Interview with Bush 41 and Bush 43

Interview with Bush 41 and Bush 43

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume - January 11, 2009

BRIT HUME, GUEST HOST: I'm Brit Hume in for Chris Wallace, and this is "Fox News Sunday."

The presidency of George W. Bush -- in an exclusive interview, we'll discuss key decisions that defined his time in the White House, including fighting the war on terror.


HUME: ... enhanced interrogation techniques, as some call them, torture as...


HUME: Also, a rare sit-down with father and son presidents together.


HUME: I believe this is the first time you two gentlemen have ever been interviewed together.


HUME: And we'll hear the real story behind the president's first meeting in the Oval Office with his father.


HUME: The two of you had a brief moment together.


HUME: Plus, Congress is back in town, and we'll discuss the political twists and turns with our Sunday panel -- Bill Kristol, Mara Liasson, Charles Krauthammer and Juan Williams, all right now on "Fox News Sunday."

And hello again from Fox News in Washington. With President Bush's second term now winding down, we had the chance to sit down with him this week to talk about his time in office, his plans after he leaves the White House and the incoming president.

Our interview took place in the Cabinet Room.


HUME: Mr. President, thank you for doing this.

G.W. BUSH: Yes, sir. HUME: Welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

G.W. BUSH: Thank you, sir.

HUME: Less than two weeks to go -- how do you feel?

G.W. BUSH: 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, you know, said good-bye to the commander in chief, and it was an emotional moment for me and Laura.

HUME: Why?

G.W. BUSH: Oh, 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've 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 you know, 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 -- of the -- of the -- what's going to take place on January the 20th.

HUME: 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...

G.W. BUSH: Yeah.

HUME: ... that you're fine. And everybody remarks on it. How do you explain that?

G.W. BUSH: Well, I'm better than fine. I am -- 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.

HUME: You have said that you did not compromise your principles in the interest of popularity. How would you describe those principles? G.W. BUSH: 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?"

And there were -- some suggested retreat, pull out of Iraq. But I had 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 -- I didn't compromise that principle for the sake of trying to, you know, bail out my political party, for example.

HUME: Talk to me about the presidency as you found it -- its powers, its prerogatives -- and how you feel you're leaving it.

G.W. BUSH: My presidency was defined by the attack on the country and, therefore, I used the powers inherent in the Constitution to defend this country.

HUME: Did you find them intact?

G.W. BUSH: 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...

HUME: Right.

G.W. BUSH: ... which we have honored.

HUME: It has been -- it has been argued that what you have sought to do is actually expand the powers of the presidency...

G.W. BUSH: Yeah.

HUME: ... or, in the eyes of some, perhaps in the eyes of the vice president, to restore them. How do you see that?

G.W. BUSH: I see -- 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.

HUME: Now, you've spoken of the tools that you believe you put in place and which your successor will now inherit.

G.W. BUSH: Yes.

HUME: How worried are you, if at all, that those tools will be eroded, relinquished, in the -- because some of them have been...

G.W. BUSH: Slightly criticized.

HUME: Well, to say the least.

G.W. BUSH: 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.

HUME: And what will they find?

G.W. BUSH: Well, they will find a -- 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 Qaida, for example.

They will realize, I think, when they really study the issue carefully, that -- that we have gone from an administration that was accused of not connecting dots to an administration that is connecting dots, linking pieces of information to better protect the country, with the civil liberties of our citizens in mind.

HUME: Now, the enhanced interrogation techniques, as some call them - - torture, as others call them...

G.W. BUSH: Yes.

HUME: ... are being argued over to this -- 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?

G.W. BUSH: My view is -- is that the techniques were -- are -- 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 -- 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...

HUME: Well, what happened?

G.W. BUSH: ... we gained good information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in order to protect our country.

HUME: Well, how good and how important and what's the...

G.W. BUSH: We believe that the information we gained helped save lives on American soil.

HUME: Can you be more specific than that?

G.W. BUSH: Well, I have said in speeches -- and as a matter of fact, when this program was leaked to the press, I actually gave a speech that, you know, said to the American people, "Yes, we're doing this." And -- 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. HUME: Yes.

G.W. BUSH: 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.

And 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.

HUME: Well, how badly would it hurt, in your view, if this -- these enhanced interrogation techniques that some call torture were abandoned and were not used? G.W. BUSH: 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."

HUME: I understand that.

G.W. BUSH: Everything this administration did was -- had a -- you know, 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, you know, within the law, necessary to protect the American people.

And I -- 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 information about the next attack on America.

HUME: Right.

G.W. BUSH: And I -- see, what -- what -- 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.

HUME: Right. Speaking of professionals in the intelligence area, how do you view the selection of Leon Panetta to head the CIA?

G.W. BUSH: I really don't feel comfortable commenting upon President- elect Obama's supposed choices...

HUME: Right.

G.W. BUSH: ... in this case.

HUME: Right.

G.W. BUSH: My only advice would be to recognize that the CIA is full of incredibly bright, hard-working, decent professionals who have got one thing in mind, and that is to serve the United States.

HUME: And yet this administration, to some extent, has been bedeviled by intelligence leaks believed to have come from the CIA. They seem...

G.W. BUSH: Yeah.

HUME: And there has been a degree of tension, I think it's -- it's probably an understatement to say, between the administration, or the White House at least, and the CIA.

G.W. BUSH: No, I don't think so, Brit.

HUME: Really? G.W. BUSH: 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.

HUME: Really?

G.W. BUSH: Oh, yeah. 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 you know, 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 are 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, or -- of my presidency, except for Sundays, since I've been president, at the same time -- 7:30 on Saturday, 8 o'clock on every other day.

And I -- 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.

HUME: 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 your -- how did your interaction with him go?

G.W. BUSH: It was very straightforward.

HUME: How did you find him?

G.W. BUSH: How did I like him?

HUME: Yeah.

G.W. BUSH: I liked him.

HUME: Were you...

G.W. BUSH: He's obviously -- listen, the man's obviously a charismatic person...

HUME: Right.

G.W. BUSH: ... and the man is able to persuade people that they should trust him. And he's got -- 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...

HUME: Right.

G.W. BUSH: ... 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... HUME: Right.

G.W. BUSH: ... that we want him to succeed.

HUME: Right.

G.W. BUSH: And he's an engaging person, and I am very impressed by the priority he places on his family.

HUME: Now, your political family, the Republican Party...

G.W. BUSH: Yes, sir.

HUME: ... what do you think is its likely fortunes going forward? How have you left it? What does it need to do?

G.W. BUSH: I think -- look, I mean, obviously, it 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, and you know, 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 different...

HUME: About what?

G.W. BUSH: Well, different people's opinions. We shouldn't have litmus tests as to whether or not you can be a Republican.

HUME: Right.

G.W. BUSH: 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...

HUME: You've got these...

G.W. BUSH: ... and for hope.

HUME: 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?

G.W. BUSH: You know, I -- look, I -- I -- I think that we shouldn't change our philosophy.

HUME: Right.

G.W. BUSH: 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...

HUME: Do you see them emerging? Do you see any -- do you see any emerging?

G.W. BUSH: Well, I had one in mind.

HUME: Who's that?

G.W. BUSH: But he evidently didn't agree with his older brother.

HUME: You're speaking, of course, about Jeb...

G.W. BUSH: That would be Governor Jeb Bush.

HUME: Right.

G.W. BUSH: But there -- listen, there will be, you know, leaders. I mean, there's a lot of bright young guys and women in our party that will - - 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 -- there's a lot of just basic tenets to our party that make a lot of sense to the average person.

HUME: You have indicated that you 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?

G.W. BUSH: You know...

HUME: 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?

G.W. BUSH: Yeah, it's an interesting question, and 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 a -- the same sense of anticipation heading out of political life, but without the sense of gravity.

HUME: Right.

G.W. BUSH: And so 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.

HUME: Do you?

G.W. BUSH: I do.

HUME: The history of your presidency?

G.W. BUSH: 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...

HUME: Right.

G.W. BUSH: ... and the context in which I made them, because one of the things that...

HUME: How soon will we see this book, do you think?

G.W. BUSH: That's the kind of question I better not answer.

HUME: Well, do you feel some urgency about getting it done?

G.W. BUSH: I'll say two years and it'll be four. I don't know. I mean, yeah, I'd like to get her done. I'm -- I am a type "A" personality that, you know -- you know, I require things to do. And I bet once I get going on this -- on this book, I'll be able to get her done.

But it's -- one other -- 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 re-create the environment in which I had to make certain decisions, particularly the environment right after September the 11th, 2001.

HUME: Right. 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.


HUME: Well, we're pleased now to be joined by not only, of course, by President Bush, the current President Bush, but by his father.

Mr. President 41, welcome.

G.H.W. BUSH: Thank you, Brit.

HUME: I believe this is the first time you two gentlemen have ever been interviewed together.

G.H.W. BUSH: I think so -- maybe the first time we've been asked to be interviewed.

HUME: Well, we're delighted to have you. Thank you very much.

G.H.W. BUSH: No, that's not true, but we've just gone our separate ways on these interviews.

HUME: In some sense, it has at least seemed that during your son's presidency that while you guys obviously were in touch, you had family matters, much to discuss, that -- that apart from that, there wasn't a lot of give and take. Is that true?

G.H.W. BUSH: Well, that's all it takes for give and take. I mean, you don't need -- if you mean do I -- calling up, Dad, now -- I mean, George, here's what you've 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 -- what's the old guy think? I mean, you don't need that.

HUME: Well, now it can be told. Discuss, if you will, both of you, the extent of your consultations on policy and political matters as -- while you were president.

G.W. BUSH: See, the interesting thing is that a president has got plenty of advisers, 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've got a lot of people who can give you advice. But you 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, you know, a president needs on occasion.

HUME: You have said that when your father was president, particularly toward the end -- rough year politically in 1992...

G.W. BUSH: Yeah.

HUME: ... that that hurt you more than it seemed to hurt him. Is that true?

G.W. BUSH: Well, I said that being the son of the president was a lot harder than being the president.

HUME: And how about being the father of the president?

G.H.W. 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...

HUME: Well, did it hurt you more than the criticism that you took as president?

G.H.W. BUSH: I think it hurt more, yeah.

HUME: Do you feel that way, too, that it hurt you more than...

G.W. BUSH: Absolutely. Gosh, I was furious. I got the reputation of being...

HUME: About stuff about him.

G.W. BUSH: Yeah. 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 and saying, "Look, don't worry about me. Things are going to be fine. My spirits are good. Laura's doing great."

And you know, I think people sit out there and say, "Oh, they must have had some kind of, you know, relationship that is very clinical and, you know, very advisory type stuff," 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 or Darryl, Dad's phone calls are not, you know, "You must do this or that." His phone calls are, "I love you," and it's -- and it's -- and it's very powerful.

HUME: Now, your son is -- race is days away from having been run. How do you regard his presidency?

G.H.W. BUSH: Very positively, and I think...

HUME: Why?

G.H.W. BUSH: I think history will -- well, because he can make a tough decision and stay with it. I mean, he's been tested unlike any other president, with this 9/11. So he passed the test.

G.W. BUSH: 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 -- 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.

G.H.W. BUSH: We won't be around to worry about it, that's for sure.

G.W. BUSH: Yeah.

HUME: 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? Or are you going to be -- is this a remnant from one your earlier hip operations, or -- what have you got going there?

G.H.W. BUSH: This is what they call old age.

HUME: Oh, I understand about that myself.

G.H.W. BUSH: No, it's -- no, it's -- there's no pain, no -- no hip, no -- I think I have an imbalance that came from a back operation.


G.W. BUSH: Let me ask you something. Is it true that you said publicly that you're going to jump out of the airplane again?

HUME: True.

G.H.W. BUSH: But that doesn't take anything but just going up there with some big -- strapped on to some big Golden Knight or something. And it's a thrill.

G.W. BUSH: You're going to have trouble convincing mother of that.

G.H.W. BUSH: No, no.

HUME: What about you? What do you think about that? Do you want him to do that?

G.W. BUSH: I think he's a nut to jump out of an airplane at age 70, 75, 80 and 85. I find it -- actually, it's -- I think it's cool.

G.H.W. 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.

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.

G.W. BUSH: You can drool and jump at the same time.

G.H.W. BUSH: That's right.


HUME: Now, you're in Houston.

You've chosen Dallas.

G.W. BUSH: Yes.

HUME: What's up with that?

G.W. BUSH: Well, I want to be close to SMU.

HUME: I got it.

G.W. BUSH: And that's where our, you know, policy center slash library slash archives are going to be.

HUME: Are you OK with that?

G.H.W. BUSH: You have a Dallas connection.

HUME: Did you hope that he'd come to Houston?

G.H.W. BUSH: Huh?

HUME: Did you hope that he'd move to Houston?

G.H.W. BUSH: No, I never -- I never thought he would move to Houston.

G.W. BUSH: Plus, Houston's two hours away from -- I mean, Dallas is two hours away from Crawford. And I plan on spending some time down there in Crawford.

G.H.W. BUSH: And Laura had some Dallas connections, so it... G.W. BUSH: Yeah.

G.H.W. BUSH: ... made sense.

HUME: Now, I want to ask you a little bit about the intelligence agency situation. After all, you came as an outsider to intelligence.

G.H.W. BUSH: Totally outside.


HUME: ... intelligence professional. And now you've 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.

G.H.W. BUSH: Well, I heard what the president said in his interview with you. And I agree with that. There are so many outstanding people there.

And so I went in there at a time the agency was under tremendous fire -- the Pike report and the Church report -- and 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 you know, everybody just thinks it's kind of a James Bond operation. And so I -- I think that whoever assumes that job -- and I have great confidence in the president's pick -- will express confidence in the agency and the people that make it up.

HUME: 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 -- what is that -- what is that atmosphere like among former presidents? Are all the old political differences aside? Is that all over with?

G.H.W. BUSH: Yes. I think so. And I think everyone -- everyone who's a member of that club realizes there can only be one president. He's not going to be turning to you every day saying, "What do I do now?"

There's -- you read a lot of kind of intellectual books. Well, what we need is the advice -- formalize the advice of former presidents. The president -- 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 - - I don't think there's much to it except collegiality, and the idea that, you know, you want to be out there if you need support.

HUME: Now, you've watched this range of appointments that Barack Obama has announced -- your take on it, your feeling about it?

G.W. BUSH: I've been impressed.

HUME: Why?

G.W. BUSH: 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 are working 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, you know, we want there to be a seamless move from -- from us leaving and you coming in, and we want you to succeed. And I've been very pleased with what I've seen over the -- since the election.

HUME: Do you agree with that?

G.H.W. BUSH: Yes, totally. Totally. And if I didn't, I wouldn't tell you.


Same policy.

HUME: Well, look. This is very like you, and like you as well, to refrain from comment on other political figures, the incoming president, and so on. Why?

G.H.W. BUSH: Well, why be out there looking like you're carping and criticizing and know everything?

I mean, I heard what the president said about President Obama, President-elect Obama, and 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.

G.W. BUSH: There'll be plenty of opportunities for people to carp, trust me. I mean...


G.H.W. BUSH: Oh, yeah. I know there was.

G.W. BUSH: And dad knows as well as anybody, it's -- you know, there -- you'll get plenty of opinions when you're the president, and you'll get plenty of, you know, flattering statements, and you'll get your fair share of not-so-complimentary comments.

I -- you know, I also remember what it was like to have people disappoint you. I mean, there -- you'll be getting -- you'll be picking up the newspaper and reading comments from people that you just say, "I just can't believe that that person would be, you know, so kind of -- so kind of -- not respectful of their own office, much less yours, to call those kind of names."

And that -- to me, that has been the biggest disappointment in the political process up here. There's 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. And it's...

HUME: Do you think that's gotten worse since your days in the White House?

G.H.W. BUSH: I don't know that it's gotten worse, but it's offensive, very offensive. And I always -- I -- I agree with the president that it -- 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 -- you know, here's the inside story, here's what they're saying, but here's what's really happening, they're playing the leak game -- it's just -- it's horrible.

And every administration has that. But I think Prosecute George Bush here has had -- been lucky. There haven't been that many of them.

G.W. BUSH: Yeah.

G.H.W. BUSH: And I think we were pretty lucky.

HUME: 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've 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?

G.H.W. BUSH: Well, looking back, lo those many years, I don't remember it being extraordinarily difficult. I mean, I felt -- unfulfilled agenda, for example.

HUME: Right. G.H.W. BUSH: I felt things I'd liked to have done. But once you got back to Texas, it wasn't difficult at all. You just start in a new -- a new life.

And part of mine was -- was built around our library at Texas A&M, and just as the way he's looking forward to having his library, it's -- you get a lot of strength from there. You bring a lot of people there to talk. So it's -- it's not that difficult.

G.W. BUSH: His advice was come back to Texas. But he didn't need to give it, because that's exactly where we're headed.

G.H.W. BUSH: Yeah, I -- people that hover around the Potomac River, senators or congressman that have been defeated -- they better go home. That's what I think.

HUME: Gentlemen, thank you very much.

G.W. BUSH: Yes, sir. Thank you.


HUME: The 41st and 43rd presidents of the United States. Later we'll spend a little time with them in the Oval Office.

Coming up, though, the president-elect gets a little push-back over his CIA pick, and he finds himself defending his proposed economic recovery plan.

Our panel gives us their take on that week, the week that was, for Mr. Obama, after a break.



OBAMA: If nothing's done, economists from across the spectrum tell us that this recession could linger for years.


HUME: That, of course, President-elect Obama, warning this week that if no action is taken -- and the action he's talking about, of course, is anywhere from $775 billion upwards of $1.3 trillion -- if none of that is done, tough times -- even tougher times lie ahead.

Panel time now for Fox News contributors Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, and Juan Williams, also of National Public Radio.

Well, Bill, we've had -- it's been quite a week, really. And there began -- it seemed to be some nerves on Capitol Hill about the sheer size, first of all, of the projected deficit for this year, in excess of a trillion, and the size of the stimulus program that's been bandied about. Your thoughts?

KRISTOL: I think both parties' conferences were briefed by pollsters, which is usually a mistake, and they were told that, guess what, people want the economy to recover, and they don't like trillion dollar deficits, and they don't like big government spending, and they don't like money going to banks, and basically none of this is very popular.

I think at the end of the day, obviously, Obama will be judged by whether the program works, as he said himself, and he certainly wants to get bipartisan support and is sending all kinds of signals that -- what did he say on -- at his press conference, that he has no pride of authorship, he's open to good ideas from others.

Republicans, I think, will try to modify the package. They may even succeed in some ways -- for example, why not some defense spending? You know, if you really want to -- how did -- what is the general consensus about how the Depression ended? The huge defense build-up of World War II.

What part of the U.S. government is good at spending money? The military. They're spending all kinds of money already. If you're buying 2,000 Humvees a month, why not buy 3,000? If you're refurbishing two military bases, why not refurbish five?

Why not increase -- I mean, everyone agrees that the military's stretched too thin. They have used up a huge amount in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think Republicans will push to get some of the money into defense, change the composition of the tax cuts.

I think Obama will end up with a stimulus package with bipartisan support.

LIASSON: Yeah, I agree with that, and I think he wants big bipartisan support in the Senate. I mean, he'd like an 80-20 majority there.

And I think that he has really approached this whole thing as kind of a grand bargainer. He wants a lot of buy-in, and he's willing to give somebody everything to get it.

I mean, saying that 40 percent of this is going to be tax cuts is a big, big nod to the Republicans. And of course, that caused a reaction from Democrats, who said that's too much. They want more spending on energy. They want more direct job spending.

I think in the end, what happens to this thing -- it gets bigger and bigger to accommodate everybody. In the end, it gets passed.

And the big question for me is when does Obama start pushing back. His approach to Congress so far has been incredibly deferential, very flexible. Even Larry Summers, famous for being kind of arrogant and sometimes abrasive, told Congress he was up there to listen, not to talk.

HUME: Charles, there -- this all raises a question about at what point in the next year or more does this recession become Obama's recession. What do you think?

KRAUTHAMMER: By mid-year it becomes his. I mean, everything is blamed on the predecessor at the beginning, as you should. And this always happens. By summer it will be his recession and, of course, even by his own estimates, it will be getting worse.

Unemployment will be climbing. It probably will be at 9 or 10 percent probably all the way into the midterm elections in 2010.

HUME: But even if he -- this is true, do you think, even if he has broad bipartisan support for the program he enacts?

KRAUTHAMMER: People won't react -- popular opinion is not going to react to the programs he passes. They're going to react to economic numbers and reality. And they are going to get worse.

So inevitably, he'll be the president. In about six months or so, it'll be his economy. And with unemployment high, it will be his responsibility.

The problem here, I think, is that as the bill expands and as he tries to get the Republicans, as I think he should, he's -- what is -- started out as an economic plan is becoming a political document.

He's going to have huge amount of stuff for the enviros. He's going to have -- he's going to have hundreds of billions of cuts in taxes for Republicans. He's going to have unions rewarded with these massive spending programs at union wages.

In the end, I'm not sure it's going to have economic coherence and logic.

HUME: Juan, let me just change the subject on you a little bit here. This is something that at least tangentially affects Obama. But we had quite a melodrama this week in the case of Roland Burris, the man named by the accused Rod Blagojevich to succeed Obama in the Senate.

Where do you see that going at week's end? And what effect do you think it's been having on this transition?

WILLIAMS: Well, it's a continuing distraction, certainly in terms of the press and the -- the message that the Obama -- that Obama transition people want to deliver, which is that he is ready to take charge. He's giving interviews. He's giving press conferences. He's treated as if he is already the president.

And now you have Burris on the stage. And at the moment, what we're hearing from the likes of Dick Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois, is that the U.S. Senate -- and the number two man, I might say, among the Democrats in the Senate -- is that the U.S. Senate is not going to change its rules about insisting that the secretary of state in Illinois, Jesse White, sign Governor Blagojevich's order that Roland Burris be appointed junior senator from the state of Illinois.

So this goes on now for some time and may be forced into the courts. The part of this thing that I find so amusing is it seems to me that Rod Blagojevich is playing racial politics and getting away with it. Everybody's focused on the law -- oh, yes, Roland Burris has a right to get in, Roland Burris is a nice guy.

Roland Burris wasn't even in this thing initially. And now he's being forced onto the U.S. Senate.

HUME: Bill, we've got about 30 seconds left, but as the founder of the Rod Blagojevich Fan Club and support group, your thoughts on the outcome of all this?

KRISTOL: He had a great week. A month ago he ended his press conference by quoting Kipling, his poem "If." And this press conference on Friday he ended by quoting Tennyson's poem "Ulysses."

I think he's auditioning, perhaps, for a job as ambassador to the Court of St. James under President Obama, don't you think? The British would love having someone there -- you know, a fine upstanding former governor who can quote British poetry at the drop of a hat.

WILLIAMS: Well, he's arguing to the jurors in Northern District of Illinois. And if he thinks Tennyson -- you know, he's playing the racial politics to the black jurors. But this Tennyson stuff is over the top. What a theater. What drama.

HUME: We've got to take a break here, folks.

But when we come back, the fighting in the Gaza Strip has now intensified. We'll see -- we'll see about that next.


HUME: On this day in 1989, President Reagan gave his farewell address to the American people.


REAGAN: God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.


HUME: After eight years as president, Reagan spoke with enthusiasm on the foreign policy achievements of his administration.

Stay tuned for more from our panel.


HUME: And we're back now with Bill, Mara, Charles and Juan.

This has been some week in the Mideast, with the extraordinary fighting going on between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza.

There you get a sense of it from early this morning as the Israelis drove deeper in, more troops, what looks like a significant escalation of the fighting in contravention of various U.N. resolutions and also urgings from all over the world about this.

Israel seems determined to press on, this in the face of a view of many people in the -- around the world that this will inevitably backfire on Israel. Time Magazine had on its -- had its cover this week -- there you see it -- "Why Israel Can't Win."

Charles Krauthammer, your thoughts on whether Israel can win or not by this military offensive?

KRAUTHAMMER: In principle it can, but the Hamas strategy of using human shields, women and children, and having cameras outside hospitals is working.

The pressure of public opinion in the world is very strong. It's affected the United States and, in fact, I think the worst effect is it's affected the leadership in Jerusalem. The government is divided. It was initially -- it had its objectives -- it was strong in its desire to go and to -- to shut down the rocket attacks into southern Israel, had success the first week or two.

But now, what I sense is that by threatening larger initiatives, threatening expansion of the war, it's signaling it's afraid to go ahead and do that.

HUME: So you think it's not happening.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think it's happening gradually, but in a sense waiting for the world to impose a cessation of hostilities.

We already had a resolution in the U.N. It was a weak one in which the United States included the word -- it has to be a durable cessation of hostilities, meaning you've got to have conditions and guarantees.

But it looks as if Israel is not getting any of those guarantees about smuggling the weapons in the future. So I think it could end up with a military success and a political disaster.

HUME: Juan, do you think Hamas, in a way, can come out a winner of this despite the devastating blows it's taking?

WILLIAMS: Well, the theory that Israel is pursuing is that you can create so much discomfort and pain and death that the people in Gaza will say, "You know what? Hamas is not being a proper representative, an effective representative, and we're no longer going to be loyal to Hamas."

But that is not what we're seeing, and Charles is right. If you look at world opinion at this point, Israel is portrayed as a bully, as a -- disproportionate in the punishment that it's dishing out.

And the thing that is so bothersome is that, you know, there's this sense of which they are not willing to respond even to humanitarian concerns.

Charles says they -- that Hamas and the like have cameras in front of the hospitals. That's not a problem. They can -- they can have cameras in front of the hospital. The problem is children's schools being bombed, humanitarian aid being blocked.

HUME: Isn't that a function of...

KRAUTHAMMER: The citizens...

HUME: ... of the strategy of putting their operations centers in the middle of population centers? Isn't Hamas to blame for that in some regard?

WILLIAMS: I think Hamas -- you know, is much more of a guerrilla operation. They're not a -- they're not a fully formed army in the way that Israel is because of U.S. support. LIASSON: Look, that -- this is the asymmetrical advantage that Hamas has. If it has its main leadership bunker under the biggest hospital in Gaza, that's a problem. And if it keeps its weapons in populated areas, that's a problem.

But I do think that, you know, Israel is now at the point -- this is the kind of turning point, whether or not world opinion gets so crushing and the pressure is so great that they are forced to retreat, having weakened Hamas militarily but left it politically intact or even enhanced.

HUME: Do you read it the same way, Bill?

KRISTOL: No, I think Israel can win, and I think they're likely to. I was cheered up by that Time Magazine cover. This is the same magazine that in 2002 said Israel's incursion into the West Bank couldn't possibly succeed in crushing the intifada and reducing terrorism and that said that the U.S. surge in Iraq -- I remember this vividly -- in January 2007, the surge can't succeed.

Look, I think Israel is pursuing a diplomatic and military strategy on two tracks. That may work. No guarantees. All this talk about world opinion -- they're negotiating with Egypt. Senior Israeli defense officials were in Egypt and they're going back to Egypt Monday to try to get Egypt to be serious about cutting down on the smuggling.

Can that work? I don't know. But the good news is, you know, for all the talk about the Arab street being inflamed, Egypt, one of the largest Arab countries, I guess the largest Arab country, Israel's neighbor, is negotiating with Israel and is, I think, interested in curbing the smuggling in, which is the whole point of this, the smuggling of weapons into Hamas-controlled Gaza.

And on the military side, they're doing a lot of damage to Hamas. They may have to take that corridor between Gaza and Egypt and try to say, "We're going to hold this until we get real assurances that the smuggling will stop." I think Israel may end up with a success here, unlike Lebanon.

Lebanon, you know, was -- could be resupplied endlessly by Syria. Gaza cannot be resupplied by anyone if Egypt will cut off the smuggling.

HUME: Just a few seconds left here.

Charles, you've got about 30 seconds. Do you sense that the -- this administration's general support for Israel in these undertakings will be repeated in the Obama administration soon to be here?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, I'm not sure if Obama will. But I think the problem here, as in Lebanon, is the will of the Israeli leadership. And it flinched in Lebanon. It looks as if it's flinching in Gaza.

HUME: Well, thanks, panel. We'll see you next week.

Up next, in the Oval Office with President Bush and his father. We'll be right back.



G.H.W. BUSH: May God bless the men and women who sail in CVN-77.


HUME: That was the scene Saturday at the commissioning ceremony of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush.

Following our earlier interview with the current and former President Bush, we had the rare opportunity to spend a few minutes with them in the Oval Office.


HUME: As you stand here together, Mr. President 41, what is your most vivid memory of your time in this office, in -- something that happened in this very room?

G.H.W. BUSH: I remember Colin Powell reaching under this desk and -- 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, 100 hours.

HUME: Kuwait.

G.H.W. BUSH: We've done what we said we wanted to do. And he called up. And I -- that one sticks in my mind as a dramatic moment. But there are many, many other exciting things. But that one stands out.

HUME: When you first took office, took occupancy of this office, as I recall, the two of you had a brief moment together.

G.H.W. BUSH: Right.

HUME: Can you reflect on that and remember it?

G.W. BUSH: We had just witnessed the inaugural parade, and I came upstairs in the White House up there.

And I think you were taking a nap.

G.H.W. BUSH: No, I was in the bathtub thawing out.

G.W. BUSH: Yeah, he was in the bathtub.

HUME: Were you really?

G.W. BUSH: 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 this shrine of democracy, and then I looked up and in comes 41, and it was a moving moment. It was a great -- you know, a very proud moment.

HUME: Can you remember what was said?

G.W. BUSH: 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?

G.H.W. BUSH: Yeah.

G.W. BUSH: Well, I didn't use the weird chair with the electric cord. They showed me how to operate it.

HUME: What did it do?

G.W. BUSH: Jiggled or something.

HUME: You mean, put on your fingers, turn out the lights, magic fingers make you feel all right?

G.W. BUSH: I don't...

G.H.W. BUSH: I remember it slightly differently. I remember being in the bathtub after that ice-cold inaugural parade, or whatever. And Ramsey, one of the guys over -- that's in the White House said, "Get out of the bathtub, Mr. President. You've got to get over -- the president wants you right now."

I said, "Come on, I'm just thawing out here, Ramsey." "Get over there." So I went over, and it was very moving.

G.W. BUSH: It was an awesome moment, it really was, as you can imagine.

HUME: It is the custom of departing presidents to leave a note in the drawer.

G.W. BUSH: Yeah. Actually, it's a custom to leave a note upstairs at the...


G.W. BUSH: ... residence.

HUME: Do you recall what you -- what you wrote?


G.H.W. BUSH: ... was in the desk, and I think I did the same thing.

G.W. BUSH: Whoops.

HUME: What did you say, roughly?

G.H.W. BUSH: I don't remember. Just, "Good luck," (inaudible).

G.W. BUSH: I'm going to write one.

HUME: Have you -- have you thought about what it's going to say?

G.W. BUSH: I have not. I think it -- I think it's probably best I wait for, you know, right before he -- he and his family come to ride down Pennsylvania Avenue with me.

HUME: This office has been used in different ways by different presidents -- atmosphere of formality, 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...

G.H.W. BUSH: That was my policy, I think.

HUME: And how about you? Did you...

G.W. BUSH: I thought it was the right policy.

HUME: Has that always been the case?

G.W. BUSH: Yeah, I may have come in here once over eight years without a tie on, or twice. But I come in here to work. And as I -- 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.

G.H.W. BUSH: No, I think -- I think it's important to treat this place with respect, and that's what we tried to do.

HUME: Well, I'm sure you'll be remembered for having done just that.

Thank you very much, gentlemen.


G.H.W. BUSH: Good luck to you.

HUME: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.


HUME: And that's it for us today. Have a great week, and we'll see you next Sunday when Chris Wallace returns. See you then.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


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