tv President George H.W. Bush Interview CSPAN December 2, 2018 12:51am-1:56am EST
in the 1999, the former president talked with c-span's brian lamb about his personal life and his time as cia director, vice president and president, as well as his relationship with ronald reagan. this is one hour. brian: mr. president, can you remember the first time you ever thought about being president of the united states? pres. bush: brian, i can't think i honestly can't. -- can. i remember when i started thinking seriously about it. i left the center of intelligence. jimmy carter was elected president. i went back to texas. somewhere in there after that i began to be serious about it. i didn't, i didn't make any permanent business connection or permanent university connection. i did a little teaching, a couple of boards of directors of business, but it was in there i got to thinking about it
seriously. but whether it even crossed my mind earlier on, i don't know. probably. everybody who is elected to congress thanks, hey, maybe someday i will be president. brian: in your book, you write that memo on aging and memory. what was the point of that in your new book? pres. bush: i put it in there because i wanted my kids to understand if it looked like i'm disconnected i am. ,i didn't want them to think i was neglecting them. it is a letter to kids talking about what it is like getting older. it is different. i mean, heck, your legs hurt. but i feel, like my friend sunny encumbering said like a spring , coal. but i do forget stuff. i can remember more from a long time ago than what i had for but i feel, like mylunch two da. brian: 31 million pages in this library. are you afraid someday someone might find something that makes
one of those front-page stories? pres. bush: no. i think there is plenty that'll make interesting reading for the american people, but i don't that we got any, anything will cause the muckrakers to go crazy. brian: are there any audiotapes? pres. bush: i don't think there is any audiotapes. i don't know. you know we taped overseas , conversations. it is a standard deal. they have an interpreter in russia, in moscow we have one. , whether they kept audiotapes, i don't know. but there are no audiotapes such as the ones that are done without somebody knowing that you are being taped, nothing like that. brian: i want you to go back, because as you come to your library and walk through it, you can see your career unfold. go back to congress. when you think back of your two terms, 1965 first time? pres. bush: i was elected in the
fall of 1965 and served until 1968. brian: four years. what did you learn about being a congressman? pres. bush: i learned that even though you are in your 40's, you can still make friends. and i kind of thought, maybe you make your fast friends in school or college, or in my case the service. but i made a lot of friends, and i remember being somewhat frustrated in the minority the whole time. it trained me for being president when i faced a democratic majority in the house and senate for all four years. i learned a little about that from my little service, four years of service in congress. but i loved it, i loved being a member of the united states in congress. but it was hard to kind of get something done. part of a huge forum of 435 people, and it is hard to get it done. brian: what did you learn about government then? pres. bush: i learned that it works.
i learned respect for people who serve, without getting credit for it civil service. ,you know, it is fine in republican politics or democratic politics to berate those who serve in the -- career service of any kind, not just for in service that republicans and democrats all attack. so many different agencies, i learned, we got service by the bureaucracy, there are a lot of good people serving our country. there are many lessons. brian: do you remember the wall street journal front-page piece back in the 1960's that said, watch for two men to become president of the united states some day? george bush and don riegel. pres. bush: i don't remember it at all. i am the old-fashioned guy. i remember the bad stuff. not the good stuff. so i remember an article in there really ridiculing me on
the editorial page back in those days. but i don't remember this very nice, this nice little squib. brian: move on to your senate race, two times. ran for the senate. pres. bush: ran and lost in 1964, and then ran and lost in 1970. brian: what do you remember about losing? pres. bush: just losing? brian: the whole experience first of all. pres. bush: if stuff doesn't come out, it is a character builder. i think i'm a better person because i have tasted defeat. now, i worked like the dickens to see that i wouldn't be in 1964, then again in 1970, and again in 1992. it hurts a lot. but you learn, you learn to lose. you learned that there is a life beyond your own personal defeat. you learned that you got to be
gracious in victory and defeat. you learned that the pain of losing is not yours alone. in my case, the pain of a lot of a lot of volunteers, staff people who had helped me every inch of the way. there are so many lessons you can get out of defeat. and there is a lot of lessons you can learn in victory, too. brian: do remember why you want ed to be a senator? pres. bush: well i thought, four years in the house, experience in the house, it would be better to get something done. you are not one of 435 people, you are one of 100. you are one of two senators. in my case senator from the huge , state of texas. my state, and i think i could have been able to accomplish more along the legislative lines that i believed in. but it was that. and i remember in a 1964 when i ran, the party really was desperate to get someone to run.
that was back in the phone booth days when the party could meet in a phone booth. now we are a two-party state. a lot of it thanks i might add to our governor. so it wasn't a great groundswell of public opinion. i was doing what the party leaders wanted me to do back in 1964. in 1970, having had experience in the house, i just felt being member of the senate would be a much better way to accomplish things. brian: do you remember how much raise? money you had to and how you raised it? pres. bush: we raised a lot of money, but it was miniscule compared to what, what -- i think my whole campaign for congress in 1966, -- i want to say, $200,000, which was considered huge in those days. 1966. but i don't really remember in the senate. i know we had a pretty good fundraising effort, and i cannot say i lost because i did not
have proper funding. brian: your father was a senator for 10 years? pres. bush: 10 years. he came in in 1952, fill the unexpired part of senator mcmahon, who died in his term, and he was reelected with ike in 1956 for a full six-year term. and he said, i don't want to serve in the senate after i 70 am years old. so he didn't run again. he would have won. but he didn't run again. brian: what was your relationship to him? pres. bush: my dad? love and respect. i guess i don't, i don't think there is a man i've had more respect for than my father. he was a great, big, strong, principled man. people wrote in those days the epitome of what a senator ought to be in terms of civility and honor terms that seem to escape , us at times today. but in terms of influence on my
life, it was all-encompassing. brian: what did you learn about politics from him? pres. bush: not much, because i was living in west texas when he was in the senate. and people forget that, so i wasn't in his campaigns. my brothers were. they worked their heart out for him. so did my sister. but in 1952 in 1956 i was in west texas, working for a living . i couldn't go back there. but once in a while i went as a guest of the senate. his guest there. and i learned respect for the institution. i remember my dad saying, lyndon johnson is such a great leader and the reason he is is because his word is good. scheduling legislation. he tells me son, that his vote , will be at 10:00, it will be at 10:00. and there was a certain civility in the senate that dad respected and contributed to, so i learned more about that than i did about
any legislative initiative. brian: there is a picture in your library people talk about from 1969 when lyndon johnson left andrews air force base, and you can't tell who everybody is but it looks like an awful lot of democrats and one republican in your hand is trying to shake his hand. why did you go out there? pres. bush: i was a junior texas congressman. lyndon johnson was a senior political figure, texan, would have been elected president -- who had been elected president. i thought -- it was the suggestion of a woman who worked for me. forworked in the congress democrats and republicans, and she said you ought to go out there. you want to be out there to pay your respects to lyndon johnson as he served this country. i differed with him on almost every legislative initiative but i went out there and stood in
the long line, his cabinet and friends, and he saw me, walked by, could hardly believe it. he came back and spoke to me, and subsequently i heard over and over again that the johnson family took note of this and i think appreciated it, but i have discovered in life it is not hard to do something that might appear to be kind or thoughtful or proper, and i think going all ofi hope it was those things. i know president johnson mentioned to me after i got back to texas -- he came back to live and i came back on the congress he appreciated it very much. brian: have you learned anything from lyndon johnson tour boat -- how you wanted to live your time in the presidency? pres. bush: i am sure, but i stayed off the boards of
directors. i tried to avoid activities at night and diminish the office i was honored to hold. i don't think any particular president has been a role model. i have great respect for the way others have conducted themselves. jimmy carter is doing a lot of great work but he is involved in some things that i would not want to be involved in. i think his motivation is wonderful, and he has made a great contribution to helping mankind in africa or ever else it is. i don't want to always be having an opinion on foreign affairs anymore, being out in a way that might look like i'm trying to influence the government. i had my chance. i was beaten fair and square, and i told clinton, president clinton, i think the day i left the white house, you are not going to get a lot of grief out of me, and for the most part i
have avoided the criticism. ,t is better for me to sit back in my family the torch of politics has passed to two sons, governor of florida and governor a dadas, and that is all can ask. barbara and i are doing what we call the 1000 points of light. we are trying to put something back into the system, whether at this library or the george bush school of government and public service. if we can teach a handful of kids public service, it is noble, better than you think it is. we'll be doing something good. noise, a little bell, your dog right here what is your dog's name? pres. bush: sadie. she is a 4.5, trained to be a hunter and -- huntress in england. she is a great rabbit chaser.
just a minute, sadie. she is just a joy in barbara's life and mine, and she is fast as lightning and she is a kind dog, and she makes friends easily. brian: how often does she go with you like this? pres. bush: always when we are in texas. when we come home, she rushes to the shutters and looks out. dogs and kids, that his life for me now. brian: the u.n. came after you were defeated in the senate. how did you get that job? pres. bush: president nixon called redound to the white house. he was in a dilemma because he wanted john connolly to go on as secretary of the treasury, and he thought it was funny in texas if he appointed connelly. -- i have a lot i had not taken care of. i didn't expect to be "taken
suggested i might be coming to the white house as an aid, and i didn't want to do that. one was leaving as ambassador. i knew how to consult about the new york establishment, mayor lindsay criticizing. i think he saw here is a guy that knows something about politics and can learn -- and could learn about the intricacies of foreign affairs. he sent me up there. i loved it. brian: rethinking then about presidency -- were you thinking about presidency? pres. bush: no. brian: what did you learn at the united nations? pres. bush: it is a parliamentary body, working for votes. you can't always do it your way. i learned to treat other companies -- countries large and small with respect.
burundi, which consisted of a secretary, the ambassador and said the guy, they united states ambassador is willing to reach out. that helped, when you get down a personvotes, and that didn't have instructions to vote as you chose. we could win some votes that way. i learned, met a lot of people i would interact with later in various foreign-policy agenda, and i loved it. brian: have you started your note writing habit by then? pres. bush: i am sure i did. i started when i was a teenager. i would write notes to different ambassadors. i remember meetings got boring. i found most ambassadors including the hardliner, the cold warrior for the soviet union, had a sense of humor. i sent him a little note with a
marvelous, beautiful woman who delivered messages, looking very serious. he looked over and smiled, some humorous thing. it was fun. that part was fun. you could relax. i gave a party for the 10 most overrated new yorkers. my name was on the list. i thought that was unfair. the guy that wrote the story felt i was worthy of the honor, and i invited diplomats. i want -- 10 most overrated? i got a letter from jack who said it was beneath the dignity of my office to do it. it was fun earning these people in, needle yourself and them a little bit and put a human face on diplomacy. it doesn't hurt. brian: the note writing, where did you get it from? pres. bush: i think i first got it from my mother. i would spend a weekend with
someone -- george, have you written your thank you letter? it started that way and spread to be more than just thank you for the lovely weekend. that was the initial exposure, and we do that with our own grandchildren now. they are off the hook a little bit, because of email. it is easier. barbara would send them an email . have you written your thank you letters to your grandfather? , thanks.dpa it is easier for those kids. we have always had this. brian: have you kept copies of your notes? pres. bush: no. i have kept copies of everything i wrote i think when i was vice president and certainly president, every piece of paper that goes off the oval office desk mother is a copy of it somewhere. i know it got good records from
the presidency and i think the vice presidency, but the rest were sporadic. jean becker worked with me on cia, hadt through the to get clearances, go to the united nations to dig out the files stored god knows where to find a paper trail or little pieces of paper that might fit into this of letters. so our record-keeping was excellent in the white house. had a most efficient assistant. perfect. her miss she saw every piece of paper went where it belonged in there somewhere in these marvelous archives. brian: is there any doubt in your mind those notes over the years had a big impact on people? cumulatively? pres. bush: i don't know. if they had substance, they might have. i don't know just a thank you note has any effect. do -- what ituld
did do, it built a personal trust or they might disagree on this issue or that, but i believe in personal diplomacy. part of personal diplomacy would be writing a little note, telling a guy how much you enjoyed the speech he gave or thank you for the marvelous time, or thank you, we loved having you at kennebunkport. you would work in a little substance, but the main thing was the fact of the communication that i think did add to my ability when the going got tough, or when problems got big to converse frankly with recipients. brian: what was your system? how did you keep track of all the people you wrote notes to? pres. bush: i didn't. it was helter skelter, hit or miss. up, mightwould crop even be something like a
birthday or the swearing in of a successor, or it might be an election, or it might be having seen them at a conference, or it might be something humorous. even people that speak different linkages have wonderful senses of humor. it is hard for people to understand that, and we would tap into that wherever we could. brian: can your member a time when you devoted enormous amount of time after a campaign -- writing notes after a campaign? pres. bush: you try to thank people, but you will always leave somebody out. it is impossible to adequately think people who helped you a .ampaign or in administration i tried very hard because i knew the credit belonged elsewhere for whatever. n the congress race as a team. we got something right as president. it is a team effort. a lot of people never saw the
light of day in terms of sitting at the head table, but those are the ones i would want to write. anyone -- hadu anyone say i would start to collect these, and you have people that have nice folders of your letters? pres. bush: we do. a lot of them are thank you notes for campaigns. absolutely. we have had a lot of people, when word got out we were putting out a book of letters, then there are hurt feelings hurt my -- hurt feelings. my brother said this letter didn't even make the book. a couple of his made it. it was great and wonderful. brian: are you surprised this book is on the bestseller list? your tome on foreign affairs didn't make it. pres. bush: this is less serious. we are up there with harry potter and i don't know who the latest movie star is. it might not stay forever. brian: you know how many you have sold? pres. bush: it is in the fourth
printing and hanging in, done better than i thought it would do. we had a lot of fun with this. but i don't want to write a memoir. this is the closest you will get to a memoir because it is not about substance. there is some substance. it is about heartbeat, my policy, what makes my family come together and what makes us cry and makes us laugh. brian: go back to the chronology you became the republican national committee chairman what year? 1973.bush: the winter of brian: why did you do it? pres. bush: because the president asked me. he thought i would be the best guide to be chairman of the party, and when he was reelected in 1972, halterman called the whole cabinet together. we want everybody's resignation on the desk before close of
business today. not the kindest and gentlest approach to our service, but i will send a letter, then we were david,d to go to camp and talk to him. one of the things he suggested was to be the deputy secretary of the treasury. george schultz was secretary which would have been a high honor. he said what i want you to do is be chairman of the national committee. if the president asks you to do something, you should try. so i did, and it was a headache. brian: you have a lot in your book, you have a letter to your children, your boys, because you say dorothy was too young at the time. you critiqued president next and and had a lot of -- president nixon. you say he lied. pres. bush: i defended him
through thick and thin, not trying to keep the party separate from the ugliness of watergate, because it was separate party itself, but also trying to be loyal as i could be to the head of the party himself. that was richard nixon, and it was not easy, but there was a final blow where i saw that he had not leveled the american people. i felt that he should indeed leave office as he did. oddly enough, when i become president, the president i got the most advice from was richard nixon. inan: you say this sentence this note, the man is a moral. -- amoral. pres. bush: you don't look your cabinet in the eye and say one thing, then have it turn out to be something completely opposite . that is what it was. there were wonderful sides to richard nixon, but as we saw from the tapes, releasing of
tapes, there was an ugly side were he would be critical of people in a very personal, very kind of mean way. that was hurtful. brian: this was an obvious fifth, 1974 note for the record. i want to read one. you are talking about al haig. he predicted the president would not survive, but we would look back over both 80 and say he had been out of the great presidents of our time. you are 75, close to that mark. i could come close to saying that now, but not looking at what i think was a flawed character in this field, this way, but looking at his global perspective, and his knowledge of foreign affairs, and his determination, his strength, i think he will be recorded. but i think at -- his president
will be sullied, and some could argue fatally so by the ugliness line ofinality of the watergate. brian: after the republican national committee, you have got the china job. how did that happen? in between that there is talk about you in vice president. pres. bush: there was some earlier on in 1968 when tom dewey and other suggested nixon had not -- it would be flattering to come in and call it a boon, but some of my colleagues in congress and billy steiger among them thought this would be a good idea, and they scurried around and nixon called me and said fine campaign, you are going to be vice president. i was very impressed. didn't happen, and when richard nixon left office, gerald ford had to pick a president -- vice
president, and i was asked to take a poll, and with some embarrassment ice -- i sent the names down to the white house, showing i think i lead in it. there was speculation in the columns that had my name the day that ford announced his pick, he was going to walk into the east room to announce who he wanted to be vice president, my phone rang. kennebunkport, maine. he said i am going in right now. we were watching. i am going in right now to address nelson rockefeller. it was a hard call for me. he could not have been nicer. he was one of the most considerate men i have ever met area to take the time, i could see it on television. callresident is making one , he will be here in a minute. he didn't want her to feelings.
there was speculation, flattering, but i didn't expect that. brian: had you thought yet of running? pres. bush: i don't know. i think my real thinking about it began after that. -- picks if he think me for this, maybe there is some thing there, but didn't waste time on it. brian: why did you go to china? pres. bush: because i thought that was the future, and i am glad i went. paris and london were open, important posts, but i want to do do more in foreign affairs. said -- he said have you thought about those? i said what about china? david bruce am a senior diplomat coming home, he said they might not like it because i defended the dual representation policy at the u.n.
china might not accept me. check with henry kissinger. he thought it would be all right, and the chinese sent an agreement to president ford, so it worked, and i loved it. brian: you tried to learn chinese? pres. bush: every day for five days a week. brian: how did you do? pres. bush: i gave a going away speech in chinese and i think all of them understood i was speaking in chinese, the people that worked around the embassy. i am not sure they did. the language teacher was in the back, quiet, little lady, smiling, making sure i got annunciation, the four -- pronunciation, the four tones right. brian: you have some chicken scratch of chinese in your library. pres. bush: i didn't write characters, so it must be somebody else's. brian: you are trying to do the english with characters around it. pres. bush: all i did was the
language speaking. brian: what did you learn as your experience as liaison? pres. bush: how to buy noodles in chinese. i learned about the importance of china. i was there in a tough time. i saw this advantage of -- the disadvantage of a closed society, but i appreciate there are far more human liberties and rights in china today than when we lived there. i learned the family was still a strong entity in china. was,t in 1970, whatever it 1973i guess, 1974, thinking the family is falling apart. all the kids have been sent to the countryside to be indoctrinated. the minute i got there i saw how wrong that was. i saw the beginning of growth, real growth, but closed, society was closed. you can go in a person's home.
--ple were scared to follow i learned a lot about the blessings of freedom, our freedom. brian: you fly into houston international airport and your name is on the airport. you drive dollar medicine highway in washington, there it is, george bush, cia. there is a major conference going on as we tape this interview for the cia. that was your next stop. how long were you there? brian: i was all -- pres. bush: i was only there one year, and it was the most fascinating year of my life. i don't know i met -- i left a mark, but they left a mark on me. it had to do with the importance of intelligence, dedicated, selfless, honorable public service. it had to do with the fundamentals with my comprehending the fundamental importance to a president, the
best intelligence of the world. it had to do with the outrage of the critics of cia, and i was proud and privileged to defend it. we corrected some abuses that had taken place in the past, and we ran with it and tried to point out the importance in congress and everywhere else of having the best foreign intelligence in the world. brian: why did you leave the job? pres. bush: thrown out. president carter wanted his own director. he nominated ted sorensen, and i went home. brian: are you studying as you go through all these jobs the presidency, the government? do you think much about structure? pres. bush: i haven't. it would be about the individual assignment, china, how does that interact with the state
department, how are decisions made affecting china policy, or cia, how do you be sure the abuses of the past never take lace again, then you have the proper -- place again, then you have proper executive orders to guarantee the cia is properly supervised within its mandate. i have learned from individuals, it i don't ever think -- don't think i put it in the context of each step being a step towards the inevitable presidency. brian: let me go back and ask you about two things, vietnam and watergate. either from what was going on in your life from when you were in cia or beyond, what do you think the legacy of both of those -- i was watching tape with president nixon saying it was vietnam created watergate because of the attitude in the town and the media that that created a bunker
mentality among his people. what do you think of the legacy of those? vietnam, if you are going to be in a war, fight it. it is not dishonor those who serve honorably. i'm afraid many people in the journalistic profession are agreeing with the protesters and the flag earners and the run to canada crowd, denigrated the honorable service of those who did do their duty. i think the military had their hands tied behind their back, and that was a bad thing to say in those days, but my lessons from watergate are different than some others. i would agree not to get into a war where the mission is not clear, but once you are in it, fight it and win it, and don't dishonor those who served their country and wear the uniform. one of the great things about
desert storm, because we fought it that way, defined the mission, let the military fight and give them resources to do it , there was instant pride and respect in our country. a lot of the wounds of vietnam are healed because of that experience. i am perhaps old-fashioned about , i am not a i don't revisionist or not one who thinks, we are to honor all those who ran away. brian: what about watergate? pres. bush: that was just an aberration. that was such a small thing until the lies, the cover-up. if somebody had said, what a huge mistake, here is how it happened, it is stupid, going in to spy on -- can't even or who it was, papers to the democratic committee, stealing papers, they
would learn a thing, then they had it covered up and get the fbi and kind of corrupt the process of government, that was the seriousness of watergate. so i learned from watergate, be sure everybody plays by the rules. be sure that the laws are enforced and not for political reasons are violated. a good man in many ways, richard nixon, brought down because of an ugly cover-up. brian: and then the vice presidency came along. how did that happen? pres. bush: i came second running for president to ronald reagan. i saw that i was defeated even though we won a couple of big primaries. iowa, new hampshire and all of that, new hampshire which i didn't win. so i went out and paid off a huge debt.
i went across the country, mississippi was the last stop, jackson, mississippi. i say i want to go to michigan, to the republican convention and not owe a dime. you have helped me, and i hate asking you. i don't like to own money, or cheat -- oh money or cheat people out of what they are entitled to by going money. , successfulckson fundraiser, paid off every dime we have, half $1 million debt, went to michigan, head high, not expecting anything. there were rumors floating around president reagan would invite gerald ford to be his running mate. somehow that blew up. i was sitting in the hotel room, the telephone rang, and it was ronald reagan asking if i would be his running mate. brian: did you think about not doing it?
pres. bush: no. all this stuff about people >> when did you make the decision you were going to go for the presidency? i think about 1977, probably. nobody knew who i was. i had a network of friends. i was able to run enough money to get my message out. the next thing i knew, bigger the wayside,len by and i was left standing on the field with ronald reagan, towering figure he was viewed not for very long, he dusted me off somewhere after michigan and before california. brian: what did you learn? i know it is a big question, those eight years you're vice president? pres. bush: loyalty,
government, foreign affairs. everybody ridicules the vice presidency, there is a lot of substance to it provided you work for a menu respect and who will delegate certain responsibilities to you. in my case, regulatory reform, leaving antiterrorist studies and things of this nature. in return, i owed him my loyalty. and i was lucky, because ronald reagan, when i ran for president after eight years as his vice president, i would not have moved away from him if it had meant the entire election. i would not have said, i knew all along he should've done this differently, or he did this wrong. i would not have done that and i did not feel that way. the iran-contra thing.
the matter was resolved to the satisfaction of the american people. but i would not have said, if i had been there, i would not have done this. you cannot do this and live with yourself in terms of loyalty and character. brian: who taught you loyalty? pres. bush: my mom and dad. brian: who taught them loyalty? where does it come from? pres. bush: in those days, people were not afraid to teach values in the school. i don't know they got it from school or their family. but they had values. the values were not always just, you know, tell the truth, but don't brag about yourself. values like be kind to people. help someone when he is hurt. values like give the other guy credit. those serve me well when i was president. brian: were you surprised, in the recent book about ronald reagan, the comment about "they
did not invite us upstairs" got such attention? pres. bush: i never made such a comment. if you look at the archives, you will see the number of times barbara and i were upstairs. he did not have to invite us to do that. we were upstairs many, many times. i don't know where he got that. i did not know he attributed the quote to me, but it is totally wrong. brian: did you talk to him for that book? pres. bush: morris? i probably did. i don't remember it, here we go again, but if i did it would be right here in the library. i am sure i did. barbara, too. brian: but you did not feel that way about president reagan? pres. bush: no, and i would not have said that if i had, because of what i said earlier. you can't be loyal in some things and then tried again and
gain on the other guy by pushing him down. i would not do it and i did not feel that way. my relationship with reagan -- and after this came out, we had calls from nancy reagan, a lot of people, fred ryan, reagan did not feel this way about you. apparently there was a put down in the book about how he disdained barbara and me. all these people, we were there, we know. i know. ronald reagan's marvelous secretary called me afterward and said i feel so hurt reading this. i would hear him talk after you left a meeting, and he would say, be sure georges informed. we had a close relationship, and to have it diminished, i found it quite hurtful. brian: what did you talk about with president reagan on a
regular basis? pres. bush: no agenda. it was more, i hope for him, a relaxing meeting he looks forward to. we would tell jokes, if there was something going on in a big way in the world, we would talk about that. but it was totally relaxed. we usually had what was called a white house mexican plate, because it was usually on a wednesday or thursday. i think he knew i was not going to blindside him. a lot of people would call me, you're going to see the president tomorrow, please tell him we have to do this on the airline strike or something else. i would not do that. brian: you have a diary. pres. bush: a sporadic one, not a very good one. brian: did you make notes after every meeting with the president? pres. bush: no, i wish i had. i did on some. i'm not sure it's in the library yet, it is very personal.
maybe it is here, i don't know. you won't have access to it for a while -- i don't have a lot of stuff in there that is going to hurt people's feelings. and there's not a lot of stuff in my diary that hurts people's feelings, but if there are one or two things in there that will hurt people's feelings, i don't want it in there. brian: did you notice in your meetings with president reagan he was beginning to lose contact? pres. bush: i never did. if that book alleges that after he was shot, he lost it, i don't think it did, but if it did, it would be wrong. i remember reagan saying to me maybe a year after he became president, do you have trouble remembering stuff? i said, yeah, of course i do. we would compare notes, but -- i
would watch him, i would see him every day. i was the only one, i think, able to walk into the oval office anytime i wanted to. his secretary would confirm that. but the idea that he might have "lost it" then or earlier in his presidency, i just think it's fallacious. brian: did you ever think you would be made president because of him being shot or operations? pres. bush: i think it's more agnosticism. i did not know. i remember flying from fort worth, texas to washington, and the latest reports were that reagan was shot and in the hospital. i think i wrote some notes about it, it was more like a friend was hurt and i was wondering what it was like. you know, i am sure somewhere along the line maybe there is
paper to back it up or not, i felt gosh, the burden of the presidency might descend on me. but it became clear pretty early on that he was going to make it, and that came as a huge relief. brian: eight years as vice president. pres. bush: yes. brian: there was one other man years earlier, martin van buren, who had gone from that role into the presidency. it was a long time. did you think about those things, but it didn't work for people? pres. bush: i wondered why, but i did not think the odds were stacked against me because marty was the last to win. the press speculated a lot. a lot of it was, if you are vice president, you are not your own
man. you have to get your own heartbeat and pulse out there. that is true. you sublimate your own views to those of the president provided you want the vice presidency to mean anything. or if the vice presidency is going to mean anything to him. if i go out and start carving my own niche as vice president because over the hill i can see a chance to run for president, what is ronald reagan than think about that? what kind of use would he have were vice president? you would not even have an office in the white house. brian: you are vice president, you run for president. had you been studying what you would do differently? pres. bush: i don't remember real study but i'm sure i have some ideas about it. i think i may have written down some major objectives. for me, it wasn't running as a departure from the ronald reagan
record. i was blessed in not having to say, this has been a failure and so i will do it this way. i did not do that and i would not have done it anyway. the economy was doing reasonably well, reagan was a beloved president. you know, the iran-contra thing had calmed down despite the press fascination in trying to tar me about it. you haven't told the truth about it. i had. i don't remember when i began to make a specific agenda. i have specific views. brian: go back to when you had started your presidency. you have been vice president, you watched this office, and one day you raise your hand.
do you feel different? pres. bush: yes. brian: what happens to you? pres. bush: i vowed, brian, when i went to the white house as president, i would not complain about the loneliness of the job. if only somebody understood the burden on my shoulders, they would understand why i did this or that, i am alone and i cannot turn to anybody -- that is a bunch of malarkey. because i was blessed from day one with the first-class team, a team of experts in foreign policy that knew more about it than i did. arms control, defense strategy and all of this. i was blessed in the economics side with a very smart, knowledgeable people. if you have confidence in somebody else and are willing to delegate, all the burden stuff, it is not gone forever, but it is partially reduced. the day i walked in there, i knew what my team was going to be for the most part.
i had seen ronald reagan under pressure. at least i was prepared for the magnitude of the job. not that you can never think, i'm capable of solving every problem. it wasn't as if -- if i had seen it operate, i would be more awesome. i remember one of the first pictures taken when i was president, first in the oval office, with my mother, there was a symbolism about that. she had taught me a lot about values and trying to do it right in life, and the fact that she was there, i was setting perhaps the tone for how i would want to treat other people. brian: in one of these letters, you talk about how when you are jumping out of the plane, you did not sleep very well into
and popped some tylenol p.m. when you are president, did you sleep differently? pres. bush: it depends, when there was a crisis -- i remember panama. it's not just sleeping, for me it was the muscles aching. i had to consider somebody else's kid losing their life. but other than that, or maybe with some great confrontation with the democratic congress, with whom i had an adversarial relationship, that could keep you awake. but no, most of the time i slept pretty darn well. brian: in your book, most of the stuff you wrote yourself. most of these notes -- pres. bush: everything is written by me. except the lead in paragraphs. brian: you have all of the speechwriters when you were president.
why is it -- i know time is one of them, but why is it, when this is fun to read -- when did presidents become so formalized? pres. bush: i don't know, that they were very good, our speechwriters. but i know what you mean. i would go through the state of the union speech and say, i cannot do this. people know i am no thoreau. maybe a could of done better if the words had not soared, or i in crossing out intellectual quotes. this is being something i am not and maybe people would see through that. and yet, some of the speeches, some of the best were speeches written by the people.
i kind of am ambivalent about this. brian: you talked a lot about the press. in the context of your presidency, i want you to look at your son. you can see people as they begin to run for president change as the cocoon comes around them and the press begins to intensely look at a situation. how do you avoid that? do you see your son changing as the scrutiny gets worse? pres. bush: there has been some criticism and muckraking, unaccountable journalism. gotcha pop quizzes. hell, i know something about foreign affairs and the cannot answer a lot of those questions. you're going to have this kind of thing. but the reason -- he is better than his dad because he can stay connected with people. i was a pretty good campaigner.
i could interact with people, i liked going down the rope line. it was fun and i could interact well, but not as well as my son. i don't think any positive press, any negative press, is going to keep him from communicating with a guy out there on the street, on the rope line, in the school, or whatever. i don't know. i think the kind of journalism that you are implying about here is worrisome, but it shouldn't keep good people from wanting to serve. brian: when you are president, did you let those kind of things -- remember the "newsweek" cover? pres. bush: it didn't get me down, make him angry. i thought it was a little unfair. brian: did it affect you in a way it shouldn't? how do you protect yourself? pres. bush: yeah, it got me angry.
you don't get too far in life by getting angry. maybe every once a while. i felt a certain sense of betrayal by the nice woman who wrote the article. because of my intervention, she got to interview my ailing mother, and we try to protect her from this kind of thing. she was welcomed into my family by my sister. and it was a gut job. the cover was totally offensive. i thought the story was. it is something i very seldom do. i was not president i was vice , president, and we had a meeting with katharine graham, and the editor from new york. they wanted me to give special treatment to "newsweek," which i was not going to do. i said, why give them special treatment? you answer questions at a press conference, but i'm not going to
insight access, behind-the-scenes after you do a gut job. i got angry, and maybe too much so. i did not write to editors as president. i wrote one letter when i thought i was smeared about an ugly story about being disconnected because the scanner, i never knew what a s.anner was grea brian: in the grocery store? pres. bush: no, in a convention, how you could take a package and show the price tag on the package. i said it was amazing. but some reporter in new york he does not know that you can said, he is out of touch. scan groceries. even though cbs said it was unfair, it lived on.
even the most everybody else jumped on the guy who wrote the story. but it is still there, in your computers. i saw a story in "the wall street journal" this year that said, he was not connected, the scanner thing showed that. so that kind of thing would get angrier than maybe should. i did write a letter the rest of to rate the rest of my presidency, i don't think i ever -- some guys going to watch this and say, yes, here is the letter -- that i don't think i ever directly personally appealed to a publisher or picked up the phone and said that lousy story you guys did. maybe i should have done more of it. brian: looking back on your career, what are the two or three things that really made you who you were as president? what made the biggest impact? pres. bush: my values. my respect for the office. brian: which job? pres. bush: president.
brian: no, which job before that -- cia, china? pres. bush: they all came together. a navy pilot fighting for his country at 20 years old in combat. i think that experience shaped my life when i lost two friends in that plane and felt a sense of responsibility for their death, that my life was spared. that is profound for a little guy, a scared navy pilot, 20 years old. but i learned about the pride of the military and honor and country. brian: come back to this library, say 100 years ago, people come in this place and they see your career, what on the walls is most important to you? pres. bush: they will see desert storm and that i reached out to try to end this peacefully. brian: what is the legacy today of desert storm? pres. bush: the legacy is that a brutal neighbor will not, with
impunity, take over the neighborhood. that there are certain moral lines you cannot cross, and this was one of them. we cannot let that aggression stand. that is the moral underpinning. that aggression cannot stand. it is against the backdrop of raping 14-year-old muslim girls, brutalizing the community, setting fire to the environment. i think if he had to put one incident, it would be that desert storm, with its trials, its tribulations, its politics, its diplomacy, and eventually with its culmination in victory by the best all volunteer force in the world, i think to have that happen on my watch, giving plenty of credit to others, is wonderful. brian: the last two minutes. your son is in front of you and
you have two minutes to tell him some broad approaches to running for president based on what your experience. what do you tell them? pres. bush: be yourself, be honest. respect others. and do your best. if you win or lose, your life will be fantastic ahead of you. i would definitely tell him that. that's what happened to my life. i can speak from considerable experience. give it your best shot and i will be there to help you if you get hurt. brian: we will have to end it. thank you, mr. president. pres. bush: not at all.
>> members of the house and senate will take part in an arrival ceremony for george h w bush in the capitol rotunda monday. after that, the public will be able to pay their respects from 7:30 monday until 7:00 a.m. wednesday morning. you will have will have coverage of the arrival ceremony on cease and. -- c-span. >> washington journal, live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up, we dedicate our first hour to remembering george h.w. bush. he died at 94 on friday. later, we hear from john lawrence. discuss democratic leadership and strategy. talksen sebastian gorka
about the molar investigation -- muueller investigation. be sure to watch washington journal. live at 7:00 eastern sunday morning. join the discussion. a, we visit q and the washington library at mount vernon for the debates program, the chewing historians. discussing what it means to be american. nation, indivisible, is a sense, we are altogether. that is somehow elemental to what it means to be an american. >> the american character, what it means is to be able to improvise. you look at george washington and the dark days of december, 1877, the ability to improvise.
to be like a guerrilla fighter. to live off the land. to do what we need to do to get the job done. >> not all were included in terms of what an american was. not all minority groups work. women were not. really considered citizens, at least. that changes over time. more and more people are brought to the american family. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern on q and a. now, former dice president nationaley discuss security, bipartisanship, and civil discourse. this is just over an hour.