Outgoing U.S. President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush speak with CNN’s Larry King in an exit interview on president-elect Barack Obama, the economy, Iraq and more. The transcript of the video is below, and
you can watch it using the player to the right.
KING: We’re in the library at the White House with President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, with a week to go. Are you anxious to go, Mr. President?
G. BUSH: Anxious is a — I don’t know if it’s the right word. I am — I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to feel like on January the 21st.
I’ve been, you know, I’ve had security briefings — intelligence briefings nearly every morning for the last eight years. And I’ll wake up and … not have a briefing and realize the responsibility is not on my shoulders anymore.
KING: Is there ambivalent feelings?
G. BUSH: No. I don’t think you can be ambivalent. First of all, I am — I’ve been looking forward to the inauguration of Barack Obama. I’ll have a front row seat in what is an historic moment for the country.
KING: Do you like him?
G. BUSH: I do. Yes, I do like him. And you’d like him, too.
KING: Oh, I know him. He was — but he was so critical of you. Do you take that personally or you don’t?
L. BUSH: I did.
KING: Were you — were you angry at it?
L. BUSH: Yes, sort of. George didn’t even really know about it because he didn’t watch it that much, I don’t think.
G. BUSH: Yes, so what’s new?
KING: How do you feel personally when you — you see the ratings and the polls that — and have you at 25, 30 per cent…
G. BUSH: I don’t give a darn … these opinion polls are nothing but a, you know, a shot of yesterday’s news. And, of course, the opinion polls aren’t going to be high when the economy is in the tank. I’m the president during a time of tough economic conditions. And, you know, people aren’t happy with the economy. And neither am I. Secondly, you must not have met with those whose kids died in Iraq. If you think that I’m going to say to a mother, your son’s — your son’s honour is not going to be — your son’s sacrifice is not going to be honoured because of my political standing, then you don’t understand George W. Bush.
KING: But do you ever get the feeling that, you know, if I was wrong, if Iraq was wrong and — then they died in vain and I sent them?
G. BUSH: Yes, I don’t think Iraq was wrong.
KING: Reagan once asked this, so we’ll ask it — are we better off today than we were eight years ago?
G. BUSH: One thing is for certain today, we understand the real dangers that we face. Eight years ago, it looked like the world was peaceful and everything was just fine in the economy. And then we had a recession, then we had an attack and now we’ve had this financial meltdown. Everything looked like, on the international front that, you know, radicalism might be, you know, a problem over there, but not here.
KING: You said the other day that you’re not the capitalist you were?
G. BUSH: No. I said I tossed out free market principles for a brief period of time in order to make sure that our economy — the financial markets didn’t completely melt down, which would have hurt the working person a lot worse than he’s being hurt today.
KING: You told me once that you never go to sleep at night worried or feeling bad.
G. BUSH: No, that’s not an accurate statement. I — I said — you asked me if I was sleeping well at night.
G. BUSH: And I said I do sleep well. That doesn’t mean I’m not worried about things when I go to sleep.
KING: But you sleep — you sleep well?
G. BUSH: I’m sleeping OK, yes.
KING: Are you confident about the economy?
G. BUSH: In the long run, absolutely. I’m confident that the steps I had to take were necessary to make sure that the financial system didn’t seize up so bad that — that we could have been heading into a much worse situation than we’re headed into.
KING: Obama says 2009 is going to be still pretty bad.
G. BUSH: It probably is. It probably is. He’ll learn not to become an economic forecaster once he gets to be president.
KING: You — you had two girls in the White House? What advice would you give Mrs. Obama on having two girls in the White House?
L. BUSH: Well, I would tell her this is a wonderful and grand home. That it is a very nice home for a family. And we know that both from having been the children of a president ourselves, and then of course from having Barbara and Jenna here. But Barbara and Jenna took Sasha and Malia on a tour of the White House, showed them all the fun, you know, great things to do. This is a terrific house for hide-and-seek. And they showed them how to slide down the ramp from the Solarium. I think those little girls will have a wonderful time living here.
KING: Upon reflection, two more things: was Katrina the lowest point beyond foreign the entanglements and 9/11.
G. BUSH: I think being called a racist because of Katrina was a low point. I can remember people saying George Bush is a racist because of the response, when in fact, the truth of the matter is the response was pretty darn quick, if you think about the fact that the Coast Guard and a lot of brave kids were pulling 30,000 people off of roofs as soon as the storm passed, as soon as they found people on those roofs.
KING: Anything you want to say, and say? Hard to say good-bye?
L. BUSH: Well, I wanted to say I am very grateful for the opportunities I have had because George is president. I have met wonderful people all over our country. And I appreciate all of their prayers and all of their support and all of the millions of people who have thanked me. I appreciate that a lot.
G. BUSH: I want to say it has been a huge honour to be president. I have enjoyed it. And I have — I’ve been amazed at the character of the American people.