This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," October 10, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Former presidents Bush and Clinton have raised $100 million so far in their joint effort to help Katrina victims. And we caught up with former President Bush in Port Sulphur, Louisiana, as he toured the devastated Gulf Coast states.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Mr. President, thank you for sitting down with us.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Greta, I'm very pleased to be here. It's very emotional for me, but I appreciate your taking the time.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. President, it's always so much better to come and see it. At the end of the day, you know, what are you going to remember about this?
BUSH: I think the heartbreak. Yesterday, we met with a lot of the people over in Mississippi, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, and you know, you just feel empathy for that. Here, it's the physical devastation. I mean, you fly down from New Orleans (search) down here, why, it's just hard to believe — great big shrimp boats up on their sides or way inland, barges. And the impression I've got today is less about the people — because I haven't been seeing that many, and more about just about the total devastation and how long it's going to take to have this area recover.
And it's important. You got the oil industry. You got the fishing industry. You got the environment. You got a lot of reasons that it has to come back. But the spirit of the people working the problem is one of the things I take away. The FEMA (search) people, they took a hit, but they are wonderful, dedicated, unselfish people. And I met with some of them the other day. They were sitting there at their little computers, trying to get the people to come in and register. They call it register.
I said, What are you talking to her for? Well, she's checking to see when she gets an opportunity to get money, assistance. And this one over here needs health. And this one need something else. And they're reaching out. And the same is true here, with General Honore and Admiral Allen. These are top-flight, dedicated people. And it shifts down the chain.
Just a minute ago, I saw two young soldiers standing there. Where are you guys from? We're from Arkansas. What are you doing here? Well, we're just trying to help out. We're helping out with the security. Last night at our table, Arizona, a girl across from me, woman across from me was from Texas. Then the guy from Arizona, then one down the road, a bunch of them from South Dakota. And these are Guardsmen, and they were sent down here, but they want to come. They want to help.
VAN SUSTEREN: And there are civilians, too. I mean, it's not just the guards, FEMA employees. Civilians are down here from all across the country.
BUSH: They are. I call it being one of the thousand points of light, you remember, the propensity of one American to help another. So this is the message I get from it. Plus, the enormity of the challenge of bringing it all back.
And respect for the people. I mean, there's been too darn much criticism of some of these general officers and political people that are trying to help. The time for the blame game is over, and the time to keep doing what I'm seeing now, pulling together for recovery and helping people, is here at hand.
VAN SUSTEREN: When you see the people here on the ground, everybody is working. And it's not a 9 to 5 job, and it's not fun. None of it. They're working hard.
BUSH: They're ready to go to the offshore rigs, these little houses, metal houses. Here they are, three decks high, with beds. And these guys are doing this because they're caring.
VAN SUSTEREN: How do we make sure the American people don't sort of get Katrina fatigue and forget about it? I mean, you see the horrible pictures and the water the first couple days, but after a while, we move on.
BUSH: It could happen. The attention of the American people could diminish or be diverted, but I don't think that the governments at all levels, federal, state and local, will be diverted because it's so important.
Bill Clinton and I faced the same problem a little bit with our support for what went on out in Indonesia and the tsunami and all that. I mean, we raised some money. We sent it to certain places. But that problem still exists. But this one's at home. This is America. This is our neighbors. And I don't think the caring is going to go away.
VAN SUSTEREN: How do we decide what to do? We have a limited amount of resources. We have Mother Nature, you know, in an environment that's very vulnerable. How do we, as a nation, decide, OK this is what we're going to do, and this is what we're sorry we can't do?
BUSH: That's beyond my pay grade, to give you an answer to that one. I don't know. I don't know the answer to it. But if I were the governor, the governor in charge of the state, I would be listening to the advice of the professionals who I rode down here with. But you know, you've got other problems. You've got to help individuals. But in terms of the restoration, I think we need to get the best possible thinking going on how to restore this great city.
You know, the city will come back. It's part of our history.
VAN SUSTEREN: It's changed in three weeks.
BUSH: Well, I haven't been here, and I'm glad to hear you say that. I assume that's the case. But it's America. I mean, we'll make it. We'll make it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is there a risk, though, that people, like, in a tornado-destroyed area says, Well, you're focusing on, you know, the Gulf states. What about us? You know, we're sitting up here with a tornado. What do you say to those people?
BUSH: Well, I say to you, You go down and take a look at Louisiana and the Mississippi coast and some parts of Alabama, and then compare your own distress to theirs. Now, on an individual human basis, some family basis, it would be just as bad, but in terms of the total devastation, this transcends any hurricane that I've ever known about or any tornado.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are you surprised at the response? I mean, Americans sort of always sort of rally, you know, in terms of, like, you know, help out.
BUSH: No, I'm not. Maybe I'm too old-fashioned, but no. I think when America gets in trouble, Americans want to help. And I think that's what we're seeing here. And now, some of them, that's their job — the military, the sheriff's office. But there's something that's driving it. There's something that's driving it, and we're going to make it. We're going to recover. We're going to help people. And it's very, very oppressive and for me quite emotional to see this propensity of one American to help another.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ever seen anything like this?
BUSH: Never. Never. And you know, I'm old. I remember the hurricanes coming in when I used to be in the offshore drilling business, and we had some devastation, but nothing this widespread. It was terrible.
I'm going over to southwestern Louisiana today, to Cameron, and I'm looking forward to going there, not that I'm going to see a lot of people and all, but just so I get firmly imprinted in my mind the total devastation of these two storms, Katrina (search) and Rita.
You know, I don't have that much to do with it anymore, but I'm learning a lot, and I think it'll make me a little more sensitive when it comes to helping to raise money for the Bush-Clinton Fund. And we're going to have a machinery set up to get the funds out, relying on the advice from governors and all of that. But I'm going back with some ideas as to where we possibly can help, but I don't want to be in the business of saying, You get a grant and you get a grant. That's not what we're doing. I think I know a good one from a bad one now much better.
VAN SUSTEREN: The job of an ex-president sounds like a fun one.
BUSH: It is.
VAN SUSTEREN: You get to help, and you don't have to make the horrible decisions.
BUSH: Well, I don't make any decisions at all, and I miss that, Greta, to some degree. But I'm blessed by having a son who's making all the decisions and taking a lot of blame, and I think very, very unfairly. But that's what a proud father should think. But I also happen to be knowledgeable, having been president myself. So for me, though, it's more about it being a dad than it is, you know, trying to mastermind what the administration should be doing to further assist the people of southern Louisiana.
VAN SUSTEREN: Can you ignore sort of, I mean, the criticism?
BUSH: No. No, I can't ignore it. I don't like it. And I know it goes with the territory, and I got plenty of my share of it, including one hurricane down in Florida. But when your family is criticized, it's far — I mean, this is personal, but it's far worse than when I used to be criticized. But he's strong and this goes with the territory and he knows that, and he never whines. He never complains. And they can pile on all they want, and he's going to do what he thinks is right. So that's a father talking. And a proud one, at that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Coming up, more of our interview with President Bush. He goes "On the Record" about the nomination of Harriet Miers (search) to the Supreme Court.
VAN SUSTEREN: We sat down with the former President Bush this week, and he told us what he thinks of critics on TV taking aim at his son, the current President Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Well, I don't watch too much anymore. Barbara doesn't watch it at all, she gets so damn angry but, you know, everybody's got a job to do. But I'm incensed with some of the things that are written. On the other hand, I know that goes with the territory. You've got to have critiques. Everybody's got to have their moment in the sun by making the fiercest criticism, or once in a while, saying something nice. But — as I say — I'm lucky, very lucky now, because at this stage in my life, 81 years old, I feel good. I've got my health. I've got a wonderful family. But I don't get involved as much as I used to in policy. I don't get involved in policy at all on the federal level.
VAN SUSTEREN: I assume you discuss it, though, maybe not with your son but with others. I mean, you still are interested in it.
BUSH: Oh, yes, vitally interested. But I'm not too knowledgeable on what you do to restore the pristine nature of the marshes here, to get the inundation of saltwater out of there. I don't know anything about it. And I'm disinclined to learn more about it at this juncture because I have such confidence in the people that I came down here with, who all of them know a lot about it, the Corps of Engineers and others. So you see, I can step back. Maybe it's a luxury, maybe it's being selfish, but I can sit back a little bit and stop short of trying to solve all the problems of the world. I had a chance. I did my best. I got defeated. And I went on to a very, happy life, a proud dad, proud of two sons in politics and then three that aren't in politics, equally as proud of them. So what more can you ask at this stage?
VAN SUSTEREN: You can be critical without being personal, that...
BUSH: I wish it could. I wish it could.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's over?
BUSH: Oh, yes. No, it's very personal. I don't now, and it was when I was there. I don't think there's a huge change in that. But again, I come back to it. It's your family, and you feel it right in your heart. You feel it right in your heart. You wonder, I wish I could do something about that, and you can't.
VAN SUSTEREN: And it's easier when it's you than when it's the other family member?
BUSH: Much easier when I was in the crossfire. And I was. You got to go back to 1992, when I lost to Bill Clinton. I mean, I was inundated with bad press and criticism from the opposition, criticism from people in my own party. But I could fight back. I was the guy, as Teddy Roosevelt said, in the arena. Now I'm on the sidelines, watching, but I don't think there's been an enormous change in the adversarial relationship between the press and the political people. And I don't think there's been an enormous change in the adversarial relationship, Democrat to Republican, or independent.
But I must confess, I get a little annoyed with some of the criticism of the president from some of his own people. I mean, I've been there and I know what it's like, but it's not very much fun.
VAN SUSTEREN: How about the controversy over the nominee for the Supreme Court?
BUSH: Yes, before people even know what she thinks, jumping all over her. Come on, let's be fair about things!
VAN SUSTEREN: Let's wait to see what she says.
BUSH: Absolutely. I know because I know her and I have ever confidence in the world in her. But for those questioning, well, who are they to, you know, go out and get their 30 seconds on FOX News, when they don't even know the person? They don't even have any idea what she thinks, climbing all over her. Oh, I'd give you some names, but I'm kind of out of that business, except if we want to go down the editorial page of The New York Times or go on to some of these people that are on these networks knocking the socks off the president. I won't do it, anyway.
VAN SUSTEREN: Any final word for the people of the Gulf states? Any thought?
BUSH: No, except we love you and we just wish you all the best. And I can't pretend that Barbara and I understand what they're going through in terms of the human loss, human heartbreak. But having been here and seeing this devastation, maybe I got a little better feel of it. And so I'll go back and talk to Barbara, and we'll say our prayers.
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