Exclusive Interview With Bush 41

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume", June 14, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: When President Bush the first, jumped out of that plane in Texas yesterday, a couple of others, including myself and the actor Chuck Norris had gone ahead of him at his invitation. The former president then sat down with me for an interview at the edge of the landing zone, his presidential library in the background.


HUME: Tell me about what it's like to have been president of the United States, with the day-to-day, hour-to-hour challenge that work. It's probably the most interesting work in the world. How does life -- how is life after that? How do you keep your level of interest in things up?

G.H.W. BUSH: Well, it's very, very different. I'll be honest with you; I miss making decisions that are important decisions. I miss that. But that is offset by the fact that our own son is president of the United States.

And I've got to be very, very careful. That's why you don't see me doing interviews and stuff for the most part, because I don't want to complicate his life. If I say something that might conflict with something that is he working on, they rush over to the guy in the White House and say here is what the old guy said and how do you account for that?

I had my chance. And so it's the president's chance. So it's easy for me to just totally support him, be there for him as a former president, and maybe more important, be there for him as a father who -- who loves him and wants to see him succeed and would do anything I could to help in that.

HUME: I didn't hear you say adviser.

G.H.W. BUSH: No, I'm not an adviser. We talk quietly. We never talk about what we talk about. But you know, I can get an oar in from time to time into the water, but he has got his own people.

I remember something. I don't have the need to know anymore, although I have certain clearances. But I don't have the need to know. And therefore, I don't feel totally informed on a lot of these subjects that people are all giving opinions on.

HUME: He said that one of the key messages he felt the need to communicate to you when he spoke to you was, hey, I'm OK. That he sensed that you were feeling acutely with him as president, the way he felt when you were president. That the criticisms that you get inevitably wounded him more when you were president than they do now and that you are in the same situation he was in.

G.H.W. BUSH: You know that's true now. There's not even a close call. It hurts much more when you find your own son is criticized, than when I myself was. Then back then I could try to do something about it or I could, you know, make a decision.

Now I sit there and I see lot of criticism that I don't think is particularly fair. But I can't -- I can't -- I have no role, except to be there for the president as his dad. And Barbara feels exactly the same way.

And I keep up with events. I watch a lot of news. And I, you know, think I'm reasonably well informed. But Barbara is not. She just doesn't want to hear it anymore. But in doing that, maybe it makes it more difficult to not hurt, not ache for your son. But I see lot of stuff in these papers today, Brit, that just burns me up, and nothing I can do about it.

HUME: Do you think the criticism of your son has been harsher and more unfair than you felt the criticism was of you?

G.H.W. BUSH: Pretty good question. I don't know. But yes, I do. I honestly do.

HUME: How so?

G.H.W. BUSH: It depends what outlet you are talking about. Well, there's a confluence of events. The problems on his shoulders are bigger than the problems I faced. You know, the Taliban. Of course, the biggest is 9/11. Something happened. Something bad happened to our country. And we brought home the fact that we can no longer depend on the Pacific and on the Atlantic to keep us safe. And all of this it fell on the shoulders of the president, having to go and fight against international terror, in way that it hadn't been done before.

So this is a profound difference, but I just think there's a confluence of coming together of more problems on his shoulders. And with that comes a lot of harsh criticism. I've got plenty of it, plenty of my share. But I just think maybe it's just the proud dad, Brit. But I think -- I think George, the president, gets a lot more. And he will be all right though.

HUME: Because I hear it all the time just from people say that they find it hard to watch the news. They're so anxious about Iraq. How anxious -- how much of your day is spent in some preoccupation with the -- with these events?

G.H.W. BUSH: Not so much. I mean I think when the U.N. resolution was passed recently, when Iraq -- two new leaders were picked in Iraq, when the president expressed a determination to pass the whole political handover to the Iraqis, Iraq for the Iraqis, nothing makes things better. And I also think, Brit, very candidly that some outlets have chosen to emphasize only the negative.

I realize that people don't want to talk about all the banks that weren't robbed today. But I think that sometimes the people I've talked to say, hey, there's great progress going on in Iraq. And I don't think the American people sense that. And why don't they sense it? Because lot of the newspapers insists on pointing just the negative, whatever the negative is. And that's, you know -- I'll be accused of press bashing, but I'm too old to give a damn anymore about that. And I just, you know -- that's the way it is, fine.

HUME: Let's talk about a day in your life. It used to be, as I recall, an early riser, read the papers.

G.H.W. BUSH: Still am.

HUME: Tell me -- give me a sense of what your day is.

G.H.W. BUSH: First, it depends on where it is. Because we spend seven months based out of Texas and five months based out of Maine. But I go to the office every single day...

HUME: What time do you get there, 7:00?

G.H.W. BUSH: In Maine or in Houston. Get on that -- my e-mail. And you know, read a bunch of stuff on policy and all of that. But look, I'm taking more time now for my -- doing interesting things.

HUME: How much time do you spend in the office?

G.H.W. BUSH: Well, if we're in Houston, I spend like mostly a full day. I'll have a lot more meetings. In Maine, if I look out the window and I see the fish break in the water in our bay there, I'm out of there. So it depends what the situation is, but I have the flexibility now.

Nobody depends on my position on Afghanistan or position on China. I don't have any influence to change things. And as I said earlier, I had my chance. So I have total control of my time, and that is a luxury that I have not had in many, many years.


HUME: George H. W. Bush, at age 80.

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