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Crowley: Trying to get Bush to reveal what he hasn't already

By Candy Crowley, Anchor of CNN's "State of the Union"
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2008: President Bush on his presidency
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bush has broken his two-year silence with a series of interviews to promote his book
  • Finding new ground to cover may be tough in talk with former president
  • Crowley will also chat with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush

Washington (CNN) -- Who wouldn't take a company-paid trip to Florida in November? So I'm going but, no beach involved.

This Sunday in Miami I'll be interviewing former President George W. Bush and his brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. To tell you the truth, even after decades of doing interviews, including many with George W. Bush, I'm a little nervous.

The former president has broken his two-year silence with a series of interviews to promote his new book, "Decision Points." The book reveals what entered into his deliberations during key moments of his life and his presidency.

There are surprises. He writes that he considered dropping Vice President Dick Cheney as his 2004 running mate (at Cheney's suggestion). He talks about his disappointment that 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain didn't ask him for more help in the campaign. He also talks about his struggle with alcohol and his relationship with his parents.

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  • George W. Bush
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Here's what worries me: finding new ground to cover, things the former president has not talked about in other interviews this week. Once a politician gets into a grove and hears certain key words in your question, (e.g.: WMD, TARP, Katrina), he reverts to familiar territory. So, it's pretty much all in the homework (what has he already said?) and in "gaming out" potential answers (what would he say if I asked this? What if I asked it this way?)

The last time I spoke with President Bush was December 2008, just weeks after Barack Obama's sweeping election victory. It was a tough time for Republicans, as Democrats picked up a number of seats to build on their majorities in the House and Senate.

President Bush seemed not so much nostalgic, but melancholy to me that day and aware of the problems he was leaving behind. He told me then, defending the $700 billion bank bailout he put in place, "I feel a sense of obligation to my successor to make sure there is not a huge economic crisis."

Except there was a huge economic crisis, and I wonder what he would say now.

I may ask him if he feels he did enough to prevent the economic hardships millions of Americans are feeling now, or whether he regrets interfering in the marketplace.

I'm curious what he thinks about the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, the 2012 presidential race, the many Republicans who ran away from the Bush years during this election and President Obama's handling of the twin wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The problem is, I doubt he would answer any of those. He has said he doesn't want to go back into "the swamp," his word for politics, and he will not criticize President Obama.

The dilemma as a reporter is do you waste the time when you know the question goes nowhere.

As for Jeb Bush, who has talked politics recently, the Bush family is one of the country's best-known political dynasties and there is always talk that the former Florida governor might one day run for president. He has ruled out 2012 and mom Barbara Bush said just this week that she thinks the country is "Bushed out."

So, in essence, I'm sifting through a lot of things with the help of an amazing staff, trying to find questions that would reveal something new, something interesting and something he will answer. I'm confident we'll get there by Sunday, but that's why I'm a little nervous on Thursday night.

The interview airs at 8 p.m. ET Sunday and repeats at 11 p.m. ET. So, you have time. What would you ask the Bush brothers?

 
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