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Interview with President Bush, Roundtable

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Welcome to Washington. I'm Brit Hume. On a day when U.N. Ambassador John Bolton resigned suddenly and the president held an important meeting with a key Iraqi Shiite political leader, Abdul Aziz al Hakim, the president also sat down for an exclusive interview with me, mostly focused on Iraq. The president had some striking things to say about the mission he has given his newly nominated defense secretary, some strong words for the political process that blocked John Bolton and some remarkable things to say about himself and his presidency. The interview was held in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.


HUME: Mr. President, it's good to see you, sir, thank you for joining us.


HUME: You just came from a meeting with an important Shiite political leader in Iraq, Mr. Hakim.

BUSH: I did.

HUME: What happened in there?

BUSH: Well, his eminence came for the second time to the Oval Office and we had a very good discussion about the way forward in Iraq. Of course, I was listening for a couple of things. I was listening to whether or not this powerful figure was dedicated to a unity government.

HUME: And?

BUSH: He is. There is a lot of talk about Shia dominance, to the exclusion of other folks in Iraq. I didn't hear that at all, quite the contrary. I listened to a man who understands that the way forward is for there to be a government of and by and for the people. His words were, we want the people to dictate our government. We let the people determine the course and I was most impressed by his attitudes.

HUME: Did you get specific ideas from him about what he might now do to advance that proposition?

BUSH: Well, first and foremost he supports the Maliki government. As a matter of fact, I asked him -- during the meeting I said, I just want you to understand, as you know, I met with the prime minister, the head of the government. And that I don't want the prime minister to construe that this meeting in any way doesn't support him and he said, look, I understand that as well. As a matter of fact, he called Prime Minister Maliki right prior to our meeting to assure him that our meeting, that was going to be on TV, would be viewed as positive.

He supports the Maliki government. He believes Prime Minister Maliki has got what it takes to move the government forward. And what he did was express the same concerns the prime minister did to me and that is the issue of capability. How fast can the Iraqis have the capability necessary to do the hard work of defeating terrorists and murderers who want to stop this country?

And let me say one thing about both the prime minister and his eminence, Mr. Hakim. Both of them understand that murderers must be stopped, that you can't have a society, a constitutional government, presiding over a society in which murderers are allowed to run free. And both men said, look, we're going to take -- we will deal with murderers regardless of their political persuasion and I appreciated that a lot because I told him -- I said look, we understand al Qaeda and we're going to prevent al Qaeda from developing safe haven in Iraq.

What Americans are trying to figure out is why Iraqis are killing Iraqis, when you have a better future ahead, and their response is that we have an obligation as a government to stop that from happening. And I believe they are committed to stopping that from happening.

HUME: Well, you've indicated, as well, after your meeting with Prime Minister Maliki, this is a guy who, so to speak, wants the ball.

BUSH: Yes.

HUME: Is he prepared, in your judgment, to take on the influence of Muqtada al Sadr and to address that problem?

BUSH: I think he is -- I know he is prepared to take on the fact that there are murderers inside that society. What I'm looking for is somebody that says, a society in which murder and assassination takes place is not acceptable, regardless of who's doing it.

And I absolutely believe that the prime minister and Mr. Hakim are committed to ending murder. The hard work is to get it done, particularly when you have outside influences like al Qaeda stirring up sectarian violence, these suiciders are spectacular death.

The first thing -- Brit, I'm asked all the time, is Maliki the right guy? And I said he was and the reason why is because I believe his intentions are correct. And now the question is, how do we get him the capabilities to get the job done?

HUME: Are you convinced that he's prepared to do the things politically, within his own country, perhaps to realign his own governing coalition, that will free him to do these things?

BUSH: I do. And I was again heartened today in my conversations with his eminence, Mr. Hakim, because he talked about a group of moderates, as he called them, coming together to continue to assure the Iraqi people that there is a peaceful future for them.

That's all part of kind of weaning their government away from those who promote extremism, towards those who promote moderation and peace.

HUME: John Bolton resigned today, it seemed sudden to us on the outside looking in and what happened there? Did you try to keep him on? Did you try to give him another opportunity? What happened?

BUSH: Yes -- first of all, John chose to leave gracefully, to pull his name down because it became apparent that once again, the Senate would block his nomination. I am very disappointed. Look, John Bolton came into office -- when I named him, he came into office with a lot of criticism, a lot of unfair criticism in my mind.

And he proved the critics wrong. He did a fine job as the representative at the United Nations, for the United States. He really did. On issue after issue, Bolton delivered. And so you're looking at a man who is deeply disappointed and I would call it shallow politics of the Senate in this case. I truly believe that the Senate denied a really accomplished person the opportunity to continue to serve our country.

HUME: But there are other capacities, other positions in the State Department, perhaps not requiring Senate confirmation, perhaps here that you could have given him. Did you try to get him to do that?

BUSH: As a matter of fact, right after this interview, I'm going to talk to him. I haven't had a chance to visit with John yet. I'm going to thank him for doing what he did, and we're always open-minded and looking for good people. Bolton, no question, Bolton has done a fine job. Again, I repeat, he proved the critics wrong, I mean flat wrong. They weren't even close as they characterized John Bolton, as they anticipated his office, what he would do in office.


HUME: Next on SPECIAL REPORT, more of my interview with President Bush on the Rumsfeld memo and Colin Powell and Kofi Annan's assertion that Iraq is in a civil war. Stay tuned.


HUME: As President Bush prepares to receive the report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group this week, a memo he received not long ago from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has leaked out, also offering the president some options in Iraq. I asked the president about Rumsfeld's resignation and the mission of his nominated his successor.


HUME: The town is buzzing over the Rumsfeld memo that leaked to the "New York Times." How do you view that memo? Do you consider that a list of things that you might do? How do you view it in relation to the other advice documents you're getting and will be getting?

BUSH: Well one of the key points is that I'm getting a lot of advice documents and of course these documents were never intended to be read in the public. These are frank assessments by different members of my administration. We're going to be getting another advice document from the Baker/Hamilton Commission soon. My attitude is I ought to absorb and listen to everything that's being said, because I'm not satisfied with the progress being made in Iraq.

And the good news is neither is the Iraqi leadership. And so I'm listening to the Iraqis. I'm going to listen to members of Congress. I want to listen to, obviously, Baker/Hamilton. More importantly, when it comes to military matters, I want to listen to the military, to come up with a -- a way of achieving our objective quicker. And so this is an important period.

HUME: Speaking of objectives, what did you tell Bob Gates, when you chose him to succeed Donald Rumsfeld, was the objective in Iraq?

BUSH: A government that can sustain, govern and defend itself and is -- a free government that sustain, govern and defend itself and is an ally in the war on terror.

HUME That sounds very familiar, Mr. President. It sounds like you told him the same thing you've been telling everyone all along.

BUSH: Correct.

HUME: Your objective has not changed.

BUSH: My objective hasn't changed.

HUME: And did -- how did he respond to that? I mean, he did...

BUSH: He said, "I think we can achieve that objective."

HUME: And did he -- did you, in any sense, suggest to him that his mission was to get the United States out of there?

BUSH: No. My objective is to succeed, and I'll tell you why. Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for your grandchildren. And the reason why it'd be a disaster for your grandchildren is because we're now in an ideological struggle between extremists and people who want to live in peace. And the -- the -- al Qaeda has made it clear that they want to team up with extremists inside of Iraq to drive us out of Iraq and the Middle East. We'd be disgraced. Our allies would no longer support us.

And when you throw in the mix Iran, which is very aggressive in the Middle East, you've got the ingredients for a very dangerous situation. And so whether it be a democracy succeeding in Lebanon or a democracy succeeding in the Palestinian Territories or the young democracy of Iraq succeeding, it's in our interest that we achieve that objective. And Mr. Gates understands that we're in an ideological struggle and that the United States must succeed in helping this young democracy govern, sustain and defend itself.

HUME: When Donald Rumsfeld was first named, of course, that was pre- 9/11, you gave him the mission of the transformation of the shape of the United States military. Everything I've been told about what goes on over there is that project goes forward only when and if Donald Rumsfeld is there to shove it forward with his energy.

BUSH: Yes.

HUME: Do you anticipate that Bob Gates will be able to carry that on in the way that Rumsfeld did?

BUSH: I think that Don Rumsfeld has done remarkable work in transforming our military. I believe he has got the process far enough down the road that -- and Bob Gates will be able to continue that.

HUME: You do? You're still convinced of that?

BUSH: Because it's an objective of my administration. It's exactly what I told him when I talked to him about taking this job. I talked to him about two things: one, succeeding in the Middle East and secondly, transforming the military at the same time.

HUME: You have said on a number of occasions that your view of the shape and mission of U.S. forces day by day in Iraq, week by week, is based on what Generals Abizaid and, more specifically, General Casey say, that this has been kind of a Casey and Abizaid approach. Is that a fair assessment?

BUSH: I have said that the force size will depend upon conditions on the ground and upon the recommendations of our commanders on the ground, absolutely.

HUME: Is it fair to say, then, that the approach in Iraq has been more a reflection of what Casey and Abizaid wanted than of anybody else over there? Or anybody else in the military?

BUSH: I think from the military tactics that they are the chain of command through Rumsfeld to me.

HUME: Right.

BUSH: Now they listen to all kinds of people on the ground and they are very thoughtful, decent, honorable men, who understand that -- what the mission is and understand that it is their obligation to design the tactics to achieve the mission.

HUME: It is -- it does the raise the question though, Mr. President, if they're the guys who've been designing and trying to execute the mission and you're impatient with the progress, why is it that Rumsfeld's going and they're staying?

BUSH: Well, they also are impatient with the progress, just like Secretary Rumsfeld is. And he came to the same conclusion that I came to, that it was time to get fresh eyes in the Pentagon on the issue. And I strongly support his past tenure and I appreciate his service to the country.

HUME: If he had really wanted to stay, could he have?

BUSH: That's one of those hypotheticals that just wasn't it the cards because Don Rumsfeld and I had a very heart-to-heart. By the way, he was signaling throughout the fall that perhaps we needed a fresh approach. He's just as impatient as I am about success in Iraq. One thing about Don Rumsfeld is he understood mistakes.

HUME: Right.

BUSH: He knows how important it is and he wants us to succeed in Iraq as bad as anybody in America. And we're going to succeed in Iraq by the way.

HUME: Kofi Annan has now joined others, including Colin Powell, in declaring that that is a civil war -- what is your reaction to that?

BUSH: Listen, I've heard a lot of voices say that. And I've talked to people there in Iraq who don't believe that's the case. For example, some would argue that the fact that 90 percent of the country -- let me just say this -- most of the country outside of the Baghdad area, is relatively peaceful, doesn't indicate a civil war as far as they're concerned. And by the way, I get briefings all the time about where the level of violence is and the American people I think would be interested to know, most of it occurs around the Baghdad area. And therefore they don't get to see, kind of the normalcy of life outside of the Baghdad area. There's all kinds of arguments, no question it's dangerous, no question it's violence, and no question we have to do something about the sectarian violence by helping the Iraqi government do something about it.

HUME: As you mentioned, the Baker-Hamilton commission, the Iraq Study Group, is about to make that report to you here. The expectations for that, as you know sir, are very high. Members of Congress are practically already declaring their allegiance to whatever those findings are going to be. How much weight -- does that report get special weight with you because of that and because of all that goes with it as against the other forms of advice you're receiving in such volume?

BUSH: You know I need to see the report. I don't wan to pre-judge what's in the report. First of all, I respect James Baker and I respect Lee Hamilton. I have met with the commission. It's a very fine group of people that are going to take a good solid objective look about Iraq. I'm looking forward to it. It's very hard for me to, you know, prejudice one report over another. They're all important. I am going to listen to them, listen to what they have to say.

I just want the American people to understand that the mission is to have this young democracy succeed and it is in our interests to do so. Failure would be a disaster for the future of this country.


HUME: Next on SPECIAL REPORT I will have more of today's conversation with President Bush on his relationship with his father and how he handles the burdens of his office after six years. What he said may surprise you.


HUME: I asked President Bush about suggestions he has turned to his father's advisers, and perhaps even his father himself, for advice and guidance about how to handle the situation in Iraq. For example the Iraq Study Group, about to give the president it's report this week, is headed by Bush 41 Secretary of State James Baker.


HUME: The presence of Baker on this commission and the important role he plays. The emergence now of Bob Gates as the Rumsfeld successor has given rise to a widespread feeling that the men who advised your father are now emerging as critical to you and that your father's influence is all over this.

BUSH: Yeah.

HUME: What do you say to that?

BUSH: I say that, you know, I am the commander in chief. I make decisions based upon what I think is best to achieve our objectives and that ...

HUME: Well, was your father involved in the decision to name Gates?

BUSH: I asked what kind of man Gates was with him, of course, he knows him.

HUME: Did he know ahead of time, ahead of the day that you were going ...


HUME: He didn't.


HUME: A lot of people have been curious - I asked you about this before and the answer always fascinates me so I ask you again.

BUSH: Sure.

HUME: The universal expectation would be, your father is a former president, you and your brothers and your sister Doro all adore your father, everybody knows that.

BUSH: Yeah.

HUME: One would imagine you consult with him constantly on matters of policy. Is that the case?

BUSH: No. Listen, I love my dad. But he understands what I know, that the level of information I have relative to the level of information most other people have, including himself, is significant and that he trusts me to make decisions.

HUME: Right.

BUSH: I love to talk to my dad about things between a father and a son, not policy. I get plenty of policy time. I'm interested in talking to a guy I love and I get inspiration from him as a father, you know.

Washington can be a tough town at times and there is nothing better than hearing a loving voice on the end of the phone call occasionally and so I check in with mother and dad, I would say, once every two weeks. I love surprising them with an early morning phone call and say, you know, how you doing? And of course they're worried about their son. They're worried about - they're paying too much attention to the newspapers, I guess.

HUME: I just spent some time in the company of people who are for you, who are worried about you ...

BUSH: Yeah.

HUME: ... just as you described your parents. They think that your presidency has run aground on the shoals of Iraq and that you must be - they feel almost sorry for you. What do you say to those people?

BUSH: I don't think people are - at least the ones I run into, I had a bunch of our buddies from Texas up here this weekend and they're kind of - they look at you and go, man, how come you're still standing. It's not so much the presidency on the shoals because of difficult decision I made, it's more the weightiness of this thing must be impossible for anybody to bear. And I tell them it's just not the case, that I am inspired by doing this job. I believe strongly in the decisions I have made. I firmly believe that we are responding to this initial challenge of the 21st century in proper fashion.

Remember the first job is to secure this homeland and to prevent the enemy from attacking us again.

HUME: Right.

BUSH: People seem to forget that there is still an enemy that would like to launch an attack on us and I am doing that job along with a lot of other really good people.

I also remind them, Brit, that Laura and I are sustained by the prayers of millions of people. Now that's hard for some to - I guess chew on.

HUME: You sense that?

BUSH: Absolutely.

HUME: Well, I know they tell you that when you see them out on ...

BUSH: I feel it.

HUME: You feel it?

BUSH: Yeah.

HUME: How much, in the terms of ...

BUSH: Because the load is not heavy, I guess is the best way to describe it. Look, somebody said to me, prove it. I said, you can't prove it. All I can tell you is I feel it. And it's a remarkable country when millions pray for me and Laura. So therefore I am able to say to people that this is a joyful experience. Not a painful experience.

And yeah it's tough, but that's OK. It's tough times. And there's a lot of big issues.

HUME: And to what extent does your faith -- what role does your faith play in your good spirits in the face of all these difficulties?

BUSH: I think that -- I know that my relationship with an almighty provides comfort and strength during difficult times, just like it provides comfort and strength during difficult times for others, as well. And so prayer matters to me. And the prayers of others matter a lot in my life and so to those who worry about me, I say don't worry me.

We're doing fine and yes, it's tough. And it's tough because there are a group of murderers out there that are -- look, think about this, think about a world in which a young democracy is trying to get started and people kill innocent life to prevent it from happening.

To me, that says, we better deal with these folks now before they become even more emboldened, in which to strike out against the greatest defender of freedom on the face of the earth, and that's the United States, which they would like to try to do. And our job is to stop them from doing it and at the same time, lay the foundation for peace.

I'm also strengthened by history, by my view of history. I realize there's a lot of folks who have written off presidencies early in the presidency or before the presidency is over. And when in fact the long reach of history happens and people take a look back, they realize that the decisions made ended up making sense.

And you know, I want people to understand this, that when it's all said and done, I will have made decisions based upon principles, and I'm not changing my principles. And therefore when I get back to Texas after the presidency in two years, I'll be able to look in the mirror and be proud of what I see.

HUME: Mr. President, thank you very much.

BUSH: Yes, sir.

HUME: Nice to see you, sir, as always.

BUSH: Appreciate it.


HUME: Next on SPECIAL REPORT, the president on Iraq, our panel on the president on Iraq. Stay tuned.



HUME: What did you tell Bob Gates, when you chose him to succeed Donald Rumsfeld, was the objective in Iraq?

BUSH: A government that can sustain, govern, and defend itself and that's a free government that can sustain, govern, and defend itself and is an ally in the war on terror.

HUME: That sounds very familiar, Mr. President, it sounds like you told him the same thing and you've been telling everybody all along that your objective has not changed.

BUSH: My objective hadn't changed.

HUME: And how did he respond to that? I mean...

BUSH: I think that we can achieve that objective.

HUME: And did he -- did you in any sense suggest to him that his mission was to get the United States out of there?



HUME: Well, the conventional wisdom, this takes it on the chin, there. Some thoughts on all this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Bill Sammon, senior White House correspondent of the Washington Examiner; and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of Nation Public Radio -- FOX NEWS contributors all.

Well, Fred, this is much in line with some things you've said this -- what the Gates situation was, which is part of the reason I asked the question to see if I could confirm your story.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: You did. Very good. It's always nice to have stories you get on background from somebody or several people, have them confirmed by the principle himself. So, it's right. And I think...

HUME: What does this tell us about...

BARNES: One -- you know, the story was that the realist, so-called, from the elder Bush's administration were taking over the foreign policy of the younger Bush's administration and they lead -- you know, pulling out of Iraq and changing -- and then really changing the goal of the policy to be -- of the Bush foreign policy to be stability rather than a pursuit of Democracy and so on.

Well, part of that -- there were really two parts of it. One was Bob Gates, you remember, who had worked in the first Bush's White House. He was the deputy national security advisor, then became head of the CIA. And so the idea was, gee, he wouldn't want to stay in Iraq. Well, we know from the president he said, look, are you for victory in aback -- Iraq? And according to the president, Gates said yes. That's what we want to go for. That's not the strategy of the first Bush administration.

And the second part of this, of course, is the Baker-Hamilton report, which Jim Baker, of course, was the first Bush's secretary of state. And that he was supposed to come in and be the other part of this takeover by the older Bush administration. And President Bush, in your interview, and elsewhere, has, I think, pretty much dismissed the report or said well, it'll be in the basket with all these other reports. And the notion that he's going to pull out of Iraq, he's already rejected.

BILL SAMMON, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Yeah, I'm glad somebody finally countered that conventional wisdom, which is growing by leaps and bounds, that there's going to a cataclysmic sea change by the president on his Iraq policy.

You get down to what it is that could be changed. The first thing -- the first category is, could there be a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops? That's the biggest, most contentious issue Bush has signaled in no uncertain terms that's not going to change. OK?

And the other category is everything else, all the changes you could make, the tactical changes, which, by the way, Bush for months has been saying that he's been willing to try some different things, things haven't always gone well. And he has been adjusting his tactics.

So, the question arises, well what fundamentally can he do differently in the future that he's not already doing differently now? He's not going to put a timetable on withdrawal, he's already changing his tactics, so the press keeps saying there's going to be a mother of all course corrections and there's going to be this huge change. I don't buy it.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, Stephen Hadley, this weekend, suggested there were going to be some changes. Not in the objective. I think the president has made it very clear over and over again, that he doesn't want to pull out until Iraq has become that stable, sustainable, you know, country that doesn't harbor terrorists, but he didn't answer the question, is how he's going to get it that way.

HUME: Well, one thing, though, that I asked him again about who sets the troop levels. And Abizaid and Casey set the troop levels. He did -- I mean, he didn't come right out and say this, but he certainly didn't suggest that he's about to change that way of doing things.

LIASSON: Well, I guess the big question is he going to put more troops in, or at least more troops in Baghdad? Because if he's not going to pull them out...

HUME: Well, Casey is saying, and Abizaid, are saying they don't think they need them.

LIASSON: Well, yes, but they are saying at the same time that they're not happy with what's happening, that the sectarian violence is unacceptable and Iraq is pretty close to, if not a civil war, some kind of a chaotic state...

HUME: Well, what he says is, though, that what wants to accelerate is the ability of the Iraqis to stop the violence.

LIASSON: Right, I think we've been trying to do that for quite sometime.

HUME: So, do you do that by adding more American troops?

LIASSON: Well, it's unclear. I mean there has to be a certain amount of basic security there for people to believe in this government.

BARNES: You know, Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, said last week, that he thought the Iraqi army would be ready by next summer to take over the entire job. Now, I don't know whether anybody believe -- I know no one who believe...

LIASSON: Stephen Hadley didn't sound like he believed it.

BARNES: Well, I mean, that -- they're just not going to be ready then. Brit, there was, initially, the question though -- you asked the general -- you asked Bush about the generals, whether -- why he doesn't hold them accountable for the failure, say, to pacify Baghdad by now. And he kind of dodged that question. And he's clearly not going to be like Abraham Lincoln. When he was president, a general didn't deliver, he'd fire him, he'd bring in another one. He fired three or four, I think...

HUME: Well, the secretary -- meanwhile the secretary of war stayed put.

BARNES: Edwin Stanton, the secretary of war for Lincoln didn't get fired. But Rumsfeld did, here.

SAMMON: One of the most telling things he said was, we'd be disgraced; we'd be disgraced if we pulled out, you know, too quickly. I thought that summed up what his position is. You know, to heck with all the criticism, he does not want to have this country disgraced by pulling out too early.

HUME: When we come back with the panel, after six years in office, President Bush might be forgiven for signs of weariness. We'll discuss that, and what the president said about the burdens of office, next.



BUSH: Laura and I are sustained by the prayers of millions of people. Now that's hard for some to -- you know, I guess, chew on.

HUME: You sense that?

BUSH: Absolutely.

HUME: Well, I know they tell you that when you see them out on ...

BUSH: I feel it.

HUME: You feel it?

BUSH: Yeah.

HUME: How much, in the terms of your...

BUSH: I feel that the load is not heavy, I guess is the best way to describe it. Look, I -- look, somebody said to me, "prove it," I said, "you can't prove it." All I can tell you is I feel it. And it's a remarkable country when millions pray for me and Laura. So therefore I am able to say to people that this is a joyful experience, not a painful experience.


HUME: Well, that is at variance with a lot of people, including people who very much support this president, think what he's going through. They sense that he's in -- under an awful burden and that things are going terribly and his presidency's run aground. What about his view of this, Mara, is he -- does what he say there strike you as the real thing or what?

LIASSON: Yeah, I think he's an optimist. I think he's a generally positive person, that doesn't seem to be false. I think the question is whether or not he'll be able to succeed in Iraq. And succeed on some concrete issues. I don't think his mental state is really in question. He seems to be pretty positive, not depressed, but his presidency is at a very difficult moment. I think there's no doubt about that. I mean he's -- Iraq is the No. 1 issue. His presidency is going to be judged by that, I think, by history and he's got to achieve his objective.

HUME: He seems to think history will be kinder to him then the current round of scribes.

LIASSON: Very possible if he can get Iraq into the shape he wants it to, but right now, he's having trouble and everything that he's tried to date has not worked.

SAMMON: I think history can't be any worse and I think he recognizes that.

You know, if you listen to the mainstream media or conventional wisdom, on any given day, you would always think the sky is falling in on George W. Bush's head. The wheels are coming off his administration, he's always in a crises, he's always having a horrible day. And sometimes that's true. But it's not always true. You know, and that's the thing.

And I think Bush understands that if he immerses himself in the tidal wave of negative coverage that is coming out about his presidency everyday, he would never get anything done. He does see the big picture, he does see the historic view. I think he views his presidency as, yeah, we have a lot of problems, but guess what, liberated two countries, fifty million Muslims, two of the most despotic regimes on the face of the planet have been overthrown, expanded the economy for years in a row. Let history sort all the stuff that we're obsessing with now in the short-term, and I think like Reagan, he will come out better than he looks at the time.

BARNES: I love the way you put that "He's having a horrible day." You know, I think it drives the media crazy that he's not having a horrible day. But we know, look, after Jimmy Carter had such a pained presidency, along came Ronald Reagan and made the job look easy, and made history, won the Cold War. And it turns out if a president does what you're talking about, Bill, sticks to the big picture and doesn't get now in all the minutia, he can do it, even joyfully, Bush said. That seems a bit of a stretch, but if you understand him and know how optimistic he is and know how strong his Christian faith is and also he does believe that his legacy -- I know he's thought about his legacy, because I interviewed him for my book he started talking about it, but he thinks it will turn out better than it looks now.

I agree. He is extremely optimistic. He will have -- when you strip away all the stuff, you know, the latest year, he started talking about it, out of the blue. But he thinks it's going to turn out to be a lot better than it looks now.

SAMMON: I agree, and you know, he's extremely optimistic. He will have a much -- when you strip away all the stuff that we get caught up in the incrementalism, you know, the latest wrinkle in the story, oh my god, Rumsfeld did this -- if you pull back and look at the big picture, how many presidents can say I liberated 50 million people?

LIASSON: He's not finished yet.

HUME: The world always looks better, or different, I should say, from the inside of the White House looking out, than it does the other way around and that's something that has led some presidents to grief when they failed to recognize that a storm was brewing and they seemed out of touch.

BARNES: Yeah but he thinks...

HUME: Do you detect, Mara, as you see this president expressing these thoughts, that he's out of touch?

LIASSON: Not necessarily, I think he is an incurable optimist, which is great and fine, I just think that he's going to be judged by the results in Iraq and haven't -- they're not there yet and it looks pretty bad right now.

HUME: Well, might he also be judged by the results in Iraq against what the other options were?

LIASSON: Depends on what -- if Iraq is a failed state in 10 years from now, or even five years from now, his presidency will be judged harshly.

SAMMON: If Bush never went into Iraq, he'd still be pilloried on something else. They'd come up with something else to beat on him, because he's a conservative Republican president and it's a myth that the...

HUME: Quickly Fred...

BARNES: History's on his side because he's standing up against Islamic jihaddists. History turned out to be on Harry Truman's side because he stood up against Soviet Communism.

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