Opinion: Bush 43 and Bush 41 look back and ahead--the full transcript
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Fox News’ Brit Hume, who himself recently left the ‘office’ of his anchor chair, interviewed the two Bush presidents exclusively in the White House the other day, a kind of dual White House farewell for the father-son political duo, and the tape was aired this morning on ‘Fox News Sunday.’
Rather than slice it and dice it, we decided to publish the whole text here for Ticket readers to peruse or skim at their leisure, in case you forgot to set your TiVo.
Hume’s skill at open-ended questions almost always proves revealing, even when the subject can’t think of an answer. (We’ve also got a video below of an interview that First Lady Laura Bush had with FNS recently.)
Q Mr. President, thank you for doing this.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sir.
Q Welcome back to FOX News Sunday.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir.
Q Less than two weeks to go -- how do you feel?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I’ve got mixed emotions. I’m going to miss being the Commander-in-Chief of the military. Earlier the past week I had the honor of having a military parade that said goodbye to the Commander-in-Chief and it was an emotional moment for me and Laura.
THE PRESIDENT: Just because I’ve got such great respect for the men and women who wear the uniform and I’ve been through a lot with them. I have called upon them to do hard tasks. I have met with the families of the fallen. I have been to Walter Reed to see the wounded. And I have been incredibly inspired by their courage, their bravery, their sacrifice.
And I’m going to miss all the folks who have made our life so comfortable here in the White House.
On the other hand I am looking forward to going back to Texas. I love Texas. I love my wife. And I’m excited about the next chapter in my life. And so all three of those things, you know, are the sweet part of the -- what’s going to take place on January the 20th.
Q People who come to see you here and meet with you, from the outside, are continually taken by surprise by your evident good humor and good mood and the fact that with low poll ratings and various troubles besetting the country and all you’ve been through, that you’re not down -- that you’re fine. And everybody remarks on it. How do you explain that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m better than fine. I am proud of the accomplishments of this administration. I am thankful for the people that have worked so hard to serve our country. I know I gave it my all for eight years. And I did not sell my soul for the sake of popularity. And so when I get back home and look in the mirror I will be proud of what I see.
Q You have said that you did not compromise your principles in the interest of popularity. How would you describe those principles?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, one principle is I believe in the universality of freedom; that there is an Almighty, and a gift of that Almighty to every man, woman and child is freedom. And therefore it’s incumbent upon those of us with influence to act upon that principle.
And I’ll give you a classic example. During the darkest days of Iraq people came to me and said, you’re creating incredible political difficulties for us. And I said, oh, really, what do you suggest I do? Some suggested, retreat, pull out of Iraq. But I have faith that freedom exists in people’s souls and, therefore, if given a chance, democracy -- an Iraqi style democracy could survive and work. I didn’t compromise that principle for the sake of trying to bail out my political party, for example.
Q Talk to me about the presidency as you found it -- its powers, its prerogatives, and how you feel you’re leaving it.
THE PRESIDENT: My presidency was defined by the attack on the country, and therefore used the powers inherent in the Constitution to defend this country.
Q Did you find them intact?
THE PRESIDENT: I found -- yes, I did find the presidential powers intact. I have at times used those powers in ways that people had not anticipated. For example, the idea of, within the law, being able to have our folks question known killers about their intention. Now, many of the decisions I made are being adjudicated. And of course I have lived by and future Presidents will live by the decisions of the Supreme Court. But as a wartime President -- what remained intact, by the way, was the Constitution, which we have honored.
Q It has been argued that what you sought to do is exactly expand the powers of the presidency, or in the eyes of some -- perhaps in the eyes of the Vice President -- to restore them. How do you see that?
THE PRESIDENT: I see the relationship between the presidency and the judiciary and the legislative branch as constantly changing throughout the history of the country. And the key thing that’s....
...important is that there still be checks and balances. And so however I interpreted the Constitution, I kept in mind what the Constitution said, the legality of what my decisions were; but I also fully understood the checks and balances inherent in our system.
Q Now, you’ve spoken of the tools that you believe you put in place and which your successor will now inherit. How worried are you -- if at all -- that those tools will be corroded, relinquished in the -- because some of them have been --
THE PRESIDENT: Slightly criticized. (Laughter.)
Q Well, to say the least.
THE PRESIDENT: I would hope that the team that is -- has the honor of serving the country will take a hard look at the realities of the world and the tools now in place to protect the United States from further attack. I would hope they would take a sober assessment -- and I believe they will.
Q And what will they find?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they will find that with a considerable amount of care and concern for civil liberties, for example, that I have put in place procedures that will enable the professionals to better learn the intentions of al Qaeda, for example. They will realize, I think when they really study the issue carefully, that we have gone from an administration that was accused of not connecting dots to an administration that is connecting dots, you know, linking pieces of information to better protect the country, with the civil liberties of our citizens in mind.
Q Now, the enhanced interrogation techniques, as some call them -- torture, as others call them-- are being argued over to this hour. Some are saying you never get any good information by rough stuff, and others have said -- more than once -- that if we hadn’t used these techniques we wouldn’t have had vital information and attacks could have been or would have been carried out on this country. Your view of that.
THE PRESIDENT: My view is that the techniques were necessary and are necessary to be used on a rare occasion to get information necessary to protect the American people. One such person who gave us information was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He was the mastermind of the September the 11th, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on our soil.
And I’m in the Oval Office and I am told that we have captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the professionals believe he has information necessary to secure the country. So I ask what tools are available for us to find information from him, and they gave me a list of tools. And I said, are these tools deemed to be legal. And so we got legal opinions before any decision was made. And I think when people study the history of this particular episode they’ll find out we gained good information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in order to protect our country.
Q Well, how good and how important? And what’s the --
THE PRESIDENT: We believe that the information we gained helped save lives on American soil.
Q Can you be more specific than that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I have said in speeches -- as a matter of fact, when this program was leaked to the press I actually gave a speech that said to the American people, yes, we’re doing this. But I also emphasized we were doing it within the law.
Look, I understand why people can get carried away on this issue. But generally they don’t know the facts. And by the way, one of the interesting things that did take place is before anything happened on this particular program that we did brief members of Congress. We had an obligation to share information with the legislative branch. And all I can tell the American people is we better have tools in place that are legal and that can help us protect the American people from an enemy that still exists.
My concern is -- not for President-Elect Obama, because I’m confident that he understands the nature of the world and understands the need to protect America. But I am concerned that America, at some point in time, lets down her guard. And if we ever do that, the country will become highly vulnerable.
Q Well, how badly would it hurt, in your view, if these enhanced interrogation techniques -- that some call torture -- were abandoned and made -- and made -- were not used?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, well, obviously I feel like it would be a problem because these are tools that we have in place. I do want to -- you know, I firmly reject the word ‘torture.’
Q I understand that.
THE PRESIDENT: Everything this administration did was -- had a legal basis to it, otherwise we would not have done it.
Secondly, everything we did was in consultation with professionals in our government who understand, you know, how to use techniques in a way that gets information with, you know, within the law, necessary to protect the American people.
And I just can’t imagine what it would be like to be President without these tools available, and we captured a known killer who might have had information about the next attack on America.
See, what some don’t understand, evidently, is that we’re at war, and it’s a different kind of war, where an enemy uses asymmetrical warfare, and they lie in wait and find a soft spot, ready to attack again. And they’re willing to kill as many innocent people as they can to advance their agenda.
Q Speaking of professionals, in the intelligence area, how do you view the selection of Leon Panetta to head the CIA?
THE PRESIDENT: I really don’t feel comfortable commenting upon President-Elect Obama’s supposed choices, in this case. My only advice would be to recognize that the CIA is full of incredibly bright, hardworking, decent professionals who have got one thing in mind, and that is to serve the United States.
Q And yet this administration, to some extent, has been bedeviled by intelligence leaks believed to have come from the CIA. They seem -- and there has been a degree of tension, I think it’s probably an understatement to say, between the administration -- or the White House, at least, and the CIA.
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don’t think so, Brit. I think that there -- I think that there have been disappointing moments when information came out of the agency that -- but the relationship has been fabulous up and down the line with the CIA.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes. I would say -- I go out there quite frequently, and -- or I have gone out there fairly often, I guess, is the best way to put it -- and 99 percent of the people out there are anxious to help the administration do its job in a good way. And you can’t stop leaks. And you don’t know how many people were leaking, but I can assure you the vast majority of people in the CIA were very cooperative and have my highest respect.
I meet with the CIA every day of my presidency, except for Sundays, since I’ve been President, at the same time -- 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, 8:00 a.m. on every other day. And I will tell you that it is a fascinating experience to be briefed by CIA analysts. It’s like taking a geopolitical course, international affairs course, every single day of the presidency.
Q You’ve had now some further occasions to meet with Barack Obama and get to know him a little bit better, a man you really didn’t know. How did you -- how did your interaction with him go?
THE PRESIDENT: It was a very straightforward conversation.
Q How did you find him?
THE PRESIDENT: How did I like him? I liked him.
Q Were you -- other than --
THE PRESIDENT: He’s obviously -- listen, the man is obviously a charismatic person, and the man is able to persuade people that they should trust him. And he’s got something -- he’s got a lot going for him.
And I was -- you know, wish him all the best. The reason we had the dinner, or the lunch -- we call them dinners in Texas -- the lunch at the White House was so that he could hear from the current President and former Presidents that we want him to succeed. And he is an engaging person, and I am very impressed by the priority he places on his family.
Q Now, your political family, the Republican Party, what do you think is its likely fortunes going forward? How have you left it? What does it need to do?
THE PRESIDENT: I think -- look, obviously we got whipped in 2008. And there will be a new wave of leadership arriving on the scene.
I can remember the ’64 elections, the Goldwater -- the Johnson landslide against Barry Goldwater, we were -- everybody said the party was wiped out. And then a whole new wave of Republicans ran, including George H.W. Bush, who got elected to the United States Congress from the 7th congressional district. Same thing will happen. But it’s very important for our party not to narrow its focus, not to become so inward-looking that we drive people away from a philosophy that is compassionate and decent.
And I would -- my call for our party is to be open-minded about --
Q About what?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, different people’s opinions. We shouldn’t have litmus tests as to whether or not you can be a Republican. And we should be open-minded about big issues like immigration reform, because if we’re viewed as anti-somebody -- in other words, if the party is viewed as anti-immigrant -- then another fellow may say, well, if they’re against the immigrant, they may be against me. We’ve got to be a party for a better future, and for hope.
Q You got -- do you see new ideas out there that have not been a part of your own agenda or those of your Republican predecessors that might reignite the party’s fortunes?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, look, I think that we shouldn’t change our philosophy. We may want to change our messaging. We definitely want to change messengers -- we need a new group of leaders. You know, but the idea of keeping taxes low --
Q Do you see them emerging? Do you see any -- do you see any emerging who you could identify?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I had one in mind --
Q Who’s that?
THE PRESIDENT: -- but he evidently didn’t agree with his older brother.
Q You’re speaking, of course, about Jeb --
THE PRESIDENT: That would be Governor Jeb Bush.
THE PRESIDENT: But listen, there will be, you know, leaders. I mean, there’s a lot of bright young guys and women in our party that will emerge. And parties go through cycles. There have been times in our political history when the Democrats have felt like there was no future for them. And you know -- and so I’m optimistic about it. I don’t want the party to feel like it’s got to sell its soul on defending the country, that freedom is transformative, that we’ve got to be compassionate conservatives, that low taxes make sense, that the military needs to be supported. I mean, there’s a lot of just basic tenets to our party that make a lot of sense to the average person.
Q You have indicated that you’ve found this job to be fascinating; everybody does. It’s probably the most interesting job in the world. Now you go from doing the most interesting job in the world to being out on your own. How do you feel about that? What do you think your life is going to be like, just sort of day to day? Will you be more time in Dallas, more time at your ranch? How do you expect to spend your time?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, it’s an interesting question. I’ve begun to think about that, because I can remember with a great sense of anticipation coming to Washington, D.C., to be the President of the United States. And I have the same sense of anticipation heading out of political life without the sense of gravity.
And so I -- I’m going to be fairly footloose for a while. I’m confident Laura will have enough tasks for me to keep me busy. But I imagine I’ll spend a fair amount of time in Dallas working on the policy center that will be associated with a library on the SMU campus, and I’m excited about that, because I do want to continue to promote not a political party, not my personality or my record, but a set of values that I think are very important for the country.
And, you know, I plan on writing a book.
Q Do you?
THE PRESIDENT: I do.
Q A history of your presidency?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I’m not quite exactly sure what it’s going to be, but I’m toying with the idea of maybe describing the toughest decisions I had to make as President, and the context in which I made them, because one of the things that --
Q How soon will we see this book, do you think?
THE PRESIDENT: That’s the kind of question I better not answer, because --
Q Well, do you feel some urgency about getting it done?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’ll say two years and it will be four. I don’t know. I mean, yes, I’d like to get it done. I am a Type A personality that -- you know, I require things to do, and I bet once I get going on this book, I’ll be able to get ‘er done. But it’s -- what’s evident to me is that it is very hard for people to remember what life was like a mere four or five years ago, and it’s going to be very important for me to recreate the environment in which I had to make certain decisions, particularly the environment right after September the 11th, 2001.
Q Mr. President, thank you for this. Please bear with us, we need to take a break. And when we return, we will have a special visitor. Stay with us.
* * * * *
Q Well, we’re pleased now to be joined not only of course by President Bush, the current President Bush, but by his father. Mr. President 41, welcome.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, Brit.
Q I believe this is the first time you two gentlemen have ever been interviewed together.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: I think so. It may be the first time we’ve been asked to be interviewed. I don’t know. (Laughter.)
Q Well, we’re delighted to have you. Thank you very much, sir.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: No, that’s not true, but we’ve just gone our separate ways on these interviews.
Q In some sense, it at least seems that during your son’s presidency, that while you guys obviously were in touch -- your family matters, much to discuss -- that apart from that, there wasn’t a lot of give and take. Is that true?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, that’s all it takes for give and take. I mean, you don’t need -- if you mean, am I calling up Dad -- I mean George, here’s what you got to do now on Iraq or something -- no, I didn’t do that. And we sometimes would talk about policy. But I was determined to stay out of his way and avoid speculation of, what’s the old guy think. I mean, you don’t need that.
Q Well, now it can be told. (Laughter.) Discuss if you will, both of you, the extent of your consultations on policy and political matters as -- while you were President -- the frequency of it.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: See, the interesting thing is that a President has got plenty of advisors, but what a President never has is someone who gave him unconditional love. And therefore when I talked to my dad, I was more interested in the father-son relationship. You got a lot of people who can give you advice, but your rarely have people who can pick up the phone and say, I love you, son, or, hang in there, son, and be -- and provide the kind of comfort that a President needs on occasion.
Q You have said that when your father was President, particularly toward the end -- a rough year politically, 1992 -- that that hurt you more than it seemed to hurt him. Is that true?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I said that being the son of a President was a lot harder than being the President.
Q And how about being the father of the President?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Tough at times -- only when you see criticism you know is very unfair. But I didn’t -- I tried not to speak up; it might just exacerbate the problem for him. But when I saw things I knew were grossly unfair in the press, in the print, anywhere, it hurt. It hurt Barbara and it hurt me. But it’s better not to go forth and sally forth and try to take the offense --
THE PRESIDENT: And by the way, I --
Q Well, did it hurt you more than the criticism that you took as President?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: I think it hurt more, yes.
Q Do you feel that way too, that it hurt you more than --
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. Gosh, I was furious. I got the reputation --
Q About stuff about him?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I got the reputation of being slightly hot-headed at times and, you know, it was an accurate characteristic, because I was ready to duke it out when I saw people say things that were unfair about Dad. And the other thing that’s interesting is, though, I can remember calling he and Mom and saying, don’t worry about me. In other words, I knew that they were taking on, you know, the anxiety and I knew what it was like to have somebody you love being hammered in the press.
And so I spent a fair amount of time, as I recall, calling them and saying, look, don’t worry about me, things are going to be fine, my spirits are good, Laura is doing great. And, you know, I think people sit out there and say, they must have had some kind of, you know, relationship that is very clinical and very advisory, touched up.
But this is a loving relationship. This is -- you know, he’s the head of a fabulous family, and whether it be me as the President, or Jeb as the governor, or Neil, Marvin, and Doro, Dad’s phone calls are not, you know, you must do this or that; his phone calls are, I love you, and it’s very powerful.
Q Now, your son’s race is days away from having been run. How do you regard his presidency?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Very positively. And I think history will --
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, because you make a tough decision and stay with it. I mean, he’s been tested unlike any other President with 9/11. So he passed the tests.
THE PRESIDENT: He’s going to be judged great too. He was a -- he was almost too humble to be President. And when history finally gets objective, they will be able to say a lot of positive things about George Bush. I cannot worry -- you know, I tell people I’m still reading biographies of George Washington or analyses of his presidency. And if they’re still writing about the first guy, the 41st guy and the 43rd guy simply don’t need to worry about it.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: We won’t be around to worry about it, that’s for sure. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Now I see you getting along -- getting around now on a cane, and -- is that a condition that’s going to get better? In your judgment are you going to be -- is this a remnant from one of your hip operations, or what do you got going there?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: It’s what they call old age.
Q I understand about that myself. (Laughter.)
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: No, it’s -- no, no pain, no hip -- I think I have an imbalance that came from a back operation.
THE PRESIDENT: Let me ask you something. Is it true that you said publicly that you’re going to jump out of the airplane again?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: True. But that doesn’t take anything but just going up there with some big -- strapped on to some big Golden Knight or someone, and it’s a thrill.
THE PRESIDENT: You’re going to have trouble convincing Mother of that. (Laughter.)
Q How about you? What do you think about that? Do you want him to do that?
THE PRESIDENT: I think he’s a nut to jump out of an airplane at age 70, 75, 80, and 85. I find it -- actually, I think it’s cool.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: I told you the reasons, though. You don’t want to sit around just because you’re an old guy, drooling in the corner. (Laughter.) And secondly, you want to send a message out to around the world, actually, because of the prominence of the presidency, that you can still do stuff. Old guys can still do stuff, get involved in things.
THE PRESIDENT: You can drool and jump at the same time. (Laughter.)
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: That’s right. (Laughter.)
Q Now, you’re in Houston. You’ve chosen Dallas.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q What’s up with that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I want to be close to SMU. And that’s where our policy center/library/archives are going to be.
Q You okay with that?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: And they had a Dallas connection --
Q Did you hope that he’d come to Houston?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: What?
Q Did you hope that he’d move to Houston when --
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: No, I never thought he would move to Houston.
THE PRESIDENT: Plus, Houston is two hours away from -- I mean Dallas is two hours away from Crawford, and I plan on spending some time down there in Crawford.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: And Laura had some Dallas connections, so it made sense.
Q Now, I want to ask you a little bit about the intelligence agency situation. After all, you came as an outsider to intelligence --
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Total outsider.
Q -- you weren’t an intelligence professional. And now you got the building out there named after you. So obviously, it could work. Your thoughts about, not the Panetta nomination or the Panetta selection specifically, but about the general idea of what it takes to be the -- to run the intelligence agency effectively?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I heard what the President said in his interview with you, and I agree with that. There’s so many outstanding people there. And so I went in there at a time the agency was under tremendous fire, the Pike report, the Church report, they were just decimating the morale of the agency. So I viewed my job not to learn all the trade craft, but to defend the quality and the character of the agency and the people there. And that was perhaps an easier assignment than knowing all about every intrigue of intelligence.
But all I hope is that whoever goes out there goes with confidence in the CIA, and the people around CIA, they’re good people, more Ph.D.’s than many universities, and many different disciplines. And everybody just thinks it’s kind of a James Bond operation.
And so I think that whoever assumes that job -- and I have had great confidence in the President’s pick -- will express confidence in the agency and the people that make it up.
Q Talk a little bit, if you will, about this relationship among people who are in or have been in this remarkable job; it’s a pretty exclusive club. And I know you had a lunch this week to bring them together with the President-elect. But what is that atmosphere like among former Presidents? Are all the old political differences aside, is that all over with?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, I think so. And I think everyone -- every member of that club realizes there can only be one President; he’s not going to be turning to you every day saying, what will I do now?
You read a lot of kind of intellectual books -- but what we need is the advice, formalize the advice of former Presidents. He doesn’t need a lot of advice from former Presidents. And he needs to -- the current President needs to have good people around him who will help him pursue the goals he set out.
And so I don’t think there’s much to it except collegiality, and the idea that you want to be out there if he needs support.
Q Now, you’ve watched this range of appointments that Barack Obama has announced; your take on it, your feeling about it?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve been impressed.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, because, one, he showed decisiveness. Two, he has picked people that are capable and competent people. And I think he’s had a very good transition. And frankly, I think Josh Bolten, my Chief of Staff, and the people that work here in the White House have also had a good transition because they have reached out to the President-elect’s team at all levels. And the message is we want there to be a seamless move from us leaving and you coming in, and we want you to succeed.
And so I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve seen since the election.
Q Do you agree with that?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, totally. Totally. And if I didn’t, I wouldn’t tell you -- same policy. (Laughter.)
Q Well, what -- look, you -- this is very like you, and like you, as well, to refrain from comment on the other political figures, the incumbent President and so on. Why?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, why be out there looking like you’re carping and criticizing and know everything? I mean, I’ve heard what the President said about President Obama, President-Elect Obama. I feel the same way; support him where you can, and don’t go out there criticizing and carping. You look small yourself for one thing, but that’s not the main reason; the main reason is he needs support. And if it’s something you disagree with violently, sit on the sidelines and shut up.
THE PRESIDENT: There will be plenty of opportunities for people to carp, trust me. I mean, this is a job that --
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, yes, I know there will.
THE PRESIDENT: -- and Dad knows as well as anybody, you’ll get plenty of opinions when you’re the President, and you’ll get plenty of flattering statements, and you’ll get your fair share of not so complimentary comments.
I also remember what it was like to have people disappoint you. I mean, you’ll be picking up the newspaper and reading comments from people that you just say, well, I just can’t believe that that person would be so kind of not respectful of their own office, much less yours, to call those kind of names. And to me that has been the biggest disappointment in the political process up here; there has been this kind of bitterness by a few people to the point where they don’t want to have a logical discussion or a civil discussion about policy, they just want to tear you down.
Q Do you think that’s gotten worse since your days in the White House?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: I don’t know that it’s gotten worse, but it’s offensive, very offensive. And I always -- I’ll agree with the President that when you have somebody you have your own trust in, and that person for his own gain -- thinks it’s for his own gain -- goes out and gives kind of ‘here’s the inside story,’ is what they’re saying, ‘but here’s what’s really happening,’ playing the leak game. It’s just horrible. And every administration has that. But I think President George Bush here has been lucky, there hasn’t been that many of them.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: And I think we were pretty lucky.
Q When you left this office, it was reported at least that it was -- it took a while, you had a period of adjustment and it was tough for you at first. And then, obviously, you hit your stride and found your life. How was that? And what advice do you have for your son as he embarks on a similar experience?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, looking back lo those many years, I don’t remember it being extraordinarily difficult. I mean, I felt unfulfilled agenda, for example, I felt things I’d like to have done.
But once you got back to Texas, it wasn’t difficult at all, you just start in a new life. And part of mine was to build around our library at Texas A&M in just the way he’s looking forward to having his library. You get a lot of strength from there, you bring a lot of people there to talk. So it’s not that difficult.
THE PRESIDENT: His advice was come back to Texas -- he didn’t need to give it, because that’s exactly where we’re headed.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: People hover around the Potomac River, the senators or congressman that have been defeated. It’s better to be home, that’s what I think.
Q Gentleman, thank you very much for doing this.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, sir, thank you.
Q It was a pleasure. Thank you, sir.
* * * * *
Q Now, as you stand here together, Mr. President 41, what is your most vivid memory of your time in this office, something that happened in this very room?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I can’t think of many, but I remember Colin Powell reaching under this desk -- a desk and pulling out the telephone to call Schwarzkopf to see if the mission had been accomplished. After that -- they said it’s time to shut down this war --
Q In Kuwait.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: -- 100 hours, we’d done what we said we wanted to do, and he called up -- and that one sticks in my mind as a dramatic moment. But there are many, many other exciting things. But that one stands out.
Q Can you think of your most anxious moment here?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Anxious moment?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: I really can’t.
Q I mean, you had to give that order.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, but I can’t think of any -- a real anxious moment that stands out among others. There are probably plenty of them, but --
Q When you first took office, took occupancy of this office, as I recall, the two of you had a brief moment together.
THERE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q Can you reflect on that? Do you remember it?
THE PRESIDENT: We had just witnessed the Inaugural Parade, and I came upstairs at the White House up there, and I think you were taking a nap.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: No, I was in the bathtub, thawing out.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, he was in the bathtub. (Laughter.)
Q Were you really?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Of course, I yelled through the door. Anyway, I said, why don’t you come over and meet me in the Oval Office? And so I got in here before he did, and I was just getting a sense of what it was like to be in the shrine of democracy. And then I looked up, and in comes 41. And it was a moving moment. It was a great day for me, a very proud moment.
Q Can you remember what was said?
THE PRESIDENT: Not really. I had a weird chair, as I recall. It had like an electric cord on it. And I don’t -- did you use the weird chair with the electric cord?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I didn’t use the weird chair with the electric cord, but he showed me how to operate it.
Q What did it do?
THE PRESIDENT: Jiggle or something.
Q Where you put on your fingers, turned off the lights, and magic fingers make you feel all right? That kind of thing? (Laughter.)
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: I remember this totally different. I remember being in the bathtub after that ice-cold Inaugural Parade or whatever, and one of the guys that was in the White House said, get out of the bathtub, Mr. President, you got to get over; the President wants you right now. (Laughter.) Come on, I’m just thawing out here. Get over there. (Laughter.) So I went over and it was very, very moving.
THE PRESIDENT: It was an awesome moment, it really was, as you can imagine.
Q It is the custom of departing Presidents is to leave a note in the drawer.
THE PRESIDENT: Actually, it’s a custom to leave a note upstairs at the -- if I’m not mistaken -- the residence.
Q Do you recall what you wrote?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Reagan wrote me, and it was in the desk, and I think I did the same thing.
THE PRESIDENT: Oops.
Q And what did you say, roughly?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: I don’t remember, just good luck.
THE PRESIDENT: I’m going to write one.
Q Have you thought about it --
THE PRESIDENT: I have not. I think it’s probably best I wait for, you know, right before he and his family come to ride down Pennsylvania Avenue with me.
Q Now this office has been used in different ways by different Presidents -- the atmosphere of formality, and in some less formality than others. As I recall, you never set foot in this office, Mr. President 41, without a jacket and tie. Is that -- that was true?
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: That was my policy, I think.
Q And how about you? Did you --
THE PRESIDENT: I thought it was the right policy.
Q Has that always been the case?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I may have come in here once in over eight years without a tie on, or twice. But I come in here to work. And as I said, I refer to this as a shrine to democracy, and it is, and it needs to be treated that way. And I had a fabulous mentor.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: I think it’s important to treat this place with respect, and that’s what we tried to do.
Q Well, I’m sure you’ll be remembered for having done just that. Thank you very much, gentlemen.
FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Certainly. Brit, good luck to you.
Q Thank you very much. Appreciate it. END 11:18 A.M. EST
Photo credits: Joyce N. Boghosian / White House photo (top and bottom, Bush carrier); Eric Draper / White House photo (middle -- President George W. Bush, wife Laura and former President George H.W. Bush).