Ten Minutes From Normal

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 26, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY HOST: Now for the top story tonight. Karen Hughes (search) is one of President Bush's closest friends. She has worked with him for 10 years and left the White House (search) in 2002 to spend more time with her family in Austin, Texas. But now the president's facing another tight election and Ms. Hughes is returning to his campaign.

She also has a brand new book out called "Ten Minutes from Normal." And we'll explain that title. It's very clever. And Ms. Hughes joins us now.

Does the president have a stubborn streak in him? I mean, you know, you look at the Rice situation, and you know why not let her testify? Why draw it out for two weeks and give the other camp time to bludgeon him?

KAREN HUGHES, "TEN MINUTES FROM NORMAL": Because this president cares about principle. And he was trying to find a way to balance the important principle that both he and Dr. Rice have sworn to uphold. And that's the separation of the powers of the executive and legislative branch. And I think there's a strong feeling in the White House among the attorneys and others that over the course of the last 20 or 30 years, Congress has steadily usurped the power of the executive branch. At the same time, the president very much wanted to make the facts known to the American people. He wants to cooperate with this investigation. And I'm very -- I'm actually, as her friend, very relieved for Dr. Condi Rice.

O'REILLY: Yes, but did it take them two weeks? It should have taken him two days to figure this out .

HUGHES: Because...

O'REILLY: That's all they asked for. And what they asked for was a letter saying this was not going to be a precedent and that nobody else would be intruded upon like the other counsels. But...

HUGHES: Well, they've been working to find a way...

O'REILLY: And it took them two weeks?

HUGHES: ...that they could balance the principle along with making Dr. Rice available.

O'REILLY: Now if you were there, Karen, I think it would have taken at little quicker.

HUGHES: Well, you know...

O'REILLY: You wouldn't have gotten to it quicker, right?

HUGHES: ...it's really funny, this Washington blame game business. Bill, you know how that goes. Now that I'm gone, they say, if Karen was there, it would be different.

O'REILLY: That's right.

HUGHES: When I was there, they were saying it's all Karen's fault.

O'REILLY: Well, no there's all guys there. That's the problem, these testosterone guys. You can't tell me President Bush is not stubborn. He's stubborn. He's got a stubborn streak in him.

HUGHES: He's a man of strong convictions. How about that?

O'REILLY: That means he's stubborn, ladies and gentlemen...

HUGHES: How about that?

O'REILLY: He is stubborn. Because look at the weapons of mass destruction deal. Now I had to come down on this broadcast a couple of months ago and say, you know, my analysis was wrong. And it was. All right, I believed the CIA. The CIA blew it. And I said hey, you know, that's what it's all about when you make a mistake. But we don't hear that from President Bush.

HUGHES: Well, we still don't know the final answer. And let me say a word about that. David Kay came back from Iraq and made two very important conclusions. He said we were wrong about the weapons. And by the way, we is a lot more than the Bush administration.


HUGHES: It includes a lot of people.

O'REILLY: Absolutely.

HUGHES: Former President Clinton, U.N. Security Council, president of France...

O'REILLY: Tony Blair (search).

HUGHES: ...president of Germany, every respected intelligence agency in the world. But David Kay made two points. And I warned him because of the media coverage, that the American people only heard one of them. He said one about the weapons he thinks. And there's still disagreement about that in Washington. But he also said right about the war, that Iraq was an even more dangerous place, that it was chaotic...

O'REILLY: I believe that.

HUGHES: ...that terrorists would have perhaps been able to access information...


HUGHES: ...that would have helped them with weapons of mass destruction.

O'REILLY: Well, most Americans see that. But...

HUGHES: But no -- well, I don't know that most Americans saw that, because the cover of "Newsweek" said, "We were all wrong."

O'REILLY: But the polls say most Americans understand that Saddam was a danger to the world.

HUGHES: I believe that. And I agree with that.

O'REILLY: By wouldn't President Bush come out and again disarm all of the people overseas who hate us and this political opponents by saying, intelligence wasn't right. Sometimes that happens. We're going to work to correct the problem? Wouldn't that be the best way to do it?

HUGHES: Well, I think that's what he did.

O'REILLY: No, he didn't.

HUGHES: In appointing a commission, though, what he said is we're going to look at this. And we're going to find the facts. And we're still working. I mean, we still have people working in Iraq. And well...

O'REILLY: They didn't admit their mistake there.

HUGHES: You shake your head, but I see the CIA Director. And he says we still have more work to do.

O'REILLY: Why isn't he fired?

HUGHES: And -- well he's -- because he's doing a good job.

O'REILLY: Really?

HUGHES: ...of -- he's -- we're counting on him and his agency.

O'REILLY: Well wait a minute now.

HUGHES: So we're counting on him.

O'REILLY: He's 0 for 3, though. He bombs a Chinese embassy under Clinton, all right, in Belgrade. They didn't know where it was. 9/11 happens. The CIA's caught unaware. And the weapons of mass destruction go down the drain. He's doing a good job?

HUGHES: Well, Bill, I think it should not surprise you that no one in your government -- we're all human beings. That's one of the reasons I wanted to write a book to explain we're all human beings.

O'REILLY: Well, that's true.

HUGHES: No one is perfect.

O'REILLY: One of the three big ones, Ms. Hughes.

HUGHES: One of the tragedies of the whole Richard Clarke -- what I view were distortions. And I was there. I don't believe much of what he said is accurate. And it's been a distortion. One of the tragedies of it it's led to a sense of misplaced responsibility. No one in our government was responsible for the al Qaeda attacks. Al Qaeda was responsible for the al Qaeda attacks.

O'REILLY: No -- I agree with you 100 percent on that.

HUGHES: Not the Bush administration, not even the Clinton administration. And you know, I'm not an apologist.

O'REILLY: No, I agree with you on Clarke.

But we can't say the Clinton administration...

O'REILLY: Right.

HUGHES: ...or the Bush administration.

O'REILLY: But again...

HUGHES: Or anyone in our government was responsible.

O'REILLY: If it were me, I would be more forthcoming than President Bush. Because I think it just gives his enemies more ammo. Now you are being brought back to help with the campaign. Another very tough campaign coming up. You would cede that, right?

HUGHES: Well, and when I left the White House, I promised the president, one of the things he talked to me about was will you join me on the campaign? And I said no.

O'REILLY: Right, if you said no, he was going to deport you. You were going to get -- you be living in Portugal.

But you would say that it's a tight campaign at this point, would you?.

HUGHES: It's a tight campaign.


HUGHES: And I think the electorate is very close to divided. If you look at all the...

O'REILLY: But that's what I want to ask you about. President Bush ran on a platform that said he's a uniter, not a divider. But four years after he was elected, the country is still as divided as it's ever been.

HUGHES: Well, and I think that's unfortunate. You know, what? If -- it's one of the -- my disappointments about the time in Washington. You know, I've watched him govern as a bipartisan governor in Texas. I watched him work with a Democratic lieutenant governor and a Democratic speaker.

O'REILLY: He was successful in crisis stuff..

HUGHES: Exactly. But you know, you can reach out your hand, but somebody has to take it.

O'REILLY: So what do you think is...


O'REILLY: Why do you think we're such a divided people? Why do you think?

HUGHES: Well, a lot of reasons. I think the debate is very polarizing. I think the special interests in Washington are very polarizing. They may push both parties to the extremes. The competitiveness of the news media pushes stridency. The lack of accountability in our public debate.

When you have newspapers that regularly quote people anonymously -- I have done it myself. And I admit that in my book. Myself, I have said things that are harsher under the cloak of anonymity, than I would have said if I said Karen Hughes, adviser to President Bush said about Al Gore today or Senator Kerry today. And so, I've made a vow that I'm going to speak on the record from now on. And because I think that's -- it's a small thing but it's one of the things that contributes to a debasing of our political...

O'REILLY: Well, I think you're right about the press. The press is driving the nastiness, particularly on the left at this juncture that has embraced people...

HUGHES: Well, the political leaders participate in. And I am not pointing my fingers just at the press.

O'REILLY: Right, but the press had embraced this. He's a liar, he's this, he's that, you know, and they've run with it. But the American people are divided. We are a divided nation on how we look at politics and how we look at traditional and secularism and all of that. And I'm just -- I don't know why.

HUGHES: Well, I don't know that I can answer that. I mean, I think we are a divided country. Every election certainly the 2000 election, I mean...

O'REILLY: Absolutely.

HUGHES: I sure would remember that. I mean the one thing that gets you through the last few months of that campaign is that you cling to the certainty that come election day, win or lose, and by the end, you almost - - but not quite, but you almost don't care anymore.

O'REILLY: That was agony for everybody.

HUGHES: You get to the end and you say...

O'REILLY: Right.

HUGHES: ...come election day it's over and then it wasn't.

O'REILLY: Right, agony.

HUGHES: It was awful.

O'REILLY: And that's one of the things you talk about in your book. And when we get back, we will ask Ms. Hughes about her book. She had some very interesting things in there. And I also want to talk about the culture war a little bit. And so, we'll take a quick break and come back with that. Also, we have Tyco ahead. Are these weasels going to get away with it? We'll take a look at a very bizarre trial upcoming.



O'REILLY: Continuing now with our lead story, we're talking with Karen Hughes, President Bush's close adviser and author of the brand new book "Ten Minutes from Normal."

Now the title of your book is taken from a train ride. You want to tell us about that?

HUGHES: We were on the train right after the Republican convention. And it was, you know, you rhythmically rock along very slowly. It was right after the chaos of the convention. And we came into this little town in Illinois after a very sleepy day on the train tracks. And the conductor came over the loud speaker and proudly announced, "ladies and gentlemen, we are 10 minutes from normal." 10 minutes from normal. And I turn to friends at the moment and said, "If I ever write a book...

O'REILLY: That's it.

HUGHES: ...that's the title because that's how I feel. I'm a normal person.

O'REILLY: But you're not -- you're living in a crazy world.

HUGHES: A normal person who -- as I say, I have a normal family.

O'REILLY: Right.

HUGHES: A teenage son who thinks I'm totally annoying, especially when I ask intrusive questions like, how was your day? Every parent of a teenager knows that.

O'REILLY: Yes, you don't want to bother them with that.

HUGHES: Exactly. But all of a sudden, I have a boss who is running for president and becomes the president.

O'REILLY: Plus, the world of Austin, Texas, and being a mom, and being a mother is so divorced from this ruthless -- and it is ruthless. You know it, all right. Let's get power, let's keep power.

And that brings me to my question. I think this is going to be one of the dirtiest campaigns in the history of the country.

HUGHES: Well, I hope that's not the case, but I think the evidence we've already seen from the other side, I mean when senator...

O'REILLY: You guys give as good as you get.

HUGHES: Well, but you know, we -- I think we focus on issues, Bill. When you see Senator Kerry call us crooked and a bunch of liars, you know, I take that personally.

O'REILLY: Well, I do, too...

HUGHES: I'm neither crooked, nor a bunch of liars. And we can have policy disagreements. And we can point out how Senator Kerry has flip flopped on the issues, saying he voted for the funding of the war before he voted against it. And that's different than personal.

O'REILLY: But he's going to say, well that's a lie, too. Because you're missing the nuances of his vote. You know how it goes.


O'REILLY: But I'm more interested in the fact that you have to choose what you are going to have President Bush campaign on. Now I assume he's going to go the terror war route. He has to. And the economy. Is there anything else, do you think, in this election Beside those two issues?

HUGHES: Well, this has been an interesting time in the history of our country because those -- Homeland security and national security have been such huge issues since September 11. But they've really obscured a lot of domestic debate.

There are fundamental differences between the candidates on issues liked education reform, and health care and prescription drugs for Medicare, lots of issues. I think we will discuss those in the course of the campaign, but I think the two big issues are they issues you identify.

O'REILLY: OK, so that...

HUGHES: The stakes are huge in this election.

O'REILLY: Right. That's what he's going to concentrate on.

HUGHES: My family and your family, it's who can wage and win...

O'REILLY: Right.

HUGHES: ...this war against terror relentlessly.

O'REILLY: So the gay marriage culture war issues, they're going to take a back set, correct?

HUGHES: Well, I think that there are lots of issues, again, in this election.

O'REILLY: Well, gay marriage...

HUGHES: That's important. For example, President Bush took a stand on principle but he believes that marriage is an institution...

O'REILLY: But he's not going to make that a forefront issue?

HUGHES: ...between a man and a woman. Well I think -- again, I think a lot of elections are about what voters want to be the forefront issue.

O'REILLY: That's true.

HUGHES: And since September 11, foremost I think in voters' minds and what the election ultimately will come down to is who can best protect this country, who can wage a relentless war against -- and it is a war.

O'REILLY: You bet.

HUGHES: And I want to make that point because Senator Kerry has said he's uncomfortable with the word war.

O'REILLY: When did he say that?

HUGHES: Well, al Qaeda does not share...

O'REILLY: When did he say that?

HUGHES: I saw him quoted saying that a couple of weeks ago.

O'REILLY: Oh yes?

HUGHES: He was uncomfortable with that word.

O'REILLY: Would you dig that out upstairs?

HUGHES: Al Qaeda does not share those sensibilities.

O'REILLY: Look, it's World War III.

HUGHES: We're at war.

O'REILLY: It's World War III.

HUGHES: And they declared war on us.

O'REILLY: Absolutely. I always say, you got to figure out who Usama would vote for next November, and you vote for the other guy.

HUGHES: Pretty good test.

O'REILLY: Now one other...

HUGHES: I don't think he likes President Bush very much.

O'REILLY: One of the vulnerabilities that President Bush has, which cannot be exploited by the Democratic party, is the border situation. Now you're a Texan. And now we have by the border patrol's estimate one million people coming in here a month through that border. In four years, President Bush has not secured it. Why?

HUGHES: Well, Bill, I think it's a little further back that the...

O'REILLY: No, true, but he had four years to do something.

HUGHES: ...there's been a difficulty in securing the border. And what he has done now is try to propose a realistic policy that recognizes the situation and focuses border patrol on the threat. And the true threat, the big threat, is to focus our customs and border patrol people on the possibility of terrorists crossing our border to come into our country. Not on people who want to feed their families.

O'REILLY: Do you really think he's done enough, though, on the border?

HUGHES: Well, I think he's -- I think given the aftermath of September 11, it would have been difficult. You know, we focused our resources on homeland security. We focused border crossing issues and homeland security. We're trying to make sure that people can't bring either people, terrorists or weapons across our borders. And it's has to be this focused.

O'REILLY: A million a month.

A million a month.

HUGHES: Well, and that's a concern. And that's why President Bush has proposed a policy to try to regularize and actually control the border in a way that recognizes the reality of the economy, which is that employers hire people. And they need people to do labor in the economy...


HUGHES: Recognizes that reality, while also shutting down the border.

O'REILLY: Can you stay for another segment?


O'REILLY: I want to hold Ms. Hughes over for another segment upstairs. OK? And then we'll back the show down a little bit. Because I have some more questions. And I think they're very important questions. And you are quite candidly a lot more candid than I thought you were going to be.

HUGHES: You're not meeting that mainstream media, are you, Bill?

O'REILLY: Dick Cheney "Talking Points."

HUGHES: You're not believing that mainstream media, are you? But the Nurse Ratchet description.

O'REILLY: I know -- I know you. You're not that way.


O'REILLY: And I don't believe anything the pinhead, elite media tells me. I only believe what we find out on ourselves. So we're going hold Karen Hughes over, talk about more on policy and her book in a moment. We'll be right back.


O'REILLY: Continuing now with Karen Hughes, a close friend and adviser to President Bush, whose new book is "Ten Minutes to Normal." We're holding Ms. Hughes over because the conversation I think is very worthy this evening.

Now the Tyco story that we promoted, we will do tomorrow. That is unfolding situation. And I hope these weasels get nailed, but we'll see.

Now in any book -- and take it from me, you know, I sell books.

HUGHES: You've written a number of them.


HUGHES: We sold a lot of them.

O'REILLY: More than 3 million.

HUGHES: That's terrific.

O'REILLY: You have to give people a reason to spend their $20. You know, $20 for people...

HUGHES: It's a lot of money...


HUGHES: ...absolutely.

O'REILLY: So why should I spend $20 on your book?

HUGHES: Well, I hope because you will be inspired. And you'll...

O'REILLY: Inspired how?

HUGHES: Inspired by believing that a person can make a difference. That the political process is full of people who by and large aren't the caricatures that you read about in the headlines or that get skewered in the editorial cartoons.

But a real people who -- people like me who is shopping in the grocery stores, squeezing tomatoes in the produce section while I'm on a conference call with Condi Rice and Colin Powell for the Sunday Shows. I mean, that we're real people that do the best we can, and that work hard, to try to represent our country...

But I talk a lot, Bill, about my faith and how it helps me set priorities in life, about the struggle that all of us face to balance career and family. You have that struggle yourself.

O'REILLY: Yes, I mean we all do. And...

HUGHES: And we're all thankful...

O'REILLY: But you're a pretty organized woman. But this isn't a tell-all book.

HUGHES: You don't organize teenagers very well. I'm learning.

O'REILLY: No, you have to put them in chains. You see, that's what you do. You put them in chains. And then they -- you know, they but you don't -- this isn't a tell-all book. You're not hatcheting anybody in the book. It's not a lies-lies book. It's more of an instructive book.

But tell people how you got associated with President Bush. You were a reporter. I worked in Dallas at one time. You worked at "Dallas Morning News," I think, right?

HUGHES: I worked at KCS-TV, the NBC affiliate in Dallas.

O'REILLY: OK, let me see the affiliate.

HUGHES: In Dallas/Forth Worth.

O'REILLY: How did you hook up with President Bush?

HUGHES: Well, eventually, after -- I had left journalism. After seven years as a political reporter, I found myself inspired by the political process. And a lot of reporters become cynical. I admire the people who are willing to put their names on the line and endure the spears and the bad headlines and run for office.

And so, in 1984, I left and went to work for the Reagan-Bush presidential campaign. I was a flunky. I was a peon. The Texas press coordinator never even met President Reagan, the presidential candidate that I worked for that year, but then I did a whole lot of all jobs. And - - the will consult for food political consulting. Then I became executive director of the Republican party. And that's where I first met then George Bush.

O'REILLY: The Republican party in Texas?

HUGHES: In Texas. Correct. And that's where I first met then George Bush, when he ran for governor in 1994, he asked me to come and join his campaign. And frankly, I wasn't sure that I wanted to. I thought I'd retired from campaigning. You know, that's too intense. It consumes you. And -- but I ultimately decided that we really needed to defeat then- governor Ann Richards.

O'REILLY: And so you signed on.

HUGHES: And I signed on -- and we had a wonderful time.

O'REILLY: Now you weren't always a Republican.

HUGHES: For six months...

O'REILLY: You write in your book that you voted for Jimmy Carter.

HUGHES: I did. I said when I was young and irresponsible, I sometimes behaved young and irresponsibly, as my boss once said. That was my first vote. I was in college.

O'REILLY: You don't have to apologize. Jimmy Carter was a very attractive candidate.

HUGHES: Well, but I disagreed with a lot of his policies. And I voted Republican ever since. And I am a Republican. And I have always been conservative person.

O'REILLY: Did President Bush ever yell at you? Tell me the truth.

HUGHES: Oh, sure. Oh sure.

O'REILLY: Does he yell and scream?

HUGHES: Occasionally. They used to say send Karen into the propeller, which means send me in if he -- you know, for something that was going to provoke this hot, that's the stupidest thing I ever heard.

O'REILLY: So he raises his voice and stuff?

HUGHES: But then -- oh, sure. He'll say that's the stupidest thing I ever heard. What do you want to do that for? And then he would call me back about an hour later and say, now why did you propose that? He almost always, always...

O'REILLY: Did he treat you as a woman differently than the pinhead, you know, Rover and these Kard and these guys?

HUGHES: No. He treats all of his staff. I think, by and large, well not only Bright and launch.

O'REILLY: Except Condoleezza Rice.

HUGHES: He treats us all with great respect. He's a thoughtful person to work for. You know, people -- I've worked for him 10 years. I know him probably better than anyone except his wife and family.


HUGHES: And I am only doing this because I think very highly of him. I'm able to honestly tell you that I think more highly of President and Mrs. Bush today than I did on the day I went to work for them. And we'd been through a lot together.

O'REILLY: Well, we appreciate you coming on here. The book is "Ten Minutes to Normal," And if you're interested in the Bush campaign and President Bush and all of that, certainly going to be a bestseller. And we will see you then in the next seven months on the campaign trail. Won't we?

HUGHES: I promised the president.

O'REILLY: You're going to dodge THE FACTOR, right?

HUGHES: I'm not going to dodge THE FACTOR.

O'REILLY: All right.

HUGHES: And I promised when I left that I'd be at his side during the campaign and I will.

O'REILLY: OK, Karen, thanks very much.

HUGHES: Thank you so much.

O'REILLY: It's a pleasure to speak with you. And thanks for coming in. Good luck with you now.

HUGHES: Thank you. Great to be here.

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