Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush 'On the Record'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," October 14, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Get ready. You are about to see something great--two former presidents still on the job, still working for you.

You are going to go live to Galveston, Texas, now, for a rare joint interview with former president George H. W. Bush and former president Clinton. We met up with the two former presidents who are working to help the victims of hurricane Ike.


VAN SUSTEREN: It is always-I don't know if "interesting" is the right word, but to see the two of you together. It means that there is a cause, a reason. You both came down here to Galveston by helicopter?

GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We came down from Houston, and we are going back there. And where are you going back to?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I am going to stop in Dallas and then go home tonight, I'm going home.

VAN SUSTEREN: What did you see by helicopter, because I know we see you on the ground, but what was it like by helicopter?

BUSH: They took us over the whole peninsula, and the devastation it just--like this. It is wiped out. It is hard to describe it.

CLINTON: We flew over Bolivar Peninsula, which is now an island, cut off, and every house on the peninsula but one was destroyed.

VAN SUSTEREN: Both of you were at Katrina in helicopters. Is there a way to compare and contrast? Is it bizarre to try to compare two natural catastrophes?

BUSH: That's a good question. I do not know.

CLINTON: Katrina hit over a wider range of the Gulf Coast, although this did hit a lot of the rest of the Texas coast and some of Louisiana, southwest Louisiana.

But this was the third most expensive hurricane damage in America after Katrina and Andrew in 1992.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is as if the media has not paid as much attention to this one.

BUSH: No. You guys are competing with a bad economy and an election. So you have other events that seem to be dominating understandably. So that is one that we thought that we should try to help anyway here in some way.

VAN SUSTEREN: Where we are standing, I am told, I thought the houses over here were beach houses. But I'm told pre-Ike that these were not the beach houses, that the beach houses are out in the water.

CLINTON: That is a correct. This is a road here that separated these houses from those.

VAN SUSTEREN: So the storm surge came in and washed it away or buried it.

BUSH: Washed it away.

CLINTON: It took the houses and also took an enormous amount of beach away. Can you see where the concrete is? We lost 150 feet of beach her going out this way.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any way to measure the damage to the infrastructure? I understand that the program that the two of you are trying to work on is to try to rebuild the infrastructure. Have you quantified how much the damage is?

BUSH: We have not totally.

CLINTON: No, because when we say infrastructure, we also mean the housing and public housing, the 100 year old sewer system in Galveston.

And what we are trying to do is to identify areas where the federal government will not fully fund it. Maybe we can help the communities with local math and things like that to put people back to work in a hurry and get people back to normal. But one of the things that we know that we have no way of costing is that they want to rebuild this beach and then put in a barrier system that will stop the sand from eroding away in the future.

VAN SUSTEREN: That costs lots of money.

CLINTON: It also puts lots of people to work. So I hope that Congress will make it possible for them to do that. If all of these economists keep recommending that we need an economic stimulus, this would be the best place to spend it.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of the devastation here, it goes all of the way up to Ohio. Everybody got hit with this storm, with Ike, and no attention, or relatively low attention.

BUSH: Galveston got hit the hardest, I think. It was less damaging when it left the Texas coast. Louisiana was hit hard. Our fund tried to help. It is wiped again. So it is down in the Gulf Coast area, and then other places were hit, you're right.

VAN SUSTEREN: If people are watching, and people are watching, the fund that you have, what can they do to contribute to it?

CLINTON: They can contribute to, and know that we will spend this money-we have passed the emergency phase now and we are into the recovery phase.

We will spend their money on things that the federal government programs will not cover, where there will be gaps in the coverage, and we want to help these folks go back to work and rebuild their lives.

And you're right. People did not watch, I think partly because everybody got out of there, so the death toll seemed lower, although there are still 40 missing people. A lot of people died.

And this is the third costliest hurricane disaster in history, it just was supplanted by news of financial turmoil and the presidential campaign.

But these folks deserve support. And I think those that gave to the Bush and Clinton Katrina fund and know we were very careful with their money and did a lot of good work with what they did, I hope it will help us on this.

Watch Greta's interview with former Presidents Bush and Clinton: Pt 1 | Pt 2

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. President, as we were driving in here, I noticed boats along the side of the road. Boats are not supposed to be on the side of the road. That's the same with the helicopters in the Katrina.

BUSH: That will be cleared up. Some of them will be junked, but this is the byproduct of the storm.

But what President Clinton said is correct. We will have some funds available, and we want to be sure that we do not duplicate something that some other agency, some insurance company, some other entity will pay for.

And we did that with Bush-Clinton Katrina. We waited, and got some criticism for that, not a lot. The governor of Mississippi said, not now, let's wait and see what insurance will cover.

But we will be in a position to help. That's the big thing.


VAN SUSTEREN: Coming up, more with former presidents Bush and Clinton. Does President Clinton think politics is actually cleaner and more ethical than 30 years ago? You will hear.

And, later, there is breaking news out of Florida in the disappearance of toddler Caylee Anthony. We have not reported much of this case lately, so you know the news tonight is big--an indictment for murder. We will go live to Florida.



VAN SUSTEREN: We continue now with former President George H. W. Bush and former President Clinton. We spoke to the former presidents in Galveston, Texas, where they are working to help the victims of hurricane Ike.

We were wondering, how did the two former presidents decide when and where to team up for a joint effort?


VAN SUSTEREN: You have these go teams. Do you have a go team between the two of you when something happens? Do you place a call to President Clinton or does President Clinton call President Bush--let's go do this one?

BUSH: We are just getting started. But we will have a way to get the information in there from the groups that need the help, and then we'll have to decide.

But out of this meeting this afternoon, we will have a little more structure to this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who called who to come out here?

BUSH: This is the third time we did it.

CLINTON: He did it. This is his hometown.

VAN SUSTEREN: He called you?

CLINTON: Yes. And I said, "Sign me up."

VAN SUSTEREN: How did the call go? How does that work.

CLINTON: Whatever he asks me to do I just say yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Like a call you might get from Roger Ailes-the same thing.

VAN SUSTEREN: So every time you call him he says "Yes"?

BUSH: He is very generous with his time. He is much busier than I am these days.

CLINTON: I think the most important thing is that now that have set it up and Jim Baker is going to be overseeing it, I do think it is important for the donors know that we have a very broad based and completely representative advisory committee represented by income, race, ethnicity, but also by what these people do for a living and what exposure they have to this community to give us advice about how this money should be allocated.

We are trying to do this in the right way.

VAN SUSTEREN: I realize the seriousness and the contribution, and we are all appreciative. But there also must be an incredible sense of satisfaction that you can do this.

BUSH: No question about that. If you help someone else, you are the one that is helped the most. We both feel that way about the charitable work we are involved in.


BUSH: And we both try to do a lot of other stuff. But working together on this has been extraordinarily satisfying to me.

And I think it has awakened the better nature in a lot of Americans when they see two people with obviously political differences coming together to help people. That is what this is about.

And it is nice to have it out of politics, beyond the political reach.

CLINTON: We have gotten a lot more out of this than we have given-way more.

And when you have had the kind of lives we have had and the good fortune we have had, an opportunity we were given to serve, you are going to get out of life ahead.

And so I feel not only is it fun and rewarding, I think both of us feel like this is what we should be doing, that it would be boneheaded if we weren't doing it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Politics is rather rough and tumble, but when often I see these instances when you can do something without anyone shooting at you, essentially, that I would assume that is one of the reasons why you wanted to do this.

BUSH: That is right. We are in a political season. That will pass, and a new president will be there. And we will get behind the president, and to the degree that we can help, we'll try. I will, and I know President Clinton will, and get on with the problems that lie ahead.

This is not an unusual cycle. This is the way it works.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why did you go into politics?

BUSH: Why did I?


BUSH: I wanted to be a point of light. I wanted to help others. And, to some degree, I succeeded.

How about you, Bill?

VAN SUSTEREN: Why did you go in?

CLINTON: I did it for three reasons. First I love to the work. I was raised to believe it was an honorable profession and that you could really make a difference in other people's lives. And I wanted to make a difference.

And I thought I could make more of a difference there than in any other thing I could do with my life. I did it because I was fascinated by politics and the policy issues. And I did it because I was fascinated by people.

It is the only thing that you could do for a living that is like peeling an onion that has no end of the layers. Every day you are going to learn something new about people, every day you will see something different about human life.

So I did it because I wanted to. I thought it was the highest and best use of my life to try to serve other people and make a difference. I did it because it was interesting intellectually. And I did it because I like people.

And you can't do anything else that will expose you to so many different kinds of people in different circumstances. It never got boring to me.

VAN SUSTEREN: I always wish the viewers could meet people like we do in politics, because when I see both of you out here, you are still doing that. You are both out of office, but you are still helping.

I believe people go into politics to help. In some ways, to see everyone still working after leaving office, that proves that.

CLINTON: Most people--I think George would agree with this--the people we have known all over the world, once in a while you'll find a lazy person. Once in a while, you'll find a stupid person. Once in awhile, you will find a crook. Most of the people are good, honest, hard-working people who do what they think is right.

And in America that is true, because the American people I know, they are skeptical about why people are in politics. Most people who do it in both parties are good people who do what they think is right. And they do it because they believe that they can make a difference.

Don't you believe that?

BUSH: I honestly believe that. I really do.

CLINTON: I will tell you something else--politics is cleaner today than it was 30 or 40 years ago, which people also do not agree partly because you guys are doing a good job. That is, if we slip op, you tell the people.

And that's good, but the system is better today than it was 30 or 40 years ago in terms of just high standards of ethics and money.

VAN SUSTEREN: We seize on misstatements sometimes, and we will spend our whole time on that. I know that.

But we should be spending a little more time on these events.

CLINTON: I'm glad you did today, because I hope the American people will see that these folks still need some support.

VAN SUSTEREN: And indeed they do. You will have a new member in your club. Have you recruited him to help out on this?

CLINTON: I have.


BUSH: We are shifting to a younger generation. I can't wait to get him sitting here with this guy.

CLINTON: I told him there was life after politics and it would be more fun, and that he had to go to work with us.

BUSH: With you.

VAN SUSTEREN: He has to do the heavier lifting to learn the ropes, doesn't he?

BUSH: No. When it comes to helping others, he and President Clinton share the same desire to do that.

CLINTON: We will have a good time together. But we are not letting daddy off of the hook.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what I'm trying to get out of this, don't you?

CLINTON: Yes, but the answer is no.

VAN SUSTEREN: I see that he kept grabbing your arm.

CLINTON: The answer is no, you can't go.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you both very much.

BUSH: Good to see you, Greta. Thanks for coming down.


VAN SUSTEREN: And if you love seeing those two men working together, yes, they are still on the clock. And so we have so much more. Go to for more. We are posing much more. You will also hear from the former Secretary of State James Baker.

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