Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
The Life of George H.W. Bush
Aired September 1, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, at 10:00 eastern time, a priest who actually said it's children who seduce priests. We'll see what a victim of sexual abuse by a priest says about that. Plus this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR, DIRECTOR: I can't do that. Can't he do that to himself?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: Clint Eastwood at the RNC. Should the Democrats book a rival Hollywood heavyweight for their own convention?
I'm Gary Tuchman at the CNN World Headquarters. "41, President George H.W. Bush" begins right now.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I remember toddling around in the grass over there in Greenwich, Kennebunkport, Maine. I remember, some of them brought back pictures from those days.
In the summer, we'd go for, like, three weeks or two weeks. And I remember driving across the bridge between New Hampshire and Maine and feeling mother say roll down the windows. Breathe in that salt air. We don't all roll down the windows. We felt we were breathing in the salt air. But that was kind of stability for us and we loved it. So, I remember those early memories very well.
We came here every year of my life except one, 1944. And I'm 85, so you can imagine how long that was. My grandfather is from St. Louise and he'd come here every year and just loved it. He bought this as an unfinished point of land about 1896 or 1894, something like that. It is about it. He built bulk of this land and has taken out the ocean. Then, he built the house in 1902. And this is the house we grew up in. And it's got extended, one room on this end and one room on that end where we grew up there.
We slept on out-door sleeping porch out there, my brother and I, up and down the bulk. And my mom and dad, that was her mother's wedding present from her father that lived in that house. And now it's our daughter's house. It's a wonderful house, wonderful house. Great views in all of these places. I'll show you one of my favorite little -- come on, baby.
Here? Baby? Get out of there, baby.
She's a funny little dog. I never thought I'd be in love with a little, tiny dog. But I am now.
This is a horse barn, this one over here. It is now the secret service place. This And across from it, right in here, is another barn. And where that house is on the end, used to be connected to what we call the big house. And we cut off after one of the big storm - storms came in and knocked it over in the late '70s.
My aunt, who owned the place, didn't want to restore it. So we bought it. Brought the property and the house. And we took out, like, six bedrooms off of here. Now it's a guest house over there. Governor Jeb stays down there. And that's our room where the peaked roof is. And up top is a dormitory with several beds and one of the great rooms in the house. It's just terrific.
I was named for my grandfather, Walter. G.H. Walter. I was G.H. Walker Bush. His sons and daughter called him pop. So then I came along and I was little pop. Poppy. And so, I was called Poppy all my life.
My family is very important to me. I've been blessed all of my life by a close family. Grew up with a loving mother and father. Three brothers and a sister. And so, we were very close. And we stayed that way. Whenever somebody is hurting, everybody else hurts. When somebody else is rejoicing, everybody else rejoices. I can't think what it would be like in life without the strength you get from -- and the love we get from family.
Whatever I've done in life and been privileged to do, they've been there, taking pride and helping.
I've been in boats all of my life. You learn the currents. You learn the show waters. That's where I'm at peace. I just love it. And it is the sports that I lived my whole life doing. Nobody asked me to be on the team anymore.
Remember I used to stand around -- no, next to you, they'd take you, you, you. I'm standing, nobody wants me because I can't move very well. This is a metaphor, but I miss it.
Boats are still in the game. Now I'm privileged to have a very fast boat, a very powerful boat. Everybody wants to go on it. It's a wonderful, wonderful outlet for me.
That's my father and I. Great man, big, tall, strong guy. A wonderful person. He was a managing partner of his banking firm, Brown Brothers Harmony Company, down the Iraq. He headed the U.S.O.
My father was very active in the town government. He was the moderator of the Greenwich town meeting, which was equivalent of mayor in those days. And through him, we got the idea you ought to do something, you got to put something back in. You ought to get something back.
He was a strong fellow. He had a great sense of humor. Yes, we did tuck in but we got there. But he was there and I think respect was a keyword that we both had for him. And everything he did was star quality.
I regretted that he never lived to see his son as president. That was too bad. My wonderful mother and father. My mother was a great inspiration. She could do everything. She was the fastest mother in the mothers' races. She was the best pitcher on the mother's softball team. She was the best tennis player on her own right. She was a good golfer and a loving mother. She was just everything. Everyone loved her.
Again, she set an example in my life. She had these kinds of truisms that served me in good study when I got to be president of the United States. She said nobody likes a braggadocio. Don't be bragging about yourself all of the time. She'd say listen, don't talk all of the time. She'd say give the other guy credit. She set a great example for all of us. And then if we got hurt, she'd be there to lift us up, brush us off and get us back in the game.
We were very privileged -- during the depression, we were very lucky. We had a family, who is sent us to good school and we avoided the horrors of the depression, you might say. I enjoyed school, grade school and boarding school, both. I love the challenge at school. Friends you make in school.
Now, some of the friends I've had in grade school are still friends. I was the littlest guy in our class. By little, I mean shortest. And then between 12 and 13 years old, I strung up, be a string bean. And I became one of the tallest guys in the class. It was a great experienced. Some people down and they say well, I'm not going to let my kid go away to school that young. He'd forget the family. It wouldn't. In my eye, it is not true. And got a lot of discipline.
You had to be there. You had to do this. You had to do that.
I don't think I would call myself a classy student and became a Phi Beta Cappa graduate of Yale. But then I took all of the easy courses, history of art and a few things like that. I got good grade. But I wasn't what you called a real scholar.
Sports was my things in school. And I used to go to watch the game and watch babe Ruth. I watched Lou Gehrig. My childhood desire was to have Lou Gehrig's myth. I could just get that myth that we never met, Lou Gehrig that I remember. But so, he was going to like the (INAUDIBLE). I was captain of the soccer team, captain of the basketball team and played baseball. So, it in three - three letters at Yale. I got a letter in soccer. Baseball was my main thing there that I gave up soccer. And play solo baseball.
We had a good baseball team. The college baseball, you had to have a good pitcher. We had two pitchers that went to the major leagues. And so, that was why we were as good as were. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many crushes?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Girls? Probably. I wasn't a very forward leaning kind of a guy with girls. I was admiring the figures, physiques, very early on. The girl named Joan Kilmer, you have to get in line that have a crush on her. She was very popular, very blond, very beautiful.
It was about eight grade year. There was a girl named Beatty Thurston with a year older and she had a rich father because she had a yacht. In those days, that was a huge thing. And she wore a rubber bathing suit. I'll never forget. That was to die for. But I've always liked attractive girls.
I was at a holiday dance and here is this beautiful girl. She was the life of the party and dancing and smiling and I said, who is that? They said that's Barbara Pierce from Rye. I somehow got up my nerve to ask her to dance and they started playing a waltz, I think. I can't waltz. So I sat down and we chatted. And I called her the next day and took her out. Her father was a very successful publisher, the head of McCall Corporation.
I don't think the mother liked me very much, but the father did which is important. And Barbara did which is the most important. And so we fell in love. The old fashion falling in love.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I was at Phillips Academy, Andover, my last year there. We had been to chapel, the mandatory chapel service. Came out of the chapel and was walking across the campus there when somebody said Pearl Harbor has been bombed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yesterday, December 7th, 1 1941, a date which will live in infamy.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: That was -- I didn't know much about what that really meant. But our country is at war. I've been there building up that something might happen, but nothing like this. And I remember the first assembly the next day, we were all trooped in, slouched on into the assembly hall there. The whole school and the fed master, the tough guy, Mr. Dr. Fees. You all stand at attention, never when they play the star Sprang Spangled Banner. I want her cease slouching around and made an impression on me.
So today, when I see people, even reporter, people like out that like there through White House slouching when they play the star spangled banner, I thought too bad Dr. Fees couldn't get a-hold of them.
Hirohito was the total villain. I remember meeting him years later. And I couldn't believe this little guy, kind of guy you might seeing go around with the butterfly net, navy little fellow. And he was the epitome of all evil. And so, we were going to get it. I think everybody wanted to participate. It's very, very few people tried to avoid the craft.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are now in this war. We're all in it. We're all the way. Every single man, woman and child. The partner, the most tremendous undertaking of our American history.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: And like most people in the country, I wanted to participate. I wanted to go fight for my country. And I decided that I wanted to go into naval aviation. And so, I signed up. Took the oath of office on my 18th birthday. Was sworn in as seaman's second class. And two months later I was in the preflight school. Few months later, I was commissioned a finance center in the navy.
My father took me down to Pennsylvania station in New York, right big guy, put his arm around me. The first time I ever saw him shed a tear. When dad was there, we all offered him his few support, but he was a little shaken up. He had been as (INAUDIBLE) and under fire. I guess he knew a little bit about what combat was like. Maybe a lot. Though, he never talked about it, nor did we. Nor did I when, you know, came back.
I didn't know one single person on this train. I was probably the youngest guy on there. I wasn't petrified. I didn't want out. And was look, how did I get out of this cabin? That was all modified about the feeling that we have with our country. About the need to do something, give part of something huge.
And so, it was fast tracked. We had to move fast who they needed pilots pretty bad. I had solo, just a few hours. It was kind of terrifying. These instructors were tough guyed. I was 18, they were 20 old guys. And they were going to be get down! Do this! Do that! Yelling through you at a gas port above come out of your ears. That was one-way communications. They could yell at you and you couldn't yell back.
September 2nd, 1944. I have been flying over the target, (INAUDIBLE), the day before. We've got some of the aircraft fire coming in. I think I was afraid. I think anytime when you are flying in combat, you are afraid in some degree. I don't mind admitting it. And you would see the sound of aircraft fire up there, coming at you. You couldn't do anything about it. Clouds of anger. We were told it was going to be rough. And then we get up there and we got hit. I felt the huge blast and it's the whole plane shaking and went forward like this. And the next thing I know, we were in gulf and smoked. And I can see the wind playing going on between man fuselage and the wing. And that's where the gas tank were. So, I said, this is hazard, this final. I'll get its permission, release the bombs and then decide I could not withstand here. I couldn't fly. So, we made a circle, turn to the right, I think I slips very often to the door and tell them to get out, sent a may day an that's the case roots some were in patrol. Come down to the plane, pull the rip floor. Gauged my head up against the tail of the airplane. Fortunately, I didn't take my head off. Looked up and fortunately to shoot which is hang up briefly on the tail plane apparently, floated down to earth. Got on the raft and I started padding setting the speed record getting the hell out of there. I mean, this wind was blowing up towards the island.
I wasn't afraid to die. Maybe, I was scared when all of this is taking place. I know I was. I was throwing up in the water, paddling its duck. And I'm sure didn't want to be take in prisoner.
And then, before long, a submarine surfaced nearby. And I said oh, I got to hope it's one of ours. It sure enough was, a rescue sub. And they came out of the sea, along side of me. I went up and battalion went down into the submarine and the next things I know, we're under the water.
One of them did get out apparently, according to Japanese reports. But I never knew what happened to it. I think about it to this day. Could I have done more? Could I have landed the plane in the water? I don't think so. But I mean, it's the way you second guest yourself when something terrible like that happens.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Under the circumstances, no question. A lot of revision is about that. A lot of people reign in their head, did Truman the right thing. And in my mind, he did save many, many American lives. Of course, it's such a serious decision that I think history will say he did the right thing. There will be plenty of people that never should have taken innocent lives. You know, unfortunate world they say, maybe not those numbers, that values, but it was the right thing to do.
The minute that war ended, it was joyous there in Virginia Beach. The bell rang. We went - Barbara and I went off to church to count our blessings. And the great profanity and excitement were on all of the streets of the Virginia Beach and all over the country, of course. But then the shifts immediately and I went off to Yale. I wished I had been accepted. Before I went in to the service, they just left that open so I could go back.
Not sure I ever real day did ask her to marry me. It was in Kennebunkport, she claims it happened on the wall. We've got a wall running along the ocean going indoor house on the left side of the drive way. And she maintains it was on that very wall that I asked her to marry her. I don't remember it. But it just happened. I mean, if we announced our engagement of the fall of '42, I guess.
The wedding is a traditional church wedding in a Presbyterian church. And she was a beautiful bride and a lot of family around even though it was war-time. We went off of a honeymoon down to Seattle, Georgia. First collar in hell so, it supposed to be nice, warm trip that we went. And that was it. Traditional, by doing the things in those days.
I was living with Barbara in a little apartment. We had just come back from the war. And were 13 families living there. And you had to have at least one child to be in that building. One night, this shows you the degree of our maturity after coming back from the Navy and when I was up on the third floor, they yelled hurry on up. Mrs. Seamore (ph) is taking a shower. You see her naked. Well, Mrs. Seamore (ph) was about 75 and we charged up there. And sure enough, there she was stone naked in there. And didn't sound too mature really for she was student - she was studying at college and trying to set an example for kids.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, when you were deciding what jobs to take after the war, what were you considering?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Making a living. And so, it really didn't matter what job. My options were particularly great because, you know, I once a business graduate. I won the road scholar. I didn't have any particular to recommend me. I remember getting turned down by Procter&Gamble, a great company. I reminded that a few years later when I was president.
I had a wife. I had a child. And I was offered a job. My father had a friend (INAUDIBLE) who was chairman of the industry. And I'll tell you what, you're going to go down to Texas. And they do to Odessa, Texas that I never heard of and we'll pet you in a training program for our company. I said you're on. So, I went all the way down there.
We worked in the off field of Texas, west Texas, for the basin and out to California to some of his companies out there. Just - we are talking maybe a month at a time, two months. And it was very good advice. And I learned a lot. It was great training. And said, we want you back to Midland then as city sales man. Fair enough, I was a lousy sales man for that but I didn't know. But then. I branched off on my own.
And I was for make living in the off-shore drilling because we were innovators to the degree that we were the first ones to use the turnout design jack-up rigs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As construction price on the vinegar are assembled at the construction site. They in site, enable the platform to operate on (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you tell me how you chose the names of the product for your oil company?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Yes, it was very, very serious thinking, we are movie came through town called Fema Ziballo (ph) and Marlon Brando. We want a company that starts with an A or a Z in the phone book. And so anyway, I had Zapata. So, we call it Zapata.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did you leave your extremely successful business to ran for office?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Well, a challenge. I saw a challenge is and I came down here from west Texas and was working in getting our move, our offshore company here because it's near the gulf. And this is the offshore capital really.
I always kind of an interest in politics. And in the middle of the, that, I had adopted the ice and Harry next to finance thing. There was no Republicans. Not a Republican office over there in west Texas. Now it's all ripped up. So I said well, I'll do it. We got interested in that, then.
And then came back here and he came to me, the chairman of the state party said well, you're running for harass county precinct chairman. I said my God, I'm running a business. Well, it won't really take that much time. Well, I got into it and I liked it. And we had a big right wing problem, the prior to John Birch Society with running strong, so we have to take on some of those people. And it was a challenge. I like a challenge. That's why I did it.
This is Barbara and George and me and our daughter, Robin. Beautiful, innocent, young girl. And one day, Barbara said you better come home. Dr. Wyvell (ph) wants to talk to us about Robin. She had been tired and her legs were bruised. She said I have some bad news for you. Your daughter has leukemia. I never heard of leukemia in those days. I didn't know what it was. I said what does that mean? Well, it means, unfortunately, she'll be going to heaven in a few months. I said there's nothing we can do about it.
So I called my uncle who was a doctor at memorial, cancer doctor. She said you don't have any choice. We got to bring her up here and let us treat her and see if we can't extend her life. We got her into memorial hospital, and sort of back and forth from memorial to midland Texas. And pray that every going to church that day, and in the middle of this praying, until I hurt, please save this young girl. And that, of course, didn't work out.
Exhaustive treatments for her. I remember the doctors coming in. I remember the worst part was when they stick this needle in to suck the marrow out of her bones. And she hurt her a lot. And so, I remember some of those very unpleasant things. Now, I remember some happy days when she would smile and go into what they call remission. And be almost like her own self. Remember having her back in Midland, somebody said to me, where's that little girl of yours that was so sick. That's she playing out there in the yard.
And so, there some ups and downs of it all, but it was all we do is tracked her down. And Barbara was magnificent through all this. She would be there at her bedside holding Robin's hands through these tests and going - we go together to take her to New York which sounds is worth making a living. I have to keep going. We didn't know how long this was going to take. And so, Barbara was the one that did so much for her, with Robin. And just to show her that we loved her.
Finally, it was just too much. They came to me and said we've got one other operation. We could do. It's a long shot. And I said no, you've done enough. You've done a wonderful job on this girl. And you just given everything. There's no point making her suffer more. So we went quietly to sleep.
I couldn't talk about it for years. And it was -- I still feel it. I mean, it's something I just feel it very strongly. And after the boys, Dorothy came, our daughter. And that was as emotional as anything. We wanted a girl then. We had another girl. We lost her to leukemia. And so then, this one came along. And that was just heaven. And that, to bury girl weeping, I was anyway, much, much Barbara for this. It's just hard to describe, this family emotion.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: But I ran again for Ralph Yarborough, who was we consider a flaming liberal, which he was.
The senator must be beaten in November. And I want to tell you why. He does not represent Texans. He represents the new frontier and the labor Boston in Detroit. He is for every sweeping, high- spending, new frontier profile.
I probably didn't think in my heart of hearts I was going to win. But I, you know, portrayed that I did and I guess I did. But, an upside race, that was the year of gold water and I got many more votes than Mary Gold water did running in (INAUDIBLE) here. Most Republicans never got running for the Senate. But we have defeated pretty soundly.
After I lost the Senate, then I ran for the 7th district of Congress with house of representative. I ran against the very popular democratic district attorney named Briscoe. And then we were just out hustling. And then the district, this fire department where I was elected, they never had a Republican elected, has a pretty good Republican potential for national election particular. And so anyway, I ran door-to-door. Got people mobilized, the local people. It was good.
And off I went to the U.S. congress. I was very fortunate that I was put on the ways and means committee. It was a wonderful thing. That would your fears or faith on the ways and means committee. I mean, it was a big deal in those days.
And then, you know, I worked with a bunch of other congressman trying to fight for an ethics bill, I was a freshman member of congress. We had a big number of people that were elected the year I was. And so, we had a big freshman class. The leaders of the party, Jerry Ford, now lard could not over look. There was a lot of votes there. And they were very pleasant to us.
And so we just worked within the system. We weren't renegade. We weren't mob throwers. But it was a good experience. I love the house.
The Nixon White House wanted me to come in to as special counselor. But I didn't want to do that. And I knew that he didn't -- Nixon didn't like the guy that was there, his representative at the united nation (INAUDIBLE). He was a career guy. A very nice man. But part of what the deal in New York was to represent the president's views in the New York establishment. And that, I saw, I said to his staff, I rather not. I'd love to do this other. And if it was say about, next thing I know, he convinced, OK, that's what I'll have you do. I went to U.N. and loved it out there.
Mr. President, our secretary of state and I have repeatedly sought to make clear that conviction of the United States that the general assembly should not expel the Republic of China.
And I did represent the administration, I think, in New York pretty well and at the U.N. pretty well.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: That in my years of public life, I welcome this kind of examination. Because people have to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook.
It was terrible. The worst time to be president or chairman. The Republican national committee, you can imagine. And it's from bob Strauss who was then headed the Democratic national committee called me up and said, he said, George, your job -- he was a good guy, friend, still is, still alive. He said your job reminds me of screwing a gorilla.
I said how come -- what do you mean, Bob?
He said you can't stop until the gorilla wants to. And that's exactly what it was like. Well, I liked Nick. He had been very good to me. And I'm a loyal guy. I didn't want to see him thrown out of history. And so, it was difficult because I didn't want to believe that when they said they weren't involved in this stuff. So I stayed with him as long as I could.
But two stacks of mail. Why aren't you doing more to support the president and why are you doing so much to keep us close to that so and so? It got pretty rough. Just one thing after another, another shoe drop. I want to believe Nixon as long as that possibly could. None the head this smoking gun tape that became clear that everybody that the White House lied. And it was at that point that I wrote him a letter and said, you know, it is best that if you resign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you read a response from him?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I don't think so. There was a big cabinet meeting just before he resigned. He kept talking in the meeting. I was at the table because I was chairman of the party and it was part of my deal there was to be a member of the cabinet. And it was surreal meeting because of Nixon now, what are you going to do about this trade bill on - not everybody is now looking at each other like this, what the hell are you talking about? And so I don't remember the details from it, but this is an interesting revelation from that meeting, cabinet meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I think what he did in terms of this cover up and this sin, you'd rather sin itself but not, you know, breaking into some Democratic head quarter? I mean, that's not the end of the world. But it was bad. The main part that was bad was the cover up and the lie about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In hindsight, what do you think of Richard Nixon?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Mixed emotions have been and you never get over the enormity of the lie. Now, they are heading in many areas, he was a good president. He was very good. His vision on foreign affairs was particularly good. And so, it was disillusioning and heartbreaking in a sense.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you see ahead for the Republican?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Probably a bleak future that moment. But, that's why these things come and go. They give me perspective over the years. I mean, when things move you down, you bounce back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what consequences did water gate have for our country?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Not particularly profound when you look at it in terms of history. Other countries have had big problems, ethical problems. But Watergate itself? None. And I think most, you know, people would agree with that assessment. Life goes on. You can't stay in the past.
This is my favorite place on the point. (INAUDIBLE) in there where it hard to find. The people have made it and stop producing. Some of these great golfers, you have Phil Mickelson who said signed them and set them up here. I mean, that's shark, Atlantic shark caught in the Northwest Territory by my grandson when I was fishing with him. That's a large mouthed bass caught by Barbara in Alabama. I like the baitcasting in Rio's Best of all. That's a very good baitcasting reel there. A good one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you've been fishing all your life?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: All of my life. Yes. That was down in Florida and the Keys. Fishing for bonefish. It's really hunting and fishing. You see the tails on the fish and you cast out on them.
Jerry Ford asked me what I would like to do. And I said, well, I love foreign affairs for the U.N. they said, well, you know, Paris is open, France is open. If you want to be ambassador, we can probably work that out. I said what I'd like to do is go to China. He said, how come? I said well, that's the future. That's where I see the future is. And this is long before people recognized China as the power it is. Long trip, lounge journey away from anything we've done before but Barbara was for it and it worked out great.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was life like in China?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: You couldn't go into people's homes. It was closed in those days. But we could go around town. We used bicycles a lot to get around the different houtams (ph), lollygags, and traveled as much as I could in the country with her. And it was wonderful.
It's a whole new experience. Because I went over there thinking red China. Domination of communists of everything. Family doesn't mean anything. But then you go to a national day and you go to a park and you see four generations of Chinese holding hands, grandfather, grandson, all going along on a family day in the park.
You're kind of indoctrinated or out of touch. You just listen to propaganda views of things while you don't get the reality. So I saw the real China. And so I saw shortcoming, I saw its strengths. And I'm better for that. I learned a lot about life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us about becoming director of the CIA?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Well, yes, I remember riding my bicycle in China and the guy from the embassy communicator came up and said, Mr. Ambassador, we've got news for you. Come on back. So he went back, not very far, and there I got this message. I think it was from Kissinger. He said the president wants you to come back and run the CIA. Well, I had no idea about that. Didn't know anything about how to operate it.
I've been the consumer of intelligence, reading intelligence -- in that job and U.N. job and all of that. My view is once the president wants you to do something, if you think you can do it, you ought to do it. I got a lot of advice from friends in Congress who said, don't do this. It's a dead end for any political ambitions you might have. Any political future. But I did it. And probably the most fulfilling job I've had. Well, not -- as president.
I love defending the CIA. And I love talking about the dedication of the people that work there. And I love knowing what they do and how well they do it. I did meet with some of our agents, some of our people that would, like, serving in Moscow and some they'd bring them into the office so I get to talk to them and they were heroic people.
I mean they're risking their lives out there and some of them got wrapped up, some of them got, you know, compromised. The whole thing was a great experience. It reinforced for me the importance of the intelligence service. The importance of having good, foreign intelligence and the importance of having dedicated Americans who are willing to serve without sitting at the head table, without getting their name in the papers. And that the agency epitomized all of that for me. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you just tell us a little bit more about what you did at the CIA?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Well, I had had enough of a background and different things that I felt I could compete. I guess ambition or determination, whatever you want the call it. Why not me? And I worked like hell. I made some progress but didn't get elected.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you pursued a phone call and were asked to be the vice presidential running mate, did you have any sense that that was coming?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: No, I didn't. I thought -- you know, I thought I would be considered. Then they had this deal where Ford would run with Reagan. And they talked to Ronald Reagan about it. For a while, it looked like that was going to happen. And my view, it would have been a disaster. You can't have two presidents, which it would have been. Ronald Reagan shot that down.
And so I was somewhat surprise and shocked you might say when he called me up there in the hotel room and said, I want you to be my running mate. He said, I'm going over to the convention and ask that right now.
RONALD REAGAN, 40TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I thank you for your wholehearted response to my recommendation with regard to George Bush for the candidate for vice president.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I was very much interested in the details of the issues. I don't think Reagan was -- that wasn't his long suit at all. He was a great communicator and he was so much better than I, talking to the American people and getting American people to do things.
I found as I did a lot of foreign travel for Reagan, that I had met people. That was when you go to funerals, you know, and so much so that Jim Baker said you guy, he'll fly. I'd go to all these different funerals and there I'd see the different leaders. I made the first contact for the United States, officially, or for Reagan with Gorbachev, for example. Because I was over there when the Russian Premier Chernenko died and I went and met Gorbachev got a feel for him.
Broke the cable myself to Reagan telling we've got a different man here. We've got a different breed of cat. Someone you can deal with. And so that was an important moment for me.
There are a lot of things that individual time as vice president that I enjoyed. I enjoyed going to Germany trying to get the Germans to deploy the Pershing vessels. The very unpopular thing to do but Reagan wanted me to do this. And I went over there. And they did do it and enhanced the peace, I think. When Reagan shot I was here in Fort Worth and Secret Service didn't know whether it was some conspiracy to kill off leaders so they hustled me off to the limo and then off to the plane. We stayed in touch with the White House and then kept reports on how Reagan was doing. I never thought I was president. I never felt that I would make any decision calling the shots, acting like a president. There's no point in that.
I've worked with a great president. I've seen what crosses that big disk. I've seen the unexpected crisis that arrives in a cable in a young aide's hand. And so I know, that what it all comes down to this election is the man at the desk. And who should sit at that desk? My friends, I am that man.
Thank you very much. And I am proud to receive and I'm honored to accept your nomination for president of the United States.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
The night before the election, and they said we've got to stop -- go by Illinois and some other place before you go back to Texas for the vote. And I said, no, we're not going to do that. At this -- if we don't have it made by now, we weren't going to have it. So I didn't do it. I say that because it shows that people weren't overly confident that we were going to win. Yet, we won by, I think, an expose facto would have been considered a landslide.
I, George Herbert Walker Bush, do solemnly swear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And will to the best of my ability.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: And will to the best of my ability.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So help me God.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: So help me God.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Our first organized press conference, or sooner, we may have an in-organized press conference.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) disorganized?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: You are disorganized.
Good morning, everybody. Thank you all very much. I know some of you have been up all night long.
We just wanted to wish you well and welcome you to the people's house. Thank you all very, very much. Thank you. Thank you.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: The next morning, my mother was there, came, we got a greet picture of she sitting there. And then the papers started piling up. And the National Security team came in, the CIA people came in, back to work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How does it feel, sir, to be in the Oval Office?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Then it gradually sunk in. These responsibilities. I had been there. I knew where the keys to the men's room were and I know, you know, knew my way around the White House. And so it wasn't like out of a clear blue sky, some hick from west Texas, coming in there. And, yet so heavy, so important, so big. And I think it settled on me that this is -- you're it. This is a very big thing you embarked on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe the most historic thing that's happened while you were president was the end of the Cold War. Could you tell me about the day at the wall, sir?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I remember the Democrat leaders from the Congress, Mitchell and Gephardt, saying the president doesn't get it. He ought to be over there now dancing on the wall with these kids that are having families joined for the first time, which historically would have been the stupidest thing I could have done.
Leslie Stall, I think it was, said to me, why don't you express the emotion the American people feel? Everybody's got certain levels of respect and pride. And for me to stick my fingers in the eyes of Gorbachev or the Soviet military made no sense at all. And so I didn't do it. I got some criticism for that. Not emotional. Didn't care. And I cared deeply but subsequently, Gorbachev had said that if we had done it differently, he didn't know how his military would react, whether they'd finally say enough is enough, whether they will say we'll teach this new Gorbachev and take over and have military confrontation.
East German, forever they had troops all through that. And so it's better to work with the diplomacy of it all, which we did, and help I think very smooth. The Cold War ended without a shot being fired.
Do you want a candy bar? Come on, we'll get you one right here.
Our official exchange. Oh, here we are. That's nice to know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm really supposed to be in school right now.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it would be possible for you to write me an absence?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Oh, absolutely.
You see? In theory, I would like to ask -- what's the theory on that?
I remember when I happened, I was president. And it was terrible. And we kind of led the world on putting sanctions against China. But I didn't want to break off all relations with China. And there, I had it different with a lot of the editorialists and a lot of the people in Congress. I figured this is too much. We're going to break relations with China. My view, given at where we are today, it would have been a stupid thing to do.
If I hadn't been to China, I hadn't known the Chinese leaders, I might have felt differently about that. There's a place for every personal experience makes the difference.
I believe the forces of democracy are so powerful. And when you see in this recently as this morning, a single student standing in front of a tank, and then, I might add, seeing the tank driver exercise restraint, I'm convinced that the forces of democracy are going to overcome these unfortunate events in Tiananmen Square.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me quote the words of one Arab leader Saddam Hussein himself.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: And then we pick this up or take it out of my pocket?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what I want to find out. If you take it out of your pocket, then you've got to have your coat open. Let you do that.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: No.
I'm here today to explain to the people of Iraq why the United States and the world community has responded the way it has to Iraq's occupation of Kuwait. Let me quote the words of one Arab leader. Saddam Hussein himself. "An Arab country does not have the right to occupy another Arab country." Saddam Hussein's unprovoked invasion is ruthless, systematic rape of a peaceful neighbor, violated everything that community of nations holds dear. The world has said this aggression would not stand and it will not stand.
Small country. Member of the United Nations. Brutally taken over by the fourth largest army in the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At what moment did you know that this country was going to war against Iraq?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: In my heart, I knew it pretty quickly after he went into Kuwait. By quickly, I mean a few hours. I wasn't sure it was going to be war, but I know we're going to have to get him out of there. Remember when the presiding bishop from my church, and he came to see me in the over office. He said, Mr. President, you must not use force. It would be immoral.
And so I said to him, Ed, I'm afraid I view this differently. I don't think it's immoral. I said here's here's what I think is immoral. Showed him this Amnesty International report on the brutality to the Iraqi kids. I mean there is this overt, crystal clear wrong brutality.
You can't delegate it. You can't form a committee. You either form a committee, as it should, we do something or how are we going to handle it? But that final analysis, that final decision is the president's. So you worry about it, you wrestle with it, and you decide, we're going to do this. You don't listen to the drums beating outside of the White House.
He was the epitome of evil for me. The way he treated his own people. What he did to his neighboring state. A member of the United Nations. And I saw something redeeming about it at all. I think the feeling was mutual incidentally.
The Congress was against it. They were divided mainly on party lines, but didn't want me to do it. But I did what I thought we should do.
In my direction, elements of the 82nd Airborne Division, as well as key units of the United States Air Force, are arriving today to take up defensive positions in Saudi Arabia.
And Saddam Hussein never, never felt we were going to fight. And I think he also believed that if we were going to fight, he'd win. I am convinced to this day that Saddam Hussein would have marched right now and taken over Saudi Arabia. And then all hell would have broken lose. The military was right and the war was over. There's nobody early on we thought possible.
I think there is something known as a, quote, "just war," unquote, and this was a just war. And ironically, after the way it worked out, the way our military conducted itself with such efficiency and honor, some of the critics back then, pre-war critics, rescinded their criticism. But if it hadn't worked out, I'd probably would have been at peace. Maybe thrown out of office.
The toughest decision the president makes when he has to send somebody else's son or daughter these days into combat. Into war. So when I decided we'd use force, it was a big decision. A major decision, whether to kick him out of Kuwait.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you say to the families of the lost loved ones?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Heartbroken. I still feel it. Any time somebody loses a loved one, the burden for the loss of that life was right on the shoulder or the responsibility of the president. You can't help but feel that way. I've often wondered what would have happened if we had said this war is going to continue now until you show up and put your sword on that sword of surrender on that table in the desert.
Everybody then said he won't show up, send some general. And I'm wondering if he would have, and I think probably not. I think that would have been more satisfying. Well, the way it worked out, it affected me and it gave me a great pride in the American military, pride in the great satisfaction that we did what was right morally right. And it took some satisfaction the critics being wrong. I got to admit to that. Not very nice thought there.
But there's so much criticism. So much, you know, wild, ranting criticism about me that I think the fact that it all worked out with enormous importance, and I just felt personally satisfied. Felt lifted up.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: We had preferred calling it a revenue enhancement rather than a tax increase. And -- but no question it hurt. And the Democrats and many of the right-wing Republicans went after me with vengeance.
Read my lips. No new taxes.
The irony is if I hadn't said, read my lips, no more taxes, it might not have been a big a deal. It was so pronounced, so clear, so hammered home that for rhetoric, if I'd used a different rhetoric, I might have paid a lesser price, so I paid a big price.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you regret that decision?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Nope, I'd do it right.
Thank you, United States of America. We are going to going to win this election.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you describe the year 1992 and what that year means to you?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Defeat to Bill Clinton. Clinton did a great job of campaigning on that I didn't get it, I was out of touch and all of that. I know I sound like I'm bashing the press, but there was almost unanimity in the press corps that I should lose. And that they were for him. And that makes a huge difference.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you talk a little bit about Ross Perot?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: No. Can't talk about him. I think he cost me the election and I don't like him. Other than that I have nothing to say.
We respect the (INAUDIBLE) and the democratic system. I just called Governor Clinton of Little Rock and offered my congratulations. He did a strong campaign.
Losing election hurts. Not so much for you personally but you feel you let down a lot of people. Terrible hurt in it. But I've had some experience in that loss a couple of Senate races. But this was -- this was big. And, of course, very hurtful.
Have I introduced my two brothers to you? This is our new first lady. My brother Jon, my brother Prescott.
First time alone and had a chance to visit. Nancy? Come say hello to the new president.
Nancy Wong, this is (INAUDIBLE).
BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nice to see you. Hello, Michael. How are you? Nice to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Can you bring a (INAUDIBLE) in here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could have the White House (INAUDIBLE).
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: What could we offer you? A little coffee? A little tea?
CLINTON: A little of -- if you have a cup of decaf, I'll take that. Otherwise, I'll have tea.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) cup. Can we get that?
CLINTON: I can't drink anything else.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: There was a whole agenda of unfinished business. Domestic, foreign affairs, whatever. There were a lot of things on the economy that we were trying to do. And I'd like to have done more for real peace in the Middle East, for example. It'd be a good one to start. I think China was always important. And I think we could have taken some quantum leaps forward on that. Some of that has been done by whoever came along after me. A lot of it.
The presidency of the United States, which is, you know, the most important job in the world and the most probably overrepresented in what you can and can't do. But it's just wonderful. I don't know how it meant everything to me. And of course, I mean, it was the epitome of my life. But not the only thing in it.
BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: We'll keep going.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I'm going to let the wake go passed. We're in neutral. I'd sat down again and (INAUDIBLE).
Barbara and I come to spend back in the morning and the spring in early summer, sit out there every morning, watch the waves, have a cup of coffee. Now every time we have meals, we eat out here. Today we will. Now we got little Gigi here. And I can't tell you the joy I get when I just see her in the morning out my window running here and going over to the pool here. And now another week or two, there will be a lot of them here. And that really inspires me and makes me feel young.
Look out this window and to see it does for me exactly what it did when I was 15 years old. I love it. I feel reinvigorated there. I can still drive my boat. A lot of things I love to do, I can't do because I'm getting older. It's different now. But you're still on the team of life. You're still -- you're still in the middle of this great family. And that's what matters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was it like to see your son elected president?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Very emotional for me. Very proud father. First time it's happened, I guess, in the history of our country or except for the Adams but it was -- it was -- you know, it was mind boggling. It was enormous. And a source of great pride for the family, for the father and mother, Barb. It was great.
Chris Needles, who was a White House guy at one point and headed the Parachute Association, was here and they said they were having some demonstrations and would I like to see it, and I said, yes, in fact, I'd like to make another jump because I want to do it right. Made mistakes and just in my heart of hearts, figured I could get it right. So we went out to Arizona a few hours drill, and went out and made it out the parachute jump. Glad I could make a total of seven since then.
But now they're all in tandem. Those first two or three were solo jumps, which were much more exciting, much more -- you have to make a decision. You steer the chute. So it's more on you. And people say, why do you do this stupid stuff? I say, well, two reasons. One, at my age, you still get a thrill, a physical thrill from something. You look down, no visible means of support and next thing you know you're falling and floating hopefully, and then it sends a message around the world that -- I say around the world modestly, but people do seem to see it that, you know, old guys can still do interesting things, fun things, exciting things.
Those are the two reasons and I'm going to do one more on my 90th birthday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think of driving around that limo?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. How was it?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: It was pretty good. Everything was pretty good in those days.
And we just visited Berlin last weekend to reunite with my esteem colleagues, Gorbachev and Cole. I can report a few things. First of all, the three of us are, in fact, 20 years older.
Talk about dancing on the wall. I'm lucky to be able to stand up near the damn thing.
I've got a little Parkinson's in the lower legs and getting tired when you drag your legs around. It doesn't hurt, but it's a reminder that I'm getting older. I do have a fear of falling. I worry. And I've fallen a couple of times. Not the last six months, but I've fallen several times over the last year but always making a soft landing.
It's funny when you walk along, you picture where you are. I'm looking to see where it'd be a good place to fall. Now I don't because of these Secret Service guys and my people around here all help me and I lean on them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm honored to be here to help install in this symbolic anchor which will rest here for generations to come as a visual reminder of (INAUDIBLE) adoration for this special place and the equal adoration his family and the community of Kennebunkport feel for him. We love you.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Tribute and I'm not even dead yet. What is going on here? Amazing. Now Barbara and I would like to ask all of you, every single one of you to come to the gate and walk up and see this house from the other point of view. On the end of the house, you'll see my favorite slogan, "Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited." CAVU. Which we all rooted for when I was a Navy pilot. Ceiling and visibility unlimited. And that's the way my life is here. I think Barbara feels the same way about it.
They say politics is a noble calling. Don't be turned off by the scandal of the moment or the criticism from the press about politics and politicians. Do your best. Get in there. If you believe in something and work at it, and it's worth it. It's worth doing it. It's worth serving something other than your own self, your own pocketbook, and, you know, public service is a noble calling and I still feel that way.
B. GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I know you. I know you. Residents come and go but George stays.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is it all about? Good to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, George.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: How are you? Good to see you, pal.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Good to see you. Never run you off again, huh?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir. It's good to see you.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: How about this one? How are you, bud?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Good to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir. This is a great reunion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you, George.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You too. God bless you.
B. GEORGE H.W. BUSH: George, have you lost weight?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Honorable George Herbert Walker Bush.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Isn't that something? A lot of memories. A lot of happy memories and it's mesmerizing to see it's enchanting. And now at this stage in my life, I get so say, how lucky we are, how beautiful this is. And this is our anchor to Wentworth. This is our -- this is where the kids come back. This is where the memories are. So this is where I'm coming all my life and where I will remain until my last days.