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CNN PRESENTS: George W. Bush: A President at War
Aired August 29, 2004 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN HEADLINE NEWS: Hello. I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center in Atlanta. The headlines right now.
On the eve of the Republican Party Convention, Vice President Dick Cheney has been addressing supporters in New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All of us are gathering this week for one reason, and one reason only. And that is, to make certain that George W. Bush is president for the next four years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LIN: Well, at Madison Square Garden, workmen are putting the final touches on the convention venue ahead of tomorrow's opening. Thousands of delegates and others are in town for the four day event. President Bush will formally accept the party's nomination on Thursday.
And outside on the streets of New York, tens of thousands of demonstrators protested the Bush administration's Iraq war policy.
Organizers estimated the crowd at more than 400,000. Of course, police did not give a figure. There were no reports of violence, although 100 people were taken to a police holding pen.
A lot of silence at the moment from police commissioner Ray Kelly.
But please join us for "LARRY KING LIVE." A lot of talking there from Madison Square Garden in just under an hour at 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific.
And at 10:00 Eastern tonight, a CNN American votes - America Votes 2004 special with Judy Woodruff and Wolf Blitzer. So, keep it right here on CNN.
In the meantime, high level efforts are under way to free two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq. France sent its foreign minister to the region today. The militants holding the men demand that France reverse a recent law banning Muslim girls from wearing headscarves in school.
And good news for two Turkish hostages in Iraq. They were released today, and are reported in excellent condition. Both are electrical engineers.
In Afghanistan today, four Americans were among 10 people killed in an explosion. A remote controlled bomb may have caused the blast, apparently aimed at the U.S. security company DynCorp. DynCorp has a police training facility in the area of Kabul, where the explosion occurred.
And a state of emergency in South Carolina after tropical storm Gaston makes landfall. It hit north of Charleston this morning with 60 mile per hour winds - look at that water there - and up to 10 inches of rain.
One person was seriously injured when a tree fell through a house. A tropical storm warning remains in effect for some areas of the state, although the storm is weakening.
And gas prices edged upward. The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular rose half a cent in the past two weeks to $1.88.
But there could be a drop in the near future. The publisher of the Lundberg Survey says world supply has caught up with strong world demand.
And those are the headlines this hour. Keeping you informed, CNN - the most trusted names in news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: No president goes around looking for wars.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot wait for the final proof. The smoking gun could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.
DAVID ALBRIGHT, PRESIDENT, INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: You can't go around running a foreign policy where you accept worst case assessments as fact.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us pray.
GEORGE W. BUSH: The hand of God is guiding the affairs of this nation.
HUGH HECLO, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: I think he truly believes God meant him to be president.
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: My husband has never said that he felt like he was called to this. He's never said such a thing.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We must take the battle to the enemy.
MARY MATALIN, FORMER ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: This is not a caretaker presidency. And these are not caretaker times.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
AARON BROWN, HOST, CNN PRESENTS: He calls himself a war president. And whether or not you admire him, George W. Bush is certainly a president at war.
Welcome to CNN PRESENTS. I'm Aaron Brown.
September 11, 2001 - a turning point, not only for the nation, but also for the president. Many, in fact, believe it was the day that George W. Bush found his true calling.
Supporters see the president as a man of courage and conviction, a bold leader whose religious faith keeps him focused and self- confident and resolute. They say the president is uniquely qualified for his role of commander-in-chief in a post-9/11 world.
But critics see Mr. Bush as stubborn and close-minded, a president with a simplistic view of the world that is dangerously narrow and superficial.
Both sides agree, however, that the aftermath of 9/11 and the war in Iraq will be the defining moments of the president's legacy, one way or the other.
So, who is George W. Bush, really?
What have we learned about this self-proclaimed "war president"? About his decision making, his take on the world, the influences of his faith?
Here's CNN's senior White House correspondent, John King.
GEORGE W. BUSH: The presidency is more than an honor. It is more than an office.
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: One man, two presidencies.
GEORGE W. BUSH: It is a charge to keep.
KING: Around the White House, known simply as "before" and "after."
LAURA BUSH: We see it as the dividing line. There was the time before September 11th, when we, in my mind, were spoiled. You know, the worst thing we had to worry about was bad traffic and road rage.
KING: For all but seven months of his term, the president of a country at war.
GEORGE W. BUSH: On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes.
KING: First in Afghanistan, with near universal international support.
Then Iraq, a much more controversial and costly war. And now, a major credibility challenge as the president asks for four more years.
COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: No president goes around looking for wars. He'd rather fix the economy. He'd rather build partnerships.
But sometimes, you can't look away. And President Bush refuses to look away.
GEORGE W. BUSH: That dictator is no longer a threat, and the American people are safer.
KING: No weapons of mass destruction found. And a nation more and more questioning whether the war is worth the price, and whether it could someday prove a tragic distraction.
STEVEN FLYNN, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: America remains dangerously unprepared to protect, prevent a terrorist attack. And the American people are going to be aghast when they see how little progress has been made.
KING: Tensions with traditional allies who see America as too powerful, and its current president as too eager to go it alone.
GUILLAUME PARMENTIER, FRENCH INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: The idea that, if you disagree - however slightly - with the policy pursued by the Americans, you're on the other side, is a very self-defeating sort of attitude.
GEORGE W. BUSH: The world changed on September the 11th. And since that day, we have changed the world.
KING: One constant in the story of this wartime president is an air of confidence. Critics find it arrogant and alarming. Those closest to the president call it essential to leading a divided country at a time of daunting domestic and global challenge.
DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: If you sit around all day and think about what you did wrong, or if you sit around all day and think about how, you know, and second guess decisions you make, you can't lead.
GEORGE W. BUSH: This country must not fear the influence of faith. We must welcome faith, in order to make America a better place.
KING: Another constant is faith. And, again, a divide between those who worry the president invokes God too often, ...
BARRY LYNN, AMERICANS FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: I don't expect the president to leave his or her religious views behind when entering the Oval Office.
I do think this president, though, wears his religion on both sleeves, and really tries to convince people around the world that his policies are not only good policies, but they're God's policies.
KING: ... and those who see faith as his personal anchor - and nothing more.
MARY MATALIN, FORMER ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: He doesn't bring it into the room. He doesn't bring his faith into the conversations.
It is a source of strength and solace and his place to go to get centered, but it's not in any way a policy directive.
KING: This campaign is shaped by the divide of the last one, which is perhaps why, with this president, there seems to be so much black and white, and so little gray.
DAVID KEENE, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: We have a permanent campaign and a permanent political war that's going on in this country.
There are so few votes separating the two parties, that nobody wants to reach out and endanger the rough balance that exists.
KING: He called himself a uniter in the first campaign, yet is now a more polarizing figure than the man he succeeded.
LAURA BUSH: You know, I mean, it bothers him and it bothers me. Obviously, it would bother somebody to think that there were people that hated you and, you know, to read what we read.
KING: At the center, whether you call it a war or a campaign, is a man fiercely competitive, and son whose politics are shaped by what he believes were the mistakes of his father.
JOSEPH HAGIN, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Where's this competitive streak coming from? I think it's in the Bush genes.
His dad was always very competitive. I think his brothers are.
He doesn't like to lose.
KING: He ever talk about losing an election?
ANDY CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: And I walked up to his right ear, leaned over and whispered in, "America is under attack."
KING: The day that defined the Bush presidency. What was it like on the inside? And his steps from the rubble of 9/11 to war in Iraq.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAM H. REHNQUIST: So help me God.
GEORGE W. BUSH: So help me God.
KING: It began on a rainy January day. The first task, uniting a country divided by a contested election.
GEORGE W. BUSH: And I thank Vice President Gore for a contest conducted with spirit, and ended with grace.
KING: And then, as the president sees it, it all began again.
ANDY CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: And I walked up to his right ear and leaned over and whispered in, "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack."
I wanted to be efficient in how I delivered the message. But I also wanted to be unambiguous about the consequence.
KING: Testing time, for a president just seven months in office.
ERIC DRAPER, PRESIDENTIAL PHOTOGRAPHER: We were approaching Washington. And everyone had noticed the fighter jets that escorted Air Force One outside.
Now, we had been on the plane all day without being in Washington. And so, we were finally home.
MATALIN: I remember the night of 9/11, saying to us, this is the mission of this government. This is the mission of this administration. We will bring these terrorists, in whatever form it takes, to justice.
KING: Two new challenges. Rally the country from its shock, and comfort the families.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We come before God to pray for the missing and the dead, and for those who loved them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: USA! USA! USA!
GEORGE W. BUSH: I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people - and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.
DRAPER: Pretty emotional. He cried with a lot of the families. He hugged a lot of the families. Everyone had tears in their eyes.
The families were holding pictures of their loved ones who they lost. It was very intense.
KING: The contested election was for a time forgotten, and the country rallied around a president who found his voice in tragedy.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.
MICHAEL GERSON, DIRECTOR OF PRESIDENTIAL SPEECHWRITING: He wants a speech to be certain things. He likes clear outlines. He likes short sentences. He likes active language, not passive language.
KING: Mr. Bush turned his focus to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. It was us versus them, good versus evil. Unusual for a president, but the way this one wanted it.
GEORGE W. BUSH: They used to put out there in the Old West a wanted poster. It said, "wanted, dead or alive."
All I want, and America wants him brought to justice.
KING: Laura Bush didn't like that line. Found it a bit too much Texan.
KING: Help me understand a bit about how you guide him, or give him a kick every now and then.
LAURA BUSH: Well, I wouldn't say I guided him or gave him a kick, for sure. It's a very interesting question, John, the way you ask it.
I don't give him a lot of advice. I don't want a lot of advice from him.
He has plenty of advisers. You know, I'm his wife. I don't really need to be one of them.
KING: But the country liked what it was hearing, cowboy and all.
MICHAEL DEAVER, MEDIA STRATEGIST: And he is extremely comfortable with where he is today in his life. And I think it's one of those things that you can't hide, that it comes through.
KING: The military victory in Afghanistan was swift, the Taliban routed.
A gruff-talking general named Tommy Franks became a household name and a frequent visitor.
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, U.S. ARMY: We will do away with the Taliban. And that has been done.
KING: Unknown then, the Taliban and al Qaeda were not the only topic of discussion.
The president asked General Franks to write a new plan for war in Iraq - just in case.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Afghanistan is still just the beginning.
If anybody harbors a terrorist, they're terrorists. If they fund a terrorist, they're a terrorist.
If they develop weapons of mass destruction that will be used to terrorize nations, they will be held accountable.
KING: Weeks later, in the State of the Union address, an unmistakable signal.
GEORGE W. BUSH: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil.
KING: His axis - Iraq, Iran and North Korea. But he paid special attention to Saddam Hussein.
GEORGE W. BUSH: This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.
KING: The speech began a year of public persuasion and diplomacy.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Containment is not possible. And unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorists and allies.
KING: Defining the president's threshold for war in the post- 9/11 world. The Bush Doctrine - preemption. Get them before they get us.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have the honor to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency, Mr. George W. Bush.
KING: Despite his reluctance to go to the U.N., the president was persuaded the price was too high to wage war without asking for its support, so he did so, speaking with certainty.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.
KING: To critics, Mr. Bush was in too much of a hurry.
SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: This is very serious business. And the people's lives are at risk. The country's position in terms of world leadership is at risk.
KING: But public opinion was on the president's side. And Congress, including the man now running against him, gave Mr. Bush the authority to wage war.
SEN. JOHN F. KERRY, DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president laid out a strong, comprehensive and compelling argument.
KING: In November, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to send weapons inspectors back to Iraq. The president made clear the clock was ticking.
GEORGE W. BUSH: The United States prefers that Iraq meet its obligations voluntarily, yet we are prepared for the alternative.
DAVID ALBRIGHT, PRESIDENT, INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: I thought they were exaggerating the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
They were moving too quickly to war and so short of unconditional surrender on the part of Saddam, the war was going to happen. And they figured, why wait?
KING: The warnings about Saddam Hussein became more dire.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.
ALBRIGHT: They wouldn't just say weapons of mass destruction. They said nuclear weapons.
And that's when I became very concerned that this was - the administration was putting out bad information.
KING: Despite opposition and concern among Americans once united, Mr. Bush's diplomacy became an ultimatum.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Saddam Hussein - and his sons - must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing.
DRAPER: He was in the situation room when the decision was made. And he decided to go out for a walk alone.
Very intense. I mean, it was very - I mean, of all the moments that I photographed in this job, you know, this one's definitely - it's at the top two or three.
KING: It would begin hours later.
War without international consensus or direct provocation - the Bush Doctrine.
POWELL: When you see a danger coming at the nation, and you should act to avoid that danger.
HUGH HECLO, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: And doing that means getting rid of Saddam. And everything else is peripheral, including whether or not you have enough allies to do it, whether or not the American people understand, really, why this is the thing to be doing at this time.
GEORGE W. BUSH: At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq.
HECLO: So it's a very remarkable exercise of presidential daring, boldness, on the one hand, if you approve, or recklessness if you don't approve.
GEORGE W. BUSH: May God bless our country and all who defend her.
KING: But was the war justified?
POWELL: Now, we haven't found the stockpiles, and we may never find the stockpiles. Maybe there were no stockpiles.
ALBRIGHT: You can't go around running a foreign policy where you accept worst case assessments as fact.
KING: The shaky foundations of the president's case.
KING: The statue fell 21 days after the first bomb.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Bush. We very like Mr. Bush.
KING: As it had in the first Gulf war, Saddam Hussein's promise to humiliate the American military and a commander-in-chief named Bush proved hollow.
Three weeks later, this made-for-TV landing aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, a banner the White House now wishes was never hung.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.
KING: And a confident declaration that the worst of war was over.
GEORGE W. BUSH: And this much is certain. No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more.
KING: The early days of the new Iraq would turn out far differently than team Bush had predicted.
U.S. forces were greeted by insurgents, not as liberators. Critics recalled the pre-war dismissal of calls for more troops.
DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Any idea that it's several hundred thousand over any sustained period is simply not the case.
KING: The cowboy rhetoric that struck such a chord after 9/11 turned out to be off-key in the face of a determined insurgencies against U.S. troops.
GEORGE W. BUSH: There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring 'em on.
KING: Not all the damage came from car bombs and mortars. In 511 pages, the Senate Intelligence Committee eviscerated what the CIA director had once called a "slam-dunk case" - proving Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
SEN. PAT ROBERTS, (R) KANSAS: Well, today we know these assessments were wrong.
They were also unreasonable and largely unsupported by the available intelligence.
KING: Vindication for those outside the White House who had questioned the certainty with which Mr. Bush and his team had spoken of chemical, biological, even nuclear weapons.
The CIA over the years had little luck placing operatives of its own in Iraq, and few of the traditional resources to rely on. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad had been open for just six of the past 37 years.
RICHARD W. MURPHY, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: They didn't have a cadre of officials or of expertise, the part of people who had lived in the country, moved freely around. It was impossible to move freely around Iraq.
KING: Without reliable information of its own, the administration put considerable stock in Ahmed Chalabi and defectors affiliated with his Iraqi National Congress.
ALBRIGHT: And in the technical community, Chalabi had no credibility. I mean, for years he'd been trotting out defectors and other information about Iraq's activities. And it was usually just very bad.
CHENEY: There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
POWELL: All of the major intelligence agencies of the world believed that he actually had stockpiles. It wasn't anything anyone made up.
We now find that some of that information was not correct. I'm disappointed.
POWELL (BEFORE THE U.N.): What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.
POWELL: I don't like having gone out there on the 5th of February. I'm disappointed. But, you know, disappointment, you get over it.
ALBRIGHT: You can't go around running a foreign policy where you accept worst case assessments as fact, that then lead to draconian actions.
KING: European critics worried Mr. Bush was set on war, regardless of the facts.
PARMENTIER: They were not really after weapons of mass destruction. They wanted to change the regime in Iraq.
And that was something that we did not accept, because we didn't want to see the West or the U.S., in general, become responsible for the future of Iraq.
KING: The United States now is very much responsible. Troops by the tens of thousands still on the ground, even after the transfer of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government.
GEORGE W. BUSH: The rise of Iraqi democracy is bringing hope to reformers across the Middle East, and sending a very different message to Teheran and Damascus.
MURPHY: The aspiration to transform that part of the world is a policy adopted largely, I believe, in ignorance of the history, the culture, the outlook of the region.
KING: Loyalists say Mr. Bush is not getting his due. The first president to plainly call for an independent state called Palestine, and now a president who says his predecessors - including his father - were wrong to embrace repressive Arab regimes because they wanted stability and needed oil.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We cannot turn a blind eye to oppression, just because the oppression is not in our own backyard.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I believe what the president has undertaken - and it is bold - will change the course of that region in a way that will not only benefit the people of that region, but make this country much safer.
KING: Perhaps safer, but not safe.
TOM RIDGE, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND DEFENSE: Today, the United States government is raising the threat level to code orange for the financial services sector in New York City, northern New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
FLYNN: This year, the United States will spend close to $500 billion on traditional national security apparatus - both the apparatus we have and the war that we're fighting in Iraq, and Afghanistan. By comparison, the total budget for the Department of Homeland Security is about $40 billion. Is that one in 12 balance appropriate? I think that is something we really need to challenge.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: I just completed a meeting with our national security team.
LARRY KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, (voice-over): It is a balanced shaped by a national security team that even most Democrats praised at the beginning. Experience was never an issue. Their judgment now at the center of a fiercely contested presidential election.
GEORGE TENET, FMR. CIA DIRECTOR: I have decided to step down as Director of Central Intelligence.
KING: The only change is at the CIA. Director George Tenet resigned, though Mr. Bush urged him to stay.
KING, (on-camera): Is that part of his upbringing? There is some sense of loyalty there.
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY, UNITED STATES: I think it is part of his character. And it is a sense of loyalty. But it is also a sense that many things were right in the intelligence. And it is just a sense that you stay there. That everyone redoubles their efforts. And digs in to get everything right.
KING, (voice-over): When we return ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has probably the most extensive political background of any president in modern times.
KING: Running in his father's footsteps with a style of his own.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to be able to reach in and touch and feel a president. And that is not George Bush.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR, CNN PRESENTS: We now return to CNN PRESENTS: "The Mission of George W. Bush".
BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY, UNITED STATES: I have met so many of your families. I would like you to meet ours.
KING, (voice-over): George W. Bush did not like the 1992 campaign. Thought his father should have been more bold. Not many of those around him that have been more loyal. And in the end, more realistic.
MARY MATALIN, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT: I for one was saying, we're going to win. We're going to win. It is not over. It is never over until it is over. And he was the one that took me by the shoulder and said, Mary, it is over.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FMR PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: I just called Governor Clinton over in Little Rock. And ...
MATALIN: He is a realist.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Thank you so much.
MATALIN: I don't think he ever thought at that time he had any desire to be president.
KING: Eight years later, he was president. Two successful campaigns for Texas governor. Then the presidency after just six years in elected office. Dismissed in each campaign as a neophyte. A spoiled kid cashing in on a famous name.
BUSH: There are some familiar faces here. But none more beloved than Yogi Bear. Yogi has been an inspiration to me.
KING: Underestimated, just the way he likes it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or mis-underestimated as someone once said. BUSH: A mis-under-under-mis-underestimated the compassion of our country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a continuing them line.
BUSH: Mis-underestimate our -- or excuse me, underestimate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He laughs about it.
BUSH: Just making sure you were paying attention. You were.
DAN BARTLETT, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think those people who have raised those concerns are ones who are talking about why they lost a race to him.
GEORGE H. W. BUSH: Nobody likes to lose ...
HUGH HECLO, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: When his father became one of those rare Republicans in Texas, and started running for office, the teenage Bush, eldest son, was right there at his side.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has probably the most extensive political background of any president in modern times. In the sense of knowing how the campaign system, the electoral system works.
KING: A remarkable father-son moment role reversal in his first visit to the Oval Office as president. It is a relationship much more valuable than either man likes to let on.
MATALIN: They both understand that anything they say relative to their relationship will be parsed, and misconstrued, and mis- contextualized. I am sure there are very few aids who know what they say to each other.
KING, (on-camera): How open of a channel of communication is this? How frequently is it used?
MATALIN: It is frequent.
KING, (voice-over): But it is hardly like father, like son. Father is from Connecticut, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), then Texas, cautious. The son from Texas, period.
KEVIN PHILLIPS, AUTHOR, "AMERICAN DYNASTY": George H.W. was never very convincing. People would think he had one foot in Manhattan AND THE United Nation's plaza. And the other in Texas. But George W. was -- is the whole thing. The real deal. And he is right to do that. It is not good to be a hybrid, where neither side trusts you.
KING: The 43rd president of the United States, believes the 41st did not keep faith with conservatives. Forty-three does.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The religious right now is far more important than the labor movement was at it's peak. They are foot soldiers of this cause. And the administration would like to set up a lot of mechanisms aided by government, abetted by government.
BUSH: Government can hand out money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But in essence, allow the religious right to mobilize itself around government programs.
BUSH: The government can't put hope in a person's heart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the same way -- some of the same ways that labor did during the "New Deal".
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I give you the president of the United States.
KING: And this President Bush doesn't have to say read my lips. Among anti-tax conservatives, there is no doubt.
DAVID KEENE, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: I think that is one of the things that this president learned by watching his father. He has been very attentive to his base. He talks to people. And I think most conservatives, when they talk look at George Bush today, say he is part of the family.
KING: Confidence is a trademark. Back at the beginning ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States.
KING: He waved off those who urged cautious early steps, because of the contested election.
BUSH: The people of American have been overcharged. And on their behalf, I am here asking for a refund.
KING: Then tragedy opened a window confrontation gave way to cooperation. But it did not last.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He lives in a time in which Republicans don't like Democrats. The Democrats don't like Republicans. And conservatives don't like liberals. And visa versa. The old days where you discussed your differences and had a drink afterward are gone.
KING: Partisan times. And the candidate who promised to change the tone in Washington, is now the most polarizing president in 30 years.
SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: We have worked with other presidents, Republican presidents at other times. But this I found, this is an ideological White House.
KING, (on-camera): Is it him? Is he the ideological president? Is it the staff? Is it the times?
KENNEDY: Well, it is a responsibility. President Reagan, President Bush, they are very deeply principled. And they wanted to win. And they wanted to beat you. But they did not want to destroy you. I think what we have seen under this whole administration is that the politics of a personal kind of destruction.
KING, (voice-over): In 2000, he also promised to restore honesty to the White House. Four years later, critics say he failed that test.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we went to war. Now there is evidence we were misled.
MICHAEL GERSON, DIRECTOR OF PRESIDENTIAL SPEECHWRITING: That is actually a fundamental misreading of the president. The president has been forthright about in approaching matters. And puts a premium on being honest.
KING: Security is central to Mr. Bush's politics. His self- described mission after 9/11. But Democrats see a president too willing, even eager to use that tragedy, and the fear it could happen again, for political gain.
BUSH: If American shows weakness and uncertainty in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will not happen on my watch.
KING: And what some Republicans see is a president so defined by war, he has lost the label of compassionate conservative. And perhaps lost the personal connection he had in those days immediately after September 11th.
MICHAEL DEAVER, MEDIA STRATEGIST: I think for the president to broaden his appeal in this closely divided nation, he has to be able to show us a different part of him. We want to be able to reach in and touch and feel a president. And that is not George Bush. George Bush does not like that sort of thing. But it is part of what we want. We want to be able to touch and feel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us pray.
BUSH: The hand of God is guiding the affairs of this nation.
KING: Church and state, is President Bush blurring the line that separates them?
BUSH: Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war. And we know that God is not neutral between them.
KING: He is a president who sees the war on terror as good versus evil. And counts God as an ally.
BUSH: We can trust in that greater power who guides the unfolding of the years.
KING: A president who also sees too many walls between religion and government. BUSH: We stand for the fair treatment of faith-based groups so they can receive federal support for their works of compassion and healing.
BARTLETT: Extending compassion through his faith-based initiative and other initiatives to those who may feel like they are being left behind. This is a real gut issue for him. It is something that he feels very passionate about.
KING: One moment in the first campaign, made clear a Bush presidency would be very different.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What political philosopher or thinker do you most identify with, and why?
BUSH: Christ. Because he changed my heart.
KING: A rebirth of faith, he says also changed his life.
BUSH: I know first hand what it takes to quit drinking. And it takes something other than a textbook or a manual. If you can change a person's heart, you can change their life.
KING: God is on the dollar, in the Pledge of Allegiance, and intertwined from the beginning with American history and politics.
GERSON: People of faith were behind the abolition movement, and the civil rights movement. And every movement of conscience in the history of our country. People of faith bring an element of conscience to political debates that should be welcomed. And the president has certainly welcomed that role.
KING: Each day begins and ends in prayer. And Mr. Bush is known to quietly reflect before emerging for major speeches and news conferences.
STAN GREENBERG, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And as people who have worked in the White House describe it as an evangelical White House. There is a whole evangelical feel about the place. And that is the center. That is their identity. That is what they believe.
KING: Like most everything about this president, his faith can be a dividing line. Some see an effort to tip or trample a delicate historical balance.
BARRY LYNN, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: Government and religious bodies both have a place in the American system. But it is not the same place. And politicians I think, do a great disservice to both the church and to the state when they merge the two.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to say a prayer. So let's bow our heads before God. Shall we?
KING: But to others, including religious conservatives, critical to his political success, Mr. Bush is restoring faith to it's proper place.
PHILLIPS: I think a lot of Americans feel the line was drawn too far against religion. And they don't mind seeing the envelope pushed a little bit.
BUSH: Since America's founding (ph) prayers reassured us that the hand of God is guiding the affairs of this nation.
KING: To some, a welcome and natural expression of faith. To others, too close to claiming God's blessing.
JOHN KERRY (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side.
MELISSA ROGERS, WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY: The question becomes, well does that suggest to some people, that if God is controlling history, and this is a part of history, does that tend to suggest that these policies might be unassailable?
KING: Those close to him bristle at the suggestion Mr. Bush believes his presidency is a religious calling.
LAURA BUSH: You know. It is just a very important part of our life. My husband has never said I think this is some extrapolation from his critics, maybe that he felt like he was called to this. He has never said such a thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wants the public square to be welcoming to people-to-people of faith. But an (UNINTELLIGIBLE), favoring one faith above another. And we try to keep that balance in the way that we communicate.
BUSH: Freedom isn't America's gift to the world. Freedom is the almighty God's gift to every man and woman in this world.
KING: Invoking God's name, reassuring or alarming. Again, a divide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The relationship of the religious right with George W. Bush has been homed for almost 20 years now. Based on his showing them personal religiosity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us pray.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But prayer, the language, the desire to be around these people, to partake of what is important to them with them.
BUSH: We ought to welcome faith-based programs. And we ought to fund faith-based programs.
ROGERS: It was James Madison who said something like, that we should not use religion as an engine of civil policy. So it call into question some of the use of religion in a sort of utilitarian fashion to accomplish goals of public policy. LAURA BUSH: You know, our Bill of Rights says that we believe that these are the rights that we were given by our creator. And it is just a fact of life in American that many people find their faith to be very important to them. And certainly both of us do that.
KING: The legacy of his first term, and what we could expect from the second.
BROWN: WE now return to CNN PRESENTS: "The Mission of George W. Bush".
BUSH: I took it personally. I have a responsibility that goes on. I will never relent in bringing justice to our enemies. I will defend the security of America. Whatever it takes.
KING: His mission, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
LAURA BUSH: Sure. Absolutely. I mean, I think that is what anyone would say who looked at him. Would know that that is what he thinks. That is what a leader does.
KING: There is no doubt about what would motivate him most, if given four more years.
BUSH: We must aggressively pursue them. And defeat them in foreign lands so we do not have to face them here at home.
KING: And no shortage of those who question his strategy.
DAVID ALBRIGHT, PRESIDENT, INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: It would be nice if the world could be divided up, and we attack our enemies, dispose of the problem like you are cleaning your house. But it is more like stirring up a hornets nest. And no matter how much poison you apply, you are not going to kill them all.
KING: There is more to his mission, and his worldview, supporters say, and flexing military muscle.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: In Afghanistan, it was a response to a Pearl Harbor situation. In the case of Iraq, preemption. In the case of Iran, Libya, and North Korea, diplomacy and negotiations.
LAURA BUSH: I know there is certain group of people, and many in the press probably, who see him as much more one-dimensional than he really is. He is a much more complicated person.
KING: Like him or not, he was, and is a defining figure, at one of history's defining moments.
MATALIN: This is not a caretaker presidency. He is not a caretaker man. And these are not caretaker times.
KING: The ranch is a refuge.
JOSEPH HAGIN, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We work really hard. And it tends to cleanse the mind a little bit. Knock the cobwebs out when you are doing hard physical labor. We get a little bloodied. A few bruises every now and then. But it is really fun. And much less formal.
KING: A second term would again prove the son different from the father. And it would also be shadowed by the unfinished business of the first.
BUSH: If we want to compete in the long term, we need (UNINTELLIGIBLE) reform. There are too many frivolous and junk lawsuits that are making it hard for small businesses to expand and grow.
KING: Fiscal conservatives, who love the Bush tax cuts, detest the transition from surplus to deficits.
KEENE: He is going to do the international things that he needs to do. But he also going to try and get control of domestic spending, which frankly, he has to do. Because it is increasing at a rate that nobody projected. This is the fastest increase in many many years.
KING: When he speaks of more tax cuts, yet promises to slash the deficit, critics seem more ideology than math.
KENNEDY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the great author said, for every complex problem, there is a simple easy answer. And it is wrong. I think Americans understand that we have had a lot of cliches, a lot of slogans. And they are wrong.
KING: He doesn't like the "L" word.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he does not talk about legacy. I have not heard him mention it.
KING: But like presidents before him, he tries to shape history's birth.
BUSH: This is the great challenge of our time. The storm in which we fly. History is once again witnessing a great clash.
KING: At home, already a legacy. A color code for terrorist threats. Terms, like new normal, and undisclosed location. Hardly the presidency he envisioned.
GERSON: The strong domestic agenda, education, Social Security, tax cuts. And there was an expectation that would be the drama of the first term. And then September 11th came.
HECLO: I think he truly believes God meant him to be president. And the legacy will be provided that God intends. That sounds strange to people who haven't encountered this in politicians before. But there is an easiness to him. DEAVER: It goes back to him saying, I know who I am, and I am going to be who I am. And take it or leave it. He knows where he wants to leave the country. He knows where he wants to go the next four years.
KING, (on-camera): What if he loses? What would he do?
DEAVER; I think he would not look back. I think he would go to Texas, and be very happy. But we don't talk about losing.
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