President Bush on North Korean Threat, Presidential Decision-Making Process
This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," October 31, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Yesterday, Sean traveled to Georgia and sat down exclusively with the president of the United States, George W. Bush.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Let's talk about the two hotspots in the world right now: North Korea, Kim Jong-Il, his nuclear tests, his missile tests. Do we help Japan, South Korea, Taiwan develop a missile defense system? Would you support them becoming nuclear-armed in their own defense in that case?
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would not support them for having nuclear weapons, although I noticed a Japanese official said, if we have to, we will. And then, of course, the government stepped it back.
I think the less nuclear armament in the Far East, the better off the world will be. I do believe we need to work very closely with our allies there on nuclear — on missile defense. Our missile defense systems are getting better and better because of the money that we have been spending over the past five years.
The key to success there in North Korea is to convince all the parties that it's not in their interest that North Korea have a nuclear weapon, which we have successfully done. The key is to have South Korea, China, Russia and Japan sitting at the table with the United States, saying the same thing to the North Koreans, that there is going to be consequences if you continue to test for a nuclear weapon.
And we're making progress. The problem is it's a little frustrating for people — diplomacy is a little frustrating for people because things don't happen overnight. So it's a constant effort to keep people bound together. And the best way to do it is to remind them of what the dangers will be to the stability in the Far East if there's either a nuclear arms race or somebody, you know, uses a nuclear weapon.
The other thing that's important to remind our friends and allies is that, if there's tremendous human suffering like there is in North Korea, that it should affect all our consciousness and our souls, and that hopefully some day that we can convince Kim Jong-Il to open his society up and let the world come and help the people who are starving and free their concentration camps and give people a chance for a decent life.
HANNITY: The day after Election Day — I mentioned it earlier — the race for your job begins. On the Democratic side, it seems pretty clear that Hillary Clinton will run and most likely be their nominee. What are your thoughts on her, and do you think she could win?
BUSH: My thoughts are that the day after the Election Day will be the beginning of a lot of people trying to get me to become a political consultant. And what I want people to know in Congress and more particularly at home and around the world, is that I'm going to be president up until the very last day.
And I've got a lot to do. I've got a lot to do to help, you know, create the conditions so that a future president will be able to help fight this War on Terror, will be able to fight this War on Terror successfully. I got a lot of work to do to keep our allies bound together to deal with these problems that you've just mentioned, like North Korea and Iran.
And we've got a lot of work to do at home, to bring — to make sure our budgets are sane so that the deficit continues to shrink, to keep taxes low, to keep the economy growing. And so, you know, I probably need to discipline myself starting today.
HANNITY: Right now?
BUSH: Yes, I'm sorry, not to become somebody who's going to opine on different candidates. It'll be interesting to observe, but I promise you, I'm going to sprint to the finish, Sean. I've got a lot to do. And a president can get a lot done in his last two years.
HANNITY: You've been at this six years. What do you like best about your job? What do you like least about your job?
BUSH: Let me start with the least. I don't like the tone in Washington, D.C. I feel like that the politics has gotten ugly and that tends to discourage people around the country. And that's just too bad.
I would hope in my last two years I can — and, by the way, I've never really resorted to name-calling. And I'm not trying to say, well, you know, I'm innocent and everybody else is guilty. That's not what I'm trying to say. But I understand that it's one thing to disagree with a person, but it's another thing to have to resort to kind of shameless name-calling. And I really don't think it's fitting for the president to drag the presidency into that kind of a mudslinging.
On the other hand, it's important for the president defends what he believes, you know, in a way that brings honor to the office. But Washington's a lot — it's just too — it's too political in many ways.
The other thing I don't like about Washington is I really don't like kind of all the lobbying and, you know, special interests and favors that get done by both parties.
It's — what I do like about the job is, one, I like to be the commander in chief of a military that has earned my utmost respect. I am — you know, when I go to a hospital and meet a kid who's lost a leg and says, "I want to go back into combat," I'm — first of all, I have a little trouble talking about it because I get so emotional, but I am amazed that we have produced such amazing people.
I enjoy making decisions. You know, there's something exciting about reading and studying history and realize you're making history with it. And one of the lessons, by the way, about when you read history is that, after your presidency, you know, it's going to take a while for the historians to fully understand the decisions you made, if you're making big decisions, and so therefore you don't worry about history.
I like to say there's a portrait of George Washington in the Oval Office. I often look at him. I've read three history books about him. And if they're still analyzing the No. 1 guy's presidency, old No. 43 needs to not worry about it.
HANNITY: I think that's a good point.
BUSH: But I enjoy it. I love our country. And I enjoy the fact that Laura and I are happy, as well. And it may seem counterintuitive to some of your listeners that you could be happy and be the president, but we are very joyful, very grateful and we're having a wonderful time, you know, as people who love each other.
HANNITY: Last message you want to send to the voters?
BUSH: Well, obviously, I would hope they would vote for, you know, vote for our folks, because I truly believe we've got the plan to keep the economy growing and the best plan to protect the American people from attack.
HANNITY: Mr. President, thank you for being with us.
BUSH: Yes, sir.
HANNITY: I appreciate it. Good to see you.
BUSH: Enjoyed it.
HANNITY: Thank you.
COLMES: And we'll have more of Sean's exclusive interview with President Bush in just a moment.
HANNITY: Now more of my exclusive interview with President Bush. It's more the personal side of our commander in chief.
HANNITY: Mr. President, good to see you.
BUSH: Sean, thanks. Thank you.
HANNITY: Can you believe it's your last campaign? You're out there campaigning. It seemed like you were running again.
BUSH: Well, you know, this is my, gosh, fourth campaign — well, I've run four as the candidate to head my ticket, and I've then run a couple when I've been trying to help my ticket. And this will be the last one. And it's nostalgic.
On the other hand, when I get out there in the crowds, I feed off the crowds. I've got something I want to tell them and I really enjoy it. It's exciting.
HANNITY: Now, one of the things — you're in the sixth year of your presidency.
HANNITY: You know, what are you most proud of? Do you ever take time to think about it?
BUSH: Well, I'm proud of the fact that we're taking a fight to the enemy and not going to relent. See, I — this enemy felt like we were soft and weak and if they attacked us, we would, you know, maybe try to negotiate with them or not take the fight to them. And we've been relentless. And so I'm proud to be the commander in chief of a fabulous military that understands the stakes.
I'm proud of the No Child Left Behind Act. I truly believe that's going to help kids who heretofore have just kind of been shuffled through school. I think it's going to help people realize the vast potential of the country.
And I'm proud of the fact that I'm president of a country where people are volunteering more and more hours to help...
BUSH: ... to help make the country great.
HANNITY: Do you think, because you've got to be so busy — do you have to think, all right, do you agonize over the decisions you've made? Do you ever say, "Maybe I shouldn't have done that or this or…"?
BUSH: No, I'm always asking questions, "Could we do things better?" But on the big decisions, the decisions to cut taxes or the decisions to take on the enemy in Afghanistan or Iraq, I feel very strongly it was the right decisions.
HANNITY: Last time I spoke to you, you said, "Sean, being president is about making decisions."
BUSH: Yes, that's right.
HANNITY: Because that's what you do.
BUSH: That's right.
HANNITY: So maybe for our audience — because this is the personal side of the interview.
HANNITY: Bring them into that Oval Office. It comes to your office, sort of the buck stops there?
BUSH: Yes, the — first of all, in order to make good decisions, you have to understand the principles that you believe in. You know, one principle, for example, is that you can spend your money better than the government can or that, if you have more money, it causes the economy to grow.
The other principle is that freedom is universal; in other words, it's not negotiable. It doesn't — you know, it doesn't belong just to the United States. It's universal.
BUSH: Secondly, you've got to have good people around you that are capable of giving you good advice. In other words, you've been in the Oval Office. It can be slightly intimidating. And you want to make sure you have people come in there that say, "Look, here's what I believe."
And, thirdly, then you have to be able to make a decision. And making a decision means you're thoughtful, you listen, you think a lot about it. But when you decide, you decide.
And, fourth, it means you've got to have a team that, when you make the decision, it is, "Yes sir, Mr. President," and they carry out the decision you make. And, now, on a strategic decision such as going into Iraq, we're constantly adjusting on the ground to make sure that we're able to achieve our goals.
And that's — so, in other words, it's important to be flexible, but it's important also not to make decisions based upon what, you know, somebody thinks you ought to do or some poll or some focus group. You've got to base it on solid principles.
HANNITY: That's why polls have never mattered to you.
BUSH: That's right.
HANNITY: Every time I've spoken to you, you've talked about how your faith guides you in your decisions...
HANNITY: ... and how people praying for you gives you strength.
BUSH: Yes, I think my faith actually guides me in my life. You know, I believe I pray to a god of peace and a god of love and a god of compassion. People say, "Well, if that's the case, then how come you're after the enemy?" It's because I also believe that my main job is to protect the American people from evildoers, from people who will cause everybody pain.
So I pray to God for comfort and strength, and the prayers of the people really matter a lot to me. They really do. I cannot tell you how sustaining it is and how comforting it is to know that millions of citizens, such as yourself, say a prayer for little old me, and it matters a lot.
HANNITY: In that sense, is the position of president — because you know, the day after Election Day, the race for the White House in 2008 begins the very next day.
BUSH: That's right.
HANNITY: Is it a position you can strive for? Is it a position that is destiny-oriented?
BUSH: You know, I don't know. That's an interesting argument. I never wanted to be president. I mean, in other words, I never said — obviously, until I decided to run. But I never said, "Gosh, if I only positioned myself in the eighth grade or to be the class whatever, in order to be able to parlay that to be the class president when I'm a senior."
In other words, I never really was one of these politically ambitious people. I was obviously inspired by my dad, who I love dearly. I think the thing that was most inspiring is, is that he was able to keep his family a priority, in spite of the fact that he was in public service.
But I — you know, I think, first of all, you have to make up your own mind you want to be president. Nobody can make it up for you. I do believe, if you're a person of faith, that once you make up your mind, there's something comforting to know that, win or lose, there's unconditional love and, certainly, the gift my dad gave me, as well.
You know, I don't know. There's just an interesting argument. I think mankind has to be very comfortable about ascribing to God, you know, kind of human answers. In other words, God is bigger than humans.
HANNITY: Do you remember the moment where you thought or knew that this was the right thing for you to do?
BUSH: Well, I did. You know, there was a moment at a church service when I was being inaugurated as governor for a second time, and a friend of mine, Mark Craig, a Methodist preacher, preached a sermon about needing to — public service really is what he was talking about, the need to bring, you know, certain morals to public service.
And my mother kind of nudged me at the time and said, "I think he's talking to you." And it was a really inspiring moment.
HANNITY: And that was the moment?
BUSH: Well, it was a really inspiring moment. Listen, I thought long and hard about the presidency. I was governor. Everybody was — we had a pretty good record as governor of Texas. People were speculating. There was a lot of questions, you know, are you going to run, not going to run? In the '98 campaign, I was asked more about the presidency than I was about my second term as governor.
And so I was wrestling with it in '99, and, you know, I thought a lot about it, and thought about the consequences for the girls and Laura. But this man's sermon and — really spoke to me. And I was — I pretty much decided, you know, right about that time that this was the right thing to do.
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