This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," November 9, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And welcome to this special edition of "Hannity." We are at President George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. Now we spent the better part of the day riding around the ranch and talking about his brand new book "Decision Points."
Known as the Western White House, the Crawford ranch was the scene of many historic moments of the Bush presidency.
So the former president hopped behind the wheel of his pickup truck to give me a driving tour of his beautiful 1,600-acre property and reflect on his years as commander in chief.
HANNITY: Is this your favorite place?
FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, we love coming here. And it was great during the presidency to come here to --
HANNITY: Gave you a chance --
BUSH: Yes, well, it gave me a chance to get outdoors and exercise and to work the countryside, you know? Cutting down cedars and building bike trails.
HANNITY: When I last saw you, you were - my perception was you were totally, completely at peace.
HANNITY: Your job was done. And you seem even more at peace now.
BUSH: I am at peace. And I -- I was honored to serve the country. I gave it my all. I have written a book that chronicles the decisions I made. And I feel -- I'm not desperate to try to shape a legacy, because I full -- fully understand that there needs to be time for history to be able to analyze -- for historians to be able to analyze the decisions I made.
And -- and you know, I have -- I'm content. I'm a content guy. I've got a great marriage. I've got a lot of friends. My health is good. And --
HANNITY: Do the little stumping there with Bill Clinton?
BUSH: Yes, he and I are doing this --
HANNITY: How is that going?
BUSH: Trying -- good. He's a fun guy. And we're -- we're the same age. And I like him. And we're working the Haiti project together. And you know, Bill's got a good soul. He's not a mean-spirited guy. And it's -- it's fun to be with him. And it's fun to share insights into the presidency. We don't debate. I'm -- I'm through with debating. I've debated -- I debated enough.
HANNITY: It's a small, elite club.
BUSH: Yes, it is.
Now here's my fishing -- here's -- I want -- I want you to see this here, Sean. See the -- the altar I built.
BUSH: And that's where Jenna got married.
HANNITY: Oh, that's nice.
BUSH: And we put that -- that will be there permanently of course.
BUSH: And this is my fishing lake.
HANNITY: You don't seem like you went through any transition. You just --
BUSH: No, I really didn't.
BUSH: I was fortunate to be an eight-year president. And eight years is a long time.
HANNITY: A lot of pressure.
BUSH: Yes, a lot of pressure. A lot of opportunities. A lot of issues came to the desk, some of which I could anticipate. Some of which I didn't anticipate. And --
HANNITY: Nine-eleven the biggest.
BUSH: Nine-eleven was the biggest. Katrina.
BUSH: The financial meltdown was a difficult period. And you know, when I -- the key thing in life for me was to know that I didn't compromise principle and that I poured my heart and soul into the job. And I -- so when I got home here to Crawford -- this was where we spent our first day of the post-presidency -- I was -- I had a sense of satisfaction.
Now there were some things that I wish -- wish we could have done. I mean, I wish we'd have captured Usama bin Laden for example. But I knew that I had given it my all.
HANNITY: You said it was a regret of yours you didn't get bin Laden.
HANNITY: How -- you went after him.
BUSH: Yes. I mean, I --
BUSH: Very hard. On the other hand, we did serious damage to Al Qaeda.
HANNITY: But he doesn't -- he doesn't come out in public anymore does he?
BUSH: No, I kind of facetiously used to -- I used to get in trouble for - sometimes for saying things that just popped off the top of my head like, "You notice he's not leading any parades lately." But --
HANNITY: Or "wanted dead or alive."
BUSH: Yes, wanted dead or alive. But --
HANNITY: You actually addressed that. You said you had -- you realized over time that you had multiple audiences.
BUSH: I did. Yes.
HANNITY: You had the American people. You had the world stage and --
BUSH: Well, on "bring it on" for example -- "bring them on."
(BEGIN JULY, 2003 VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: There are some who feel like, that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring them on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: In that case -- I mean, I was sending encouraging words to our troops. Right? I'm the commander in chief of a bunch of incredibly brave people. And if somebody says, "The enemy is after them," I said, "Hey, nobody is going to defeat our troops." My message was you're the best.
HANNITY: We're going to win.
BUSH: Yes. You're the best. And my message "bring them on" was to the enemy too. I said, "You will not shake the will of this commander in chief."
HANNITY: It's amazing you describe how semantics played such a -- a big role, though.
BUSH: It does. Sure.
HANNITY: Yes, you -- you -- at one point this really struck me. You said, Tom Daschle didn't like the fact that you were using the term "war."
BUSH: Yes. He -- he cautioned me about using "war."
HANNITY: But what -- what do you call it then?
BUSH: Yes, that's what -- my point in the book.
HANNITY: I got two new words -- two new phrases: "Overseas contingency operation" and "man-caused disaster."
BUSH: Yes. Yes.
HANNITY: Which is what the current administration has referred to it as.
BUSH: I -- I -- you know, words matter. And the thing about the modern president is of course every word is analyzed. And sometimes I didn't get my words right. And I never -- I tell these audiences I speak to, you know, you didn't elect me because I was Shakespeare. And I didn't pretend to be. And -- and the truth of the matter is you speak a lot as the president. And of course you're going to say things that when you look back at it, you wish you could put it differently.
And "bring them on" was -- I really didn't realize at the time when I said it. Because I -- my -- my intentions were to bolster our troops and send a message to the enemy. But in retrospect, it -- I probably could have put -- put it more artfully.
HANNITY: Yes, but then the unscripted moment in New York after 9/11 --
(BEGIN SEPTEMBER, 2001 VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people -- and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The truth of the matter is, the unscripted moments are -- are best, whether they come out right or not.
I have always believed that the simpler the message -- in other words, the clearer and simpler the message -- the more likely our citizens are going to understand what a president is saying.
I -- I can remember people coming in to brief me and I -- would sit and listen to gibberish and long, rambling answers to questions. And I -- I remembered thinking this person really doesn't know what they're talking about. If they can't get to the point and --
HANNITY: Tell me what it is.
BUSH: -- yes, tell -- tell --
HANNITY: Bottom line here.
BUSH: And I -- of course you need rationale and -- and you need a -- you know, an explanation of why the bottom line is what -- what it is. And that's fine. But it's kind of this circuitous logic and kind of rambling along. And it created a sense -- a certain sense of doubt in my mind. And I tried to speak as plainly as I could so the people knew exactly where I was coming from.
And more importantly, spoke -- when I spoke about intentions, my intentions were to follow through. In other words, I just wasn't saying something and trying to get somebody so say, "Oh, wow. I like him." I was trying to say something to -- to say this is what we're going to do. And then I'd go do it.
And to me the -- one of the problems in politics is sometimes politicians will say something they don't mean it. They just say it to try to make you feel good about them. And then when you don't do what you said you're going to do, it creates a -- a certain cynicism in the system. And I don't think that's good.
HANNITY: I don't think that was ever a problem where the American people knew where you stood.
HANNITY: I don't think that was an issue.
BUSH: Sometimes they didn't like where I stood. I understand that. But --
BUSH: You know, I fully understood, though, you -- you shouldn't be a president and try to be, you know, liked. I mean --
HANNITY: But isn't that almost counter intuitive? To get elected, don't you need to be liked? And then --
BUSH: Well, I think you need to be respected.
Up next, President Bush shows me the isolated area where world leaders conducted "ranch diplomacy."
BUSH: You can see why this would be a good spot to conduct diplomacy.
HANNITY: Much more coming up. Stick around.
HANNITY: As we continue my special interview of former President George W. Bush about his brand new book "Decision Points" from his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Some of the most high-level international diplomacy of the Bush years took place far from Washington, D.C. President Bush gave me an exclusive tour of one of the most isolated areas of his ranch where world leaders could talk in private.
HANNITY: So when you would take a Crawford vacation, you try and get out here and do a little work and clear the land?
BUSH: Yes. What I'd do is I'd -- of course, in the morning do my work at -- we had really good video equipment.
BUSH: I was able to have national security meetings or domestic policy meetings.
HANNITY: Did you build this?
BUSH: Yes. So I mean, this is -- you -- this was impassable. You couldn't get in here. And so we kind of designed a way to get a path here.
HANNITY: This is nice. Look at that up there --
BUSH: Oh, you haven't seen it yet. Wait 'til you see up here. Isn't this beautiful?
HANNITY: Wow. This is -- this is spectacular.
HANNITY: This is unbelievable.
BUSH: So you can see why this would be a good spot to conduct diplomacy.
BUSH: And so we come up here and -- and we visit. And --
HANNITY: Who -- who was here in this spot when you --
BUSH: Well, Berlusconi --
HANNITY: Berlusconi --
BUSH: -- Vladimir Putin --
BUSH: You know, I think Koizumi -- Prime Minister Koizumi came here. I think Tony Blair came here. I can't remember everybody who came here. But I like to show them this, because it gives -- gives them a good feel for the topography. And the truth of the matter is conducting diplomacy on the ranch was -- was easier, because people tended to relax.
And if you put a person in an informal environment, you're more likely to be able to get a better feel for how they think. And once you get a feel for how a leader things and you know what their interests are and their concerns, then it makes it easier to conduct diplomacy.
HANNITY: It beats the -- the -- the whirlwind. You know, I was -- want to go back to this question, though. Because you -- you wanted to change the tone of Washington.
HANNITY: The next administration wants to change the tone of Washington.
BUSH: Everybody wants to change the tone of Washington.
HANNITY: Washington tone doesn't seem to get changed. Is it something that -- it just -- is the reality of the way it's going to be?
BUSH: I think -- I think -- I think to a certain extent that's the way it's going to be. I mean, Abraham Lincoln wanted to change -- wished the tone in Washington was different when people started calling him "baboon." And George Washington, interestingly enough, was -- was harshly criticized at the end of his presidency. Ronald Reagan -- you know, my dad. Everybody goes through -- if you're the president, there's a lot of criticism.
And in my case I did my best to change the tone by not participating in the name calling, or -- you know --
HANNITY: You don't participate in it now.
BUSH: No, I don't. I'm --
HANNITY: You've been quiet.
BUSH: I am quiet because -- I'm not that quiet. I'm just quiet in the --
BUSH: There's no mic --
HANNITY: Well -- well --
BUSH: No public -- public arena.
BUSH: A couple of reasons why. One, I think it's best for the country for a former president to be quiet. Now that's my choice. Other presidents feel differently. I --
HANNITY: You are aware that -- that this current president does take a lot of shots at you. Your name gets mentioned a lot still.
BUSH: Well, I've been in politics a long time. And I'm -- I'm --
BUSH: I understand that tactic. It doesn't bother me. It really doesn't bother me. I -- one of the -- one of the biggest sacrifices for running for president if -- if you are fortunate enough to win is a loss of anonymity. And I know I'll -- I'll -- I'll forever be known. And -- and when I walk down the street, people say, "Oh, there's George W. Bush."
On the other hand, staying out of the limelight -- is -- restores a certain sense of anonymity.
I don't miss being in the -- in the limelight.
HANNITY: You're -- you're content here? You're at peace here?
BUSH: Obviously I'm in the limelight now -- because I'm talking to you, my buddy. And the reason I am is because I'm selling my book. But I am very much at peace.
BUSH: And I -- I was honored to serve. And I really enjoyed being president. And I'm enjoying not being president.
HANNITY: I can't imagine what it would be like to be a president or live in a post-presidency. But somebody kept mentioning my name, and blaming me --
BUSH: Yes. It really doesn't bother me. It --
HANNITY: You really --
BUSH: It irritates some of my friends. No question about it. But --
HANNITY: Laura -- does it --
BUSH: I don't think -- you're going to -- you're going to have to ask her. I -- you know, we don't spend a lot of time agonizing about the current -- you know, what's said.
HANNITY: You seem to be very much at peace with the idea that -- that history will write about the Bush presidency.
HANNITY: And that chapter hasn't been written. That -- that book hasn't been written --
BUSH: And it can't be written for a while.
HANNITY: Well, why --
BUSH: Because -- because historians who live the moment have got their prejudices. And there needs to be a time to be able to fully analyze the consequences of the decision to not only liberate Iraq but to then help the Iraqis develop their own democracy.
HANNITY: And what happened after? What happened 10 years later?
HANNITY: What happened 20 years later?
BUSH: Right. And the effect of a free Iraq if in fact the democracy succeeds like I think it will on other countries.
HANNITY: You think history will judge you fairly?
Some historians will say, you know -- some historians will say, "You know I really liked what George Bush did." Some historians will say, "I really don't like what George Bush did, you know, when he did them." And it's going to be hard for them to be able to analyze things objectively.
HANNITY: So -- this book is your -- your take on the presidency?
BUSH: It is.
HANNITY: Your take on your years. Your -- the reason you made your decisions?
BUSH: It is. And it -- so -- so here's what I want to do. I want to -- I want to give readers a chance to see from my perspective what it was like. And I would like to give historians a frame of reference.
HANNITY: Still to come, the October surprise that almost cost him the presidency.
BUSH: I made a mistake. I drank too much. I was driving and I quit drinking.
HANNITY: Do you think they knew about it the whole time?
As this special edition of "Hannity" continues.
HANNITY: As we continue my special interview from Crawford, Texas, at the ranch of former President George W. Bush, on his brand new book "Decision Points."
HANNITY: It's great to be here at the -- at the Crawford Ranch.
I read your book cover to cover. You -- you talk in the book -- you said very clearly that after the nightmare on September 11th, America went on seven and a half years without another successful terrorist attack on American soil. And you view that as your most meaningful accomplishment.
BUSH: Yes. I -- I think the biggest job for a president is to protect the American people. And I remember sitting in the classroom thinking about the attack. And looking at the little child who was reading to me and realizing that my job was to protect that person and that person's families and that person's neighbors.
It's -- and that's what the American president is called to do. I just happened to be called to do it at a time when fanatics came and killed thousands on our soil.
HANNITY: You -- you even go into detail. You -- you thought that you were going to be a domestic president. You were going to be dealing with domestic issues.
BUSH: I did.
HANNITY: At the end of the presidency you did.
BUSH: I did.
HANNITY: But you were a war-time president.
BUSH: I was, sadly. And I wouldn't wish that on any president. You know, the -- the toughest decision a president makes is to send, you know, some -- somebody's boy into combat or somebody's daughter into combat. And that the consequences of combat can be awfully devastating.
No, it's interesting that the presidency often turns out to be something you didn't expect. And I bet that's probably the case for all presidents. It's the unexpected that really helps define whether or not you're capable of leading the country. And in my case the unexpected of course was 9/11 and Katrina to a certain extent and the financial meltdown.
HANNITY: I interviewed in -- in one of the final days before you left office --
BUSH: I remember that.
HANNITY: -- in the Oval Office. And I -- I walked away with the very distinct impression you were at peace with everything that had gone on.
HANNITY: You actually write in the book -- you said, "I felt satisfied. I had been willing to make the hard decisions." That you -- you always did what you believed was right.
HANNITY: Do you spend a lot of time thinking about the presidency? Do you think about maybe the decisions you made or is that in the past or --
BUSH: Well, on some of them I do think about them, primarily because I am still engaged with the military. In other words, Laura and I went out and welcomed troops coming in from Afghanistan. They wouldn't have been there had I not decided to take out the Taliban.
Laura and I had the Gold Star Moms to our White House -- to our house -- to the White House -- to our house in Dallas. And those are the moms who lost a son in combat or a daughter in combat.
And so I -- I'm still involved with veterans and military people. And so I think about the decision to send them into combat a lot. I'm -- and I thought a lot about the presidency when -- when I wrote this book. I don't ==
HANNITY: Which you started the day when you got back here.
BUSH: I did. Right here -- right here at the ranch. I started writing --
HANNITY: You didn't spend a lot of time, you know --
BUSH: Trying to -- well, first of all I'm obviously a type-A personality and I need something to do. And -- and I started writing. And started writing anecdotes. And I think the reader will -- I hope the reader says, well, this is interesting, because it's a -- a series of stories that describe how I -- the environment in which I was the president, and -- and how I made decisions.
HANNITY: Yes, well, which is what this book is all about here. You -- just as an aside, are you -- do you follow the news as closely now?
BUSH: No. No. Not very --
HANNITY: You don't follow it? You just --
BUSH: Well, I've got a pretty good sense of it. But I may not -- I'm -- I look at the -- Wall Street Journal is my favorite national journal. And I read that. Maybe I'm not supposed to be advertising on behalf of the Wall Street Journal.
HANNITY: No, actually the company -- Fox News owns it.
BUSH: I knew -- believe me, I understood that.
BUSH: I'm pandering. No, I -- I follow the news. Yes.
HANNITY: Does it bother you when -- your brother actually spoke out against the president and said, you know what? You've been president for 20 months. It's time for you to start taking responsibility. I'm sure you are aware that he made those comments?
BUSH: I am. I -- I'm grateful for my little brother coming to --
HANNITY: Sticking -- sticking up for you?
BUSH: -- defense. Oh, yes. Listen, we love each other. And his was an act of love.
HANNITY: And -- but does -- you know that that still is a mantra by the president himself.
BUSH: You know, look, I've -- I've been around politics a long time. And I'm -- you know, it's just the way it is. People -- presidents are criticized constantly during presidency and sometimes after the presidency. And I'd be -- it didn't really bother me.
HANNITY: Why did you make the decision that you wouldn't say, You know what? It's your responsibility now? Or --
HANNITY: You made a decision not to attack President Obama --
BUSH: It's not just President Obama. I suspect I'll have that same point of view for whoever follows him.
HANNITY: You -- but you also -- Jimmy Carter when you were president, you dealt with it.
BUSH: Yes, I did.
HANNITY: Yes. Does that bother you?
BUSH: In my book I pointed out that when my dad went to the United Nations to get a resolution that authorized the removal of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, a country he invaded, Jimmy Carter lobbied leaders to vote against that resolution.
HANNITY: Not helpful.
BUSH: No. It wasn't helpful.
HANNITY: Up next, President Bush on the day that changed his life and America forever.
BUSH: My first reaction was anger. Just -- how dare they do that?
HANNITY: Much more coming up. Stick around.
HANNITY: Welcome back to this special edition of "Hannity." We are at former President George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. We're talking about his book "Decision Points."
The book goes into detail about the 2000 election and the bombshell that almost derailed the Bush campaign four days before Election Day -- news that George W. Bush had once been arrested for drunk driving.
HANNITY: That nearly cost you the presidency, you wrote.
BUSH: I did. Yes. It was a big mistake.
HANNITY: You could have released that information two years earlier you said.
BUSH: Well, I could have released it four years earlier or I should have released it earlier. I chose -- you know, it's interesting -- I really never thought about whether or not to release it until I was called to jury duty. And the jury was -- the case was about a DUI and a reporter yelled, "Have you ever been arrested?" Or -- I can't remember the exact words. Something to that effect.
HANNITY: You tell the story -- right.
BUSH: I chose not to answer. I said, "Look. I've -- I made a lot of mistakes when I was young." In retrospect I should have said, "Yes," in 19 whatever it was I was arrested for -- for -- for drunk driving. And I haven't had a drink since.
HANNITY: It would have taken it off the table.
BUSH: Right. But -- what I was concerned about -- at the same time, I was telling my girls, "If I catch you drinking and driving, you're not going to ever drive." And I was worried that -- that they'd say, "Hey, wait a minute. He really must not mean that. He did the same thing. And look where he got to be governor." So I was more concerned about good parenting than I was my own political skin at the time.
In retrospect, as I put in the book, what I should have done was said I drank and -- I shouldn't have done that. I have quit drinking, and I -- by the way, we're going to -- about to have a big fundraiser for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Something like that, and I didn't. And therefore when it drops out four days before the election, all momentum stopped and it created confusion.
And I wasn't concerned about my statement when I first heard the news. The statement was very simple. I made a mistake. I drank too much. I was driving and I quit drinking. The problem was when you drop a nugget like that out with four days before the campaign it -- or how ever many days it was -- five days --
HANNITY: You said you calculated -- or Karl Rove calculated that was 2 million votes.
BUSH: Yes, he did. Yes. And I'm convinced it cost a lot of votes. I mean -- I've got anecdotal evidence of people saying, "Wait a minute. We thought we were voting for a different type person." In other words, there wasn't enough time to explain --
HANNITY: Do you think they knew about it? The -- your opponent, the -- the Gore campaign, the whole time?
BUSH: Oh, I don't think it was --
HANNITY: -- a secret?
BUSH: I don't think it -- you know, it was like stumbled upon by an investigative reporter with four days to go by accident.
HANNITY: You go into great detail obviously -- a day that changed the United States of America forever, which is --
HANNITY: -- September 11, 2001.
HANNITY: Karl Rove first told you that a plane had hit one of the Trade Center towers. You -- you thought it maybe was a small prop plane.
HANNITY: Then you hear from Condi Rice that it was a jetliner.
HANNITY: And then you hear from Andy Card the second tower got it.
HANNITY: And I think the way you describe it is the first one's an accident.
HANNITY: The second one was an attack. The third is a -- right away you determined it was a declaration of war.
BUSH: That's right. What happened is I was in the limousine heading toward Air Force One. Condi called again and said, "The plane has hit the Pentagon." And so the first one was likely an accident. The second one was an attack and the third was the declaration of war. And that's how I conducted my presidency.
HANNITY: Yes, and that changed it forever here. You know, in front of school kids you -- you said -- because you got criticized at the time. Well, why didn't you walk out? Why didn't you -- and you said that you knew the world would be watching your reaction. And you knew at that point -- obviously your mind is spinning. You're with the kids. You're president. You want to do that --
BUSH: Yes. Well, what -- what -- what happened on that, Sean, was I saw the press corps in the back start getting phone calls. And -- because the beepers were off, or the buzzers were off, it was like -- it was like watching a silent movie.
HANNITY: You could see -- you -- they were all getting --
BUSH: And it was clear to me they were getting the same information I got. I mean, literally Andy Card whispers -- I'm looking -- you know, my first reaction was anger. Just how dare they do that? And then I look at the child or the children and it's I'm going to protect you.
And -- and, you know, all of a sudden the phone calls. And they're all getting calls. And it was obvious they were getting calls --
BUSH: -- getting told the same thing that I had just been told by Andy. And I decided -- I made the decision not to jump up and create kind of a chaotic scene, but just to wait for an appropriate moment. Because, you know, the -- one of the lessons of any crisis is if you happen to be the head of an organization, just don't overreact. Because if you overreact, the people who are counting on you will overreact.
And then I hustled out and came and wrote a statement.
(BEGIN SEPTEMBER , 2001 VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Today we've had a national tragedy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The second lesson of a crisis is make sure you try to fill the void or a void with a statement so as to assure people that we'd be on top of the situation.
(BEGIN SEPTEMBER , 2001 VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: And I've ordered that the full resources of the national government go to help the victims and their families and to find those folks who committed this act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: I don't know when you said it, but it was shortly after that, "We're going to find out who did this and kick their ass."
BUSH: Yes, I said that to the people in the administration -- that wasn't a --
HANNITY: You wrote about that in the book.
BUSH: That wasn't a public statement.
BUSH: That would have been the kind of statement that probably would have been criticized for being a little too simplistic.
HANNITY: What you wrote in the book was, "In a single morning the purpose of my presidency had grown clear."
HANNITY: "To protect our people, defend freedom, that had come under attack."
HANNITY: Do you remember -- do you remember what you felt then?
BUSH: I felt the duty of protecting the country. And in the book I try to take the reader -- or take the reader back to -- to the environment in which I was making decisions. I mean, we were under threat a lot.
HANNITY: Threats that the public never even knew about.
Coming next, the never before revealed biological weapons scare that threatened the lives of the president and his staff.
HANNITY: People in the White House may have been infected, including you.
BUSH: That's right. Yes, that's right.
HANNITY: Were you thinking, what happens if I die?
As this special edition of "Hannity" continues.
HANNITY: As we continue, my special interview with George W. Bush about his brand new book "Decision Points."
The book details a never-before told story that while on an overseas trip in October 2001, the president was informed that a toxic bio-hazard may have breached White House security.
Traces of deadly botulinum toxins were found and there was a chance the president and his senior staff were exposed. It took a full day of testing the substance on mice before the incident was ruled a false alarm.
HANNITY: You were told that people in the White House may have been infected, including you.
BUSH: That's right. Yes, that's right.
HANNITY: And they were concerned you might -- they -- they tested the mice --
BUSH: And we were thankfully -- we weren't exposed to botulinum toxin.
HANNITY: Well, did you -- were you thinking what happens if I die? Cause Dick Cheney apparently had given you that wonderful news.
BUSH: Yes, not really.
HANNITY: You just -- you weren't thinking about it?
BUSH: I -- I'm not a -- I never really spent time during the presidency thinking about my death. There was a couple of moments in there where -- remember Andy Card comes in and says the - you know, the White House is targeted. We need to -- we need to take you out. And I said, no, I'm not leaving.
BUSH: I said, have the minimum staff there. If need be, put the vice president in another location to encourage continuity of government. But I'm not leaving. I was tired of leaving.
HANNITY: You --
BUSH: I didn't want the enemy to know that they could, you know, make me move around at their whim. We're in a psychological war against these people in many ways. And you know, I -- in the book I describe my frustrations about not being in Washington on 9/11. Eventually after having gone to Louisiana and Nebraska, I said, I'm coming home. Because I wasn't going to give a speech to the nation from a --
HANNITY: They didn't want you to come home at that point?
BUSH: No, they did not. And they're risk adverse and you can understand why.
HANNITY: But you made that final call and that was it?
HANNITY: Do you wish you came home sooner?
BUSH: I -- yes.
HANNITY: It doesn't matter.
HANNITY: But here's the situation, and you describe this. And I guess this was in part why you're writing the book. To bring people inside the Oval Office, the life of a president of the United States, the worst attack on American soil.
HANNITY: I think you even said when you saw those towers go down -- you were on the plane --
HANNITY: You knew that you were probably the only president in American history that saw so many people die at one time --
BUSH: -- in real time. Yes. Yes.
HANNITY: That is -- so -- so all of this was going through your mind. You've got to make the decision. Dick Cheney is underground because they thought the White House might be hit --
HANNITY: -- at that point.
HANNITY: Because there were still planes up in the air.
BUSH: Well 93 -- Flight 93.
HANNITY: Ninety-three went -- that was the one that was either headed for the Capitol or the White House.
BUSH: That's what they say, yes. Yes.
HANNITY: Yes. And you said you would make the decisions. You told Dick Cheney he would implement the decisions?
BUSH: Well, in this case, I was flying around. And so it's easier for Dick and Condi and Josh Bolten and others who were there to -- to relay decisions I made. But, yes. The president -- and the main decision we're talking about there was the decision to send our fighters up --
HANNITY: Air-to-air intercept?
BUSH: -- yes, of commercial airliners that had -- had not listened to the grounding --
BUSH: -- instructions. Yes.
HANNITY: So -- so you gave the order to fire --
BUSH: I did.
HANNITY: And you said it was the first decision of a war-time commander. And when you heard that the plane in Pennsylvania had gone down --
BUSH: Ninety-three --
HANNITY: Ninety-three --
HANNITY: -- you wondered if that was based on your order.
BUSH: I did. I did. Yes, tough.
HANNITY: That's a tough decision.
HANNITY: You-- you're remembering these days. It's coming back to you.
BUSH: Yes. That's right.
HANNITY: I can tell. I can tell.
BUSH: It was tough.
HANNITY: What was -- what -- because you -- the decision about maybe having to take -- take out American citizens --
BUSH: Well, I mean -- yes. I mean, I -- I am told that first of all, there's a fog of war. I wasn't getting very clear information. And you know, we had a report that the State Department had been attacked. A report there was going to be an attack on Crawford. And all of a sudden, I am told a plane goes down. I didn't have many details about it. But I -- I had the sickening feeling that, you know, we may have shot down a commercial airliner.
And then of course I got the details shortly thereafter and it was -- it was a difficult period. It was very -- it was a hard day on the families -- really hard day on their families. And the uncertainty and just you can imagine -- I can imagine what it was like to, you know, have a loved one in the tower and watching the footage of what was going on. It must have been brutal.
HANNITY: I -- I was a little shocked when you -- you called it "woeful" -- the communications capability and technology on Air Force One.
BUSH: Yes, I was shocked too. And -- because the line kept dropping. And, you know, I -- I'd be calling Condi or Cheney or Rumsfeld and the line would drop.
HANNITY: Yes, you said --
BUSH: And plus, we were only able to get the television images as we flew over markets. And so you'd see this kind of -- the news would be there and then the black out. And then it would show up again. And it was -- it was -- it was very frustrating. And we completely overhauled Air Force One. So now when you're on Air Force One, you can have --
HANNITY: No problem.
BUSH: No. No problems.
HANNITY: You said you were powerless to help and you had the most powerful job in the world.
BUSH: Right. Yes.
HANNITY: Up next, inside one of the most controversial moments of the Bush presidency -- the decision to invade Iraq.
BUSH: I firmly believed the choice was Saddam Hussein's to make as to whether or not we used force. What more could I have done?
That and much more. Stick around.
HANNITY: And we continue my exclusive interview from the ranch of former President George W. Bush. We're in Crawford, Texas. His brand new book, "Decision Points."
No decision was more controversial than the one in 2003 to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iraq.
HANNITY: You bring everybody inside that decision-making. You talk about Tommy Franks. You talk about you guys have everything you need to win. And you get a yes, sir, they're ready to go. And you got to make that decision. You -- very interesting moment, you'll -- you write about leaving the Situation Room.
HANNITY: You knew you were putting kids in harm's way.
HANNITY: And you said you walked upstairs through the Oval Office, slow step -- or a lap around the South Lawn. You said you said a prayer for our troops, safety of our country.
HANNITY: The strength and -- to have strength in the days ahead. And there was one man that understood that -- what you were feeling. And you sat down at your desk, and you scrawled out a letter to --
BUSH: I did. Yes, to my dad. Yes.
HANNITY: You have the letter here. You told him something --
BUSH: No, I can't read it.
HANNITY: No. I'm not going to ask you to read it. You told me --
BUSH: I wouldn't make it through. It -- his letter to me. I can read mine to him. But his letter to me was such a touching response. And I -- I hope that the reader of the book will have a better sense of my dad, his compassion and his -- what it's like to be the father of the president.
HANNITY: But also that was the toughest decision you made in your life.
BUSH: Yes. It was, yes.
HANNITY: To make that decision.
BUSH: It is.
HANNITY: And your father wrote you back. He said, "Your handwritten note just received touched my heart. You're doing the right thing." And he said to you, "Your decision just made is the toughest decision you've had to make up until now, but you made it with strength and compassion. It's right to worry about the loss of innocent life, be it Iraqi or American. But you have done that which you had to do. Maybe it helps a tiny bit as you face the toughest bunch of problems any president since Lincoln has -- has faced." And your dad said, "You carry the burden with strength and grace." And he said, "Remember Robin's words, 'I love you more than tongue can tell.'"
HANNITY: This is your -- devotedly, Dad.
BUSH: I barely made it through when you read the letter.
BUSH: Yes -- no. It's a powerful letter, because he's -- you know, it's just one of those moments that it's -- it's historic, because it's written by a former president. And it's -- it was -- it was a powerful moment for me. And -- and just hearing it read again is a powerful moment. It -- really expresses the love of a father to a son.
HANNITY: Because the book is decisions.
HANNITY: You had to make a decision. You also concluded, "I strongly believe the mission is worth the cost."
HANNITY: And you talk about the cost. You met with a lot of the families -- the lost life.
BUSH: Yes -- no. Look, I mean, first of all -- the reader should get a sense that I tried to solve the problem diplomatically. Not just me, but Tony Blair and our allies -- that military -- the use of military was the last option that -- and I -- I believe -- and I said this in the book. I firmly believe it was -- that the -- the choice was Saddam Hussein's to make as to whether or not we used force.
I go on to describe that he made the decision to resist inspectors and to not be forthright, because he never felt we'd use force. And I say what more could I have done? He -- he --
HANNITY: Psychological profile of him told you that that wouldn't --
BUSH: Yes. Right.
HANNITY: -- that he -- that -- he --
BUSH: That's what he told the papers.
HANNITY: -- power. Yes.
BUSH: Well, no. The psychological profile was that -- right. That he wanted to --
HANNITY: Maintain power.
BUSH: -- maintain power. And therefore --
BUSH: But it turns out he didn't think we'd use force.
BUSH: And I'm not sure what more I could have done to make it clear.
HANNITY: You -- you -- you talk a little bit about WMD. "When Saddam didn't use WMD on our troops I was relieved." Then you talked about, you know, the absence of WMD stockpiles.
HANNITY: Frustrating for you?
BUSH: Unbelievably frustrating. Of course it was frustrating. It -- everybody thought he had WMD. Everybody being every intelligence service, everybody in the administration --
HANNITY: A lot of Democrats said it.
BUSH: Yes. A lot of members of Congress.
BUSH: You might remember, and -- I think -- I think for the sake of history it's important to put in the book that prior to my arrival, Congress had overwhelmingly passed a resolution that -- for the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. It was embraced by my predecessor.
HANNITY: They forgot that.
BUSH: Yes. And anyway -- so it's -- that's --
HANNITY: The -- you tell a story when -- when you concluded that you needed to go forward -- another decision -- with the surge.
HANNITY: And Senator McConnell comes into your office. I'll let you pick it up from there.
BUSH: Well, Mitch, who is a dear friend of mine and a fine senator, came in and said he was concerned about the upcoming election. And basically said my popularity was going to cost us the Congress. I -- I of course thought about the sex scandals, and I -- look. I readily concede that I had been in office for six years. People are tired of me and they were tired of the Iraq war. No question you had a valid point there.
HANNITY: Did you think that at the time -- at six years that they were tired of you?
BUSH: I think they were getting tired of me, yes. Yes. I remember how they were tired of Ronald Reagan in 19 -- it's hard to remember back then. But in '87 he was having a tough go.
HANNITY: Maybe the country was war weary.
BUSH: Could have been that too. And -- yes. Absolutely, they were war weary. They were getting -- remember this is the point at which our TV screens were full of brutal violence. They -- the Shrine bombing had taken place some six months prior to that.
HANNITY: McConnell wanted you to pull back.
BUSH: Pull out some troops, yes. He said -- I said, What do you want me to do about it? And he said, Pull out some troops. And then I go on and say -- well, I didn't tell him I was thinking about putting more in. And the reason I told the story, was because I wanted to create a -- a sense of the environment in which I had to make this decision. I mean, members of my own party who were -- been very supportive of the removal of Saddam and supporting our troops.
HANNITY: I promise the last question. There's the emergence of the Tea Party in America today. And you see rallies all around the country.
HANNITY: You see people holding signs. You see people thinking America has moved down the socialist path. I just wanted to get your observation. What do you -- what do you think of that movement? How do you interpret what -- what -- the mood of the country right now politically. Because --
BUSH: Yes, I see -- here's what I see. I see democracy working. People are expressing a level of frustration or concern and they're getting involved in the process. And the truth of the matter is democracy works in America. Remember -- when Senator Brown wins, it --
HANNITY: In Massachusetts.
BUSH: -- the attitude began to change. People showed up and voted. And people are concerned enough to take to the streets. In our history that's happened some. In 1992 my dad, running for president, not only faced President Clinton, but faced Ross Perot who represented such a type movement, where people were frustrated, angry and came out to the streets.
And to me to watch people participating in the democratic system is good. It's a good thing for the country. It -- it inspires me to know that our democracy still -- still functions.
What would be terrible is if people were frustrated and they didn't do anything.
HANNITY: You think your brother Jeb will be president one day?
BUSH: I wish he would be. He has to run first. And he has made it clear he is not running in 2012. And when -- when the man says, I'm not running, he means it. And I -- I wish he would run.
HANNITY: Mr. President, thank you for your time. I've really enjoyed it.
BUSH: Thank you.
HANNITY: We've only scratched the surface, there are plenty more topics in "Decision Points" that we haven't had time for tonight. So join us this Saturday night, 9 Eastern and Pacific, for another special look at the presidency of George W. Bush.
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