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Interviews

George W. Bush Sits Down With Bill O'Reilly

 

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," November 11, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

 

Watch "The O'Reilly Factor" weeknights at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET!

 

 

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Hi, I'm Bill O'Reilly, reporting tonight from Dayton, Ohio. Thanks for watching us. We are here to interview former President Bush on Veterans Day.

 

A few hours ago I spoke with Mr. Bush at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, just a few miles outside of town. As you may know, the president is on a book tour promoting his presidential look back, "Decision Points." Because he has given a number of TV interviews this week, my mandate tonight was to shake him up a bit, advance the conversation. I told the president that my questions would be a bit different, that I was representing you, trying to ask things that pertain directly to your life. He was fine with it, kind of.

 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

 

O'REILLY: I want to do an interview that's a little different than the pinheads you've been talking to all week. So when word got out that I was going to interview you, lots of people called me up and stopped me in the street saying, "Look, I want you to ask the president this. I want you to ask him that." But, it all centered around the economy. And in the last chapter of your book is about the meltdown in the economy.

 

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Correct.

 

O'REILLY: I thought it was a very interesting chapter. But here was what I don't understand and a lot of other people don't understand. Why didn't you, as president of the United States, know that this derivative mortgage-backed security con was in motion? Because you say "I was caught by surprise."

 

BUSH: True. There is an awareness in that last chapter that we saw something amiss, because we tried to get the government to regulate Fannie and Freddie. But I don't know of anybody in my administration who saw the enormity of the collapse.

 

In 2003, because of the implicit government guarantee and because we were worried about some of the investments that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were making that Congress, much to our chagrin said no, we are not going to regulate it because they are very powerful entities. And so to some extent I feel, you know, OK about anticipating a crisis. The other thing I didn't really didn't see the enormity of it, but I really didn't. I don't think this is a matter of regulation. I think this is a matter of people making bad investments.

 

O'REILLY: OK. But the problem is for me, and I think millions of people watching, that we expect the federal government to protect us from conmen. Now, you are -- the guy in charge of the SEC, Christopher Cox, who I know very well because I went to school in Boston with him, OK? Now, Cox is a guy that's supposed to give you the heads up that, "Hey, you know, there is something really not right here."

 

BUSH: Well, I think a lot of levels of government we didn't…

 

O'REILLY: It just didn't happen.

 

BUSH: …didn't see it coming. Well, the question is what do you do about it when you are president? I mean, there's one thing to be dwelling on why we didn't get it right. But in my case the story is what do you do when somebody says it's about to fail? There is a tone in the book that basically says "I distrusted Wall Street," probably because I was raised in West Texas. And yet, I had to make the decision to use your money…

 

O'REILLY: To bail them out.

 

BUSH: To bail them out, yes.

 

O'REILLY: But most of the…

 

BUSH: Because the options for me were do I gamble on a depression or not?

 

O'REILLY: Right. When I saw you out there going hey, this thing is serious I went, "This thing is serious."

 

BUSH: It was serious. But the -- your question is why didn't we see it?

 

O'REILLY: Yes.

 

BUSH: You know, it was…

 

O'REILLY: That frightens me because it could happen again. It could happen again.

 

BUSH: Of course it could happen again and it has happened before. This was a confluence of events and so I try to take the reader through, you know, the trade deficits, some money coming into the country…

 

O'REILLY: Sure. There were a lot of things going on.

 

BUSH: The investments, the building of the house of cards. The assumption was by a lot of investors that the price of housing would continue to go up. It didn't and the house of cards started to crumble.

 

O'REILLY: Boom! But here…

 

BUSH: So your question is how come we didn't anticipate it. Well, to a certain extent we did, and that is trying to deal with one aspect of the housing market and that would be Fannie and Freddie, and I was unsuccessful at getting them regulated.

 

O'REILLY: But there's more to it, Mr. President, with all due respect. Did you see my interview with Barney Frank when I called him a coward?

 

BUSH: Yes, well…

 

O'REILLY: OK? Because he had direct oversight of Fannie and Freddie.

 

BUSH: But, see, it's like saying, how come you didn't see shysters like Madoff ahead of time?

 

O'REILLY: That's different though because he is a private guy and Wall Street is dealing in the public sector. Here is my problem.

 

BUSH: OK.

 

O'REILLY: Americans are losing confidence in their government. We saw that with President Obama in the last election.

 

BUSH: I hope they don't lose confidence in their government. I can see why there is skepticism, but it's the only government we got.

 

O'REILLY: Now, you say in your book that you had to bail out the companies. And then President Obama picks up your theme and says almost the same words: "I had to continue spending because we would have got into a depression." So you and President Obama are simpatico. The problem is that there is $5 trillion added to the debt in the last three years from 2007 to 2010.

 

BUSH: All I can tell you is when I left office, the debt to GDP ratio was lower than President 42, President 41, and almost equal to President 40, that would be Ronald Reagan. I really have chosen not to second-guess the president, which you are trying to get me to do.

 

O'REILLY: No, I am not. You are wrong.

 

BUSH: I can only explain to you the decisions I made.

 

O'REILLY: Am I allowed to say that a former president is wrong? I'm not trying to get to you bash Obama.

 

BUSH: Of course you can say that. But let me finish what I'm saying. The TARP that we passed said that we are going to put money into financial institutions. They -- which will be repaid to the taxpayer with a reasonable rate of return and most of the TARP money that we spent under my watch has been repaid.

 

O'REILLY: Then why is the government, the federal government now continuing to bail people out?

 

BUSH: You need to ask him, not me. I'm the retired guy. I'm the guy who has done my job and I am now home in Texas.

 

O'REILLY: But you must have a theory on it?

 

BUSH: You are trying to drag me into the current affairs, and I don't want to be drug into the current affairs. And I don't think it's good. Hear me out. I don't think it's good for a former president to be criticizing his successor.

 

O'REILLY: But here's the problem.

 

BUSH: And not only that, I don't want to be…

 

O'REILLY: I know. I know you don't.

 

BUSH: …in the arena of criticizing my successor.

 

O'REILLY: But here's the problem for the folks. The folks live in the country and your policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, economically bleed over until 2010. What you started and what you were involved with didn't end when you left. It continues. So that people when they get an opportunity to hear you and read your book, they want to know about the current state of affairs. They don't want to say, "Look, it ended when he left and now I don't know what he thinks."

 

BUSH: That's your job as somebody who is capable of getting people from the administration to explain the current state of affairs. I have written a book so that people get a sense of what it was like to make the decisions that I made during my presidency. And beyond that I'm happy to get off the stage. I'm very comfortable with this fact, Bill.

 

O'REILLY: What about all your knowledge?

 

BUSH: I'm very comfortable with this fact that eventually there will be objective historians that will analyze my presidency, but there needs to be time. And in terms of my knowledge, there are plenty of knowledgeable people who are capable of speaking out. And I know this comes as a shock to some, but I have zero desire to be in the limelight except for this brief moment when I'm willing to talk with my friend in order to sell books.

 

O'REILLY: I got it. I got it. All right, one more question on this and then we'll go into something else that I feel is very interesting and important. People today are worried. When they get an opportunity to hear someone like you, who is in the middle of it, they want to hear what you have to say. I respect the fact that you don't want to get into the swamp.

 

BUSH: Not to be argumentative, but the best way to learn what I have to say is to read my book.

 

O'REILLY: Read the book. But again, it carries through. Now, the present administration has dumped a lot of stuff on you. They say, "Look, it's not our fault because the previous administration, they did X, Y and Z." I know you don't care about that.

 

BUSH: I really don't.

 

O'REILLY: You don't care about that at all?

 

BUSH: It's a tactic.

 

O'REILLY: It's a political ploy, correct?

 

BUSH: Some people choose to use them. Some people use that ploy. Some don't.

 

O'REILLY: Now, Jimmy Carter, he gets furious when people dump on him and he fights back. But you are the total opposite.

 

BUSH: I am the total opposite.

 

O'REILLY: They can call you the devil. They can call you whatever, and you are just going to go out to lunch.

 

BUSH: Well, they did when I was president.

 

O'REILLY: We talked about that.

 

BUSH: That's right, we did. And I didn't respond because I don't think it's good for the presidency to respond. And, you know, I know it's hard for you to believe that I basically ignore the rhetoric, but I do. And I'm comfortable with myself. I know I gave it my all for the country. I did the very best I could do as president and I'm comfortable with that.

 

O'REILLY: When you look at the current state of the union, because I know -- as far as following the country, I know you do, you couldn't be a civil servant your whole life, you know, governor of Texas and two-term president. You can't just shut it off.

 

BUSH: Right. I don't shut it off. I love my country.

 

O'REILLY: You watch. Are you optimistic about America right now?

 

BUSH: Yes, I am. Right now? Yes. I'm always optimistic about America. I have studied a lot of history. We went through difficult periods in the past, and we'll come through this difficult period.

 

O'REILLY: So you…

 

BUSH: I'm optimistic about our economy.

 

O'REILLY: You believe the economy is going to turn around and people are going to be better off soon?

 

BUSH: I can't tell you when. But that's a leading question, of course, which you are famous for. But the economy will turn around soon? Well, what's the definition of soon? And, frankly, what my advice to you would be to ask somebody who thinks they know what they are talking about the economy. I'm not an economist.

 

O'REILLY: Today.

 

BUSH: I'll tell you tell this -- let me -- OK, I will give you this. I think it's important for policymakers to understand most new jobs are created by small businesses, Seventy percent of new jobs in America are created by small businesses. Many small businesses pay income tax at the individual rate. And therefore, raising any income taxes will cause there to be less capital available for small businesses, which will make it harder to create jobs.

 

O'REILLY: Thank you. That was -- that's what the folks, I think, want to hear.

 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

 

O'REILLY: When we come right back from Dayton, Ohio, I will ask the president about the Afghan war, which has descended into semi-chaos. Is any of that his fault? The interview continues after these messages.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

 

O'REILLY: Continuing now with former President George W. Bush. Shortly after the 9/11 attack in the year 2001, the president decided to invade Afghanistan to remove the Taliban government, which had harbored Al Qaeda. The invasion took place just about nine years ago, but the war is still dicey.

 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

 

O'REILLY: Afghanistan. Now, this is a horror over there, OK? It's a horror because our people are over there. Karzai is corrupt. The thing may go either way. We have a brilliant general, Petraeus, and people are going, "You know, we have got $13 trillion debt and now we are spending a trillion dollars in Afghanistan." Are you optimistic about Afghanistan?

 

BUSH: It's going to take time. But I think the mission is necessary. Remember, this is a place from which attacks were launched that killed 3,000 of our people.

 

O'REILLY: Sure. We know the rational.

 

BUSH: I know. There is other rationale, like human rights for women. The fundamental question for those who say, "Get out" is are we willing to live with the fact that people will live under unspeakable violence?

 

O'REILLY: A lot of Americans are willing to do that.

 

BUSH: Well, I'm not.

 

O'REILLY: But are you optimistic that we can defeat…

 

BUSH: Yes. I'm optimistic that democracy will ultimately prevail. Just like I'm optimistic democracy will prevail in Iraq. I'm not optimistic if we leave.

 

O'REILLY: Iran?

 

BUSH: Yes.

 

O'REILLY: One of the things you say in the book, and again the book is a very honest book. It is.

 

BUSH: Thank you.

 

O'REILLY: All right? You said, "I felt bad because I left that unresolved problem on the table."

 

BUSH: Yes. I mean we couldn't resolve it, right.

 

O'REILLY: Right. And it's getting worse. Are you optimistic that the United States and the rest of the civilized world can keep those people from getting a nuclear weapon?

 

BUSH: Well, in the book I talked about two clocks: the regime change clock and the slow down the weapons clock.

 

O'REILLY: Right.

 

BUSH: And the policy has got to be directed toward speeding up one and slowing down the other. And I'm optimistic that countries as a result of my leadership and the leadership of the -- of President Obama understand the stakes and people understand that without attention and without applying pressure, it's, you know, Iran could end up with a bomb.

 

O'REILLY: Why is…

 

BUSH: Or at least the knowledge to have a bomb. Let's put it that way.

 

O'REILLY: Right. Why is there so much resistance from the rest of the world, excepting Britain, Australia, Canada to helping Afghanistan, for example?

 

BUSH: Afghanistan?

 

O'REILLY: All over. In Afghanistan, very hard to get NATO troops in there, very hard to get commitment in there and they know, like you do, the danger from the Taliban. They know the human rights…

 

BUSH: Well, first of all, there are a lot of NATO troops there. But they are not -- the problem is there are different caveats. There are some parliaments that sent their troops in with the restriction on fighting. And in the book I describe my frustrations with that. In other words, we go in initially to liberate the country along with a lot of other nations. And I thought the footprint was big enough at the time because I felt NATO troops would be able to carry a lot of the weight. But a lot of nations didn't shoot and didn't want to fight and therefore it required additional U.S. troops during my time as president.

 

And, you know, I'm -- maybe some nations aren't that interested in Afghanistan for the very reason you brought up initially on this question. Is it worth it? Is it necessary? And they're probably asking the same questions you just asked me. And if there is not a consensus that is worth it to prevent, you know, the country from falling into the hands of terrorists and extremists, or is it worth it not to care about, you know, what women -- a life of a young girl is in Afghanistan, they will come to the same conclusion that maybe some people you have talked to came to. It's not worth it and therefore…

 

O'REILLY: That's right, but…

 

BUSH: You are asking the question why? You just answered your own question with the first question.

 

O'REILLY: But I don't understand the mindset. You deal with these leaders one on one, and I don't get the mindset of we are not going to help out the United States and Britain in Afghanistan. We're not going to really put pressure on Iran. You are very generous in your book to China.

 

BUSH: But wait a minute. Let me finish. There are a lot of nations in Afghanistan. And there were a lot of nations in Iraq. And so I wouldn't be dismissive, but there were a lot.

 

O'REILLY: I know, but…

 

BUSH: And I wouldn't be dismissive of the contribution that those people made.

 

O'REILLY: We do the heavy lifting.

 

BUSH: Of course we do the heavy lifting because we're the heaviest nation. We're a big powerful nation.

 

O'REILLY: Don't you think it can be spread out a little bit more?

 

BUSH: We did spread it out. Of course -- I want to defend the contribution that a country like Slovenia made. It wasn't a huge number of troops, but it was -- they made a sacrifice.

 

O'REILLY: Poland, too.

 

BUSH: They did. They were the first…

 

O'REILLY: Poland was big.

 

BUSH: …special operators.

 

O'REILLY: If everybody was like Poland we would have already defeated these people. In your book, you are very generous…

 

BUSH: The thing I love about you is you are quite provocative, but go ahead.

 

O'REILLY: Me?

 

BUSH: Yes.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

O'REILLY: Me?

 

BUSH: Little old gentle O'Reilly. Go ahead.

 

O'REILLY: You are very generous to China in your book. I'm not so sure about China. They haven't helped us with Iran. In fact, they've hurt us with Iran, OK?

 

BUSH: They have different interests. I put the story in there, what keeps you up at night?

 

O'REILLY: Can I answer that?

 

BUSH: Yes, 25 million new jobs a year. So if that's what keeps you up at night, you are interested in resources necessary to grow your economy.

 

O'REILLY: But surely China and Russia, the two ones who have enabled Iran to take this ridiculous stance, surely they understand the danger that you understand, President Obama understands, that if this guy has a nuclear weapon that can go off anywhere. They just hand a dirty bomb to someone else. They don't care?

 

BUSH: Well, there is a lot of different interests in the world and the job of the president and job of other like-minded people is to continue to focus everybody's attention on the ultimate problem with Iran. But, yes, they care. But they also want to create wealth in their economy, and they want to grow jobs. And that's what makes this issue so difficult is that there are different interests. Not everybody agrees with you or me, and the job of diplomacy is to continue to rally the coalition. I believe any U.S. president must use diplomacy to solve the problem before any other methods are used.

 

O'REILLY: Most certainly. President Obama agrees with you on that. So there is some common ground. Now, I know you don't care about this…

 

BUSH: Right. I probably don't, but go ahead.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

O'REILLY: You have been very patient with me, Mr. President. I appreciate it. Your approval rating is going up. I don't know whether you saw that or not, but the latest polls have your approval rating going up. And the reason is, in my humble opinion, that you are actually talking to the folks. That you spent this week on a number of programs explaining your -- why did you what you did.

 

BUSH: Imagine how high it's going to be after talking with you.

 

O'REILLY: It's going to be through the roof. I appreciate it.

 

BUSH: Thank you.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

O'REILLY: All right. Now, you don't care about approval ratings. You made that quite clear a number of times. However, I submitted to you in our last interview, all right, in the White House, that you made a mistake by allowing your enemies in the media…

 

BUSH: Yes.

 

O'REILLY: …of which there are thousands, to define you're administration. You didn't fight back, and Obama is getting the same criticism now from the far left, OK? That you let them run wild, accusing you of lying to go into Iraq, accusing you of all kinds of heinous crimes. They were accusing you of being a criminal, OK? But you didn't -- you said, "Look, I'm the president, I'm not going to lower myself." But, I think the Americans want…

 

BUSH: No. Let me stop there, please.

 

O'REILLY: OK.

 

BUSH: I said -- I didn't say I'm the president, I don't want to lower myself. I said I don't want to lower the office of the presidency.

 

O'REILLY: Fine.

 

BUSH: I don't think it does any good then nor now to engage in throwing spitballs at people who have -- want to kind of coarsen the dialogue. I feel very strongly. I would do it the same way.

 

O'REILLY: Really?

 

BUSH: Yes, because, Bill, what fundamentally matters is for a president, can you look back and say one, did you stick to your principles? And two, did you strengthen the office? See, the great thing about America is the office of the president is much more important than the occupant. That's what provides stability for our country. And I felt it would weaken the presidency, not me, weaken the presidency to engage in all this name-calling, and I'm comfortable with that decision.

 

O'REILLY: I didn't want you to do that. I wanted you to do what you did in your book while you were sitting in the White House in the sense that you explained exactly why you did what you did, so that the American people wouldn't buy the propaganda that your enemies were throwing out.

 

BUSH: With all due respect, I spent a lot of time explaining the problem is that sometimes the explanations required more than 30 seconds. And oftentimes the president only is given 30 seconds on a national TV broadcast. And I spent a lot of time with the media. I harbor no resentment to the media, by the way.

 

O'REILLY: Really? Even the people who tried to hurt you and called you a criminal?

 

BUSH: Yes. I don't like to be called a criminal. But I think a lot of times the media were just transmitting other voices.

 

O'REILLY: They -- believe me, they didn't like you.

 

BUSH: OK.

 

O'REILLY: And that was my next question. Again, I don't know you very well but you are affable and people around you, staff, like Dana Perino works for us now. She thinks you're the greatest. She loves you. But people in the press hated you. A lot of them. Why? Why?

 

BUSH: I don't know. You have to ask them. I'm not a hater, and so sometimes it's hard for me to understand why somebody hates somebody. And it could have been because of my policies. Maybe they didn't like my religion. I don't know. I'm sure there are a myriad of reasons, but that's what happens when you're the president, and it can either bother you or not bother you.

 

O'REILLY: Ever think about it?

 

BUSH: Being hated? Not really?

 

O'REILLY: Never?

 

BUSH: I'm a pretty comfortable guy right now.

 

O'REILLY: Now you look it.

 

BUSH: I really am. I'm honored to have served. I'm glad I served, and I gave it my all. That's all you can do in life. And I got back, and it sounds corny to some, I understand. But when I looked in the mirror I know I didn't sell my soul for the sake of any short-term politics or popularity. And I think that's important.

 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

 

O'REILLY: When President Bush left office, his approval rating was 34 percent, according to Gallup. When we come right back, I will ask the president whether there is tension between him and Dick Cheney. He deals with that a bit in the book. The conversation continues in just a few moments.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

 

O'REILLY: President Bush deals with a lot of personalities in his book "Decision Points." Among them, Vice President Dick Cheney, who had a disagreement with the president over his refusal to pardon Cheney's right-hand man Scooter Libby.

 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

 

O'REILLY: One of the interesting parts about the book is Dick Cheney was mad at you because you didn't pardon Scooter Libby. Is he still mad at you, Cheney?

 

BUSH: No. I don't think so.

 

O'REILLY: Do you talk to him a lot?

 

BUSH: A fair amount, I do. Yes, I was very concerned about him because he was sick, and then I'm pleased to report he's coming down to the groundbreaking of our library at SMU.

 

O'REILLY: So you guys are pals still though?

 

BUSH: Yes. I'm going to have lunch with him and looking forward to seeing him.

 

O'REILLY: He was a powerful vice president, correct?

 

BUSH: Well, I'm not sure how you compare him to other vice presidents, but…

 

O'REILLY: You listened to him, right?

 

BUSH: Of course I did, like I listened to a lot of other advisers. And in the book, sometimes he agrees with my decisions and sometimes he didn't agree with my decisions, but always he helped implement the decisions and never did he go behind my back, and…

 

O'REILLY: He was straight up.

 

BUSH: Well, I make it clear to the reader, this is important, that I made the right choice in picking him in 2000. And I feel the same way as I sit and talk to you.

 

O'REILLY: The press probably hated him more than they hated you. And he, unlike you, pushed back a little bit.

 

BUSH: Yes.

 

O'REILLY: Did you ever discuss the press between you?

 

BUSH: We don't have the same personality. Occasionally, you know, you might remember the famous moment in Naperville, Illinois, when the mic was on and we were referring to some press guy…

 

O'REILLY: Right.

 

BUSH: And occasionally there was grousing. But generally, I, you know, aware of what was in the press. I generally ignored the opinion, because by the time I ended it was very predictable.

 

O'REILLY: Even mine?

 

BUSH: Of course, I listened to yours all the time and it became the whole crux of the Bush Administration.

 

(LAUGHTER)

 

O'REILLY: Your father. How often did you call him when you were in the White House for advice?

 

BUSH: Yes. Not very often for advice. But I talked to him often to try to comfort him.

 

O'REILLY: Why didn't you seek his advice? I mean, former president and…

 

BUSH: Well, because he knew that I had better information at the time than he would have known, and he understood what it meant to be president. I mean, the president gets a lot of advice, some of it unsolicited, a lot of it from inside the White House. But he also knew that when the heat gets on -- and the heat was on during my administration -- you tend to seek out the advice of the people closest to you.

 

And what's interesting about my relationship -- and I make this clear in the book -- with my dad is, one, it's based upon love. I mean, I love the guy. And, secondly, that -- and admire him, by the way. And secondly, I knew what it was like to be the loved one of a president. I mean, '92 was a painful year. I didn't like the way the press talked about my dad.

 

O'REILLY: You were feistier back then.

 

BUSH: I punched back, and I'd get in people's face.

 

O'REILLY: I hate guys like that.

 

BUSH: OK. You were wishing that was me later but anyway. And so my dad -- I knew my dad would be agonizing over what he read or what he heard.

 

O'REILLY: Right.

 

BUSH: So I'd call him and say, "I'm doing great." Just like he -- when I'd call him when he was president he would say, "I'm doing good, son. Don't worry about me." And so our roles got reversed. I spent most of my time comforting my dad.

 

O'REILLY: Interesting. Colin Powell didn't want to invade Iraq.

 

BUSH: Another O'Reilly provocative statement. Nobody wanted to use the military, except...

 

O'REILLY: He advised you not to do it, didn't he?

 

BUSH: The conversation that I replayed in the book basically was a reluctance to use the troops in Iraq.

 

O'REILLY: Right.

 

BUSH: However, when I said if we have to -- in other words, if diplomacy runs its course and we have to use troops -- he said, "I'll support you."

 

O'REILLY: But he didn't want to?

 

BUSH: You can understand that. He's a general.

 

O'REILLY: Absolutely understand that. Look what happened. I mean, the unintended consequences of that invasion were tremendous. They were horrific.

 

BUSH: Well, the intended consequences were also tremendous.

 

O'REILLY: You realize...

 

BUSH: And that is that 25 million people were liberated.

 

O'REILLY: True.

 

BUSH: A country that had been run by a tyrant was no longer a threat to the United States of America. And we have a chance to have a transformative moment in the Middle East, and that is a free society emerging.

 

O'REILLY: But you know the blood and treasure sacrificed that the American public, and not to mention the military – we're here in this great Air Force museum -- not to mention killed and maimed. So it's always a balancing act. Is it worth it for that? Could we have done it another way? Condoleezza Rice told me -- she has a very good book out, by the way.

 

BUSH: I read it.

 

O'REILLY: And I was interviewing her...

 

BUSH: You're only promoting one book, and that's mine.

 

O'REILLY: No, your book, listen -- you're going to be No. 1. And the worst part about that is you're knocking me down on the bestseller list, OK?  But your book is No. 1.

 

BUSH: Condi has written a great book.

 

O'REILLY: And -- and she told me that maybe -- maybe we should have done it another way in hindsight. Maybe we could have gotten him out of there in another way.

 

BUSH: Now, I think if people read the book, they'll realize we tried every way.

 

O'REILLY: That was the only way?

 

BUSH: Everything possible.

 

O'REILLY: Were you scared when you ordered the surge, and it was like you against the world? I mean, tell the truth.

 

BUSH: I don't think scared is the right -- right...

 

O'REILLY: Apprehensive?

 

BUSH: No, I was convinced that -- that if we didn't put more troops in...

 

O'REILLY: But you were alone.

 

BUSH: ...we would lose. And if we lost, that the consequences would be catastrophic.

 

O'REILLY: One of the moments when I interviewed then-Senator Obama, he admitted to me that he was wrong and you were right in that surge thing. And that was painful for him to admit because, as you know, he was a vociferous critic against the Iraq war. Do you ever speak to President Obama? Does he seek your counsel on anything?

 

BUSH: He did call me and ask me to join with President Clinton to help raise money for the -- the people down there in Haiti. And I was more than happy to participate.

 

O'REILLY: That was last the call?

 

BUSH: No, no. And no, he called me right before his speech. He gave a military speech on Iraq. He was heading to Texas and gave me a heads up that he -- what he was going to say in the speech, and I was grateful for that. But I don't expect to be called...

 

O'REILLY: No, I know.

 

BUSH: ...by President Obama. Nor do I expect to be called by whoever follows President Obama.

 

O'REILLY: Well, if I'm elected, I'm going to call you. Is that all right?

 

BUSH: If you're elected, I'll be in total shock, so I won't be able to answer the phone.

 

O'REILLY: You won't be the only one. All right. Now, were you surprised John McCain lost?

 

BUSH: I was disappointed he lost. And...

 

O'REILLY: Do you think any of it was your fault?

 

BUSH: I think the fact -- first of all, if you're the -- if you're the head of the party and your popularity isn't good, it makes a drag for Senator McCain. He had a generational issue he had to deal with. I mean, he had a lot of -- a young president that nobody hardly knew and an older guy. And I -- I think generational politics affected my dad's campaign, for example, in '92.

 

O'REILLY: Yes, against Clinton.

 

BUSH: Sure.

 

O'REILLY: Sarah Palin, his VP choice, a very controversial woman. You thought it was a good choice?

 

BUSH: Yes. I think it energized the party. I mean, there was a moment where people were kind of in the doldrums, and Sarah Palin arrived and boom.

 

O'REILLY: Going forward, 2012...

 

BUSH: Probably won't answer this question.

 

O'REILLY: You won't answer the 2012 question?

 

BUSH: No.

 

O'REILLY: You don't want to be a pundit to the Republican Party's resurgence?

 

BUSH: You want me to be a pundit?

 

O'REILLY: That would be great. Do you want -- you want to be on, like, once a week on "The Factor"?

 

BUSH: No, I don't. It looks like my main candidate is not going to run, and that's my brother Jeb.

 

O'REILLY: That's interesting.

 

BUSH: So that's a dodge to the question.

 

O'REILLY: No. That was a good -- that's good. All right. So you'd like -- but 2012, Republicans have a lot of optimism now that they'll take the White House back. You going to help them?

 

BUSH: If somebody wants to come and ask what it's like to run for president, I'd love to talk. You know how us retired guys are.

 

O'REILLY: But you're not going to be like Bill Clinton out there going state to state with candidates, things like that.

 

BUSH: I probably won't do that, no.

 

O'REILLY: "Decision Points," that's the name of your book, right?

 

BUSH: I think it is.

 

O'REILLY: Off camera, he's giving me jazz I'm not mentioning the book. I'll put it -- I'll tattoo it right here, "Decision Points." Come on. Everybody knows the name of the book. All right. When I write my books there's one thing usually I want people to take away from the book. What's that?

 

BUSH: Well, my book must be a little more complex than your books.

 

O'REILLY: Much more complex.

 

BUSH: I had a variety of things I wanted people to take away. I want -- I want to put the reader in my position so that whether they -- he or she agrees with my decisions or not, at least he'll understand how the process worked. I want to give future historians a point of reference.

 

O'REILLY: Do you want the reader to like you?

 

BUSH: This isn't really about trying to enhance my popularity. I've never been a person who says, "Well, if I write this book maybe my -- I'll shape my legacy." You know, that's -- legacy is -- it takes a long time for history to be...

 

O'REILLY: And you'll be dead and I'll be dead, right?

 

BUSH: Exactly right. And I'm -- I hope people get the sense of how much I love our country and enjoyed being the president.

 

O'REILLY: Mr. President, I want you -- I want to apologize for giving you hard time if I did.

 

BUSH: No. It was fun.

 

O'REILLY: OK. And it's been my privilege to talk to you four times.

 

BUSH: Thank you, sir.

 

O'REILLY: And thanks for taking the time today.

 

BUSH: Enjoyed it.

 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

 

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