on the part of the few people I did talk to that are the victims of it. In term of the government, the U.N. agencies, I think the U.N. agencies are doing a good job.
VAN SUSTEREN: When you look at it, we've had so much weather that's created so much hardship in the last, you know, 12, 13 months, it's extraordinary, the tsunami, Katrina, Rita, and now this.
BUSH: There's a lot of it, an awful lot of it. It all reminds me of when I was flying on an airliner from Washington to Houston, when I was a member of Congress back in 19 — heavens know when, in the late '60s. There was a huge storm. And I was sitting next to this woman. She was scared to death. I said, Don't be. This is all right. Don't - - she says, It's them astronauts. It's them astronauts. God never intended for them to be flying around in the sky like that. I said, Oh, no — Yes, that's true. So that was her opinion as to what went on. I don't know what she'd say if she was ever in Pakistan right now.
VAN SUSTEREN: I can't imagine. So what can we do? I mean, what - - you know, people watching tonight, how can they help you help them?
BUSH: Well, there is a way. The CEOS are — there's five corporate CEOs who've come together to help raise an additional $100 million. My mission is to help the U.N. — I mean, help Pakistan collect, as U.N. envoy, the money that's been pledged. That's my mission. It's not raising new money, it's not getting more tents. But the way to help is to support this mission of the CEOs, and there's a Web site that I don't — maybe I have it written down here somewhere...
VAN SUSTEREN: I think we put it up on the screen...
BUSH: But that is needed. And there's additional support in terms of medicines and relief supplies that they're doing a good job of getting, trying to solicit money for. So that's the way to help. I mean, $100 million is a lot of money, but these are dedicated businesspeople who've told the secretary general, We're going to get you that money. So that would be a good place to start.
And then there's a lot of U.N. agencies and a lot of NGOs that are doing a good job over there. Red Cross always comes to mind as one of the leaders. But the U.N. population people are doing a good job and try — they got a certain niche in terms of raising the money. They got some family — not family planning program but family programs there, and World Health Organization. So there's plenty of ways to help. UNESCO — they're doing good, doing a good job. So the U.N. agencies are good places to support, too.
VAN SUSTEREN: We're going to take a quick break. Mr. President, if you could please stand by, sir? We're going to have much more in just a moment.
VAN SUSTEREN: Tonight, we are live at the George Bush presidential library and museum in College Station, Texas, and we're joined again by the former president of the United States, George H.W. Bush.
Sir, you've now seen the worst. You've seen the tsunami, you've seen Katrina, and you've seen Pakistan. How do you stand seeing all this? I mean, it's all miserable and terrible.
BUSH: Well, I don't know. I've always talked about — and people may not have been overly impressed about it — about being one of a thousand points of light. And I still feel there can be no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others. So when I go to these things, I have a very comfortable feeling that it's right to try to help.
Now, when you actually see the damage and see particularly the children, it's heart-breaking. I cry easy. I'm the co-captain of the B-A-W-L, the bawl patrol, in our family. My daughter and I are doing a great job in that. And I find that — I almost choked up over there seeing these kids in the tents in this little school they'd set up, a little temporary school in a sad little tent.
And it gets to your heart, but you've got to look at it like you can help. And that's why I think I salute these business guys that are trying to raise the money. I salute the organizations in the United Nations that are over there helping, and other NGOs, as well. I told Kofi Annan when he asked me to do this, I said, I'm not sure I'm the right guy to do it. I'm 82 years old, almost. It's a long way, but I want to try. And he said, Well, just do your best, and that's what I've tried to do.
VAN SUSTEREN: But it's amazing when you think about it. I mean, like, you went all the way over to Indonesia, and that's not a short trip. And you were down looking in Louisiana and in that area, looking at that. Pakistan is not an easy trip, either. You could probably be sitting at home and doing a lot — you know, going to plays, playing golf. You could be doing lots of things.
BUSH: There is still time to work in there.
VAN SUSTEREN: No, but this is not easy. I mean, it really isn't. I mean, if you travel a lot, you know how tough, and you add into that factor...
BUSH: Well, I'm blessed by good health and support of Barbara, and she goes with me on some of this stuff. And so you know, you've just got to do what you have to do. I don't have a lot of other stuff to do, to be very honest with you. I don't make any decisions. I don't do op-ed pages, as you know, and I don't do press conference and I don't do a lot of the things that former presidents might be inclined to do. I don't do that because my own son is president, God bless him, and so I have time to do this kind of thing.
I come here to this library. And thank you for coming all the way here. And it means a lot to me, working with these kids at A&M in some of the different disciplines here. So life is full, but I'm pleased that some of it is devoted to this — this being a point of light.
VAN SUSTEREN: And we'll be right back with more with President Bush. Don't go away.
VAN SUSTEREN: Welcome back to College Station, Texas, home of the George Bush presidential library and museum. We are here with the former president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush.
Mr. President, how does one decide where to contribute money? Do you contribute money to the tsunami victims, to the Katrina victims, to the victims of this earthquake? I mean, what do you tell people?
BUSH: Well, I tell people that, of course, you're probably — your heart probably goes out more to the victims of Katrina because it's right here in our country. But in terms of total devastation, or if you measure it by loss of life, the tsunami was the worst and Pakistan second worst. We're talking about 75,000 people dead there. So I guess everybody just has to sort it out. Pakistan's a long way away. A lot of Americans probably don't even know where it is on the map.
But the U.N. is trying to do a good job, and I think part of my mission is to help them get the money in, and in the process, maybe call attention to the fact that there is a ton of devastation there.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's sort of interesting because when we were covering Katrina, some people said to me, Well, I live in a tornado zone, nobody's helping me out in the tornado zone. I mean, you know, there was criticism that there are, you know, other parts of the country. And you know, there are limited resources.
BUSH: It's true. Well, that's very true. But you get — when a tornado hits, people do rally around. It's the scope, it's the magnitude of the disaster that really affects my heart. And tsunami was just total devastation, and then Pakistan — 75,000 people in this one little area dead? I mean, it's terrible. And now they are so adversely affected by the weather, by the worst winter they've had in years. And so you have to measure all those things in.
But America's generous. I've been so impressed with the generosity of spirit of the American people, and they dig deep and they support their community. They support the tornado in their area. They'll go out and help people that are victimized by a tornado. But they also find time and means to help around the world, and I think that's good.
The opinion of the United States in Indonesia went totally reversed from the way it was because of the assistance given there. And Pakistan similarly. The support from the United States, with our helicopters and our aid, which has been enormous, went way up in Pakistan from what it was. And I haven't seen numbers on the U.N., but I hope theirs have gone up, too, because they're doing a good job.
VAN SUSTEREN: The numbers are so huge, but how much money was raised from your efforts with the tsunami or Katrina, or even so far in Pakistan?
BUSH: On tsunami, what we were trying to do is encourage people to give to NGOs — Red Cross or Americares or different — Catholic Relief. And they said — and again, Bill Clinton and I can't take credit — there was over $1 billion raised.
VAN SUSTEREN: Collected? Actually collected?
BUSH: Yes, I think so, from the NGOs. Some of them had stopped taking money in because it was so great. But we can't say we raised the money. I mean, the Red Cross is going to get money whether we worked publicly or not.
Katrina, we had to go over there to raise over $100 million, and we did that we can directly account for. I think the figure that Bill Clinton and I raised was, like, $109 million. And then we started to spread it out in a transparent way, to various charities. And I can tell where you they've gone, some to the universities and some of them to the governors who set up 5013-Cs. Pakistan, that's different. The U.S. has supported it big, but I'm not in the money-raising business to do this.
VAN SUSTEREN: But the fact is that when you and former president Clinton hit the road, or you go alone to these places, it gets a huge amount of attention drawn to these, you know, people who are suffering enormously. I mean, there's tremendous value.
BUSH: Well, if you can help, you ought to do it. And if I can help, if that's true, and I hope it is, and I think it is to some degree, Greta, why, you want to do that. I mean, I was trained years ago. My father and my mother inculcated in us the idea of service to others. And this is a good chance to help. I didn't need to go to Pakistan at my age, but I'm just delighted that Kofi Annan asked me to be his special envoy, they call it, and off I went. And I just hope to go back tomorrow or anything, but it's a long way.
VAN SUSTEREN: How long a trip is it?
BUSH: Oh, it was only a few days. I was only there a couple of nights. In fact, I was only there one night. I stayed at the U.S. embassy there, very generously put us in. And then I went down to Qattar to see General Abizaid and then came on back.
VAN SUSTEREN: Let's switch gears for one second. Behind us is a little George Bush — it's George Bush 41 — a train engine. What's the story on that train engine? I noticed it in the museum.
BUSH: Well, we have a major train exhibit here at the library. It's temporary in the sense it'll be here for four or five months. The Union Pacific Railroad took their newest locomotive, painted it in Air Force One colors, called it 4141. And as we speak, at 11:49, it's either pulling out of or going into the Houston station, hauling freight. So it was up here as show business. He parked it out here. Everybody saw it. I got to climb on it. I got to put the throttles forward and blow the whistle and drive it...
VAN SUSTEREN: You drove it?
BUSH: I drove it, yes, and it was really exciting. But it's just their way of supporting this exhibit, that calls attention nationally to the importance of railroads. And that's unrelated to A&M particularly or to anything else, but we do this kind of thing at the exhibit, and people flock from all over to come see it. It's wonderful.
VAN SUSTEREN: I'd like to see a high-speed train in this country, maybe from Washington to New York.
BUSH: Well, you go on it first, and if you make it, why, call me.
VAN SUSTEREN: You have an aircraft carrier coming out, too, with your name on it.
BUSH: Yes, I'm very honored about that. Congress approved it, and it's called the George H.W. Bush. And it gives me every incentive to stay alive until 2008.
VAN SUSTEREN: So you can see it.
BUSH: No, to go to sea on it.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right.
BUSH: And be on the bridge when it goes out from Norfolk, Newport News.
VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, Mr. President. And I know that everyone appreciates that you're going all around the world, raising money for these people and helping these people.
BUSH: Well, it's very self-rewarding, I'll tell you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's much appreciated, sir. Thank you.
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