This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 13, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And we continue now with part two of my exclusive Oval Office interview with President Bush. The president explained to me how people within his own party tried to get him to withdraw troops from Iraq to save their own popularity.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had been told by people that "you must withdraw from Iraq because you're making us unpopular."
And I told those folks that told me that, I said, "The commander in chief can never put a troop in harm's way and make a decision about their security based upon his own popularity." If the military ever thought that, you know, having put somebody in harm's way and then withdraw before the mission was completed, because of somebody's standing or a political party's standing, the commander in chief would have no credibility with that soldier or Marine or sailor or airman or Coast Guardsman or woman or their families and their relatives.
One of the amazing things, Sean, during this entire experience has been, of all those who understood the stakes and were willing to stay in the fight, it was the United States military. The reenlistment rates have been unbelievable.
BUSH: We asked these folks to go on, you know, multiple tours, and we extended tours in the combat zones.
HANNITY: And they stayed.
BUSH: And they stayed.
BUSH: And they stayed proudly because they were able to connect what was taking place in Iraq with the security of their loved ones here at home. And...
HANNITY: It got very politicized.
BUSH: It did. It did. But you know, I can understand that war — nobody likes war.
BUSH: And presidents, you know, during times of war, you know, just - - you can take a beating in the public arena. But it's OK. It's OK if you believe strongly in the purpose and know the consequences of victory and the consequences of defeat. And I believe strongly in the purpose.
HANNITY: Let me ask you this question. I've had the great honor of meeting you and interviewing you here. There haven't been many interviews in this office. There have only been a couple. Tim Russert was, I think, the only real sit-down interview you ever did in this office.
HANNITY: But when people come here, you give them a little bit of a tour. Now I'm not going to be back for four years. Barack Obama doesn't like me. He's mentioned me a couple of times, so — but there may be some people that have never had that experience.
HANNITY: Could you give them a little bit of that tour?
BUSH: Well, I showed you the desk.
BUSH: And the rug, of course, which sets the tone of the office. And then this painting is — is a painting of central Texas. And that's where, the kind of country where the ranch is.
And then here is another painting of Texas. Texas paintings tell people something about me. I came here with a set of values, and I'm going back with the same set of values.
HANNITY: Same person.
BUSH: And I'm not going to change my values in order to chase public opinion. The president of the United States must be consistent and firm in a set of principles. Do we change tactics? You bet.
Do we compromise on a piece of legislation to get it passed? Absolutely. But do you ever sell your soul for political purpose? And the answer is, if you do, you will fail as a president.
HANNITY: Will this be your biggest piece of advice to, maybe, the incoming President Obama? That he...
BUSH: Well, my advice is, you know, follow your instincts, stand strong on principle, and surround yourself with people who want to serve, not you as a person or not a political party, but serve the country first and foremost. And it's pretty simple advice and...
HANNITY: Did he seem receptive to it?
BUSH: Absolutely. Yes, I think. He was very interested in what I had to say and what the other presidents had to say. And it was — it was just — it was a fascinating moment.
One of the interesting things about the president, which other presidents will tell you, is it's really interesting to be able to be making history. And that was an historic moment. And I'm — standing up there was — I was — I really enjoyed it.
HANNITY: That's right, your presidency, one of the things you would do, you read a lot of history.
BUSH: I did, and — which reminds me of this painting of Washington.
HANNITY: This one up here.
BUSH: Right, the first president of the United States.
HANNITY: Right over the...
BUSH: I like to tell people that, if they're still writing about the first guy...
BUSH: ... the 43rd president simply doesn't need to worry about it.
HANNITY: What year will it be when — when the intelligence reports are finally released for historians? Maybe the things that you saw every day that we didn't see?
BUSH: I'm not sure when that will be. I think it's 15 years after the presidency? You know, whatever.
HANNITY: Do you expect people to have that different perspective, seeing what you saw?
BUSH: Well, I'm going to write a book to try to help them understand it. And part of the book, part of the purpose of the book is to — is to set history straight.
I mean, people forget the environment right after 9/11. You might remember there was a lot of folks saying, "How come they didn't connect the dots? How come they didn't take this piece of information? Or how come they didn't know this? Or how come that didn't happen?"
And all of a sudden, we — we reacted and started putting laws in place to help us even find the dot, much less connect the dots, such as listening to terrorists' phone calls. And then we get criticized for connecting the dots.
And I want people to fully understand what it was like here in the Oval Office and what the times were like. Because in the world in which we live, it's so easy to forget what the moment was like five years ago.
HANNITY: Darrell Worley wrote the song, "Have You Forgotten."
HANNITY: Pretty profound. You know, we — I lost, on 9/11, kid I went to high school with. I see his wife at church often. I see his three little girls growing up without him.
BUSH: You can't forget it.
This is where the president puts the most influential president.
HANNITY: Abraham Lincoln.
BUSH: Abraham Lincoln. In my case, I am conflicted about the most influential president, so I say that the portrait of the 41st president is in my heart.
HANNITY: Your dad.
BUSH: And Lincoln on the wall. I have come to greatly admire both men, but — but I have studied Lincoln a lot during my presidency. I've read a lot about him and a couple of things that he teaches.
One: he teaches that the president must speak with clarity on certain truths. He said all men are created equal under God. He could have hedged a little bit and said, "Well, maybe some of us aren't equal" in 1864. But he said all men are created equal under God.
I — and believe me. I'm not trying to compare myself to Lincoln, but I do believe in the universality of freedom. And I have said consistently in my presidency, there is a God and a gift of that Almighty to every man, woman and child is freedom.
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