"First in the Nation" special: George W. Bush transcript
February 3, 1999
Steve Forbes | Al Gore | John McCain | Dan Quayle
( Editor's note: This interview with Texas Gov. George Bush appeared in a joint CNN-WMUR special, "First in the Nation: The New Hampshire Primary," which aired February 2, 1999. WMUR's Steve Cooper spoke with Governor Bush in Austin, Texas.)
STEVE COOPER, WMUR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Governor, as we sit here today, give me a sense where the odds that you are going to run for president? 50/50, 60/40 -- give us a sense of where you're at?
BUSH: Well I appreciate that. I'm not an odds-maker. Let me put it to you this way: I'm very interested, otherwise I would have told my fellow Texans I'm not interested.
COOPER: Every GOP poll looking at the race for the White House, including our own WMUR/CNN poll, have you at or near the top. Why do you think that is?
BUSH: I don't know. I'm just as surprised as you are. I've got to tell you, I -- let me give you a little bit of my mindset so you understand where I came from. I didn't wake up when I was 15 years old saying, I really want to be president. I didn't feel that way at 21, 31, 41. I didn't run for governor to position myself to be president. I ran for governor to be the governor of the state I love.
COOPER: You know Elizabeth Dole is looking at a possible run for the White House. Is this country today ready for a woman president?
BUSH: I think that's going to be an interesting test. I will tell you I have great respect for Elizabeth Dole. I got to know her in the '96 campaign. I got to know her some when she was a member of my dad's cabinet. I got to know her better as a faithful soldier for her husband and I was most impressed by her. I guess that's going to part of the test. That's what primaries are all about and the general election is all about. But I will tell you, I really do hold her in a high regard.
COOPER: Do you support the first in the nation primary state of New Hampshire and would you avoid other states that encroach on that?
BUSH: Well, I -- let me put it this way: I haven't made up my mind to run. Of course I'll answer that question, should I decide to run. But New Hampshire has been, is and I'm convinced will always be a very important primary state.
COOPER: Congressman Bob Livingston was about to be sworn in as speaker of the House. He stepped aside, we all know that. Is there any lapse in judgment in your personal life that would make you think twice about running for president?
BUSH: No. I mean I have said many times that there's nothing in my background that would disqualify me for being governor of Texas much less president.
COOPER: What about alcohol?
BUSH: Probably no more so than others that you know. But I quit drinking. I quit drinking for a couple of reasons. One I was drinking too much at times. But remember during this period of life I was a Sunday school teacher. I was a little league coach. I was a husband. I was a dad, but alcohol began to compete with my energies.
COOPER: Have you ever used drugs? Marijuana, cocaine?
BUSH: I'm not going talk about what I did as a child. What I'm going to talk about and I'm going to say this consistently: It is irrelevant what I did 20 to 30 years ago. What's relevant is that I have learned from any mistakes that I made. I do not want to send signals to anybody that what Governor Bush did 30 years ago is cool to try.
COOPER: Your last victory in November you received a greater share of the Hispanic vote all across-the-board including places like El Paso.
COOPER: Did better than any other Republican in the state history. Is that a trend that you can carry across the country?
BUSH: I think if I chose to run for president I will appeal to Hispanics who don't necessarily live in Texas. I think I understand how to talk about the future so people feel like the future belongs to them. I think got a pretty good handle on the Hispanic culture. I'm comfortable -- I'm very comfortable dealing with Hispanics no matter what their political persuasion may be.
COOPER: Your wife Laura, two daughters, they don't want you to run.
BUSH: Let's talk about the daughters first. You're probably right. And if you were a 17-year-old girl or boy, you wouldn't want your dad putting you in that national spotlight either. I like to tell people they're normal. They're good kids and I love them more than anything. In terms of my wife, she's a protective mother and a protective wife. She's cautious. She's -- she wants to make sure that it is the right thing -- the decision to run for president is the right thing to do. I don't fear failure and I don't fear success. I -- if I were to decide to run for president and it not work out, it's OK. I got a pretty good life right here. And if I were to run for and it worked out OK, that's good too, because I would be on a mission that I will lay out for you at the appropriate time.
Steve Forbes | Al Gore | John McCain | Dan Quayle
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