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George W. Bush: Two Years Later

Aired November 14, 2010 - 20:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening from Florida, a state that has played an outsized role in the political legacy of the Bush family. A state that through the 2000 presidential election bid of George Bush into overtime and eventually into the Supreme Court.

The state that twice elected Jeb Bush, whose eight years as governor included that 2000 Florida recount. For the past two years, the brothers have kept a low profile until now. The roll-out of the former president's book "Decision Points."

This afternoon the two brothers sat down to talk with me here in Coral Gables. President Bush and I last spoke in December of '08, one of his final interviews as president. It was a subdued time. Republicans had been routed by the landslide victory of Barack Obama.


GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We care about him. We want him to be successful and we want the transition to work.

CROWLEY (voice-over): President Bush left behind an economy in recession, a situation so dire that one of his last acts was to pump out $25 billion to save the auto industry and he set up a $700 billion taxpayer bailout for a banking industry so burdened by its own bad investments the country's entire economy was threatened.

BUSH: You know I feel a sense of obligation to my successor to make sure there's not a -- you know, a huge economic crisis.

Look. I obviously have made a decision to make sure the economy doesn't collapse. I have abandoned free market principles to save the free market system. Having said that, I'm very confident that with time the economy will come out and grow and people's wealth will return.

CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley and this is a STATE OF THE UNION special. "Bush Two Years Later."


CROWLEY: Mr. President, thank you for being here with us. I want to start with the economy because that's what the American people are thinking about now right.

And I listened to that exchange with you, and I wonder if you knew two years ago when you were talking about I think the wealth will come back, it hasn't.

BUSH: No, I understand.

CROWLEY: Still struggling.

BUSH: Yes.

CROWLEY: Was it as bad -- was it as bad as you thought it was or worse than you thought it was at that time?

BUSH: Well, when I talked to you, I had just finished making a very difficult decision and that is to use taxpayers' money to prevent the economy from collapsing or preventing a depression. And I believed that those decisions made in the fall of '08 did prevent the economy from heading into a depression.

I knew the -- I knew we were hurt. I don't think a lot of us realized how long it would take to get out of the mess. I will tell you this, though, that the TARP -- you mentioned the $700 billion.

We spent half of it when I was president and it has been repaid with interest to the people of the country and the president has -- you know, obviously made decisions he thinks is necessary to grow the economy and so far the growth has been sluggish.

CROWLEY: A lot of times we do hear from this administration that they had no idea -- that the reason it's taking so long is they had no idea how bad it was. That they got into office and they really didn't understand how bad it was.

Did you understand how bad it was? Did you think that you and I would be sitting here in two years talking about an economy or people talking about 201(k)s now, they are talking -- you know, it's 9.6 percent unemployment rate so it's still a scary place.

Did you think two years later it would still be this bad?

BUSH: I wasn't a very economic prognosticator. I did know we were in deep trouble and that's why I made the decision I made and in my book I chronicle the history of the meltdown and then the decisions I took to prevent the economy from -- there's a lot of people who said, well, the economy -- we wouldn't have seen a depression.

The problem is when you're the president, you don't have the luxury of being able to -- talking about the theoretical. I was advised by people who I trust -- I trusted Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke. We better do something and -- so I did set aside my free market principles and made a very difficult decision.

CROWLEY: But never regretted it?

BUSH: No, I don't. I really don't.

CROWLEY: I want -- this was -- is from your book and you were talking about the economy at this point and you said, "I felt like the captain of a sinking ship. This was one ugly way to end the presidency." BUSH: Yes, yes.

CROWLEY: You bring up Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke. And also Larry Lindsay as an economic adviser. And I guess, I think -- when I think of the White House, I think they're bringing all these big brains and these people all know about global economy is at this and that, and nobody saw it coming.

BUSH: Right.

CROWLEY: You talk about, I didn't see it coming, I didn't know I was -- you know, angry at what the banks had done. And you know, to me, I'm thinking, why isn't anyone accountable for this? Why did it slip past all these big brains that you like so much?

BUSH: Well, everybody is -- everybody is accountable. I mean private and public sector. We did anticipate a problem and that is that the implicit of government guarantee of Fannie and Freddie, the government mortgage and institutions. The fact that they weren't regulated -- implicit government guarantee plus the fact that they weren't regulated was creating a problem.

And therefore I did go to Congress and strongly urge them to regulate those two entities and, of course, was rebuffed up until the crisis hit.

CROWLEY: But this was really broad. This was broader than Fannie and Freddie. They were a big problem.

BUSH: Yes.


BUSH: I also put in the book this is not a case of regulation. This is a case of bad, bad decisions in the private sector. And -- no, I don't --

CROWLEY: How did we not know that?

BUSH: I don't think anybody really saw the size of the catastrophe.

CROWLEY: But doesn't that kind of make you think, what are you -- what's your people's job but to help you do this?

BUSH: Well, don't think our people -- I don't think our job is to overregulate an economy. Our job was to provide reasonable regulation which we tried to do but we're thwarted by the Congress.

Look, I'm not trying to pass the blame on anybody. But I think it is very difficult for a president or an administration to see the size and scope of a downturn. I mean, the economics is an inexact science and we did see a problem coming.

That's why we tried to boost consumer spending in January of 2008 but the interconnectedness of the world and the risky investments that many made compounded into the perfect storm and it was a very difficult situation.

And my job at that point was to make a decision as to whether or not we're going to risk a complete economic collapse and I chose not.

CROWLEY: I guess if I'm just a consumer out there and I remember distinctly being on the campaign trail at that point I think we were with John McCain, and it just seemed like the world was falling apart. It seemed like everything was going fine and then all of a sudden it was --

BUSH: Yes.

CROWLEY: -- the world is falling apart. If we don't act now, the banks are going to fail and -- or going to fair and this will happen. And I guess right now if I'm listening to you out there, I'm thinking, so it can happen again because --

BUSH: Yes --

CROWLEY: -- no one is out there watching this?

BUSH: No, I think there's a lot of people watching and I remember Bear Stearns fails in the spring of 2008 and we acted, but the interconnectedness of the situation, the money flowing into the country as a result of trade deficits and foreign investors looking for greater returns and housing -- the assumption that the housing market -- housing prices were going to go up, all led to this, you know, house of cards and when it started to collapse it really started to collapse.

And obviously if there's some way to stop it I would have liked to have done so, but it's -- it was -- I hope it's a once-in-a-lifetime situation but they said the great depression was a once-in-a-lifetime situation, as well.

CROWLEY: But you --

BUSH: The problem is that you have to be careful, Candy, not to overregulate because if you try to overregulate then the investment is not going to flow, and if investment doesn't flow then people aren't going to be able to find work.

CROWLEY: Except for that I would think, wow, if somebody had set some standards for loans, these banks would not have been stuck with so much bad paper.

BUSH: Yes, but there -- that's right. There was sloppy lending practices. No question about it. And I wish they would have paid a price.

CROWLEY: Isn't that regulation?

BUSH: Well -- but the regulations are on the book and -- on the books about, you know, sloppy lending practices. And yes.

The danger is that -- I mean, the logic of your questioning is, OK, now in order to prevent a future collapse from happening we must overregulate or regulate a lot. The danger is --

CROWLEY: Or regulate more.

BUSH: Well, I mean, it depends on what you're talking about. The problem is regulation tends to stifle capital investment and capital investment is what's necessary to grow the economy. So you've got to find the right balance.

CROWLEY: Do I take it from that that you didn't think much of the financial reform bill that passed?

BUSH: You can take that I'm not going to criticize my successor. And this is no --

CROWLEY: I just want to ask what you thought of the bill.

BUSH: It's a wonderful attempt to do so.


CROWLEY: Well --

BUSH: No, there needs to be some regulation. I talked about some of the regulation in my book. Hank Paulson in the summer of 2008 with my approval laid out a plan as to how to better regulate the economy without stifling investment.

CROWLEY: I want to turn you quickly to Social Security because you -- it was one of the things on your agenda. You would talk about this in your book.

BUSH: Yes.

CROWLEY: And had gone out to say we're going to reform Social Security as some other presidents have done. We now have this new what are we going to do about the deficit and overspending? And one of the things in it from a friend of yours -- I think Alan Simpson, as one of the co-chairs of this -- is let's raise the retirement age over a period of time --

BUSH: Yes.

CROWLEY: -- to 69. Is it any easier now than it was when you tried it? I mean is there anything that leads you to believe, OK, good idea, people will get on board?

BUSH: Well, I do discuss the issue in my book and I recount a scene where leaders from our party and the Congress came and said we're not going to support your Social Security reform. And I said, why? They said, we'll probably lose seats.

And I -- my view is that legislative bodies tend to be reactive and it's going to require a president to be proactive to convince Congress that the crisis is severe enough to take -- you know some political risk of passing a plan. I also laid out specifics. Might have been the first president to ever detail how best to deal with the unfunded liabilities inherent in Social Security and not reforming Social Security was a huge disappointment.

CROWLEY: Stick with me. When we come back, I want to talk to you a little bit about your role as commander in chief.

We'll be right back.


BUSH: If you ever make decisions based upon your political skin with troops in harm's way you as commander in chief will have a lot of trouble keeping the respect of the military.



CROWLEY: I wanted to ask you something stuck with me about the speech that you gave post- 9/11. At the National Cathedral. And talked about how this came out of nowhere, surprised us. But the end would be in a way and at an hour of our choosing.

BUSH: Yes. It's a rhetorical device to lift the spirits of the country and say that the attack was unprovoked and that we'd respond.

CROWLEY: But it's not going to end, is it?

BUSH: It will end when freedom helps extinguish hope. In other words, the extremists become marginalized with time as freedom advances. It won't end if America retreats within our borders and doesn't help people realize the blessings of freedom.

CROWLEY: But that's a tough sell as you know.

BUSH: Of course it is.

CROWLEY: We still have young men and women in Iraq.

BUSH: Yes.

CROWLEY: Men and women in Afghanistan, 50,000 in one, over 100,000 in the other. We're already seeing signs that people are restless about Afghanistan.

BUSH: Yes.

CROWLEY: And yet I was struck by an interview in one of the morning papers about the head of British forces who said, we're never going to defeat al Qaeda. We can make ourselves more secure but we're talking about a 30-year battle here.

What do you say to the American people who say, Afghanistan, I mean it's time to get out, it's time to pull out, to say you got to stay? BUSH: Well, there's -- first of all, Afghanistan was the site where extremists were able to find a safe haven to attack.

CROWLEY: But they're mostly gone at this point. In Afghanistan, sorry.

BUSH: I wouldn't make that assumption. In Afghanistan, yes. But it's not to say they couldn't come back if a regime that was welcoming them would give them safe haven again.

I would say that -- put yourself in the position of a young girl in Afghanistan and realize that her life will be incredibly brutalized and or thwarted by people like the Taliban and the fundamental question, is it worth it? That's the question we've got to ask.

Does it matter to our own national security or our conscience that women will be mistreated? I argue it does. And I understand it's difficult.

CROWLEY: It is. And women are mistreated in a lot of different parts of the world.

BUSH: But nothing like they were during the Taliban.

CROWLEY: It was brutal. It was brutal. I guess, you know, people look and say but there's a lot of places we could go. But I wanted -- this sort of gets us to the notion of national building which --

BUSH: Yes.

CROWLEY: -- I remember in your campaign.


CROWLEY: Yes. And here's what you said in your book, talking about the war in Afghanistan. "I knew it would take time to help the Afghan people build a functioning democracy. Our government was not prepared for nation building."

BUSH: Right.

CROWLEY: How did the George Bush that campaigned and said this is not what we do --

BUSH: Right.

CROWLEY: -- go from that person to, listen, we are going to be in Afghanistan for a long time because we've got to build a nation?

BUSH: Because when I made that statement in the 2000 campaign, I did not anticipate that we would have to remove a brutal regime that had harbored al Qaeda but once the decision was made to remove the regime, to deny al Qaeda safe haven and to hold people to account who harbored terrorists, then we had an obligation not to leave.

We had an -- in other words, we removed the government. We had an obligation to help the Afghans develop a democracy so they could --

CROWLEY: It's been nine years.

BUSH: Of course.


CROWLEY: -- would be nine years?

BUSH: Well, South Korea took a long time, as well. And there was just examples of where societies are -- evolved from strong man to democracy. And it does take time -- you know, I wish it had taken a lot quicker. No question about it. But your question a while ago was the right question.

Does it matter to the United States? It mattered to the United States to remove the Taliban. Does it matter to the United States at this point in time to help this really poor country develop into a democracy? And I make the case in the book that it does.

CROWLEY: Another thing you said in the book, and this is -- it's just sort of setting up where this comes up. You're about to start the surge in Iraq.

BUSH: Yes.

CROWLEY: Afghanistan is literally blowing up, a lots of IEDs.

BUSH: Well --

CROWLEY: Things -- it's getting worse in Afghanistan.

BUSH: It is getting worse at that time. Right.

CROWLEY: And you say, to your advisers, damn it, we can do more than one thing at a time. We cannot lose in Afghanistan.

Is it possible -- because so many people have said and, in fact, President Obama won on the notion that we took our eye off that ball.

BUSH: Yes.

CROWLEY: That we would not still be there nine years later in a war that people are weary of, where Americans are still being killed had we not ventured off into a war that began at least on one great false premise unknown at the time?

BUSH: Yes, right, yes. Well, I -- I'm not sure which part of the question to answer first. First of all, I tried to solve the issue with Saddam Hussein peacefully. And if people read the book they'll see the notion of coercive diplomacy.

I do believe it was his choice to make as to whether or not he would be held to account for the demands of the free world at the time which was disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. Secondly, what happened in Afghanistan was that our NATO allies turned out -- some of them turned out not to be willing to fight. And therefore, our assumption that we had ample troops, U.S. and NATO troops, turned out to be a not true assumption and so we adjusted.

And I completely disagree with the take eye off the ball. I found that to be empty political rhetoric.

CROWLEY: I want to move to Iraq for a minute but I'm curious what you think of President Karzai negotiating with the members of the Taliban.

BUSH: Yes. I'd be very careful because the Taliban are the people who brutalized the society when they were in power.

CROWLEY: The whole reason we went was to drive them out.

BUSH: Yes. Well, I don't have enough -- I 'm not involved with the process now. Just -- my reaction when I first heard that was, these are the guys who harbored al Qaeda. Now -- maybe there's reasonable Taliban. I don't know. I'm out of the loop at this point on this issue.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about weapons of mass destruction. You've talked about how you felt to your stomach when you found there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Can you bring me to that moment? Did someone walk in and say, we've stopped looking? They're not there?

BUSH: No, no --

CROWLEY: Who -- how did that happen?

BUSH: It just kind of -- it evolved. The fact that there wasn't weapons evolved. I mean, I was -- you know, when we first got in there and started looking around, didn't find anything, that's -- you get that king of sinking feeling that uh-oh. And then, time went on and then we got tips, you know.

I'll never forget the tip that there was crates buried -- you know, hidden in the Euphrates River. Maybe these are them. And they've sent frogmen in there. And there was nothing there. And so -- and then, of course, George Tenet had the -- you know, the inspectors go back in or David Kay and Dulfar and -- but pretty well put -- it was a period at the end of the sentence there.

And yes. I felt terrible about it. And on the other hand, those reports did point out that Saddam Hussein was very dangerous and that he had the capacity to make weapons. That -- and I'm convinced that if he were in power today, the world would be a lot worse off.

CROWLEY: One of the things I think that I thought about at the time and I wonder if you did and you talk a lot in the book about Abu Ghraib and how outraged you were about that. About not finding WMD when you had a CIA director who had said slam dunk. BUSH: No, no, he said slam dunk at the case. He didn't say slam dunk weapons. He -- his point just so you know was that the case was a solid case. In other words, presenting the case would be a solid case do the people.

CROWLEY: A solid case that there were WMD?

BUSH: Right. That the evidence showed that he had WMD. I'm not --

CROWLEY: Right. But --

BUSH: We're splitting hairs here but -- sorry.


CROWLEY: Right. But my question is, when you look at those things about Abu Ghraib, about the WMD, it seems as though no one ever paid for that. We went to war largely on that basis and I know you argue that -- you know, that there is an argument that we're better off without Saddam Hussein, who was a brutal dictator and a horrible man.

But the fact of the matter is that we sent young men and women there who would kill, as I know you know better than anybody else, and no one ever -- you never said, you're responsible for this, you're out. And so the American people, I think, began to kind of lose confidence in their government.

BUSH: I can see that. First of all, I was responsible. And the 2004 campaign was partially about that responsibility. But yes. I mean, the commander in chief was responsible. And, you know, I wish we'd have found weapons of mass destruction. However, that doesn't make the cause a lost cause.

CROWLEY: Right. And something that -- I mean something that you had argued all along.

BUSH: I believe a free Iraq is going to be -- transformative in the Middle East. And it's not going to happen during our lifetime. We're going to have to -- you and I will be -- I know I'll be long gone. But I think some day --

CROWLEY: I'm sticking around.

BUSH: I hope so. But I think somebody's going to look back some day and say thank goodness the United States believed in the universality of freedom and liberated 25 million people and gave the Iraqis a chance to have their own free society.

CROWLEY: Stick with me a little longer. When we come back, we want to talk about the trials of the presidency that President Lincoln knew so well.

BUSH: Thank you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: I think he's taught presidents the importance of speaking with moral clarity on certain truths. And secondly when you start to feel sorry for yourself, just look at Lincoln.



CROWLEY: The Truman Library at one point and they have showcased there as one of their exhibits a letter that was written to Harry Truman during the Korean War. They found it in Harry Truman's desk after he died and it was a medal and this letter.

"Mr. Truman, as you have been directly responsible for the loss of our son's life in Korea, you might just as well keep this emblem on display in your trophy room as a memory of one of your historic deeds. Our major regret at this time is that your daughter was not there to receive the same treatment as our son received in Korea." Signed William Banning.

What struck me was that this was in his drawer. That it affected him in a way and I know we've heard a lot of touching stories of people who lost their children, who came to the White House who were so supportive of you.

But I know that there must have been others. I'm interested in how those who are so angry, and we understand their anger, how those affected you.

BUSH: Well, it hurts, of course. And I met a mom who I was hoping to console. And she says, you're as big a terrorist as Osama bin Laden.

CROWLEY: Sticks with you?

BUSH: Yes, of course it does. And I just hope that someday there would be enough success in Iraq so that the hurt will heal but I fully understood it. And -- yes.

CROWLEY: And do you -- I guess there's no way then of consoling because here you are confronted with people who think you've done the exact wrong thing.

BUSH: That's right.

CROWLEY: And I think in some ways, as lovely as it is to be able to console someone who wants your consolation --

BUSH: Right.

CROWLEY: -- you might sometimes go to bed at night thinking, it's tough.

BUSH: Yes, I felt right after that meeting I certainly felt that. The difference, of course, between Truman's era and my era is that ours is a volunteer army, where the kids volunteered and it really does make a difference because their moms probably said, are you sure you want to do this? And they would say, absolutely, I want to do it.


BUSH: And 70 percent of the military today they signed up after September 11th but there was -- but it still doesn't -- I'm not trying to justify what I'm -- in other words, I saw probably less of that than Harry Truman did but never did I concede. And I understand, fully understand.

CROWLEY: Whether they volunteered or not it's still --

BUSH: Hurts. Really hurts.

CROWLEY: I wanted to play something for you. You know this man, General Hayden, who is the head of the NSA.

BUSH: I do. I admire him greatly.

CROWLEY: He's been on our show a couple of times and I asked him if knowing what he knew, whether he was less scared than I was of what's out there or more. And here is his answer.


GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER NSA DIRECTOR: I used to get in the car every morning, they give me the president's brief and a bunch of other cables. I used to spend my first hour just kind of going through the last 24 hours' events. It is hard to have faith in human nature or to be an optimist after that 60 minutes.


BUSH: Yes. Well, Mike and I read a lot of the same intelligence during my presidency and what a lot of people forget -- I think forget is that this country was under severe threat and I believe we still are. I don't get the intelligence now. That the president gets and nor should I.

But there's an enemy out there who would still do us harm and therefore it's important for the president and the Congress to work together to, you know, help -- and to work with local authorities to help protect our country.

CROWLEY: And when you -- but you're at the base of it, an optimistic man who thinks that we can win this war on terror.

BUSH: I do. I do.

CROWLEY: But it is a pretty scary place out there, at least according to one of your top spies.

BUSH: Well, because there's some brutal people who'd kill the innocent to advance their agenda and the difference between other ideological struggles .like that with communism or fascism, there's not a single nation state or nation states. This is kind of a shadowy group that burrows in society and is very lethal. And of course the biggest danger facing our country is a terrorist group ending up with weapons of mass destruction, biological weapons or chemical weapons.

And that's why -- that's why I've used Saddam Hussein as a threat because he was an enemy of the United States. We all thought he had weapons of mass destruction and the danger is he could give those to a surrogate group.

CROWLEY: You had a chapter about your stem cell --

BUSH: I did.

CROWLEY: -- research decision in your book. And one of the things I thought was fascinating was a paragraph that you had about what people were calling you.

BUSH: Right.

CROWLEY: Called you a Nazi. They -- among other things. And it is interesting to me that I have now seen two presidents who came to office going, I'm going to change the tone.

BUSH: Yes.

CROWLEY: You did not. And so far President Obama has not. Are we passed the point where that's possible?

BUSH: I hope not. One thing I didn't do is get involved with the name calling that went on in Washington. I tried to protect the institution of the president.

CROWLEY: Well, people felt that you did -- that your administration did try to paint people who didn't agree with you on the war of terror as not being patriot.

BUSH: Yes --

CROWLEY: There were a lot to think --

BUSH: Some of the -- you know, there's mainly -- I mean, for example, I don't remember doing that personally. And that was uncalled for if that's the case because patriotic people disagree with my decisions. There's no question.

You know there are some who criticize me for not punching back after I've been called these names. But I chose not to do it. And the truth of the matter is it didn't bother me. I mean it's -- you know I saw my dad vilified and that did bother so by the time it came time for me to be the target, I just kind of shrugged it off.

CROWLEY: I'm going to bring in some reinforcement now, and bring in your brother Jeb, who you at least have some ambitions for him and did so even two years ago.


CROWLEY: Have you told Jeb to run for the U.S. Senate in Florida?

BUSH: Yes.

CROWLEY: Is he going to do?

BUSH: I don't know.

CROWLEY: You really don't know?

BUSH: I don't know. I wish he would. He'd be a great senator.




CROWLEY: We met up with the Bush brothers at the classic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Jeb is a private citizen now and has offices nearby.


CROWLEY: Thanks for joining us for this. I have to know. Publicly or privately, let's put it that way. What's your biggest political disagreement with your brother?

JEB BUSH, PRESIDENT BUSH'S BROTHER: I will tell you that I'm the only Republican that was in office when he was office -- as president that never disagreed with him. And I'm not going to start now. Why would I do that now after two years?

CROWLEY: Wow. Well, not one time did you call up and say you know what, don't do that?

J. BUSH: I'm not going to start now. It's just -- until death do us part.

CROWLEY: Those are between you. So there's not that there are not political differences? It's just that you don't do that to each other publicly?

BUSH: Well, here's the problem.

J. BUSH: I wouldn't.

BUSH: Of course, I wouldn't that because the news isn't the disagreement. The news is the brothers. There's a schism with the brothers. And we love each other and we're very close and would never do that to each other.

CROWLEY: And that sort of continues through sort of your whole family, right? I mean you've sort of performed a protective gate around your dad when he was running. That's -- BUSH: Yes.

CROWLEY: You've talked about that in the book, which I know you haven't read but --


CROWLEY: You have nonetheless bought it, but in it he describes Lee Atwater and both of you had sort of a trepidation about --

BUSH: Yes. What she was referring to is the time when Dad had us at Camp David and we questioned Lee's loyalty.

Jeb issued the great line. It said, if there's a grenade rolling next to Dad, Lee, we expect you to be diving on it first.

J. BUSH: Leading us to it.

BUSH: Yes. Because we love our dad. And you know it's hard for people to understand that how much we admire him and how much we love him. And how much our admiration for him motivated us to go into public service.

CROWLEY: I want to ask you about -- the Republican Party had a great election in case you were too busy selling a book to notice.


CROWLEY: And new infusion of excitement. You helped with Marco Rubio down here in Florida. So lots of exciting new folks for Republicans coming to town. There seems to be these two ways to go. One is stop all things Obama and the other is let's find a way to move forward.

What way should the Republican Party go?

J. BUSH: I think it can be both. I mean I think you have on principle oppose this dramatic expansion of government but at the same time find common ground where there can be common ground. Not everything is ideological.

We could have an energy policy in our country if we put aside our partisan differences. We certainly could have a free trade agreement in Korea, Colombia, and Panama. We could find maybe common ground even in immigration if the border is controlled sufficiently.

It's a lot of things that -- education policy's another place. I don't think you can be against everything just because someone has a D by the name and you have an R by your name.

CROWLEY: You know in Washington that very often what happens is bipartisanship is if the other person agrees with you.

BUSH: Yes.

(LAUGHTER) CROWLEY: So you heard that list of things. Do you see those openings, as well? Because I know you came to Washington hoping for these sorts of openings.

BUSH: Well, actually, we did achieve some bipartisan pieces of legislation. "No Child Left Behind" is an example. The tax cuts another example. And right after 9/11 there was great bipartisan cooperation, and so there are moments when you're able to come together and of course there's very divisive moments, as well. And all of us in the country hope that people can find common ground.

CROWLEY: When these elections were over and we looked at the voting totals, two to one the Latino vote Democratic. 2-1 Latino voters went for the Democrats. Why is that?

BUSH: That's some problemo.


CROWLEY: Yes. It is. Then why is it a problemo?

BUSH: Well, because there's a lot of Latinos who ought to be voting Republican.

CROWLEY: But they're not. So why is that?

BUSH: Well, that's not to say they won't next time, and I got a lot of Latino vote when I ran for president --

CROWLEY: You did and did --


BUSH: Jeb, yes.

CROWLEY: -- So did Jeb as governor. But something's wrong here, is it not?

J. BUSH: Rick Scott got a majority of the Hispanic vote in Florida. We elected two Hispanic governors, Susan Martinez and Brian Sandoval. There were congressmen and women elected of Hispanic origin.

I think the problem is not just a West Coast problem but it is a big- time California problem. And I think a part of it relates to tone. If you're watching TV and someone's kind of legitimately angered that we can't control our border and sending signals it is them and us and you're not -- by the way, you're them, doesn't matter what else. People tune out. If they don't feel welcome they're going to listen to the message.

CROWLEY: And how does the Republican Party sort of reach out on that? Because immigration reform, you tried.

BUSH: I did. And I believe the best way to secure the border is to have a comprehensive approach and said so during an Oval Office address. The language got carried away, though. I mean people -- the issue kind of spiraled out of control and sent bad signals.

I think the Republican Party can attract Latinos through good education policy, good policy toward our veterans and we -- there have been time when Latinos have voted Republican and times when they haven't, and so we always need to learn from the past and be sensitive about the future.

CROWLEY: Remember you were talking so much during the campaign about family values not stopping at the Rio Grande but you've lost that tone in the Republican Party.

J. BUSH: Yes, and at the same time, Latino or Hispanic as we call people of Hispanic origin in Florida, Hispanics want the border controlled. A great nation has to control its border for national security purples, for all sorts of purposes.

And no one has -- I don't know anybody that says, yes, let's just open up our border to create chaos. So once the border is controlled and people view it that way and there's a perception, it's benchmarked and people say, yes, then I think you're going to find that there is ground to change our immigration policy to help us grow faster as a nation, and to welcome people that work hard and play by the rules to create prosperity for us.

CROWLEY: I'm going to ask the former governor and the former president to stick with me for a minute. When we come back we're going to talk about what your father was saying about two years ago this time. Be right back.


CROWLEY: Does your dad want him to run?

BUSH: Haven't talked to my dad about whether or not he wants Jeb to run. First of all, knowing my dad, I bet he would say I want Jeb to do that which is best for him.



CROWLEY: So we just heard your brother talking two years ago saying look, what my dad wants is what's good for Jeb.

What's good for Jeb right now?

J. BUSH: What's good for Jeb is to fulfill his duties as a husband and a father which I really feel compelled to do. I think it's the right thing to do.

I got to be governor for eight years. It took about two years to get it, get the job. So that's a decade out of my life in public service. I enjoyed it immensely. I'm still involved but I really have to stay focused on this goal of achieving some financial independence, financial security for my family.

CROWLEY: And that doesn't --

J. BUSH: And that's just as simple as that. No one believes it because in Washington world I guess there's such a deep discount for the -- you know for the truth in politics. You know, politicians never say what they actually believe or something. So I'm asked this question a lot. You would think about ten times you would be done with it but I keep answering it honestly.

CROWLEY: You'd be happy to know that Governor Christie said he wasn't sure what he had to do to convince reporters that he wasn't running for president other than kill himself.


CROWLEY: However, I will sort of out your brother here who's -- who was asked about 2012 who said, well, I'm not going to be getting into it because my candidate isn't running. My brother Jeb. So you are kind of contributing to this.

BUSH: I am. No question about it. And urged him to seriously consider running for president because I think he'd be a great president. And -- but he's chosen not to run this time and I finally have believed him.

CROWLEY: See? So you're getting some place.

J. BUSH: Thank you, brother.

CROWLEY: And you noticed it this time?

J. BUSH: You know what? I don't -- you never say never about anything. I answer the questions forthrightly about 2012. I will be involved. I have an education reform foundation trying to improve the plight of our education systems around the country and I'm helping candidates that I believe in.

And you know what? I'm Switzerland as it relates to national Republican politics, which gives me a chance to have my voice heard quietly the way I like it.

CROWLEY: Your mother recently -- and it was in conjunction with an appearance you had on "Oprah," I think, somebody asked something and she said, you know, I think the country is Bushed out right now.


CROWLEY: Which very much sounded like your mom. If your brother's last name were not Bush, A, would you have run? B, would he have had a better shot?

BUSH: Well, first of all, it's hard to disassociate the man sitting here with how he was raised. And we're both raised by great parents who gave us unconditional love and taught us values and the nobility of serving.

So it's a hard question to answer. It's kind of the old classic if my name were George, you know, Jones would --

J. BUSH: You would have been a country western singer.



BUSH: Wait a minute. That's my line.

J. BUSH: I like it.


J. BUSH: I liked it so much I stole it.

BUSH: Yes.


CROWLEY: That's what brothers do.

BUSH: Yes.

CROWLEY: I have to ask you, there's lots of chatter and you're right. I mean, I think you can say as many times as you want, you're always going to get this world, and what about 2016? Or about 2020? So let's leave that there because the chatter in Washington now with your -- if you're out reading your blogs is that you would be great as the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Would you be interested in that?

J. BUSH: No. I mean if I'm trying to achieve financial security for my family and not running for office I certainly wouldn't run for RNC chairman.

CROWLEY: And why do you think all this talk is always out there? First, let me ask you, why is this talk about there about your brother?

BUSH: He's a successful person. He's smart. He's honest. And he had an unbelievably good record as the governor of Florida.

CROWLEY: And that's -- I mean, and your last name is Bush and so there's always sort of chatter about that.

BUSH: Yes. But had he been a failure as governor of Florida they wouldn't be touting him. And if he wasn't an honest guy they wouldn't be touting him, and if he wasn't -- you know, a decent person who had a great heart they wouldn't be touting him.

CROWLEY: If you had to write your brother's political legacy, his attempt to kind of try to help shape the legacy, what would be your opening statement?

J. BUSH: He kept us safe. CROWLEY: And you would go with that?

BUSH: First of all, I don't want to correct you, but I will. I'm not trying to shape my legacy. I'm trying to provide data points for future historians. I want people who are going to write an objective history of this administration to know what it was like.

And as far as our fellow citizens here, there's going to be some people that didn't agree with my decisions even after they read the book but at least they'll have a better feeling about why I decided what I decided.

See, I don't believe in shaping legacies. I think the -- I think the --

CROWLEY: It's hard to do.

BUSH: Well, the history's been done. I mean the decisions have been made. And now it's a matter of time.

CROWLEY: So one question for and one question for you. Who do you think was the better president, 41 or 43?


J. BUSH: That's just 15-yard penalty loss of down. You can't make --

BUSH: You kill it, 41.


CROWLEY: You're always safe going with the dad. You know?

BUSH: Absolutely.

CROWLEY: I think that says something about your relationship.

BUSH: Particularly with the mother.


J. BUSH: You know you're dealt with the conditions that you serve as president really define a lot of the presidency.

BUSH: Yes.

J. BUSH: You're dealt with, you know, circumstances. And both of them were dealt with completely different circumstances. And did great. How about that?

CROWLEY: That was very political of you. Very good political answer.

BUSH: Diplomatic answer.

CROWLEY: That's right. Diplomatic. Your father, 41, has said that he looks at Bill Clinton like another son. So who's been the better brother, Jeb or Bill?


J. BUSH: I knew that was coming.

BUSH: You did? Why didn't you warn me? Jeb. We're fond of Bill Clinton. He's -- I tell you. He's been incredibly gracious to our dad and if somebody is gracious to our father, he ingratiates himself to us and we're grateful to Bill Clinton.

CROWLEY: Governors Bush, both governors at one time, at the same time. Governor Jeb Bush, thank you so much for joining us.

J. BUSH: You bet.

BUSH: I appreciate it.

J. BUSH: Thank you.

CROWLEY: Former President, thank you as well.

BUSH: You bet. Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: We'll be right back.


CROWLEY: I first met George W. Bush as the enforcer and sometimes the nasty combatant in the dying days of his father's then President Bush failing reelection bid.

Later, George Bush was elected the Texas governor. I saw him in the '96 election bid of Bob Dole. Once again, Bush proved a very loyal and this time a much more chipper, happier warrior on behalf of Bob Dole.

Already there was buzz around the younger George Bush that one day this was a man who would run for president.

I talked to him in his last days after his eight years in the oval office. He was then a certain man and he was also sure of his moral code. He felt that he had made the decisions he had to make despite all the criticism and there was a lot of it out there.

That's the same man I saw here today. He is confident that his decisions, still controversial -- two wars and bailout and failing economy. His confident those decisions were the right one. He's also certain that history may, in fact, judge him differently but he says he can live with that.

Thank you so much for joining us. From Coral Gables, Florida, I bid you good night. We will see you again next week on STATE OF THE UNION.