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George H.W. Bush chats with HLN's Robin Meade

  • Story Highlights
  • HLN Anchor Robin Meade sat down to interview George H.W. Bush
  • Later, the two went sky-diving to celebrate former president's 85th birthday
  • Bush talks to Meade about how he stays young, and what his legacy will be
  • See more at the Morning Express blog and showpage
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(CNN) -- On Friday afternoon, Robin Meade, HLN anchor of "Morning Express with Robin Meade," sky-dived just before former President George Herbert Walker Bush, who was commemorating his 85th birthday.

George H.W. Bush stands with his sons George W. and Jeb, who came to Kennebunkport for his birthday.

HLN Anchor Robin Meade chats with former president George H.W. Bush on his 85th birthday.

In recent years, Bush's jumps have been about fun and celebration, but he first parachuted out of a plane when he was a naval aviator shot down over the Pacific Ocean during World War II.

On Friday, Meade and Bush were each strapped to a member of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team. They made their jumps over Kennebunkport, Maine.

Before the jumps, Meade sat down with Bush to learn more about why he sky-dives. Plus, the former president weighed in on his and his son's legacies, Supreme Court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor, and his view on the country's most pressing problems. This is an edited transcript of the interview.

Robin Meade: Thank you for making time for us to talk to you today.

George H.W. Bush: Oh, no, listen, I'm so glad you're here.

Meade: Happy birthday -- 85.

Bush: I thought you didn't know.

Meade: Everybody knows, right?

Bush: I know. It's exciting. It really is wonderful.

Meade: What's with your penchant for jumping still?

Bush: Well, two reasons. One, it still feels good. You still get a charge out of it. Not easy to do at 85, but ...

Meade: I don't think it's easy to do at any age. Video Watch Bush talk about why he still sky-dives »

Bush: And secondly, just because you're old, that doesn't mean you can't do fun stuff. And you don't want to sit around drooling in the corner. And so it's a wonderful release.

And you know, because I was president, it sends a message all around. You can go out and get something going. Old guys can still have fun and still do stuff. And so, those are the two reasons. ...

Meade: You know, I'm thinking about, too, last Saturday we had the 65th anniversary of D-Day, and that was the first time, in World War II, that you jumped, because you had to ditch your plane.

Bush: Yes.

Meade: Being back with service members up in a plane and getting ready to jump, does that kind of rekindle your feelings of connection?

Bush: A little bit of deja vu. A little bit, but not that much anymore.

But yes, that's one of the reasons I made the first controlled jump, is because I did the first jump -- or had to get out of the plane. And that was kind of ugly. I pulled the ripcord too early and hit my head on the tail of the plane going by. I was just lucky I'm still alive.

And the parachute hung up for a minute on the tail of the plane.

It's all kind of war stories. If I start telling you that, then you'll tell me about your father's war stories or something, or grandfather's. And so it wouldn't be fair.

But I wanted to do it right. And I did it wrong then. It did save my life, but I did it wrong. So then I've been out with the Golden Knights and I made several solo jumps. And now it's tandem. I think they hope the old boy will remember to push.

Meade: Did I read somewhere that you asked President Clinton to jump once? And he hasn't jumped with you.

Bush: I may have asked him. I can't remember. Maybe I did, but I have a good relationship with him, a very good one. Video Watch Bush leave plane, land »

Meade: Now that you're 85, are you thinking a little bit more about the "L" word, "legacy?"

Bush: I was thinking of the "L" word being "life." Life its own self. But no, I think my view on legacy is let the historians figure out what I screwed up and figure out what I got right.

And I'm confident that, you know, we had a good administration and good people. And I think the same thing is true of our son. And you know, he had tough times and all, but he's doing it right. He's laying back there and he's not criticizing the president. And I'm very proud of him. Video Watch Bush and sons talk after the jump »

And I hope that we both have set examples for how you ought to conduct yourself when you've been president and then go out of office. Let the other guy do it, and support him when you can, and be silent. Don't be out there criticizing all the time.

Meade: The one guy at the helm?

Bush: Yes. And the "L" word, so it doesn't -- I mean, my view is the historians will decide these things, for better or for worse and for right or for wrong. So I'm not doing any biography or anything like that. And I'm confident, because we had such a great team around us, that it will be favorable.

Meade: Tell me a little bit about Judge Sonia Sotomayor, she's someone that you appointed to a U.S. District Court.

Bush: District Court.

Meade: Now she's been nominated for the Supreme Court. What would her impact be on the Supreme Court, do you think?

Bush: I think she'd pull a ripcord just at the right time and make a very nice parachutist. I'm going to leave that to others to analyze, but she should be given a fair hearing. She should be accorded every courtesy that goes with her record as a judge and her aspirations to be a Supreme Court justice. And I have a feeling she will be confirmed, but again, I don't go into that day in and day out. ...

I think she's had a distinguished record on the bench and she should be entitled to fair hearings. I like the way Sen. John Cornyn said it. I mean, he may vote for her, he may not. But he's been backing away from these -- backing off from those who use radical statements to describe her or to attribute things to her that may or may not be true.

I mean, she was called by somebody a "racist." Well, that's not right. I mean, it's not fair. It doesn't help the process to be out there name-calling. So let them decide whether they want to vote for her or not, and get on with it.

Meade: There are so many causes and so many problems, so many issues right now.

Bush: Right. Right.

Meade: What is our most pressing problem, do you think, in the country?

Bush: Well, I'd have to say as long as people are hurting, the economy, and those who are out of work, can't find work. I think it will get better. I remain optimistic about our recovery and all of that.

But I'd say that's -- and health care. But those -- we've got a lot of people working on those problems.

Meade: Oh, by the way, one more question. Is there going to be another jump after this?

Bush: I think when I finish this one, I'll say, "See you on my 90th." Whether I do it or not, it gives me a goal. I'm a goal-oriented guy. I really believe in goals. And so -- but we finish this one ...

Meade: I hope we do.

Bush: ... we'll all be standing there. And they'll say to you, "What are you going to do?" And you'll say, "Five more years, I'm going to do another one." And I'll say, "I'll be there."

Ninety years old. I'll do it.

Meade: Is it a deal? In five years, we'll do it again?


Bush: I'm for it. I'm for it.

Meade: OK. All right.

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