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Larry King Live Weekend

A Look Back at President George Bush in His Own Words

Aired January 27, 2001 - 9:00 p.m. ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President George Bush.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, he's only the second father in history to have a son follow him into the Oval Office. George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st president of the United States, a look back at our conversations with him next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thanks for joining us.

A week ago today, George W. Bush was sworn in as president. Watching proudly, his parents, the former president and first lady. The first time Bush the father sat down with this show was in October of 1987. George Herbert Walker Bush was Ronald Reagan 's vice president back then. Our interview took place the day he announced he was going run for the Republican nomination.

I asked him bluntly what about what some called the "wimp factor"?


KING: This image -- McGovern fought the same thing, another war -- McGovern had a plane blown apart in World War II, shot up.


KING: Missions, hit -- wimpish thing -- how do you react to this? There was a great article about you, and McGovern was included in it, that perception is reality, and that's the way you're perceived, and it is unshakeable. And that's the perception.

BUSH: I don't think it's unshakable. If so, why would the most recent survey in "TIME" -- I think it was "TIME" or one of these, you know, incessant polls you see -- show leadership, strength, those kinds of thing? Yes, there are some people that are name-callers out there, but I said to one of those critics, he never played fullback on the Chicago Bears either.

And I was there, nobody on our carrier when I landed there in the water with four depth charges in my plane or after I got back to the ship after being shot down said, hey, wimp, we want to talk to you about something.

KING: How did that start?

BUSH: Nobody ever said that when we sat there, Barbara and I, and this is a little personal, but went through the tragedy of seeing a daughter wrenched away from us cancer, six months sitting at that child's bedside. Strength comes from that, Larry. Nobody said that at the CIA when I went out there and said, look, we're going to make some changes here, and then I'm going to lead you people. I'm going to lift you up and lead you. So I don't know where it comes from...

KING: Where does it come from, do you know?

BUSH: ... but they're wrong, they're wrong. Political opponents to some degree and some people in the -- you know, want me to fit into some kind of mold. Talk to the people that know me. So my job, if anybody feels that, is to go out across this country and say, here, here's what my heartbeat is. Here's my pulse right here. Here's what I've done in my life. Now you call me a wimp and we might go to fists city about it.

KING: If it comes out, are you going to get angry? I mean, if it's kind of...

BUSH: It depends on who says it -- not you, you're too nice.

KING: I'm asking. I don't understand it. I don't know how these things are perceived. I didn't understand it for McGovern.

BUSH: Yes. Well, I don't -- you see, McGovern may have been victimized by his views that were so much on the doveish side. But that's nothing do with his personal courage. I mean, I've known George McGovern. I'd never call him something like that. I mean, it -- name calling, Larry, that's -- you know, people love the controversy of it all. I've learned to take those shots, pick myself up again, dust myself off and go forward. People understand that. That's character. That is strength. That's why I think I'll win.

KING: How do you label yourself? Do you like to label yourself conservative, liberal, moderate?

BUSH: Yes, I am.

KING: You're a conservative.

BUSH: Yes, I...

KING: Why do the conservatives, do you think, not buy that all the way?

BUSH: They do buy it, if you look at the polls, overwhelmingly. Now there are some people on what I would say the very far fringe of things that don't think that because I don't agree on everything. There's a lack of tolerance. I'm a tolerant person. I'd like to talk to you about views, tell you mean, listen to some ideas, shape my opinions, say here's what I feel, but hopefully not assigning to you some motive because I don't agree with you. And there's certain some people out on the fringe of both the left and the right that are so intolerant they meet and get welded right together, the common bond being intolerance, lack of concern for the other guy's views.

KING: You said you will not attack your opponents?

BUSH: Right.

KING: How about the other side? Is there a Democrat -- I hope you'll answer this -- you would least...

BUSH: You know I'm not going to answer it.

KING: Try it, come in -- that you'd least like to run against?

BUSH: Least like to run against? He ain't in the race.

KING: Who's that?

BUSH: Chuck Robb or Nunn or somebody that can make that party be a little more sensible than the extremes that we saw in San Francisco, which led to one of the biggest victories the Republican Party ever had. You may...

KING: But a Nunn or a Robb would shake you up?

BUSH: Well, I mean, No. 1, they're not known right now, but I'm just saying philosophically.

KING: How about someone as eloquent as a Governor Cuomo?

BUSH: Well, eloquence, yes he's eloquent. He's a very eloquent individual, but it ain't going to be decided on eloquence. If that were the case, I might as well stay home.

KING: How about Dukakis in the race...

BUSH: Don't know enough about him. Know him, like him, but don't know enough about him. I really don't. See, it hasn't started emerging on that side.

KING: Play political observer for me one second.

BUSH: Shoot.

KING: Why has not, in your opinion, Jack Kemp gotten off the ground?

BUSH: I think it's too early to say. I mean, I really -- I told you, I was an asterisk eight years ago at this time...

KING: Yes, but...

BUSH: ... and unless -- you see, it's too early. It just takes an event. Now I'm going to work like he's off the ground and nipping right at my heels.

KING: The old Claude Pepper idea, always run like you're behind?

BUSH: Yeah, heck yeah. Nobody's going to out hustle me. I'm in better shape than they are, physically, mentally and I want to win this thing. They're not going to out hustle me.

KING: I think...

BUSH: But I'm not go to downgrade them either. You asked me about Pat Robertson. He kicked me there in Iowa, and...

KING: He did to you what you did to Ferraro, right?

BUSH: Same place, but, no, no. I think the survey showed in the post-election that I think maybe I did a little better in that year. But you're going in a fight. I'm in a fight for what I believe, and I'm the guy to lead this party, to bring it together, and I'm not going to do it by tearing down another Republican.

You can't give me one example where I've shot at one so far, and I'm going try to keep my cool and not do it.

KING: They're shooting at you.

BUSH: Sure.

KING: We'll be right back with Vice President George Bush on LARRY KING LIVE after these words.


BUSH: I will keep America moving forward, always forward, for a better America, for an endless, enduring dream and a thousand points of light. This is my mission, and I will complete it.





BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Something is happening outside. The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated.

BUSH: Just two hours AGO, allied air forces began an attack on military targets in Iraq and Kuwait. These attacks continue as I speak. Tonight, the battle has been joined.


KING: Our next interview with George Bush was on October 4, 1992. We went live from the East Sitting Room of the White House residence right next to the Lincoln Bedroom. President Bush was in a tough re-election fight against Bill Clinton.


KING: Did you say, was that correct, you said I would do anything to win?

BUSH: Yes.

KING: Does that mean break the rules?

BUSH: Absolutely not. I pride myself on the fact that I have had the cleanest administration and that we have -- that I have always abided by the law and that my family and I have tried to uphold the highest trust put in me by the American people. So for someone to say I'll do what it takes to win or anything it takes to win, for someone to allege, the opponents, that I'd cut some corner, that's the worst in politics.

That's the kind of thing that makes you figure sometimes, Larry, why put up with this? I've got a great family. Why listen to this absurd suggestion that when I say that -- what that means is I'm a competitor, and I'm not going to be out hustled by the governor from Arkansas. And I'm going to work harder and go the extra mild and tell the truth each step of the way and that's what I mean by doing what it takes to win.

KING: Does he have a debate edge, as you said? Did you say that?

BUSH: I think he's probably a better debater. I'm not downgrading my prospects.

KING: He said yesterday you're a pretty good debater.

BUSH: Well, I heard him say that, but -- which I was flattered. But you know, he's got all these statistics. He's got all these statistics. Eighty-two percent of the people did that, 31 this. I'm not as good on that. I'm good on principle, and it will be a good debate. But I think if you were having -- you know these debates, you always have a debate coach out here saying who won. He may win on points, but I hope I win on ideas.

KING: Do you have a debate coach?

BUSH: No, no. I'll have a lot of handlers out there.

KING: What do they do?

BUSH: Well, they'll tell you how to do it and how to kind of smile and don't look intense and look into the camera.

KING: Look that way, look this way?


BUSH: Yes, and the Red and blue tie on, you know, get your hair...

KING: Do you buy that?

BUSH: Well, listen, you've got to listen. I've got some darned good people that are helping me and they've been pretty good about prevailing and I love working with some of them, too. I mean, they're just great and I've got lots to learn. Lord, I've made mistakes, and I don't want to make more. And so these people help me avoid making mistakes.

KING: Did you miss the recession? Did it come late? Are you insulated here and didn't see it? What happened?

BUSH: Well, I think that's a charge that maybe I was being too technical. But I'm telling you, what is a recession? How do we define it?

KING: When I'm out of work it's a repression. It's a depression if I'm out of work.

BUSH: Exactly. The national definition of recession, I believe, is two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

KING: Yes.

BUSH: Your listeners may have trouble believe this. We have had five quarters of positive growth in a row. So when I said there isn't a recession last fall, technically, I was right. But I should have done it, recognizing that there's a hell of a lot of people hurting and I feel it and I knew it then and I know it now. But I think that's what some of the opposition homed in on. They said the president is out of touch. He's says we're not in a recession. Technically, I was right, but don't tell it to the guy unemployed or don't tell it to the family that has a job and wonders if they're going to have it tomorrow.




QUESTION: Have you pulled back on your no new tax pledge, sir?

BUSH: I'm going to let that statement speak for itself and I want to see this economy grow. I want jobs. I want to see the deficit down. And this bipartisan statement speaks for itself, and now we're going on to some serious negotiations.



KING: Just three days after that amazing White House conversation, we nabbed another live interview with Mr. Bush. This time, we're in San Antonio, Texas, in front of a partisan crowd. It was the first time in 15 years an incumbent president had done a national phone-in television show.


KING: Tampa, Florida. Hello.

CALLER: Mr. Bush. Mr. Bush.

KING: Yes, go ahead.

BUSH: Turn you down. You're a little loud there, fellow.

CALLER: Yes, Mr. Bush, I think you are out of touch. I am not happy with you. For two years you did not recognize that people were hurting out here and we were in recession. I feel like you have not come clean on Iran-Contra and I'm tired of your party and you preaching to us about family values.

KING: All right, don't make a speech. Do you have a question.

BUSH: I'll put you down as doubtful, fellow.


CALLER: How can we trust you?

KING: OK, let's respond to those three quickly, Iran-Contra, fair issue?

BUSH: It's fair enough. I've answered every question. If Bill Clinton would do on the draft what I've down on Iran-Contra, we'd have the facts out there. That Iran-Contra has been looked at to the tune of $40 million of investigation. I've testified to the commissions and everybody else and leveled with the American people.

Now, I see a lot of distorting campaign rhetoric like this, and I'm sorry, if this guy had a specific question instead of a speech...

KING: He said -- yes, his question was, trust.

BUSH: Well, trust. That's what this election is going to be about. Who do you trust to lead this country? I served this country, and I served it in uniform and I believe I've earned the trust in that capacity from the American people.

I've made tough decisions. I have not waffled, been on one side or the other on the war or on right to work laws or spotted owls or NAFTA agreements. Everybody position these guys take they're on one side, oh, by the way, I see the point over hear. You can't do that when you're president. So I think I've earned the trust. This guy, I mean, you know, he's part of the campaign apparatus or something like.

KING: What do you make of the Clinton Moscow trip thing? You think that's...

BUSH: Moscow?

KING: He says it was just a student trip.

BUSH: Larry, I don't want to tell you what I really think because I don't have the facts. I don't have the facts. But to go to Moscow one year after Russia crushed Czechoslovakia, and not remember who you saw, I think -- I really think the answer is level with the American people. I made a mistake. I've said I made mistakes. But don't try to -- you can remember who you saw in the airport in Oslo, but you can't remember who you saw in Moscow.

KING: In other words, you're saying...

BUSH: I'm just saying level with the American people on the draft, on whether he went to Moscow, how many demonstrations he led against his own country from a foreign soil -- level. Tell us the truth and let the voters then decide who to trust or not.


KING: How about the -- when is the last time you drove?

BUSH: I drive when -- I have my own truck, for example, in Maine.

KING: So you do drive.

BUSH: Yes. I've got a car in Washington, but I don't drive it very much. I'll drive around the circle in the Oval Office, the oval in front of the White House. I can drive when I go hunting, something like that. I go hunting every year here in Texas and a drive a truck.

KING: Still a Texas driver's license?

BUSH: Still. Still. Want to see it?

KING: Yes.


BUSH: Let me see. I've got to be sure...

KING: Make sure it isn't expired.

BUSH: Give him the right -- no,, it's not expired.

KING: Hey, I like that smile.


BUSH: Does it say president?

KING: Wait a minute. Yup, President George W. Bush, the White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Department of Public Safety, Texas. It's a class C driver's license.

BUSH: Hey, wait a minute.

KING: Six feet, one inches tall. Sex is male, eyes are brown, birthday's 6-12-24 and this expires 6-12-93.

BUSH: I'm legal. See, where's you car? Let go for a drive.

KING: We'll be back. Don't go away.




BUSH: I was aware of our Iran initiative, and I support the president's decision. And I was not aware of and I oppose any diversion of funds, any ransom payments or any circumvention of the will of the Congress of the law of the United States of America.


KING: October '92 was definitely our month for interviews with President Bush. We caught up with him again on the 30th, this time in Racine, Wisconsin. The presidential campaign was down to its final frantic 100 hours.

That very day, former Reagan Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger was indicted in connection with Iran-Contra. Part of the indictment, a Weinberger memo from 1986. The memo indicated that George Bush, then vice president, had favored an arms for hostages deal. Some called the document a smoking gun against Mr. Bush.


KING: You appear, Mr. President, to be really...

BUSH: Fired up, angry, disappointed.

KING: In..

BUSH: Well, Governor Clinton. I just saw a little thing of him here saying, some smoking gun. Now, I think I am owed by the networks to have everybody descend on him and say, what gun is smoking? What gun that hasn't been reported in a hearing from the Congress? What gun is smoking?


BUSH: And I think -- I tell what you I really think. What I really think is this stuff being dredged upm people say what is all this? I mean, we spent a lot of money trying to find out. We've had hearing after hearing, trial after trial, a lot of innocent people smeared, as a matter of fact, that have been acquitted and I think people are tired of it.

KING: Why has this campaign, do you think, gotten so vituperative?

BUSH: Well, I don't know. I don't know that its -- you mean personally with me and Bill Clinton or with the press.

KING: Anger, I mean there's anger here.

BUSH: With the press or with me and Bill Clinton?

KING: You're not angry with Bill Clinton.

BUSH: Well, you know -- look, I said -- you saw Bill and Hillary come up to us at the debate. People don't understand how this can happen. They were they very pleasant. I've known the man.

KING: You like him?

BUSH: Yes. I don't like a lot of his policies and I think he's got some flaws that I'm trying to point out very thoughtfully.


BUSH: I mean, why do you have to have hatred in your heart? Why do you have to have hatred?

KING: Just point this is an invited audience. Just so we know.

BUSH: I thought it was just your basic, objective...


KING: We have only a couple minutes left. Are you glad this is ending?

BUSH: Larry, I just can't tell you how glad I am. And I'm glad for had a lot of reasons. I think the American people have been through a lot. I think i've had an opportunity to present my views, which is not a negative side. But it's not been easy on our family, and I'll be very glad when it's over.

KING: Not been easy on the kids, you mean?

BUSH: No, not on my wonderful sons, all four of them, and my daughter and my wife.


BUSH: So, I -- that goes with the process. But with when I read stories impugning the honor and integrity of my sons, forget it. I get very moved by it because they're honest kids and they put up with a lot for their dad.

KING: Had to take a lot?

BUSH: Take a lot. They can dish it out, too. More so than I. My so -- don't cross George down there, the Texas Rangers, a little fiesty we call him. But no, it's tough on families. I'm not sure it's easy on anybody's family. It's gotten ugly, but it's four more days and our family is stronger than it's ever been and some of the -- some of the credit goes right over there. KING: The lady, thanks.


KING: We will be right back with President Bush. Don't go away.



BUSH: We have fought the good fight, and we've kept the faith and I believe I have upheld the honor of the presidency of the United States.



KING: The next time Mr. Bush joined us was in November of '99, and he was a former president. He didn't come to talk politics. His topic, an extraordinary book, "All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings."

He read us some excerpts. Among them, a letter dated September 3rd, 1944. George Bush penned it aboard the sub that picked him up after he was shot down over the island of Chi-Chi Jima.


BUSH: "Dear Mother and Dad, this will be the first letter you've gotten from me in a long while. I wish I could tell you as I write this, I'm feeling well and happy. Physically, I'm OK, but I'm troubled inside and with good cause."

Then we go on. "Now, I'll have to skip all the details of the attack, as they would not pass censorship, but the fact remains we got hit, the cockpit filled with smoke, and I told the boys in back to get their parachutes on. They didn't answer at all, but I looked around and couldn't see Ted in the turret, so I assumed he'd gone below to get his chute fastened on.

"I headed the plane out to sea and put on the throttle, so as we could get away from the land as much as possible."

And then later on: "There was no sign" -- explaining what happened after ejecting -- "there was no sign of Del or Ted anywhere around. I looked as I floated down, and afterwards kept my eyes open from the raft, but to no avail. I'm afraid I was pretty much of a sissy about it because I sat in my life raft and sobbed for a while.

"It bothers me so very much. I did tell them, and when I bailed out I felt they must have gone, and yet now I feel so terribly responsible for their fate -- oh so much right now."

KING: They died?

BUSH: Both died. One of them did get out. The Japanese reported it. And thank God. But the parachute streamed and...

KING: One would imagine that the hardest thing of all, maybe as hard as being in war, is sending men to war? Is it...

BUSH: It's the toughest decision a president makes. And maybe it was because I've been conditioned by war, but there is no decision, domestic or foreign, that came as close to when you send somebody else's son or daughter these days into combat. And it happened to me twice: Panama, and of course, Desert Storm. But I felt it, I felt this. Even 50, 60, 70 yeas later...

KING: Do you have to feel 100 percent?

BUSH: You have to know you're -- you have to be convinced you're doing the right thing. And -- but in this war, World War II, service wasn't -- wasn't any controversy. Nobody was running away. Nobody was burning the flag. Nobody was trying to duck out of it. I mean, everybody was together.

A letter in this book said I really want to go soon, AND I want to go out and fight for my country. I hope I'll be OK. I hope -- I hope I'll, you know, do the job.

KING: Presidents also tend to support presidents in areas of things like sending men to battle, don't they?

BUSH: Once the -- once the troops are -- yes, once the troops are...

KING: Once they go, they don't stand up and criticize.

BUSH: Well, I've tried not to criticize President Clinton much on anything.

KING: Why don't you speak out?

BUSH: Well...

KING: Really.

BUSH: Well, one, I told him that he wasn't going to have a lot of grief out of me. And, two, I had my chance, and I know it's a tough and big job. And three, we've got loyal opposition spokesmen who've been elected. My sons can speak out and be critical.

And you know, look, Larry, I've got plenty of differences, plenty of areas where if I didn't feel constrained I would be critical. But I -- I just don't think it's seemly for a former president to always be carping away at the president.

KING: Let's close this segment with a wonderful romantic -- I love this letter.

BUSH: This one was December of '43: "My Darling Barb, this should be a very easy letter to right. Words should come easily, and in short, it should be simple for me tell you how desperately happy I was to open the paper and see the announcement of our engagement. But somehow, I can't possibly say all in a letter I should like to.

"I love you, Precious, with all my heart, and to know that you love me means my life. How often I have thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours someday. How lucky our children will be to have a mother like you."

And then later in the letter: "Good-night, my beautiful. Every time I say `beautiful' you about kill me, but you'll have to except this. I hope I get Thursday off. There's still a chance. All my love."

We were -- I was up in -- up in Hyannis. Our squadron had just formed a new torpedo-bomber squadron, and we were sent up there to learn how to drop torpedoes.

Environmentalists would have killed us at Cape Cod now, but that's what we did. And the engagement came out at that time.

KING: Still feel the same way about her?

BUSH: Yes, 56th wedding anniversary in January coming up.

KING: We have another letter. He may not want to read it, but we'll get to it. If he doesn't, I will, right after this.




KING: There's not only letters in this book. There's accounts, there's analysis of things. You'll have a phone call with a president of Germany, and then give his analysis into a tape machine, and you get that too. This is warts and all, by the way. George Bush letting himself out in these letters.

None more so than in this one to your mother about the loss of your daughter.

Just try.

BUSH: Larry, I couldn't read that letter.

KING: I'll read parts of it. This is a letter to his mother after wanting to have another daughter. Their daughter, Robin, had died of leukemia in 1953 at age 3. The letter was found among his mother's things after she died. And you believe you wrote this in 1958? That's a guess.

BUSH: A few years, yes.

KING: "We need a legitimate Christmas angel, one who doesn't have cuffs beneath her dress" -- have to be a father to know this.

"We need someone who's afraid of frogs. We need someone to cry when I get mad, not argue. We need a little one who could kiss without leaving, egg or jam or gum. We need a girl.

"We had won once. She'd fight and cry and play and make her way just like the rest. But there was about her a certain softness. She was patient. Her hugs were just a little less wiggly. Like them, she'd climb in to sleep with me, but somehow, she'd fit. She didn't boot and flip and wake me up with pug-nose and mischievous eyes a challenging quarter inch from my sleeping face. No, she'd stand beside our bed 'til I felt here there. Silently and comfortable, she'd put those precious, fragrant locks against my chest and fall asleep.

"Her peace made me feel strong and so very important. `My daddy' had a caress, `my daddy' had a caress, a certain ownership which touched a slightly different spot than the "Hi dad" I loved so much.

"But she is still with us. 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."

How were you able to write that?

BUSH: Better than I could read it. We're very emotional in our family, and this was a long time ago. I've gotten over being a sissy about it, because that is very personal. And we hurt. But now, you know, a lot of families, Larry, when they have...

KING: Loss.

BUSH: Yes, a loss, they go apart. In ours I think it's closer together.

KING: A letter to President-elect and Mrs. Reagan written November 10, 1980. You are vice president-elect.

BUSH: Now this one will be all right for me, I think.

KING: I don't think you'll have to...

BUSH: "This is just a quick thank you. Thanks for making us feel so welcome, thanks for the joy of working with you, thanks for those little touches of grace and humor and affection that make life sane.

"Please let us know that we both want to help in every way possible. I will never do anything to embarrass you politically. I have strong views on issues and people, but once you decide a matter that's it for me.

"And you'll see no leaks in `EVANS & NOVAK,' bitching about life. At least you'll see none out of me."

And he didn't.

KING: What were -- I just had lunch a couple of weeks ago with Nancy Reagan, and she said they always had an excellent time with the Bushes. What did you make about this book, "Dutch," saying that you were sort of second citizens...

BUSH: Well, the first -- the thing that offended me the most was less about his, I think, his improper portrayal of the relationship with the Bushes, but the use of the word "airhead" to describe Ronald Reagan.

I mean, I have not read the book, and I've learned in public life not to be critical until you actually see it. But when somebody read that part of it -- or somebody says that the Reagans treated us with disdain, we never were upstairs in the White House. There were plenty -- every state dinner, for one, we were up there with the head of state and all. And then I was up there with President Reagan a lot.

So I don't know where it came from. But he was -- he was so kind to me, Larry, and so...

KING: He was?

BUSH: Oh, gosh, and I learned so much from -- about -- just about decency and humor. And his jokes are better than your jokes, by far.

KING: By far?

BUSH: By far, Larry.

KING: New Year's Eve, 1989.

BUSH: New Year's Eve, December 31st: "One of the greatest highlights was the day after Christmas. I was getting ready to go to the office, and Ellie (ph), beautiful Ellie, who lights up any room she's in, said, `Gampy (ph), come here.' So I went into the bathroom. She pointed in the toilet and said, `Did you leave that poo-poo?'


"Not many people would talk to the president of the United States like that."

KING: We'll be right back with President Bush after this.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But, George, just one personal request: Go out ther and win one for the Gipper.



KING: OK, a letter to George and Jeb, governor and governor -- not yet governors when this is written.

BUSH: Yes, this was -- well, the letter speaks for itself. But they were both running. George was governor of Texas. And Jeb was running...

KING: George was. Jeb had lost one race.

BUSH: Jeb lost in '94, running again '98. It's the summer.

"Dear George and Jeb, your mother tells me that both of you have mentioned to her your concern about some of the political stories, the ones that seem to put me down and make me seem irrelevant, that contrast you favorably to a father who had no vision and who was but a place holder in the broader scheme of things.

"I've been reluctant to pass along advice. Both of you have been charting your own course, spelling out what direction you want to take your state: in George's case, running on a record of accomplishment.

"But the advice is this: Do not worry when you see the stories that compare you favorably to a dad for whom English was a second language and for whom the word `destiny' meant nothing."

Then we skip.

"It's inevitable that the new breed of journalists will have to find a hook in stories, will have to write not only of your plans and your dreams, will have to compare those with what in their view I failed to accomplish.

"That can be very hurtful to a family that loves each other. That can hurt you boys, who have been wonderful to me, you two of whom I am so very proud.

"But the advice is: Don't worry about it."

KING: How do you feel about George on the national stage now and all the things that go -- and the other day I saw a panel of people, four of them, all said the only -- he ducked the debate. Nobody believed that he went to be with his wife.

BUSH: But do you know he did...

KING: That was the -- that was the reason.

BUSH: But you know, he did something smart. He attached to a press release a letter to SMU accepting this event for his wife. And the letter was dated June of last year. And to George, maybe you get the feeling -- the same about me after today's interview -- the family's everything. It's very, very important.

KING: You would have gone if Barbara were being honored and you were...

BUSH: Oh, no question about that.

KING: No question.

BUSH: I hated the damned debates anyway, hated them.

KING: But you would have gone?

BUSH: But -- yes -- but he did the right thing, and you know, people are going to -- you know, I remember different debates when I was running at different times. Four runs for national office: '80, '88 -- '84, '88 and '92. And somebody's always telling me you've got to have more debates. The American people -- well, it's show business. You'd do much better learning about their views sitting right here on LARRY KING LIVE than they would lining up, answering a bunch of questions at -- in a town hall.

But that's my personal opinion.

KING: All right.

BUSH: That's not why George wasn't there. He wasn't there because he made a commitment to be with his wife when she was being honored.

KING: Speaking of family and feelings, a letter to Hugh Sidey of "TIME" magazine on Election Day, November 3, 1998.

BUSH: "How does it feel? Well, I'm nervous and I'm proud. My mind goes back to six years ago. I honestly thought I was going to win. No one else did. The polls had gone south after Mr. Walsh's indictment of Weinberger was handed down on the Friday before the election. But I still thought I'd win. I lost big time, and it hurt a lot, and I don't want either of my boys to hurt that much ever.

"Should Jeb lose in Florida, I will be heartbroken, not because I want to be the former president with two governor sons. No, heartbroken because I know Jeb will be."

And then later, talking about George W.

"He's good, this boy of ours. He's uptight at times, feisty at other times. But who wouldn't be after months of grueling campaigning? All the talk about his wild youth days is pure nuts. His character will pass muster with flying colors." And it will.

KING: Even in the days when he was in college, the character was there? I mean, he was a very...

BUSH: He's a leader. He had friends and they rally around. And they've helped him all his life.

Barbara -- you know, you've heard rumors about the dancing nude on the bar and pictures. My wife put it well. She said, "I hope it's not a frontal shot."


But this is crazy. You keep reading rumors. Nobody has a picture.

KING: But it's one thing when it's about you, but when it's about your son... BUSH: It hurts.

KING: That's what I mean. Doesn't that get you more ticked?

BUSH: Oh, yes. Not so much to want to do anything about it, because it's their turn. They can handle it.

KING: Here's a letter to a friend and former speechwriter, Chris Buckley, on grandchildren and fishing. This is the Chris Buckley, right?

BUSH: Yes, he's Bill Buckley's son, who...

KING: Bill Buckley's son and a great humor writer himself.

BUSH: "I want to teach Gigi (ph), our youngest" -- this is September of 1998. "I want to teach Gigi, our youngest grandchild, now 2 1/2 years old, how to fish. When the fish aren't biting, I want to listen to her tell me what makes her happy and what makes her cry.

"I won't tell her I was president. I'll just tell her about the wonders of life and have her understand that our family is what matters.

"On the boat she's a captive. She can squirm, but she can't hide. I will tell her I love her, and when she..."

KING: "I will tell her I love her, and when she says, are you crying? I'll say yes. But these are tears of joy. Older guys do that, Gigi. See, you can do that kind of thing when you go fishing. Though you're too young for the tears, Chris, be sure to take Connor (ph) and Caitlin (ph) out fishing."

What does it do when you go fishing?

BUSH: Oh, it's total relaxation and enjoyment. And it's wonderful, whether you're with your grandkids or -- I do it all by myself now.

KING: When you see, Gigi...

BUSH: Yes.

KING: ... do you see your daughter in her?

BUSH: Yes, yes -- you mean the daughter we lost?

KING: Yes.

BUSH: As a matter of fact, this one's also very beautiful and an enormous comfort to us. She's about the same age as the child we lost.

But it's -- there's -- you know, these are the sad -- I'm afraid I've gotten too emotional here with you. But if you get the feeling that this is what matters to me now rather than... KING: More than anything.

BUSH: ... a nuclear test ban treaty or something like that, you're absolutely right.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All my life I have been amazed that a gentle sould coud be so strong. Dad, I am proud tpo be your son.


KING: Or most recent interview with former President Bush was this past summer at the Republican convcention in Philadelphia. His son George W. had the party's nomination all locked up, and as you might imagine, Geortge Herbert Walker Bush was a very happy father.


KING: What do you make of all -- I mean, to come back to town and your name is the featured name, a Republican...

BUSH: It's exciting.

KING: ... convention, Bush is the headliner.

BUSH: It's exciting, and I wouldn't have predicted it several years ago, but -- but what seems to have happened here in Philadelphia is the party is together. You don't see a lot of divisions there on the floor, a lot of -- a lot of controversy. And I think George so far has done a wonderful job in uniting the party and then reaching out, and so I -- I think that's kind of the mood.

And I just love to be sitting about row six watching our son. Last night, it was our daughter. Daughter-in-law. And then I sat next to George's twins, and one of them had tears in her eyes, and the other was a little nervous, and -- you know, it's a family thing.

KING: If I'd have said 10 years ago your son is going to run for president, would you have said Jeb?

BUSH: Ten years ago -- let's see. Ten from 2000 would be 1990. Well, I would have said that right after that when the two of them started running for governors, maybe seven years ago, that -- that maybe Jeb had the better chance and, thus, would have been projected on to the national scene sooner if he wanted to be. Jeb is minding the store in Florida and doing a superb job, and voters say that. But maybe so. Maybe so because George would have -- was up against an icon, Ann Richards.

KING: Ann Richards.

BUSH: Yeah. KING: No slouch.

BUSH: Yeah.

KING: As you know.

BUSH: Remember the Ann -- I don't want to get into that. I've been told to stay out of controversy, Larry.

KING: So you can't call him "my boy" anymore.

BUSH: Can't do that. You know what? For -- done that all my life. I did that, and then...

KING: What did they get mad at? He's your boy.

BUSH: It wasn't mad. It was just kind of a bunch of people wanted to use that against him for some reason, but we've overcome that. Now they've got a kind of muzzle on me. I got instructions coming down here from Barbara, your big admirer, and she says, "Don't you get Larry taking you in any controversial stuff." "Don't worry about it."

KING: OK, it won't happen.

BUSH: I'm going to have...

KING: The big story is that you called Colin Powell and asked him to run with your son.

BUSH: Wrong. Wrong. Total 100 percent fabrication. Why? Because Colin made very clear to me and subsequently to George that he wasn't interested in running for vice president. That was, oh, two years ago, and so, no, that just did not happen.

KING: Were you glad it was Cheney?

BUSH: Yes. I think it's a superb choice, Larry.

KING: Your guy.

BUSH: Well, he's everybody's guy. He was a fantastic congressman, great chief of staff in the White House, fantastic secretary of defense, steady, knowledgeable, respected abroad and at home. I mean, this is a great choice, and most people are playing it that way. Most -- except, you know, if you're on the other side, you've got to carp, and you've got to criticize.

KING: Well, it's fair.

BUSH: Yeah, that's right. We're going to go after who their guy is.

KING: Couple other things, what are you going to do in the campaign?

BUSH: Stay the heck out of it.

KING: You're not going to...


KING: Period.

BUSH: I am not going to -- well, what we've done is help on fund raisers. Quiet...

KING: But you're -- you will not be making a speech in...


KING: ... Louisville before...

BUSH: Nothing, no.

KING: How about Barbara?

BUSH: Hey, listen, I'm the guy that -- for whom it's said that English was a second language. They don't want me out there.

KING: How about Barbara?

BUSH: We might unleash her.

KING: Aha.

BUSH: We might unleash her. You ought to get her on here. You want to somebody who's -- to sit and make a little news, be a little more frank than I am?

KING: When is she going to come on?

BUSH: Get her going. Fire her up.

KING: Yeah, she'd be good.

And your health -- I mean, you look -- you're 76. You do look amazing.

BUSH: Come on, Larry.

KING: You don't do anything, right? No surgery? Nothing? How do you do it?

BUSH: Well, I'm going to. I've got a hip problem. I can't -- I can't move too well.

KING: When are you going to have...

BUSH: I feel good. Well, probably in early December. It was -- it was going to be August 5th, and I said, "I can't do this." We've got George P. and Jeb coming up to Maine. We've got George's twins. We've got the rest of the family, and I'm not going to be limping around there on a crutch when they're all out there.

KING: And what are you going to be like, knowing you, election night?

BUSH: Election night? Probably a...

KING: Basket case.

BUSH: Basket case is what I was looking for, Larry. Thank you. No, really, it's too much.

KING: More than when you ran, right? It's -- a son...

BUSH: Well, more than when I ran, yeah. Of course, a lot depends on how it's looking. I mean, I think Mary Matalin and I were the only two people in the world that thought I was going to win on election -- only, but I -- so I think a lot depends on how things are looking then.

But, in any event, with George and Laura out there, I will be a very, very nervous dad, and so will Barbara. That's what it's about. It's not -- it's not about these issues, believe me. Nobody -- everyone thinks it's a legacy thing or entitlement or...

KING: The Adams family.

BUSH: The Adams family. Which one? No, but -- no, they...

KING: The Adams, the Kennedys, the Bushes, American dynasties.

BUSH: Yeah, I don't like that. I mean, I have great respect for families and all, but I just don't -- we don't feel entitlement. We don't feel the legacy thing. You know, hey, these -- both these sons are in the arena. They're doing a great job. The voters approve of them, and I -- they don't need me burdening them with my views or my jumping in to criticize.


KING: That's it for this special look back at our conversations with George Herbert Walker Bush, former president and father of the current occupant of the Oval Office.

Tomorrow night, highlights of our interviews with Barbara Bush.

Thanks for watching LARRY KING WEEKEND, and good night.


BUSH: I, George Herbert Walker Bush...

PRESIDENT BUSH: ... George Walker Bush...

BUSH: ... do solemnly swear...

PRESIDENT BUSH: ... that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States...

BUSH: ... and will to the best of my ability...

PRESIDENT BUSH: ... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States...

BUSH: ... so help me God.

PRESIDENT BUSH: ... so help me God.





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