This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Jan. 20, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, when I interviewed President Bush back in October, I saw a big change than the man I first talked with in the year 2000. The world and America have changed drastically in five years, and many believe so has President Bush.

Joining us now from Washington is Richard Norton Smith, a presidential historian, who wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan (search), among others, and Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Clinton who has known President Bush for 40 years, beginning at Yale.

Right, Lanny?


O'REILLY: Have you seen a — have you seen a change in four years? Just — I want to kind of focus it in the last four years when he took the oath of office in 2001 fresh off the governorship from Texas until now?

DAVIS: Well, I have seen changes, but I still see the same George Bush I remember from 40 years ago. So the change — certainly, there is a transformed George Bush after 9/11. The speech he gave to the joint session — I really didn't recognize him, and I think he grew into that situation very admirably.

But it's really the same down-to-earth, friendly, open, authentic George Bush that made him so likable when we were in college together. I didn't vote for him, as you know, Bill, but I always liked him and I still do.

O'REILLY: All right. Mr. Smith, have you seen a change in the president?

RICHARD NORTON SMITH, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think so, although I have to tell you, Bill, I think George Bush has changed less in the last four years than we have and in our attitude toward George W. Bush.

He has said in recent days that one thing he's learned — I'm sure Lanny knows this — as every president learns, is to weigh everything that he says. He said specifically if he could take back the bring-it-on line or even referring — using gunslinger language to talk about getting Usama bin Laden dead or alive.

Every word that comes out of a president's mouth has significant consequences.

O'REILLY: Yes, I think that's a good.

SMITH: But beyond that...

O'REILLY: I think Mr. Bush has learned that he can't fool around anymore, he can't, you know, off-the-cuff be a wise guy because everything he says can and will be used against him personally and can also have policy repercussions, Lanny. I mean, each president has to know that even an off-the-cuff remark can be a page one headline.

DAVIS: Yes. And the part I admire about George Bush and remember very well is that he was a sincere, authentic, but often very stubborn person in holding on to a particular point of view, and that's really the flip side of what I worry about, because faced with facts contrary to his point of view, I have a feeling he screens out those contrary facts.

And that's why he didn't mention Iraq in his inauguration speech today because the facts on the ground are contradicting the rhetoric of that freedom and liberty which I wish he were right about, but I doubt will occur in Iraq as I have seen...

O'REILLY: See, but he — he would disagree with you, and he would say — and I thought it was interesting he didn't mention Iraq either, but he would say you, Lanny Davis, are speculating, that you don't know how it's going to turn out, and that he has confidence that his policy is going to turn that country around and be successful a year from now. They'll be like Afghanistan. I know that he believes that in his heart.

DAVIS: No doubt. And I...

O'REILLY: So if he believes it — if he believes it, Lanny, then he should be promoting his beliefs, should he not?

DAVIS: Well, hear this very clearly: I hope he's right and so does every Democrat who has doubts about his policy. I hope we are wrong. But a year from now, as you even ask Dick Morris, suppose we're losing 25 young kids a day...

O'REILLY: Not going to cut it.

DAVIS: ... and we have an Iranian-dominated theocracy, at some point, we're going to wonder why did we do it...

O'REILLY: That's true.

DAVIS: ... and when will George Bush admit to a mistake? That's what worries...

O'REILLY: Well, I wouldn't do that now, Mr. Smith. I mean, I understand that Lanny's correct, and I think that President Bush has a stubborn streak as well, but I think he also has a practical streak that overrides the stubbornness, and why would you give your opponents any kind of an admission at this very crucial time in our history?

SMITH: Yes, one of the phrases he said today, "It's an odd time for doubt." I thought that was fascinating. This is not a man who entertains many doubts.

And if you want to talk about when George Bush changed, it was really back — you know, remember the time of his 40th birthday when he talked about eliminating alcohol from his life, when faith became a central pillar of his life, I mean, that's when conviction and certitude and a sense of calling, if you will, really redefined, transformed his life.

It's like Franklin Roosevelt going through the fires of hell with polio in the 1920s. He came out of that experience a much larger, more sympathetic, more commanding figure, and that made him a much greater leader.

O'REILLY: Well, I think — I think that Bush is imitating Winston Churchill here. In the dark days before the tide turned in Europe during World War II, Churchill could not ever show any doubt and he did not. He showed he was resolute...

DAVIS: Look, Bill...

O'REILLY: ... and he was right down the line as this is — now the circumstance is different, but this is what we're going to do, we are going to prevail, and that's what Bush is doing.

Now what I want to do I want to get off the policy because we had enough of that. I want to tell you why — how I've seen a change in Bush because I interviewed him twice, once when he was on the campaign trail in 2000 and then in October.

And, when I first met him, he was very casual in his body language, in his greeting of me and my crew, a very, very casual, as you said, a genuine guy, authentic guy, some guy you'd go to the game with,all right.

Second time around, much more formal, much more conscious of who he was, the president of the United States. That's the big difference I saw. Posture was different. The way he approached people were different. Everything was different.


DAVIS: No doubt. And I saw that transformation in the moment after his speech on 9/11 in Congress.

But I still perfectly agree with the professor. The change in George W. Bush's life when he gave up alcohol and discovered his faith and the personal kindness and warmth of the man that I actually appreciated on some personal moments since he's been president involving myself and my wife — he'll never change as the basically good guy that we all love to be with.

And the likability factor — although I said we tried to defeat him in 2000 and 2004, I knew when he ran that he was going to be tough to beat because, even when you disagree with him, there's a likability...

O'REILLY: Yes, the Americans like him.

DAVIS: ... that is going to be very powerful.

O'REILLY: He treated Bill Clinton very respectfully. He's — he doesn't seem to be a vicious guy at all. I'm going to give the last word to you, Mr. Smith, about the change in the president.

SMITH: Remember four years ago, there was a cloud over this president. There were lots of people who frankly questioned his legitimacy.

And then came 9/11, and it was a transforming time. It was as if he had found his mission as well as his mandate, and I think you're right.

He's grown in office, but he also realizes that he's part of this very select company of 43 men. He's a historical figure...

O'REILLY: You bet.

SMITH: ... as well as everything else.

O'REILLY: That means he has a tough war to fight.

Gentlemen, thanks very much. Very good conversation.

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