Interview of President Bush by Tom Brokaw, NBC
This is a full transcript of the April 24 Brokaw interview
with President Bush, provided by the Office of the Press Secretary, The
White House. It provides very interesting insights to the decision
making that went into the execution and conduct of the war against
Iraq. There are many, many people around the world speaking about that
decision making process. It is good, and refreshing, for once, to hear
from the man who actually had to make the decisions. You will see he
made some very important decisions, and there are many policy
statements, in one form or another, in this interview.
April 24, 2003
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary April 24, 2003
INTERVIEW OF THE PRESIDENT BY TOM BROKAW, NBC
Aboard Air Force One Canton, Ohio
11:14 A.M. EDT
Mr. President, there's no tougher decision any President makes than to
commit the nation to war. Let's talk about that first night, when you
surprised us all by launching the preemptive strike against the
residence of Saddam Hussein.
THE PRESIDENT: Well,
they started in the Situation Room, and we had Tommy Franks on the
screen with a Commander -- I think out of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait City
and out of -- and a CENTCOM commander out of Tampa Bay, along with
their British and Australian counterparts.
And then we had the national security team aligned on the
table there. I went around to each of the commanders and said, are you
happy with the strategy, do you have what it takes to win the war? They
all answered affirmatively.
I then gave the instructions to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld
that Operation Iraqi Freedom would commence at a time of Tommy Franks'
choosing. Told Tommy, you know, for the sake of peace and security and
the freedom of the Iraqi people that he's got the orders to proceed. I
asked God for blessing on him and the troops. He saluted, I saluted
back and left the room.
It was a -- it was an emotional moment for me because I had
obviously made up my mind that if we needed to, we would use troops to
get rid of weapons of mass destruction to free the Iraqi people. But
the actual moment of making that decision was a heavy moment. I then
went outside and walked around the grounds, just to get a little air
and collect my thoughts.
I thought I was pretty well through with the day, until 3:40
p.m. that afternoon, when I got a call from Secretary Rumsfeld that
said, Mr. President, the plans have changed. He said, I would like to
change the plans, I need your permission to change the plans. Can I
come over? He didn't say, the plans had changed, but I knew what he
told me on the phone, it would mean the plans would have changed. And
that is, we had a shot at Saddam Hussein they thought.
So I assembled the national security team of the Vice
President, Colin Powell, Rumsfeld, Myers, CIA Tenet, Condi Rice, Andy
Card and some other CIA agents there -- some guys I hadn't seen before
came in the Oval. And the reason why they were there is they had a
source on the ground that was convinced that not only would Saddam
Hussein be in the complex, but Uday and Qusay, his two sons, would be
there as well. And they explained why this was the case. And basically
they were asking permission from me to launch an air strike.
I was hesitant at first, to be frank with you, because I was
worried that the first pictures coming out of Iraq would be a wounded
grandchild of Saddam Hussein -- but Saddam Hussein, who was not there
at the time we started making the decision, would never show up -- that
the first images of the American attack would be death to young
And this is an interesting moment, because as time went on
during the day, or that evening, the intelligence got richer and
richer. In other words, the guy on the ground was calling in to the
CENTCOM headquarters, who was immediately calling in to the White House
more and more information. For example, he discovered that there was a
bunker a hundred feet away from one of the houses -- a bunker that had
so much concrete and was likely to house Saddam when he arrived, and
his kids, his boys.
And as the intelligence got richer, I got more confident with
the notion that Saddam would, in fact, be there. And at 7:15 p.m. that
evening, I gave the order for Tommy to proceed with an attack on the
farms, but changed -- they had an ordnance package of 30 cruise
missiles. But because of the bunker they had to change the timing of
the attack so that the stealth bomber went in first, unloaded his
ordnance and then the TLAMs, or the cruise missiles would follow in
Which means they had to reprogram all these missiles. And they
didn't have much time to do it because the flight time of the missiles
from their particular launch sites was about two hours.
This other thing that bothered me during the decision-making
was that the stealth would go in unescorted -- there would have been no
air suppression on enemy defenses prior to him going in, in order to
keep the element of surprise alive. So the day changed, and it was a
dramatic several hours because we really changed the battle plan.
Q: Did you watch that on television, when the bombs began to land?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes,
I did. I did. Actually, they began to hit and then I went in and
shortly thereafter addressed the nation -- so I was getting make-up and
talking about the -- you know, figuring out the words in the speech. I
did. And it was about 9:30 p.m., as I recall, and then I spoke to the
country about 10:15 p.m.
But what was
interesting, Tom, I don't think many people know this, is that the game
plan was to move Special Ops forces early, at noon that day. And we
would have explained to the country, as kind of creating the conditions
for the battlefield, so that when our troops moved significantly their
conditions would be ripe for success.
At Friday, at noon, I was going to address the nation about
the air campaign, and the ground campaign would follow shortly
thereafter. Turns out that because we conducted the air raid, I had to
speak that night to the country. And then Tommy said he was going to
move the ground force movement up early to secure oil fields and to
move as quickly as possible into Iraq -- which really says that he had
the ability and the authority and the flexibility necessary to change a
war plan to meet the needs on the ground.
Q: That human intelligence that we had on the ground, did you hear back from him, I presume?
THE PRESIDENT: We did.
Q: And did he --
THE PRESIDENT: He felt like we got Saddam.
Q: He did?
He felt like that, yes. And we're trying, of course, to verify. And
before there's any declaration, of course, there will be a lot of
Q: Did you see that famous television video of Saddam the next day, in the glasses, reading out from the notepad and so on?
THE PRESIDENT: Well,
yes. I was amused by that, almost as amused by that as I was his PR man
-- it was one of the classics -- probably helping NBC Saturday Night
Live out mightily, but through his -- it was just unbelievable what he
But, you know, the people that
wonder if Saddam Hussein is dead or not, there's some evidence that
says, suggests he might be. We would never make that declaration until
we were more certain. But the person that helped direct the attacks
believes that Saddam, at the very minimum, was severely wounded.
Q: That night?
That night, yes. And it explains -- again, there will be a lot of
speculation until the truth is known, but it explains why, for example,
one reason why dams weren't blown up or oil fields weren't destroyed --
even though we found them to be wired with -- potentially to be blown
Q: Now, the air campaign is underway and troops are moving across the border --
THE PRESIDENT: That would be a day and a half later.
Q: A day and a half later.
THE PRESIDENT: But troops were moving across the border earlier.
Q: "Shock and awe" was the phrase that was heard so much
before it all began. It didn't have exactly the effect I think that a
lot of people expected, because the resistance down south was from the
militia, at least, were tougher than a lot of people anticipated.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes,
I think it's true. I think that's an accurate look back. Shock and awe
said to many people that all we've got to do is unleash some might and
people will crumble. And it turns out the fighters were a lot fiercer
than we thought. Because, for example, we didn't come north from
Turkey, Saddam Hussein was able to move a lot of special Republican
Guard units and fighters from north to south. So the resistance for our
troops moving south and north was significant resistance. On the other
hand, our troops handled it, handled that resistance quite well.
Q: Did that give you a pause for a while?
THE PRESIDENT: Well,
first of all, I had confidence in the plan, because I've got confidence
in my national security team. Remember, my advisors are people such as
Dick Cheney, who had been through the war before as the Secretary of
Defense; Colin Powell, who's not only an Army general, but also had
been through a war before; Don Rumsfeld, who's a very successful man in
the private sector, but also has got great judgment when it comes to
the military; Tommy Franks, I really trust Tommy, we speak the same
language -- after all, Tommy went to Midland Lee High School, graduated
in 1963, one year ahead of Laura; Condi. I get good, solid advice from
people who analyzed this war plan, analyzed the strategy, looked over
it in depth, had looked at it for quite a bit of time and convinced me
that it would lead to victory.
never doubted the plan. Obviously, I was concerned when we lost life,
or concerned that day when some of our prisoners, the people were
captured. But I had confidence in the plan because I had confidence in
Let me ask you about that day that the prisoners were captured.
Everything played out on television. There's been probably no more
televised event in the history of mankind. Suddenly you look on the
screen and from Iraqi television there are five American prisoners of
war, including a woman who was a cook, Shoshana Johnson.
THE PRESIDENT: Well,
I believe that was a Sunday. And it was a tough day. It was a tough day
for America, it was a tough day for the Commander-in-Chief, who
committed these young soldiers into battle in the first place. Which
made their release even more joyous. But war is -- it's tough.
Q: Did you make some calls?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I didn't. I've written a lot of letters, but I didn't call any parents then. I prayed for them, but I didn't call.
Q: Did you talk to Laura about it?
I did. I talked to Laura a lot during this period of time. She's been a
steady source of strength and inspiration and love. You know, any time
there's war and a lot of action, a lot of movement of troops and
equipment, people are -- there's going to be death. And it's the
hardest aspect of this job, frankly, is to know that those lives were
lost because of orders I gave.
other hand, I firmly believe, and history will prove, that decisions
that I made and the actions that our country took will make the world
more peaceful, help secure the United States. And, as importantly, give
the Iraqi people freedom, let them be free -- free from the clutches of
one of the most barbaric regimes in the history of mankind.
Q: The flip side of all that was the rescue of Jessica Lynch.
THE PRESIDENT: It was.
Q: Did you get advanced notice that that operation was going down?
I did. I did. Secretary Rumsfeld told me not to get my hopes up, but
there was going to be a very sensitive operation into a hospital where
he thought that there would be an American POW. And that's all he said.
He was very circumspect, as he should be, to a lot of people, because
he didn't want any information to get out that might have jeopardized
the operation. But he gave me a heads-up. And then when we heard that
she had been rescued, it was a joyous moment.
Let me ask you about some of the larger policy questions. Before we went
to war against Iraq, one of the reasons that you justified this war was
that he posed a real threat to the United States. If he couldn't defend
his own country -- and we have not yet been able to find the weapons of
mass destruction, which were not even launched in defense of Iraq --
was that overstated?
No, not at all. As a matter of fact, I think time and investigation will
prove a couple of points. One, that he did have terrorist connections.
And, secondly, that he had a weapons of mass destruction program -- we
know he had a weapons of mass destruction program. We now know he's not
going to use them. So we've accomplished one objective, and that is
that Saddam Hussein will not hurt the United States or friends or our
allies with weapons of mass destruction.
Secondly, we are learning more as we interrogate or have
discussions with Iraqi scientists and people within the Iraqi
structure, that perhaps he destroyed some, perhaps he dispersed some.
We also know there are hundreds and hundreds of sites available for
hiding the weapons, which he did effectively for 10 years from the --
over 10 years from the United Nations. And that we've only looked at
about 90 of those sites so far. I mean, literally hundreds of sites.
And so we will find them. But it's going to take time to find
them. And the best way to find them is to continue to collect
information from the humans, Iraqis who were involved with hiding them.
Q: As you know, there's still a lot of skepticism around the world about American motives in Iraq.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
Why not fold in some of the U.N. inspectors to this effort, not turn it
over to them, but make them a part of it? Would that help with the
credibility, do you think?
I think there's going to be skepticism until people find out there was,
in fact, a weapons of mass destruction program. One thing there can't
be skepticism about is the fact that this guy was torturous and brutal
on the Iraqi people. I mean, he brutalized them, he tortured them, he
destroyed them, he cut out their tongues when they dissented. And now
the people are beginning to see what freedom means within Iraq. Look at
the Shia marches, or the Shia pilgrimages that are taking place.
The world will see that the United States is interested in peace, is interested in security and interested in freedom.
Q: But it is important to find the weapons of mass destruction, or the evidence that he had a massive program underway, isn't it?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I think we will. I'm pretty confident we will.
old family friend, Brent Scowcroft, who has some differences with the
policies here, says one of the things that he's worried about is that
there's no tradition of democracy there, that people will just seize
power wherever they can. It seems to a lot of people that that is
playing out in the south, especially where the Shia are saying, look,
we're going to run things here, we'd like to have an Islamic
government. Isn't that a serious concern?
Well, first of all, we just started. The country isn't secure yet. I
mean, the first things that we're worried about is making sure that the
militia units of the old Fedayeen Saddam aren't out killing people. So
our troops are working with coalition forces to make the country more
Secondly, we're worried about
making sure there are -- there's the presence of a police force in
these different cities to maintain order. We are just beginning to move
our teams in place to help the Iraqi bureaucracies get up and running.
I was pleased to see that the Doctors Without Borders
organization said that they went into Iraq and found no grave
humanitarian crisis. In other words, the food is getting to the people,
medicines are getting to the people. They did say there is a shortage
of personnel, professionally -- not a shortage of medicine, but a
shortage of professionals necessary to deliver the aid, and we'll help
the Iraqi people address that problem.
My point to you is that we have an orderly process to bring
stability and food and health to the Iraqi people, so life can begin to
return to normal. And then I'm confident that a government will emerge.
I dismiss the critics who say that democracy can't flourish in Iraq. It
may not look like America. You know, Thomas Jefferson may not emerge.
But, nevertheless, I do believe there can be a representative
government and all factions can be represented.
if it becomes an Islamic government -- with a 60 percent Shiite
majority, it could very well become that -- would that be acceptable to
THE PRESIDENT: What I would
like to see is a government where church and state are separated. And I
believe there's enough people within Iraq that would like that kind of
-- there may be a nationalist government, a government that really
honors the Iraqi history and the Iraqi traditions and Iraq, itself. But
it must be a government that is going to, you know, represents all the
people. And I believe that can happen.
Q: Were you surprised by the degree of looting that occurred almost instantly?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I wasn't surprised at all.
Q: You were not? Why?
THE PRESIDENT: I mean, these were people that hated the regime under which they lived.
Q: But they went after hospitals and museums and --
I don't like that part. And that was the -- you know, the hospitals and
museum were the absolute worst part. The good news is, is that the
hospitals are now up and running, they've got enough medical supplies
to take care of the people that need help. That museum was a terrible
incident. I couldn't agree more with people who say we're sorry that
happened. We are, by the way, helping find treasure, restore treasure
and we'll provide all the expertise and help they need to get that
museum up and running again.
But I wasn't
surprised. It was vengeance, because it's like uncorking a bottle of
frustration. These are people whose relatives were beaten, tortured,
shocked, killed because they spoke out, because they disagreed with
Saddam Hussein. And history is going to show how brutal this man and
his sons and his regime really, really was. And, therefore, it did not
surprise me when people took vengeance on police stations, or took, you
know, went out into government buildings and destroyed them.
I'm also pleased by the fact that that level of -- those
riots, or whatever you want to call them, released some steam, and now
life is returning to normal. Things have settled down inside the
There's still a lot of nationalism, though. I mean, it's a very strong
strain there and, in fact, some people are taking control of their
neighborhoods, or whole sectors of Baghdad --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, like the guy, the self-proclaimed mayor.
This is all -- a reasonable government will evolve. We just started. It
wasn't but two weeks ago yesterday that the statue fell down. There
have been 20-plus years of tyranny. And it's hard to believe that in 20
days democracy will emerge. But the point we're making is, is that the
foundation for democracy is now being laid. And the -- and by the way,
there's nothing wrong with nationalism within Iraq. People say the
United States should leave, and we want to leave -- as soon as we've
accomplished our mission.
Q: How long will that take?
THE PRESIDENT: Somebody
asked me the other day, how long is it going to take to get rid of
Saddam Hussein's regime? My answer is, as long as necessary.
Q: But it may take as long as two years --
THE PRESIDENT: It
could. It could. Or less, who knows? But the point I'm making is, is
that we are there to promote security, to make sure life returns back
to normal. And to help the Iraqi people establish a government, because
we believe that democracy can work within Iraq. And nationalism, by the
way, you know, means it's more likely that a government will evolve
that is focused on Iraq, its traditions and its history, as opposed to
focusing on a particular religion.
Q: Is Iran trying to take root in southern Iraq, in your judgment?
THE PRESIDENT: Well,
you know, you hear a lot of reports about the vacuums being filled by
Iranian agents. We certainly hope that Iraq -- Iran will allow Iraq to
develop into a stable and peaceful society. We have sent the word to
the Iranians that that's what we expect. I talk to Tony Blair and Jose
Maria Aznar on a regular basis -- talked to them yesterday, and this
subject came up. And both of them have got contacts with the Iranian
government and they will send the same message, similar to what we did
to Syria: that we expect there to be cooperation and --
Q: And if there is not, is Iran next?
THE PRESIDENT: No,
we just expect them to cooperate, and we will work with the world to
encourage them to cooperate. We have no military plans. Just like I
said about Syria. I mean, listen, the world, a lot of the -- frankly,
the left wing critics of our policy have said, you know, these people
are so militaristic they're getting ready to invade Syria. That was the
line of the day. We made it clear to the Syrians we expect them to
Q: And are they responding?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes,
I think they are. They're doing a better job. The borders look like
they're tighter. As we find people that have escaped into Syria, we're
giving the Syrian government the names of the people. And they appear
to want to be helpful.
Q: Let me
ask you about the future of some other relationships that we have, with
the United Nations, for example. There are two people who admire you
very much and are powerful pundits in Washington. George Will and Bill
Kristol have said of the U.N., George Will saying: if it's not the end
as we know it, it should be. And Bill Kristol has said: the U.N. I used
to think was just useless, now I think is harmful.
Well, I would hope that the U.N. would be useful. I would hope that the
U.N. would be an effective body at helping deal with the new threats of
the 21st century, dealing with terror and terrorist states and
proliferation of weapons.
And I can
understand why some are frustrated with the United Nations, because the
United Nations looked like it was not willing to join in the cause of
freedom. And it was frustrating to Americans that it looked like the
United Nations might hold up U.S. foreign policy that was being
conducted in the name of peace and security.
On the other hand, I was the person that went to the United
Nations in the first place. It was my decision to go give the speech on
September 12, 2002, that called the United Nations to account. The
United Nations will have a useful role in the reconstruction of Iraq,
for example, because a lot of nations won't be able give reconstruction
money without a U.N. conduit.
And there is a role in this case for the United Nations. I
hope as threats emerge the United Nations will be more responsive to
Q: Are you going to invite French President Chirac to the ranch in Crawford?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, my first guest will be John Howard -- well, first guest from this moment forward will be John Howard, and he's coming --
Q: The Prime Minister of Australia?
THE PRESIDENT: The Prime Minister of Australia, he's a great friend and a wonderful ally, will be coming a week from Friday.
Q: Well, what about President Chirac, though?
THE PRESIDENT: You really -- you're really not going to get
any comment. I doubt he'll be coming to the ranch any time soon. On the
other hand, you know, there are some strains in the relationship,
obviously, because of -- it appeared to some in our administration and
our country that the French position was anti-American. And my concern
about the French position is it would weaken -- the position they took
could weaken the NATO alliance. NATO is a very important alliance; it's
something that we've not only worked to modernize, I've worked to
expand NATO. And it's very important that Europe not become fractured,
to the point where the United States won't have relations with a united
Europe whole, free and at peace.
And, hopefully, the past tensions will subside and the French
won't be using their position within Europe to create alliances against
the United States, or Britain or Spain or any of the new countries that
are the new democracies in Europe.
talked about this before. Now that the war in Iraq is effectively over,
have you thought about a Bush doctrine that is a comprehensive
structure of some kind, on a global basis, for dealing with weapons of
mass destruction and the need, even, of preemptive strikes against
THE PRESIDENT: Well,
the Bush doctrine is actually being defined by action, as opposed to by
words. Although, I think if you compile a lot of the speeches I've
given, you could come up with the Bush doctrine.
The way I view the post-Saddam Iraq opportunities are these,
one, that we can deal more effectively with weapons of mass
destruction, that we made it clear that people who harbor weapons of
mass destruction will be dealt with. Hopefully, most of it can be done
diplomatically. And you'll see us -- see me, as well as members of my
administration, begin to push for new international protocols that will
make international organizations more effective at stopping the spread
of weapons of mass destruction.
I also believe that reform in the Middle East, as well as
Middle East peace, is an initiative that we will continue to -- that I
will push, and push -- particularly in the Middle East peace process, I
will work hard to achieve the two-state solution. And we have a good
opportunity to do so.
There are other parts of the Bush doctrine, if you want to
call it that, that are equally important. One, the AIDS initiative in
Africa is an incredibly important initiative and I intend to call upon
Europe, particularly the wealthier nations in Europe, to join us in
providing the medicines, the anti-retroviral drugs and the strategies
necessary to start saving lives, more lives on the continent of Africa.
There's a lot of things where we can work together, is my
point, to overcome any differences that might have existed on the Iraq
Before the war began, we were told by any number of people in your
administration that a lot of the leaders of the Middle East were
privately saying: we hope that you get rid of Saddam Hussein. Once the
war was over, they did not go public with praise for the United States
-- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, our best friends in that region. While
on the Arab street, there continue to be very strong criticism to what
we were doing.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes,
I can understand that. I mean, these guys -- first of all, the thing
that was important with those countries is they provided us help when
we asked for help. We needed basing help in certain countries, and they
provided it. That was one of the reasons why were successful against
Saddam Hussein. We asked, and they delivered.
Part of the frustrations that exist in the Middle East -- and
I recognize this -- is the fact that there is no movement toward peace
with the Palestinians. Part of the frustration in the Middle East is
also the fact that some of these governments need to enact reforms, and
that's why both reform and working on the Middle East for peace will be
priorities of mine.
Is the Middle East peace process going to accelerate greatly now that
Arafat has accepted a Prime Minister? And has Arafat been removed
effectively from the equation?
THE PRESIDENT: I
think it will accelerate, and, hopefully, greatly. I'm not so sure what
that exactly means, but it will certainly accelerate from where we are
The selection of Abu Mazen as the
Prime Minster is very positive, primarily because Abu Mazen has stated
publicly that he is against terror and will use whatever powers he has
to fight off the terrorist activities that have really prevented peace
from moving forward.
In my June 24th speech I laid out --
Q: Will you have him to the White House without Arafat, for example?
THE PRESIDENT: I will one of these days, yes.
Q: Without Arafat?
Yes, absolutely. Listen, I always felt -- first of all, I looked at the
history of Mr. Arafat. Now, I saw what he did to President Clinton.
There was no need to spend capital, unless you had an interlocutor who
could deliver the Palestinian people toward peace. And I believe Abu
Mazen is a man dedicated to peace, and I look forward to working with
him for the two-state solution. My view is, is that the only way for
there to be peace and for the survival of Israel and for the hope of
the Palestinian people is for two states living side by side in peace.
And I've laid out a plan to achieve that, a plan that calls upon
actions by the Israelis, by the Palestinians, as well as by the Arab
nations surrounding that troubled part of the world.
used to be an American doctrine about when we go to war it's
overwhelming force. Now it's speed and flexibility, based on Iraq, and
instant communication -- not only behind the scenes, but everybody gets
to look in on the battlefield.
THE PRESIDENT: Well,
the instant communications part was one of the reasons why I was
comfortable in giving Tommy Franks and the commanders in the field the
go-ahead to take the shot at Saddam Hussein on the first day. Because
there in the Oval Office we were getting near instant feedback from
eyes on the ground what he was seeing, what he felt the conditions were
like. It was an amazing moment to think that a person risking his life,
viewing the farms, watching the entries, seeing, observing what was
taking place inside one of Saddam's most guarded facilities, was able
to pick up a device, call CENTCOM, and CENTCOM would call us in near
And the ability to communicate
has changed the nature of warfare. It allows for more interoperability;
more ability for the Navy and the Air Force and the Special Ops and the
Army and the Marines to work side by side in a coordinated basis. Which
makes it easier to fight a war with flexibility and speed and
precision. So the doctrine really has changed.
As well, it's an amazing concept when you think about
real-time TV focusing on war. And by the way, I express -- Laura and I
express our deepest sympathies to David Bloom's wife and his family. I
knew him well during the campaign, he was a great journalist and really
a good fellow, loved his family a lot but, you know, to think that
David was there --
Q: Rocketing across the desert.
THE PRESIDENT: -- rocketing across the desert. It's an amazing feeling.
Q: I don't want you to give up sources and methods, but the guy who called in the first time -- still with us?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, he is. He is with us. Thank God. A brave soul.
Q: That's great.
11:47 P.M. EDT
* * * * *
2:45 P.M. EDT
Listen, now that the war in Iraq is over, the whole country is turning
its attention back to the economy -- and there's -- on the Hill, in
your own party, there's a lot of skepticism about whether or not the
tax cuts can get the job done. You started at $750 billion; you've now
been talking about $550 billion; the Senate is talking about $350
billion. Would you take $350 billion?
THE PRESIDENT: Well,
I think it ought to be -- actually, I think it ought to be more robust,
and the reason why is because a lot of economists have told me that the
tax cut needs to be sizeable enough to affect demand and job creation.
And that's why I'm pushing what I'm pushing, and I'm not going to quit
pushing until they end up voting. I believe it's the right thing.
The American people need to know that last January I put out a
job plan, and the Congress has been debating it, talking about it. And
it was important in January, it's important now. And I expect them to
get a good jobs bill out.
Congressional Budget Office, however, says, you know, they've looked at
with three or four different models and it's just going to be too small
in terms of the impact on the overall economy.
Well, I disagree with that. I would like -- I would hope that they would
argue the case on the floor of the Senate before (inaudible) the
skeptics. One of the things they also said was it's very important to
hold the line on spending -- that's another thing, that we accomplished
something in the budget, discretionary spending is being held to about
4 percent. On the spending side we've got restraint, we just need to
make sure the package is robust enough to create new jobs so people can
Q: It's tough to come
out here to Ohio, though. You've got a Republican governor who went in
at a very high number, and now he's down to around 42 percent, in terms
of approval rating; he's having to raise taxes, cut services. Wouldn't
it be better to defer a little bit, get him off the hook? And these are
important services that he's talking about -- it's about Medicaid and --
THE PRESIDENT: No,
not at all. Actually, what's important is -- and this is the reason we
come to Ohio, it's a place where people are looking for work. And I
feel so strongly that my job package will work, I'm willing to come to
a place where people need work. And so let's get this done in the
Congress. And this is the perfect place to bring a message of job
creation, because there are people here that -- in the manufacturing
sector, in particular -- that are looking for work.
President, I've been struck by the fact that you now have the country's
attention and there's been almost no discussion about the need for
conservation on energy and finding renewable sources and making that
the highest of the high priorities. I think the country is ready to
make a sacrifice, to do something.
THE PRESIDENT: Well,
actually, there's been a significant discussion about new sources of
energy. I was the guy that stood in front of Congress and asked
Congress to appropriate $1.2 billion to advance the hyrdogen
automobile. In other words -- as well as ask Congress to appropriate
monies to explore the opportunities for nuclear fusion.
And I believe that instead of getting mired in this talk about
command and control and lawsuits and regulations, that we ought to use
our technological capabilities to leapfrog the status quo, and lead the
world to a more energy efficient society.
But should we also assume that we can burn at the same rate that we have
been? And, you know, there's just no question about it, we've been on
an energy consumption binge.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes,
that's right. And I think that that's why we need new technologies to
help us go from one era -- a hydrocarbon era -- to a
technologically-driven era. And I believe we can get there. We've got
energy for, you know, a decade or two, without the consumer suffering
badly. But now is the time to move on new technologies. This is
precisely the initiative I laid out for Congress.
Q: You're not going to get the Arctic Wildlife Refuge this time, though, do you think?
THE PRESIDENT: Well,
it's foolish not to, in my judgment. There's a lot of natural gas up
there. And the reason we need natural gas here in America is so places
like California built a lot of electrical plants that run on natural
gas -- we've got to get it from somewhere. And I believe we can explore
in the Arctic Wildlife in an environmentally sensitive way -- and so do
a lot of other people.
But it's become
such a political issue. Washington, you know, is a town that -- you
know this better than me, I mean --
Q: No, I don't know it better than you. You're in the cockpit. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well,
you've been there longer than me, you're much older than I am.
(Laughter.) But they take an issue and turn it into such high politics.
Really, the Arctic Wildlife Refuge is a classic example of an issue
that's been over-politicized, where the science never is allowed to
emerge. We can drill for natural gas, which we need to do, in an
environmentally safe way.
me ask you about the war and your attitudes about it. It's well known
that you're a man of very strong faith. You have political and national
security responsibilities, as well. Was there a time when it was
difficult to reconcile those two roles -- your political and national
security responsibility and your own spiritual obligation?
Well, listen, any time you think about committing someone into combat is
an emotional moment. You can't be detached from the human life involved
with war. And I genuinely feel that the decision I made will make
America more secure. And I felt like the risks of doing nothing, the
risk of taking no action far exceeded the risks of combat, particularly
since I knew our plan was geared toward minimizing life -- minimizing
loss of life -- not only minimizing loss of life on our side, but on
the side of the innocent Iraqis.
bring God into my life to be a political person; I ask God for strength
and guidance; I ask God to help me be a better decision. The decision
about war and peace is a decision I made based upon what I thought were
the best interests of the American people. I was able to step back from
religion, because I have a job to do. And I, on bended knee to the good
Lord, asked Him to help me to do my job in a way that that's wise.
had a difficult moment on the air when the mother of a Marine who got
killed called in -- and wanted to talk about her son. And said: you
know, I like what the networks are doing, but all those graphics and
all that fancy coverage, for those of us who are out here with
children's in harm's way, it's murderous, Mr. Brokaw. And it put it all
in perspective. Did you have a moment like that?
Oh, I think, yes, maybe about the day the prisoners, the people took the
wrong turn, the kids, the cooks and the people like that from El Paso,
Fort Bliss, went the wrong way. That was a tough day. And it's got to
be -- listen, I went down to Camp Lejeune and met with family of -- who
lost their lives. I met a young lieutenant's wife with a young baby.
And it's tough.
The amazing thing is, of
course -- I shouldn't say "of course" -- but the amazing thing about
meeting those people is they gave me great strength. They were proud of
their loved ones' sacrifice; they understood why we were there. And
they were strong, really strong.
There was a young Marine who was killed whose father in Baltimore held
up his picture and said: I want the President to see this; it's my only
son and I want the President to see this picture.
He was opposed to the war. Did you see it?
No, I didn't see that, but I'm sure I can understand why a dad would
feel that way. I would feel the same way if I were a dad about how
miserable I felt if I lost my son.
Can you imagine being FDR and running World War II all those years?
Truman, Korea? All the years that Vietnam went on and 57,000 lives were
THE PRESIDENT: I know.
Q: Now that you've had your own --
THE PRESIDENT: One month.
Q: -- one month, but your own time on the crucible, to know what the country would go through?
It's a very interesting question, because -- yes, I know, I can't
imagine what it would be like to have been through the Vietnam War as
the President of the United States. I hope I would have done it
differently, I hope I would have had a clearer mission and given the
militaries the tools and their strategy necessary to achieve a mission,
as opposed to politicizing the war the way they did. But you're right,
it's a strain on the country.
On the other hand, the coverage was a little different.
Q: It was.
THE PRESIDENT: The perpetual moves 24 hours a day.
part of that was, by the way, that it became very emotional very
quickly. One of the things that you said was that you wanted to
liberate the Iraqi people so they could speak their minds. But in this
country, when some people spoke their minds when it happened to be in
opposition of the war, they got jumped on by a lot of folks.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I don't think so.
Q: Well, the Dixie Chicks, for example. Would you have them come to the White House?
I mean, the Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind. They can say what
they want to say. And just because -- they shouldn't have their
feelings hurt just because some people don't want to buy their records
when they speak out. You know, freedom is a two-way street. But I have
-- don't really care what the Dixie Chicks said. I want to do what I
think is right for the American people, and if some singers or
Hollywood stars feel like speaking out, that's fine. That's the great
thing about America. It stands in stark contrast to Iraq, by the way.
did you and Laura talk about at the end of the day? During Osama bin
Laden she was counseling you on your language -- (laughter) -- saying --
THE PRESIDENT: It wasn't so every day. (Laughter.)
Q: -- Georgie, you don't have to say "wanted dead or alive."
Well, she counsels me on a lot of things. Most of the time it's -- but
who's going to listen. She understood all along why I was making
decisions I was making. She understood the threat that Iraq posed. She
understood that Iraq was a part of the war on terror. And she doesn't
-- she's like a lot of people, she was nervous about war.
Q: So was your dad, by the way.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm sure he was. Nobody likes wars.
Q: Did your dad talk to you every day?
THE PRESIDENT: No. I check-in with him on occasion but, now, we don't talk every day.
Q: How about Barbara, what does she have to say, your mother?
THE PRESIDENT: She's
as feisty as ever. She's doing well. She doesn't follow everything in
the news and the opinion like Dad does; he's an every word man.
Do you seek his counsel? It's a little tricky. Here's your father,
somebody that you revered and love, and he's been there before. But at
the same time, you're now the President. How do you work that out?
Well, I really don't spend a lot of time hashing over policy with him.
He knows that I am much better informed than he could possibly be. He
gives me -- our relationship is more of, and our conversations are more
along the line of a dad and a son, a dad conveying to his son how much
he loves him. Which is important, even at the age of 56 years old it's
Q: Did you call him the day the statue came down of Saddam Hussein?
THE PRESIDENT: I can't remember.
Q: Because that was a memorable day.
THE PRESIDENT: It was. It was.
Q: Did you watch all that?
I watched some of it. As you know, I've got a schedule to keep; I don't
have time to sit around watching TV all day long. But somebody -- I
think the Ashley or Blake said, the statue, they're about to get it
down. They had a guy hammering on it for a while, and I watched the
Q: It took a while to pull it down.
I watched them hammer. And then they said, they're hooking it up and
they've got the crane out there. And I said, well, let me know. They
said, well, it's about to come down. So I hustled and then watched it.
Q: And what about the Iraqi information minister? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: He's my man, he was great. (Laughter.) Somebody accused us of hiring him and putting him there. He was a classic.
THE PRESIDENT: Al-Sahhaf.
Q: He said: we are repulsing them at the airport, this war is just about over. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: He was great. (Laughter.)
Q: Did you watch him actually? (Laughter.)
I did watch some of his clips. You know, a lot of the stuff I get,
people come in and report to me -- did you hear what so-and-so said,
or, did you see that? So I get a lot of things secondhand.
But in the case of the statue or Sahhaf, somebody would say,
he's getting ready to speak, and I'd pop out of a meeting or turn and
watch the TV.
And did they tell you when Saddam made those bizarre video appearances
very late in the war, when he was said to be walking around the
Yes, I saw some of that. Like, Condi will come in and say -- I'll pick
up the phone, I've got direct link now -- I'll say, well, Condi, what
is this business about, what does the Agency say about this latest
videotape. She'll pop in and say, you know, I talked to Tenet and Tenet
says our analysts can't imagine that the guy could possibly be alive,
walking around Baghdad the same day the statue came down.
You know, as I told you, we had some evidence early on that
strikes from the first day may have gotten him. I say "may" because we
don't have the DNA in hand to prove, and people really don't want to be
in a position, Tom, where you make -- broadcasting success and then all
of a sudden Saddam Hussein shows up somewhere. According to this one
eyewitness, he's not going to show up anywhere.
Final question. You still have two big issues out there on the horizon:
al Qaeda and North Korea. North Korea today saying that it's
reprocessed 8,000 plutonium rods and if you don't start talking to
them, they're willing to sell them.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
See, they're back to the old blackmail game. One of our goals and
objectives must be to strengthen the nonproliferation regimes and get
the whole world focused on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
or the materials for weapons of mass destruction, and North Korea is
making my case, that we've got to come together.
And we started that process in the North Korean peninsula that
is coming together. The Chinese now, for the first time, are partners
at the table. I look forward to hearing what the Chinese say about
being rebuffed by the North Koreans because they, too, believe that the
Peninsula ought to be nuclear weapons-free. This will give us an
opportunity to say to the North Koreans and the world we're not going
to be threatened. ON the other hand we, the world, must come together
to make sure institutions like the IAEA are effective at stopping
It's another reason, by the way for us to also advance the
missile defense systems, because the missile defense system will make
it less likely that a nuclear country could blackmail us or Japan or
any one of our friends.
Q: And al Qaeda?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we're on the hunt on al Qaeda.
Q: Has it diminished 50 percent, 70 percent?
I can't give you a number, but it's certainly diminished. And Kalid
Sheik Mohammed's arrest, right before the Iraqi war, was a blow to the
al Qaeda network. They're still moving around, and we're watching. And
we're moving. We're cutting off money. There are some parts of
Afghanistan where we think some are hiding, and we've got -- we're on
The other day, for example,
in the Situation Room, we had Tommy up and he gave us a briefing on
Iraq. He's the CENTCOM commander, as you know, also responsible for
Afghanistan, and then the general in place in Afghanistan came up. So
we split the briefing between Iraq and Afghanistan. And it was an
important briefing because he was telling us troop strength and troop
strategies, as well as how well the country is beginning to get on its
But the point I'm trying to make is, is that we are constantly
moving against al Qaeda in Afghanistan as we speak, or as we conduct
the Iraq theater.
Q: Mr. President, thank you very much for your time today, we really appreciate it.
THE PRESIDENT: I enjoyed it.
Q: Thank you. I enjoyed it a lot.
3:05 P.M. EDT
US President George W. Bush talks with NBC's Nightly News anchorman Tom
Brokaw after he toured the Lima Army Tank Plant in Lima, Ohio, April
24, 2003, Stephen Jaffe, AFP