OTR Interviews

Behind the Bush 41-Bill Clinton friendship

'41 & 43: Presidential Portrait': George W. Bush on how his father and Bill Clinton went from rivals to good friends. Plus, the 'cheap shot' taken at wife Laura


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 25, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: From inside his Texas childhood home, President George W. Bush going ON THE RECORD. He tells us one of his favorite stories how his father, President George H.W. Bush, became great friends with the man who defeated him in the `92 election, President Bill Clinton.


VAN SUSTEREN: The fact that President Bill Clinton beat him.


VAN SUSTEREN: And they are such good friends that he forgave Bill Clinton for beating him. I mean, frankly, I don't think -- I don't think I would forgive someone who beat me. I don't know.

BUSH: You know, no. Actually, in that spirit, Kent Hance and I are good friends. He's a guy that beat me, by the way.

But, dad, no, I think it's a great story, of the human heart that -- and I make the case in the book at 92, it's incredibly tough on him. And I didn't realize it. Because is he not a man of self-pity.

VAN SUSTEREN: After he lost?

BUSH: After he lost. It hurt it stung him. And, yet, soon thereafter, he and Bill Clinton, the man who beat him, established a very strong relationship.

So, you know, you make choices in life. Dad chose not to be a bitter person. Not so say defeat defines me. If defeat defines him he wouldn't have won he lost in Texas twice in the Senate, and lost to President Reagan and Governor Reagan in the Texas primary in 1980, and yet he goes on to be president. A very successful one I might add.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's a credit to President Clinton, too, because he --

BUSH: No question.

VAN SUSTEREN: The two of them.

BUSH: He has been very kind to dad and all of us are grateful. He and I are the only two baby boomer presidents. We are both governors of Southern states. And we are both grandfathers.

So, we have got a lot in common. But I have always admired the way Bill Clinton treated 41.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about the fact the president -- you don't speak out against President Obama. But it seems like the president sure will swat the predecessor when he is in office. I mean, everything -- the predecessors get whacked.

BUSH: Yes. I don't know. It's just the way it is. Some people choose different tactics.

I don't -- the only reason I'm in the media today is because I'm trying to sell this book. And I'm grateful forever you to give me a chance to do. Plus, I want people to understand 41 better.

Yes, different presidents deal with the post presidency in different ways. Some of them feel like they have got to opine on issues. That's OK. That's just not my style.

VAN SUSTEREN: We haven't talked about Mr. Bush. How is Laura Bush?

BUSH: She is great.


BUSH: Yes, she's doing really well. Thank you.

She is visiting her mom here today. She grew up, maybe half a mile, three quarters of a mile from here. Her dad was a home builder here in Midland. And she is doing wonderfully. Her mother is 94 years old, and is healthy and happy and, Laura, we're both blessed that our parents, you know, are still alive as we get to the ripe old age of 68 years old.

VAN SUSTEREN: It goes fast.

BUSH: Man, does it.

VAN SUSTEREN: She once swore me to secrecy and a bunch of other journalist. We were having lunch in the Middle East. She was on a breast cancer tour.

BUSH: Yes, thanks for going on that, by the way. When the iconic photos from the president with her sitting there with the two ladies in the burqas with the breast cancer.

VAN SUSTEREN: She got a lot of heat for putting that on.

BUSH: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me tell you. I was there in the room. I'll say this, she was given the gift of the shawl from all these women who had breast cancer and survivors and they were so grateful that she was coming and putting a spotlight on a country where, you know, we don't talk about those things. And they gave her that. It would have been so impolite if she hadn't put that on her head. She put that on her head for a second. I know a lot of people gave her heat back here for that. It would have been so rude if she hadn't.

BUSH: What they couldn't give her heat for was raising awareness to the point in Saudi where there is now programs beginning to help women.

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, yes, I'm just saying that she did a terrific job. I always thought that that was a cheap shot.

BUSH: Yes, that's OK. There's occasionally a cheap shot or two.

VAN SUSTEREN: That happens in the media. Not often.

BUSH: Like the "Newsweek" cover calling George Bush a wimp, one of the great cheap shots of all time. The day he announced by president, by the way.

VAN SUSTEREN: What she was telling us and I neglected at that luncheon when she swore us to secrecy. I asked her, where was -- not Mrs. Beazley.

BUSH: Yes, Barney.

VAN SUSTEREN: Barney. I said, where is Barney? And she swore us all to secrecy he has now gone on to rewards, I guess. She said that he bites.

And they kept -- that's why they had to keep him out of public eye. I haven't seen Barney in a while.

BUSH: Yes, he bit some people, yes. I was crazy about Barney, though.

VAN SUSTEREN: I know. He hit all the good points.

BUSH: Very few weren't, however.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, Mr. President, thank you, sir.

BUSH: Greta, thank you. Yes.