tv Fox News Reporting FOX News November 8, 2015 12:00am-1:01am PST
and tell us what you think about the show. that's it for tonight. they called him poppy. george herbert walker bush, 41st president of the united states. a new england aristocrat, who became a politician in the texas oil patch. he owned perhaps the most impressive resume of any man ever to win the white house. he relished the rough and tumble of politics, but steadfastly maintained a public identity of dignified restraint, even in defeat. tonight, for the first time, you will hear the private thoughts of the 41st president in his own voice, part of an audio diary he
kept throw his presidency. it's a george h.w. bush who felt things more deeply than he ever let on. >> i would like to hear what you said the night he's speaking into his tape recorder. your mother asleep in the next room. and these are his reflections. >> your thoughts? >> oh, wow. i never really understood how much the defeat stung him,
because he kept it hidden. he bottled up this sense of defeat. >> the loss his father felt, the younger bush says, was not just his defeat by bill clinton, but something deeper. >> dad really didn't accept the baby boomer view of duty and honor. and therefore, to be beaten by the first baby boomer president, was upsetting to him. >> george herbert walker bush was born on june 12th, 1924, in milton, massachusetts, to a patrician family with high expectations and a firm sense of public duty. his father, prescott, was a serious and forceful figure, who would become a united states senator. his mother, dorothy, taught her son to strive for excellence, but never to show off while doing so. >> one of the famous stories in our family are going to say, mom, i hit a home run, and she looked at and said, how'd the team do?
>> his teens, bush went to andover where he showed he was a natural leader. as he was preparing for yale in the family tradition, the united states was attacked at pearl harbor. bush knew what he had to do. >> i volunteered on june 12th, 1942. that was my 18th birthday. i knew i wanted to be a pilot and that was the first day you could be enlisted. >> bush began flying dangerous missions over the pacific before the age of 20. >> i got shot down one time, september 2nd, 1944. we were making a final strike on the bownan islands and i felt this jolt. i could see the fire all around, antiaircraft, and suddenly, my plane was on fire. >> bush tried to save his crew, but two men died. he ended up in the pacific ocean, spending four hours on a life raft before this footage was taken of his rescue by an
american submarine. >> thank god. you really do. you know, in that life raft, you go right back to the fundamental values. i was 20 years old. you think of family and you think of faith. you pray. >> when he returned from the war, bush resumed his courtship of barbara pierce. he had met her when she was 16 and he proposed to her just before leaving for the pacific. they were married on january 6th, 1945. life was returning to normal. bush attended yale, where he got into an accelerated program and in 1948, graduated as a member of phi beta kappa. he had a job waiting for him in the family investment business, but he didn't take the easy path. >> he didn't rely on family connections or wealth. >> neil bush is the third of four sons of george h.w. bush.
>> he did something pretty remarkable when he was a young man after coming back from war and graduated from yale. he packed up in a red studebaker and went to west texas, which is about as far from civilization as you can get, if you're a greenwich, connecticut raised new york city bound young professional. >> bush was just 24 years old. >> your dad is a yankee aristocrat, to his core. >> correct. you've got to ask the question, what caused him to leave his roots and a family he adores to move out to west texas. and it was a sense of adventure. he's an adventuresome person. but dad can relate to people from all walks of life. and he doesn't act texan. he never wore a cowboy hat and a big belt buckle and big cowboy boots, but nevertheless, became a part of the midland scene. >> in 1953, tragedy. his 3-year-old daughter, robin, was diagnosed with leukemia.
she died just three months later. >> it was devastating. one of the defining tragedies of their lives. >> the pulitzer prize winning historian, jon meacham, was given unprecedented access to the bush family archives. >> he wrote a letter in the late 1950s to his mother about robin. "there is about our house a need. the running, pulsating restlessness of the four boys as they struggle to learn and grow. we need some soft blond hair to offset those crew cuts. we need a dollhouse to stand firm against our rack ets and baseball cards. we need someone to cry when i get mad, not argue. we need a little one who can kiss without leaving egg or jam or gum. we need a girl. we had one once. we need her and yet we have her. we can't touch her, and yet we
can feel her. we hope she'll stay in our house for a long, long time. love, pop." when i asked the president to read that letter out loud in an interview, he broke down long before he finished. sobbing very hard. and his chief of staff came in the room and said, why did you want him to do that? and i said, well, if you want to know someone's heart -- and before i could finish the sentence, the president said -- you have to know what breaks it. >> such deeply personal insights are what moved me to write "destiny and power," a new biography of george h.w. bush. among the material he drew from was a trove of the former president's private audio diaries, which we'll hear much more of later. >> i first met president bush in 1998. and i remember thinking even then, 17 years ago, that george bush was a much more complicated and interesting figure than most
people might think. i was looking at this as his story and his times about this remarkable life, decade after decade of service, and i really believe that he was the last of a kind. >> the same year bush lost his daughter, he co-founded the oil companies zapata's petroleum. >> in texas, he finds the most adventuresome aspect of that business and becomes an offshore oilman. >> bush, now the father of four boys wanted to serve his country in the political arena. his father, prescott, had become a u.s. senator from connecticut, and now george in 1964 ran for that same office in texas. >> george bush, the happy family man, is now george bush, republican candidate for the united states senate. >> he lost his senate race. not one to give up, he ran for the house of representatives in 1966 and won. >> one of the extraordinary things about bush is he was
almost immediately thought of in national terms, the moment he got to washington, as a member of the house. >> among those who saw big things for bush was president richard nixon. >> nixon was a vital patron, made him an ambassador to the united nations, chairman of the republican national committee. >> but it was a bad time to be chairman. the gop was falling apart amid the watergate scandal. nixon resigned in 1974 and ford took his place. ford named bush envoy to china and then director of the cia. >> when he was offered the cia, public confidence in the agency was very low, but he had this intense belief that a citizen's duty was to do what the president of the united states asked you to do. >> the cia was a significant problem for us. we'd been through a situation where there were questions about the way the agency had been handled, about some of the programs that had been carried on. so it was an important time when there was a lot going on, and as
we put all those pieces together, george bush headed up the cia. >> so help me god. >> after democrat jimmy carter was elected president in 1976, bush retreated to texas to figure out what to do next. his decision, swing for the fences. he would run for president. >> they break out laughing after you tell them you're running for the president of the united states. >> he went into iowa and met everyone he could possibly met and he upset reagan. he announced that he has the momentum and he's going to knock reagan out. he didn't count on one thing. which is ronald reagan. and reagan comes can back strong and knocks bush out. >> it looked like it could be the end of george bush's political career. he'd not exactly been tough on reagan, but he did say this -- >> he's promising to cut taxes by 30% and balance the budget and increase defense spending and stop inflation all at the same time. it just isn't going to work.
what i call a voodoo economic policy. >> but at the convention, reagan shows him as his running mate. >> reagan made the decision himself, ultimately, to turn to bush. >> bush had wanted to leave, but he knew how to be a good team player. >> bush was the quintessential perfect vice president for ronald reagan. he never once articulated a view or a feeling or a policy that was at odds with the president, and they became extraordinarily close, very, very good friends and an extremely good team. >> as ronald reagan's second term was drawing to a close, bush was ready for the biggest moment of his life. but while you'd expect the second in command of a popular president to have an easy path to the nomination, his quest turned out to be anything but
promised together to break with the past and return america to her greatness. >> early on in his campaign, bush sometimes seemed unfocused and voters weren't sure what he stood for. >> when he would be asked why h( wanted to be president, since there weren't always crisp answers. with ronald reagan, it was cut taxes and defeat communism. bush had a broader view. he was not a campaigner whose style lent itself to sound bites. and that hurt him. >> conservatives weren't sure he was one of them. >> he was a conservative in the sense that he wanted to conserve what was best about the country and reform what wasn't. and that reform would take the shape of sensible, often centrist solutions. president bush really believed that if he was trying to do the right thing, if his heart was in the right place, and if he produced results, then the
voters would be with him. >> on top of all of this, there was the so-called wimp factor. >> it drove bush bananas. he called it an ugly, nasty political shot, and was asked about it again and again and again. some people seemed to doubt whether he had the strength and the guts to make the hard call. bush's argument was, you know what, the men i flew in war with didn't think that. the men i built the business didn't think that. the cia agents i served with didn't think that. ronald reagan doesn't think that. >> one incident that helped dispel that notion is when he stood up for himself during a testy exchange with dan rather. >> it's not fair to judge my whole career because of a rehash of iran. how would you like it if i judged your whole career by those seven minutes when you walked off the stage in new york?
i have respect for you, but i don't have respect for what you're doing tonight. >> the line was fed to bush by roger ailes, now chairman of fox news. >> it was a moment he created a moment of support. it was interesting that he expressed doubt. you know, you think it went okay. and it went okay. it went better than okay. >> bush won the nomination by getting tough with his republican competitors. >> bush went negative. bush won the primary in new hampshire and then won in south carolina and pressed on to victory, ultimately. >> his first big decision as nominee was to pick a running mate. bush chose a relative unknown, the 41-year-old senator from indiana, dan quayle. >> george bush made an official offer and i said, oh, thank you very much. we'll be a great team. and he says, we want to keep it a surprise, so don't tell anybody. i says, well, surprise, i said, i'm sort of watching television, and they just said it's not dole
and it's not kemp. i think they might figure out, fairly soon, that it might be me. and he said, look, this is your first assignment. now, don't screw it up. >> i'm proud to have dan quayle at my side. >> bush wanted a surprise. he wanted to be, as he put it, bold and generational. the quayle decision was the first decision that bush had really been able to make in a totally independent way, since he went on the ticket with reagan eight years before. >> the big moment at the convention was bush's acceptance speech. here at last, was a chance to define himself in front of the whole nation. >> i want a kinder and gentler nation. >> the speech in new orleans, i think, made him, in many ways. and what was so remarkable at new orleans was, he delivered this speech with power and
conviction. >> this is my mission and i will complete it. >> and he used something he didn't like using, which was the first person pronoun. he said, i am that man. >> there was one line in the speech that would be remembered above all the others. >> read my lips, no new taxes. >> he decided to say it. he paid a price for it, forever. >> bush had redefined himself. and now he sought to define michael dukakis. >> i remember that we were 18 points behind. >> he attacked his opponent over many issues, but most memorably, over a prison furlough release program in massachusetts. >> his revolving door prison policy gave weekend furloughs to those not eligible for parole. while out, many committed other
crimes like kidnap and rape and many are still at large. >> it really became the symbol of first, dukakis' permissiveness on the furlough program, and in retrospect, as the years have gone by, become a symbol of the negativity, the alleged negativity of that campaign. >> many called the campaign one of the nastiest ever, but the strategy was working, and bush was gaining on dukakis. bush went on to a solid victory, gaining 53.4% of the popular vote, an amount no president, republican or democrat, has gotten since. only a few days before he took office, he privately took stock of himself and his plan.
the last century than the years george h.w. bush was in office. >> george bush was his own man, and he did things particularly, i think, in the foreign policy sphere that were somewhat different, perhaps that might have been happened under president reagan. >> one thing he knew he would have to deal with from the start, the cold war, which had been the simple fact of american foreign policy for decades. but as bush took office, something was happening overseas. there appeared to be tears in the iron curtain. >> in eastern europe, borders long closed by communism were
opening up. then in november, the unthinkable happened. the symbol of the cold war, the berlin wall, fell. it was a great moment, but a dangerous one, too. how would mikhail gorbachev, leader of the soviet union, react to the dissolution of its empire? >> bush insists he would handle it with grace and dignity. he won't, stick it in gorbachev's eye. gorbachev later said that bush's controlled reaction to the fall of the wall helped him avoid a hardliner counter reaction. put himselves in the shoes of the hardliners and think, how would i feel . well, ill not want the other side to dance on the wall. so he refuses to do it. >> i was a little more forward
leaning than the president was, in terms of my desire to make certain that the process continues and to do it as quickly as possible. the president clearly led the effort. >> i remember very distinctly, he says, he will not be bragging. we will not be out there flexing our muscles. we've got to be quiet, i've talked to thatcher, i've talked to cole, and we're going to downplay this and let it just play out. we're going to do this in a quiet, diplomatic way, and he was very firm about that, from the very beginning. >> i remember the criticism that george bush got when he refused to dance on the ruins of the berlin wall. they said, you've won this 40-year conflict, and you're not showing any emotion. what's wrong with you? and he understood that we still have a lot of business to do with gorbachev and we weren't going to stick it in their eye. >> he paid the political price
at home. he had democrats in congress, he has others saying, you know, that he didn't understand the historical moment. that's just crazy. george, nobody understood the historical moment of the berlin wall falling more than george herbert walker bush. >> i thought he did a good job of managing america's role in the aftermath of the berlin wall. he entered the communist system, giving us the chance to have a positive relationship with both the united germany and a united europe on the one hand, and hopefully a democratic and more peaceful russia. he maximumized the chances of a good outcome with the decisions he made. >> the potential for chaos and the potential for the united states' mismanaging that, the potential for us to see this as
a moment of extraordinary weakness in an archenemy and to push as hard as we could, all those temptations were there, and i think the bush administration understood that for us to be able to reimagine europe and reimagine the world was going to require restraint and care and the way the president managed that was really important and his national security team helped to usher in relatively peacefully a transition to what we now know as a unified europe and purchased at least 25 years of relative stability and peace in relations between the united states and russia. . the soviet union fell without anyone firing a shot, but before the 41st president's
washington. it's been probably the most hectic 48 hours since i've been president, in terms of serious national security interests, i've been on the phone insays accountantly and have written down a long collection of names. the bottom line is that the west is together. >> it was the most hectic 48 hours for president bush, because just days earlier the forces of iraqi dictator saddam hussein occupied their tiny neighbor, kuwait. it was a defining moment for the post-cold war era. bush led the world's only superpower, but instead of intervening alone, he reached out to the rest of the world. >> he knew foreign policy, he understood it, he'd practiced it. he knew a lot of these people from prior iterations. >> some of his friends in the region were reluctant allies. >> i've been afraid some of them
would peel off and one of the worst offenders has been my friend, king hussein, who is simply out there apologizing for saddam hussein and being almost a spokesman for him. he told me he wanted an arab and so did mubarak. both of them are in the hand-wringing stage, bottom line is, a lot of these arab count countries are scared to death of saddam hussein. >> we had a number of the arab countries which we thought was very important to be part of the coalition. the arab country's demand is that we not invade iraq and that we not target saddam specifically and we basically said, we're not going to invade iraq, that's not our objective. our objective is to get them out of kuwait. >> the most serious problem i've faced as president, because the downside is so enormous. something that could have the magnitude of a new world war. so many countries involved.
fortunately, the soviets have been on the right side of all of this. >> had the soviets not come on board right after the invasion, we never would have been able to build the coalition that1[u ultimately -- and we would never have gotten the resolution out the security council, because they would have vetoed it. people talk a lot about building coalitions. we're talking about a coalition in syria today. well, it's not, you know, it isn't there. others have talked about coalitions, but the only one that really was a strong, substantial functioning, overwhelming coalition was this one that president bush built to eject iraq from kuwait. >> this is a guy who's been through world war ii. and that whole generation, had been, you know, veterans of world war ii and remembered very much what it was like.
but also, we're strong believers in using american force when necessary. so when we reached a particular point, the president was there and i think we all agreed with him that it was time to go clean out the house. >> the decision to go to war was not taken lightly. >> i want you to hear a recording your dad made from christmas eve 1990, that's right before the start of the gulf war. >> well, first of all, i'm not
surprised he carried a burden about the decision. after all, he had seen war. he had lost a lot of his friends. he still talks about the two men that die when his plane got shot. secondly, he had already committed troops once into panama and there had been loss of life, and i can remember him dealing with the anguish he felt. so i'm not surprised that he deliberated over the decision. on the other hand, george bush is the kind of person who when he says something, means it. and he meant it.
>> just two hours ago, allied air forces began an attack on military targets in iraq and kuwait. these attacks continue as i speak. tonight, as our forces fight, they and their families are in our prayers. may god bless each and every one of them and the coalition forces at our side in the gulf and may he continue to bless our nation, the united states of america. >> we . >> operation desert storm with a coalition of 34 nations lasted six weeks. iraq was driven from kuwait. it was a decisive victory.
>> what we and our coalition partners did to stand up against saddam hussein's aggression was right, it was just, it was moral. and we did the right thing. >> it was over in relatively quick order. it was necessary. it was the right thing to do. and it marked the sort of whole new phase, declaring united states was the sole power left. >> the only question remaining was whether u.s. forces should remove saddam hussein. >> it was the right thing to do. they didn't know what would happen if saddam were gone, but they were pretty sure it wouldn't be a walk in the park. he said he wouldn't do it and he kept his word. >> people used to ask us all the time, why didn't you guys go to baghdad and take care of saddam when you had the chance. well, guess what, nobody asks us that anymore, because they see
why we didn't. because of the ethnic tensions that would have resulted, that have resulted. it was a very wise decision. we would have lost our coalition and it was the right decision to make, as history has now shown us. >> baker's assessment is a subtle dig at the conduct of the second gulf war, as waged by the second bush administration. the elder bush was not so subtle when talking to biographer meacham. he thought his son's rumsfeld and dick cheney were hawks, and he chasted rumsfeld, saying, i don't like what he did and i think it hurt the nation. after the gulf war, president bush had a nearly 90% approval
in foreign affairs, bush was flying high. it was on the domestic side where his presidency came crashing down. >> and now i sign legislation which takes a sledgehammer to another wall. one which has for too many generations separated americans with disabilities from the freedom they could glimpse, but not grasp. >> he passes sweeping civil rights legislation with the americans with disabilities act. he passes the clean air act, which is still basically our environmental policy. he does things, trying to make the bills as conservative as possible, but which were, in fact, bills that involved a big role for the public sector. how did he justify it? he justified it, because he thought that was what was right for the country. >> and the politics of it, the politics of explaning what he was doing was never his strong
suit. >> that domestic agenda got him in trouble with the conservative wing of his party. >> this bill will be retitled and called the lawyer's relief act of 1989. because there's going to be a lot of people in law offices and a lot of people in the federal courts. >> but the biggest domestic issue and one that ended up hurting bush the most was the economy. bush had promised no new taxes, but he knew from the start of his presidency with a growing deficit, they might be necessary. president bush did not like revoking his pledge. >> he believed it was a breach of his work. and he took that very seriously. >> but he felt congress had him over a barrel. ultimately, he gave in. the bush passed in late 1990, included tax hikes. >> he got his budget through. he did what was politically pretty much of a negative to him in agreeing with the democrat in congress to raise revenues to
get the spending cuts. in my view, it was a mistake to raise them. having made it such a high profile promise or commitment, i understand full well why he did it. we were running huge deficits. there was a -- he had negotiated deal with congressional democrats under which he would agree to some tax increases in exchange for spending cuts. >> it's hard to remember now, but, you know, the deficit at that time was really seen as an existential issue. it was about american decline, it was about our capacity to project power around the world and getting the deficit under control was a central political priority. >> raising taxes angered his base. >> his sense of duty, his sense of putting the country first, was that he would put the political hit that was required, but he was not going to shut the government down in october and november of 1990 as troops are
work. >> but summer, 1992, bush's approval rating tanked, then, unfortunate deliveries. on a trip abroad he threw up in a state dinner. >> he got sick in japan, threw up on the prime minister of japan. >> it was a symbol things weren't going well. >> in the republican primary he would stave off a challenge from the right and win his party's nomination but there was doubt in the air. his democratic opponent, bill clinton was his polar opposite. bush's political style was of another era. >> he was not comfortable with the congressional politics taking shape. the idea he would say i feel your pain sim possible.
>> i feel your pain. i feel your pain. >> clinton was a professional. he was from one of you. the generational distinction. >> ross perot was polling well and wouldn't go away. bush had 37.5% of the vote. >> without perot, we would have been reelected. >> george bush was officially a one-term president. >> i called governor clinton in little rock and offered my congratulations. he did run a strong campaign. i wish him well in the white house. >> on the night he lost the presidency of the united states,
and. >> i'll have no trouble once we get to the hill. once the pomp and ceremony and no feelings other than to wish our new president well. >> yes. he did that. and every departing president leaves his successor a note. the note he wrote me, which i treasure said it was the most wonderful opportunity in the world he wished me well and wished our country well. that is what it was. >> what an experience it's been. how privileged i am. how lucky our family has been. and how much i miss my mother and dad, too.
. >> thomas jefferson once said no man will carry out of the presidency the reputation which carried him into it. that seems to be true of george hw bush whose standing was at low ebb when leaving office. but the further away we get from the bush presidency, the better it looks. >> george bush was an incredible leader. he led by making tough
decisions, good decisions. when he took the oath of office, friday, january 20, 1989, nuclear armageddon was a possibility. when he left office, there was not. >> he went out of his way to show respect to other humans. he was extraordinary in showing humility in leading. i argue he's the greatest one-term president in the nation's history. he had principles but also common sense. when you look at how he handled foreign policy and domestic policy. in each case, he made good decisions and i think he is one of the more under rated presidents we have had in modern times. >> he's a gentleman's gentleman.
>> i genuinely love the guy because of the feelings he has for his family, he's an innately kind person and he wants the best for the country. >> he's my best friend. he says i'm his. that is a big deal for him. >> we had an honest administration with no handles and put the country first. i hope that is what his legacy