Dana Perino interviews George W. Bush

This is a rush transcript from "The Five," April 25, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ANDREA TANTAROS, CO-HOST: Well, as you know, it's a very special day for President Bush as his library and museum opened up in Dallas earlier today. Dana Perino was there and had an opportunity to interview 43 and get a tour of the center from the president himself. She is back with us now from Dallas.


DANA PERINO, CO-HOST: Thanks so much, Andrea.

What I wanted to do was not break any news here. I wanted to take people to meet the President George W. Bush that I knew. I mean, of course, as you know, I talk about him probably too much on the show. But he meant a ton to me.

There is a replica of the Oval Office on this library and I got to interview him there. Take a look.


PERINO: Mr. President.

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Welcome back to the Oval Office, Dana.

PERINO: It's a little eerie because it feels like I should be preparing you for a press conference.

BUSH: Exactly.

PERINO: I see you still have a clean desk which is a good policy to have.

BUSH: Yes, it is. You know, it is eerie in a sense -- we made sure that the Oval Office looked exactly like it was during my presidency. And --

PERINO: Including the flowers.

BUSH: Including the flowers. We want people to be able to come in here and get a sense of the majesty of the office. This is the only office in a museum where a visitor can sit behind the desk or, you know, play like they are making a phone call. And have their picture taken. So, I think it's going to be a real attraction.

PERINO: The last day of your presidency --

BUSH: Yes.

PERINO: -- I was there. And I came in to say good goodbye.

You said something I thought maybe I could repeat. Coming into the office on the first day wanting to make sure that you left you could look yourself in the mirror and say I stuck to my principles.

BUSH: Yes. I think that's important in life. And it's definitely important for the president to have a set of principles that one is willing to defend. And so, when I left Midland, I told the crowd of 30,000 friends, I'm leaving with a set of principles.


BUSH: I'm thankful for the principles that I learned here in Midland, Texas. I'm thankful for my friends. I will come back to see you soon. God bless.


BUSH: And when I came back in front of the same 30, although we looked a lot older, I said I didn't sell my soul. In other words, the principles are still an important part of my life.


BUSH: Through it all, I stayed true to those convictions. I'm coming home with my head held high and a sense of accomplishment.



BUSH: That's important when you are running an organization so that the people who work with you know what you believe in and know those beliefs won't change.

PERINO: It made it easier to be your press secretary.

BUSH: Well, thank you.

PERINO: Do you remember when the five presidents were here in front of this desk?

BUSH: Very well.

PERINO: I thought what a picture to the world that America can set this agreement aside.

BUSH: We're about to have the same picture. When we opened this Bush Center, you know, the president will be here, as well former presidents, members of the former president's club including President 41, which it's going to be a joyous day and a day to give thanks. But I'm particularly joyful that my dad will be there. I didn't think he was going to be there.

PERINO: A lot of us didn't.

BUSH: Yes, that's right.

PERINO: He is stronger than all of us put together.

BUSH: We underestimated him.

PERINO: I'm going to ask you about the portrait because there are replicas here. It is just like the Oval Office. Can we walk over?

BUSH: Let's do it.

PERINO: All right.

So, there's a portrait of George Washington.

BUSH: Yes.

PERINO: There's also other paintings here of Texas life. This is one of my favorites charge to keep.

BUSH: Charge to keep, yes.

PERINO: Which -- as a staff member, when you walk in from over there and then you would see that.

BUSH: Yes.

PERINO: It would -- reground you.

BUSH: This is Abraham Lincoln. This is the spot where a president puts the most influential president. In other words, your tradition for each president pick as president, and I chose Lincoln.

Now, in my case, influential president has got a lot of meaning because my dad is by far the most influential president. Now, as a matter of fact, I wouldn't be here as a former president without his unconditional love.

PERINO: Right.

BUSH: So, I tell people 41's portraits in my heart and I put Lincoln on the wall. I read a lot about Lincoln during the presidency. And came to admire him, you know, tremendously. I mean, is he a man who stood on principle.

PERINO: Right.

BUSH: All men are created equal under God. He had a great vision for the country. Leadership requires vision and principles and Lincoln is a great example of that.

PERINO: As your library opens a lot of people will be asking you again, what will your legacy be?

BUSH: Yes, I mean, it's kind of overused word legacy this, legacy that, I'm asked all the time about my legacy. My answer is, you know, it's going to take time.

PERINO: History is going to decide.

BUSH: And I'm comfortable with that, I really am. I know I gave it my all. I know I didn't sell my soul. I know we dealt with some pretty tough problems. Of course, every president deals with tough problems. I know I had a great team.

PERINO: You did.

BUSH: I did. I know our White House was a joyful place.

PERINO: Yes. That's what you used to say every day was stressful but joyful.

BUSH: Stressful but joyful. That's right. It really was. It's quite an honor to serve, wasn't it?

PERINO: Yes. Best thing of my life, by far.

BUSH: Yes, me, too.


PERINO: So that was my interview with President Bush in the Oval Office. I had a chance to talk to him some more, which we will get to later but what did you think?

TANTAROS: Dana, I thought you did a great job. You know, he's had a very joyous last month. You know, his dad looking good, the birth of his granddaughter and, of course, now, this library.

What is the one thing if you could tell the viewers at home that they might not know about the president? I have only met him a couple times and I thought he was so humble. I think a lot of people maybe missed that. What's the one thing, having known him so well that you think people should know about him?

PERINO: One of the things he taught me was forgiveness and how important forgiveness is in leadership, and I try to remember that on a daily basis. It was one of the best lessons I ever learned.

TANTAROS: Kimberly?

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE, CO-HOST: Dana, what was one of the most special moments for you today? Right from the beginning when I started watching it, I got emotional when I saw his father sitting there next to him speaking. I thought about the fact that he was ill and there today to be with him. So important to the family.

How about for you?

PERINO: There is some, Kimberly, I think it would have to be -- there is a 41 piece that was really important to me. But at the very end of President Bush's remarks, when his voice catches, that's that love for America and for his family and for gratitude for everybody that helped make those years possible, all the people that were lost on 9/11 and Iraq and Katrina, all the big decisions. I think that that captured today for me.

TANTAROS: We hear it in your voice too, D.P.

PERINO: I'm going to cry.

TANTAROS: I can tell, I can tell.

We'll be right back with part two of Dana's interview with President Bush. Don't go away.



BOB BECKEL, CO-HOST: That was a moment at the ceremony today in Dallas for the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Dana is back with us for part two of her interview with the former boss.


PERINO: Thank you, Bob.

You know, I will tell you, Bob, everybody loves you here down in Texas.


PERINO: There is the Oval Office and then there is the exhibit. I had a chance to walk through with him. You will find some touching moments here. I might cry at the end of this, too. Watch.


PERINO: OK, this is freedom wall.

BUSH: Yes, it is.

PERINO: And tell me about this freedom collection because it is the first archive of all the political dissidents writings and it's right here at the institute.

BUSH: Well, I'm one of the major causes of the institute is to advance freedom for the sake of peace. And one way to do so is to tell the stories of those who have lived in darkness.

PERINO: This day was in Arusha, Tanzania. Do you remember the girl singing the song to you?

BUSH: Yes, I do.

PERINO: You have this amazing look of love, care, and gratitude for them.

BUSH: Yes, I do. Our trips to Africa were -- opening and enabling women to have proper perspective. It really stirs your heart because you want to help. I believe the human condition matters to the national security of the United States. I believe it's important to serve others.

PERINO: You have a letter in here to a big rock star.

BUSH: I do. Bono, who became a pal. You know, he was skeptical of me and frankly I was skeptical of him. We became pals because we shared a common desire to help others on the continent of Africa. Bono is the real deal.

PERINO: You had a particular belief in freedom of the press.

BUSH: Absolutely.

PERINO: We didn't get the best press coverage necessarily.

BUSH: Gosh, I don't know why you say that.


PERINO: So you obviously remember that press conference in Iraq the shoe-throwing thing.


PERINO: I'm the only one who got hurt in the whole thing.

BUSH: That's right.

PERINO: But you were determined during that press conference you were not going to end this without taking the questions from the reporters that were there.

BUSH: Correct.

PERINO: Why was that so important for you?

BUSH: Because I think in order for democracy to function well there has to be vibrant press. And in Iraq when the guy threw the shoe, I wanted to do two things. One, I didn't want to leave to give him a slight victory. Then -- President Bush had to leave the room, therefore I achieved my objective.

PERINO: Right.

BUSH: I have also wanted to say to the young Iraqi press corps, I want to answer your questions. I'm a big believer. I didn't like some of the stuff they wrote. Of course, you had -- you don't have to read it you know, you can just.

PERINO: Do you read it now?


BUSH: Your press secretary -- not really. I mean, I know what's in the news. Most of these opinion pages are pretty predictable to begin with.

PERINO: "The Five," you've got to watch.

BUSH: All the time. What time do you come on at 4:00?

PERINO: Four, yes.

Through this institute, as a new grandfather, what is the world that you hope to continue to build for her?

BUSH: Well, I hope that little Mila who I got to hug last week obviously grows up in a world that's peaceful. You know, museum talks about history. It talks about lessons, it talks about how to make decisions, but it also is hopefully an inspiration for somebody to go out and make their community a better place. I hope little Mila grows up in it and I think she will.

PERINO: I think she will.

BUSH: Yes, the country is still going to be a generous country.

PERINO: OK. All right. This is my last question.


PERINO: Who is your biggest fan?


BUSH: Mila.


BUSH: My sweet press secretary.


PERINO: OK, Bob. I told you.

BECKEL: You are going to cry. Let me ask you a question. I ask a question? Calm down. You'll be fine.

As much as this disapproval I had with President Bush I always admired what he did in Africa. I was glad to see that piece.

Does he think -- you think -- not that he maybe cares about it, do you think enough people recognize how many lives were saved on that continent as a result of that?

PERINO: I think they are starting to. President Clinton and President Carter both spoke about it. There is a huge amount of need and President Bush was able to convince America that there is a better way to do foreign aid and that we have an obligation maybe it no one will know the numbers. It's millions of people whose lives have been saved and changed.

And the great thing is, with this institute, President Bush and Mrs. Bush are continuing that through their initiatives here at the Bush Center. It's going to last for decades to come hopefully.

BECKEL: Dana, you understand this. You've got to get out of here, they are yelling in my ear as usual.

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