This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Sept. 7, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: I had the chance to sit down with the former president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush.
HANNITY: It's got to be harder to watch your son be president than be president.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is far worse when they go after your son, and I would say unfairly a lot of the time, than when they used to when I was in the crosshairs and would get condemned and criticized. You know, even when I thought it was unfair about me, it hurts much more when it's your own son. Not even a close call.
HANNITY: Not even close. Because I think about my son, who's a lot younger than yours, but I would think that's got to be a lot harder.
And you may have to go through this one more time. I just talked to that other son of yours in Florida.
BUSH: He's good.
HANNITY: He's got a lot of potential.
BUSH: They singled him out for two years ago as the No. 1 target for the Democratic Party nationally, not just for governor: for Senate, House.
Terry McAuliffe, for whom I don't -- let me put it this way -- I'm not very high on him, came and made this the No. 1 -- the No. 1 goal for the Democratic Party nationally. And Jeb won by 14 points.
HANNITY: He did. And the polls were a little closer going into that election.
BUSH: That's right.
HANNITY: And he won by a much wider margin and I guess made Mr. McAuliffe a little unhappy about that.
You know, your son said something the other day that really struck me. He really did want to go to Washington and change the tone, something that he was able to accomplish in Texas.
HANNITY: Since he's been there, and I'm not talking about the Michael Moores or the pundits on TV. We'll get to him in a minute.
BUSH: Well, good. Hurry up.
HANNITY: Former Vice President Al Gore screaming, "George Bush betrayed his country."
Ted Kennedy regularly calls the president a liar; he concocted a war for political gain.
Dennis Kucinich while running for president accused your son of targeting civilians for assassination.
BUSH: Al Byrd, for whom I used to have a lot of respect. It's very personal, Sean. It's not a question of I disagree on this or that. It's the personal attacks. And I, you know -- What can I do about it?
HANNITY: It takes a long time but have you heard the leaders of the Democratic Party that shrill?
BUSH: I've heard them shrill and I've heard some of ours shrill in the past. But I've never felt the climate like it is now nor the shrillness of the political opposition.
HANNITY: It hurts?
BUSH: Well, yes, you expect some of it, but when it's your son and they call him a liar and they impugn his motives, it hurts a lot.
You think I feel strongly about it, talk to Barbara Bush. Of course, she just tells me not to watch and all of that, but I can't not watch.
HANNITY: I read recently that she won't read The New York Times anymore. And...
BUSH: She doesn't.
HANNITY: ... tells you to stop whining about it when you do read it.
BUSH: Yes. Well, I still do read it and I'm whining more and much more publicly than I used to.
BUSH: Because I think they've gone too far. I think they're advocates for the Democrats. I think they have lost their objectivity that they did have many years ago. I think there's a certain arrogance amongst a lot of their people.
You know, you expect this on the op-ed page. You've got people on there that smear George and slam him every day. But that's different.
But when the news columns, when you see subjectivity creeping into the news columns, it concerns me.
BUSH: And they'll deny it's happening. And I say, "Well, too bad. I think it is."
HANNITY: You saw back at the convention, the protesters, Michael Moore conspiracy theorists about the Bush family. You even commented publicly about him.
BUSH: He's bad. And you know, I didn't go to see his movie. And so he'll say, "Well, how can you criticize me when you didn't see it?"
We've had tons of people go to see it. It's just my problem I don't want to pay one dime, some of which might eventually end up in his pocket.
But he is a below the belt guy. He knows because my family are public persons we don't have any access to making him tell the truth.
He made some comment, I understand, in his documentary that's got him all kind of liberal fame that we got a billion or two hundred million dollars out of the Saudis or we were enriched by that. But he does it very cleverly, gets it in a way that there's no libel.
I don't know him and I don't want to know him. And I don't want to meet him and I don't like his movie. And I'm not going to see it. How's that for fairness?
HANNITY: Would you like to fill in for me on my talk show?
HANNITY: That's offering strong opinions.
Zell Miller, when he spoke at the Republican Convention, had some incredibly harsh criticism of the Democratic Party. And asked, "Where is the bipartisanship when we need it most?"
He's talked about a manic obsession to bring down your son, our commander in chief. He said they're motivated more by partisan politics, by national security. Today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator.
Do you see a shift and a change? I mean, we had in years gone by FDR and JFK and Truman and the modern Democratic Party?
BUSH: Well, I'd defer to Zell Miller about the shift and change because he was one and now he's not. And he's watched, he's worked with them in his own party.
And, as Reagan said, the party left him. That's what Reagan said about the Democrats.
So I think he spoke from the heart. It was a powerful speech. I see some of the pickers of nits are trying to get him now. But he's tough and he's strong.
And I had the chance to tell him after his speech. He came up and we sat next to each other for a while. But I thought it was one of the best speeches I've ever heard.
And now the pundits: Did he overdo it? Has he gone too far?
Come on. We've been getting hammered for months in the primaries, outrageous charges on the floor of the United States Senate. And this guy stands up and speaks from the heart and they're trying to downgrade him.
HANNITY: Yes, it seems like it's been that way. It's been almost a full year of nonstop criticism.
HANNITY: And the Republicans get their case back and it's like the tone has changed. It's like, where have people been the last three months?
BUSH: Remember that story about the lion ate this poor guy and they buried him in the coliseum up to his neck. And they turned the lion loose.
The lion came over and ran by him. And he reached up with his mouth and grabbed the lion by his private parts. And the lion screamed and ran away. And the centurion came up: "Fight fair, fight fair," while hitting the guy on the head.
That's what they're doing.
HANNITY: It seems like it.
As contentious as it is, you were involved in a revolution, when President Reagan and when you were vice president. And you proposed your economic plan and you were going to cut taxes, a lot of people predicted a depression would ensue.
HANNITY: You had the longest period of time of peacetime economic growth, 20 plus million jobs were created.
When you decided to build up our military and what president Reagan called the gap of vulnerability and confront the Evil Empire, there were those that predicted World War III would ensue. But we know what happened; the wall came tumbling down.
BUSH: Yes, yes.
HANNITY: So there is a lot of criticism. Is it similar? I mean, if you look.
BUSH: I think there's some similarity from the critics, some of the same critics.
HANNITY: Ted Kennedy, your friend. Your friend, Ted Kennedy.
BUSH: Yes. My friend, Ted. We have a pleasant personal relationship. But you know, when he goes after the president in a personal way, I don't like it one darned bit and he knows that.
And I thought Schwarzenegger's speech the other night was outstanding and probably not easy for him because he has family connections there.
In fact, I felt that Maria was pretty darned good to show up there. Clearly she was conflicted. She loves Arnold and yet she has a great relationship with the family.
But when you get down to the issues or assigning motives to somebody, I think the president and Schwarzenegger did great and I think Zell Miller did great. So did Rudy.
He hasn't wavered an inch since he got on that pile of rubble with that fireman and put his arm around him and told the world, "We will respond."
BUSH: You know what touches me Sean? I admit to living in somewhat of a cocoon as a former president, but I go out of my way to say hi to these policemen and the firemen there.
And I'll tell you, the ones that I talk to were saying, "We're for your son. We're for the president."
One of them whipped up the back his lapel and he had a big George W. button.
HANNITY: These are the same guys that tell me they watch Fox News every night.
BUSH: Well, I'm sure they do.
HANNITY: I'm not surprised.
BUSH: But these people are not elitist country club people. They're saving our lives with their service.
BUSH: And when they say, "We're for the president,"
I'll tell you, I get very emotional about it.
HANNITY: Here you have the battle against the Evil Empire and the Soviet Union, and you were a former CIA director. Did you ever think we'd get hit that hard?
BUSH: No, of course not. Never. And it kind of irks me a little bit with the ex-post facto critics going, "We should have known this or should have known that."
BUSH: On the other hand, I'm a great believer in the CIA and I don't think they get credit for the many things they do right.
I came in there after the Church Committee hearings to run the agency, and the agency had been decimated by people revealing the names of agents. And you know, it was terrible, because they weren't looking at the whole picture.
HANNITY: One of the things, I guess we've spent a year, and even your son recently said, quote, he used the term "miscalculations."
If you're engaged in a war, you can't prepare for every contingency. Do you think the war has been politicized is probably a better way to ask the question?
BUSH: I think it has to some degree. I think a lot of it's because the election is on. The Kerry campaign has not wanted to do what Howard Dean wanted to do. And so I think they're trying to fine-tuning argument or something of that nature.
But yes, I do think so. I'm not sure it's all sticking with the American people, however.
HANNITY: How do you feel about what happened with France and Germany? I mean...
BUSH: Just a terrible disappointment. When they needed us, we were there.
HANNITY: Have they forgotten?
BUSH: I don't think the people have. I haven't read the polls over there, but I think if it were put properly to them the people would not have forgotten. Maybe some of the younger generation has.
But when I was given some credit for the reunification of Germany with Helmut Kohl and Gorbachev and all of that.
And I'll tell you that I've been to Germany a couple of times on that kind of ceremonial thing and the enthusiasm for the United States was very, very high. And I don't think that can be dissipated by what one chancellor does.
HANNITY: Conventional wisdom about WMDs is that we know they used them against the Kurds in the north. We know he used them in the Iran-Iraq War.
Isn't it more likely those weapons did exist and were moved to Syria or are still buried somewhere?
BUSH: I'm not prepared to say there are no weapons of mass destruction for the very reasons you cite. They were used.
You know how a picture can live with you? People point to the guy standing in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square. I remember a mother, her baby in her arms, poisoned by a weapon of mass destruction and by him, by Saddam Hussein.
And, of course, they were there. And whether, you know, they're still around or sent off or whether they've been totally destroyed, I don't know.
But I think it's proper to base planning on the fact that you might be used against you. We did it in the Gulf War, Sean. We were concerned that gas would be used against our troops and relieved when they weren't.
HANNITY: Tommy Franks told me when he was going into this war, he assumed that they definitely would be used and his intelligence told us as much.
John Kerry, if you look at his record, wanted a nuclear freeze when you guys were confronting the Soviet Union.
HANNITY: You look at that record. He wanted those intelligence cuts after the first Trade Center bombing.
You look at his record. He voted against most of the major weapon systems we now use and his vacillation on Iraq.
Is he weak on defense? Does that concern you? Putting aside your, obviously, your support for your son, but his positions over 19 years?
BUSH: Well, of course it concerns me, and I think it concerns as people get to know the record, I think it concerns them. And I've been in the presidency, and you cannot have a weakened defense and still be credible, have your word credible around the world.
And so I think it's very important what the president has done and what he certainly intends to do in terms of our military.
And you can't have it both ways. I mean, support the military but have it a little weaker, that doesn't make any sense.
HANNITY: All right. You say about the Bush family, it's not about legacy. It's about duty and it's about honor and it's about service. Is that something you and the president talk about, that...
BUSH: No, but I don't need to talk to him about it, because I know what motivates him. I know what's motivated him over his lifetime.
And I'm just saying at this stage of my life, that matters, service, duty, honor, country, service to others, helping others, points of light and family. And in my case, with our two public figure sons, it's a pretty easy fit.
HANNITY: And you're proud of them and you said you think he'll win substantially.
BUSH: I do. I honestly believe it. But you know, I could be wrong. Heck, I thought I'd win. And only Mary Matalin and I did.
Look at it this way: The Lord works in mysterious ways, Sean. And if I'd have won, I doubt that the president would have been president today, maybe in the future and Jeb might not be serving admirably in his second term as governor.
HANNITY: Do you think Jeb will one day be president?
BUSH: I've not talked to him about it. I want to, because he's two years into his final year as governor. But I don't think he has any plans for that nature and if he has no plans, why, it isn't going to happen.
HANNITY: I've tried to get him to answer that question a number of times.
BUSH: You did.
HANNITY: He's not so quick to answer.
BUSH: Well, if you asked would he be a good president, there's no hesitancy to say he'd be a very strong, principled president, because he's done that as governor.
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