|GEORGE W. BUSH|
April 27, 2000
Texas Gov. George W. Bush discusses political experience, foreign policy and White House leadership.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Vice President Gore, as you know, continually says - questions whether or not you have the experience to be President of the United States. What do you think?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I think that's the old Washington game of trying to tear somebody down. I've been through this before. In 1994, against Governor Richards - then a popular sitting governor in Texas - all I heard was, well, "He can't possibly do the job.
You know, he's never held office." And my answer then was "Give me a chance. Give me a chance to lead." And the people of Texas did -- and as a result, I think I got pretty good marks as a leader.
My answer is the same thing to America: If you're happy with the status quo, if you want four more years of Clinton-Gore, I'm not the right person. But if you want somebody who has had - you know - life experiences that may not be - conforms to the Washington mindset - give me a chance. I've been the governor of the second biggest state in the union and I've been a successful governor.
But I've also been the CEO in the private sector of some entities, and I would -- I hold that experience -- that's valuable experience to become the president. I concede I haven't spent my entire life in Washington, nor have I ever been elected to federal office, but, to me, that's a plus, as we head into the 21st century.
JIM LEHRER: What would you say to some wag who would say, hey, wait a minute, Governor, your father was a congressman, he was an ambassador of China, an ambassador of the United Nations, head of the Republican Party, head of the CIA, vice president of the United States, before he became president What's the difference between him and Vice President Gore in terms of resume?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Between him and Vice President Gore?
JIM LEHRER: Yeah, in terms of resume?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, his was even more extensive than Vice President Gore's, and Dad was a powerful candidate because of his résumé, but I'm a strong candidate for different reasons. I'm a strong candidate because I come from the "baby boomer generation" recognizing that we've got to usher in an era of responsible behavior, which starts with behaving responsibly in the office.
I come from a different generation from my Dad. And I think my experiences have enriched me as a person and prepared me for the leadership role, but that's what the race is all about. Americans are going to be watching my conversation with you and they're going to be listening to determine whether or not my views conform with theirs, but probably most Americans are going to ask - does the man have any judgment - know what he's doing - as a leader - has he ever led before and what are the results, if he has?
JIM LEHRER: What's the toughest decision you've ever had to make as governor of Texas?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I've had a couple of tough ones - one overhauling the tax code when there wasn't a crying need to do so. In my state I laid out a plan that said I'm going to modernize the taxes, cut taxes, and yet the polls and the people weren't screaming for some kind of tax relief, and, as a result, we ended up with the largest property tax cut in the state's history but weren't able to overhaul the tax code.
JIM LEHRER: You didn't get everything you wanted?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I did not, but at least I was bold enough to try and the interesting lesson there for me on that, Jim, was that people appreciated the fact that their leader - the governor in this case - was willing to take a risk, was willing to fight for something in this case I believed in - and - I think the Carla Faye Tucker weighed most heavily on my mind.
|Carla Faye Tucker|
JIM LEHRER: Tell us the story as to why. Tell us who she was and why it was difficult for you.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, Carla Faye Tucker was a convicted murderess who was on Death Row and she - you know - converted her life to Christ.
JIM LEHRER: While she was on Death Row?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: While she was on Death Row. And the reason I knew that was because she was on "Larry King Live" and other TV shows telling her story, and she was a compelling witness to the Lord, I thought. And unfortunately I saw her, and I say unfortunately because like many other Americans I fell in love with her story. And I was most impressed by her, and yet my job as the governor of Texas is to uphold the law of the land. My job isn't to judge somebody's heart.
I believe that's up to the almighty God to make that decision. And so when confronted with the facts - the two questions that a governor - at least I ask - is guilt or innocence and was Carla Faye - either had full access to the courts of law in the state of Texas and Washington, D.C., in the federal courts - when I answered those affirmatively, I signed the - the execution went forward.
JIM LEHRER: What would you say to somebody who just heard you say that and said, okay, Governor, I hear you, but as President of the United States you're going to be called upon to make decisions about sending hundreds, thousands, conceivably, of young Americans to a battlefield somewhere, or to do what Janet Reno - the kind of decision Janet Reno just had to make, even bigger ones than that.
What - on what should the American people base their judgment as to what your judgment might be in those kinds of matters, those larger issues, that involve even larger numbers of people?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I understand that, and that's really the fundamental question of the race for the presidency. But first, neither candidate has ever made that decision before.
Neither candidate has sat in the Oval Office and made the very difficult decision of putting lives in harm's way. I guess to answer your question - the first question - what kind of person am I? Where do I get my fundamental - where do I derive my fundamental strength?
Secondly, am I willing to listen and who would I be listening to, who are the people that would come and provide counsel or would I listen at all, and, if so, and if I did listen, when I made a decision, would it be based upon principle, or would it be based upon polls? My answer to people would be that I'm a person of faith and family. And I hold -- but I hold America dearly in my heart. I love what America stands for.
Secondly, I am going to be surrounded by the best that any president has ever brought to Washington, D.C. People ask who - well, you know, my foreign policy adviser is a person - who when America gets to know her is going to realize that she is really one of the smartest, capable people in America - Dr. Condaleeza Rice. Larry Lindsay has been an economic adviser of mine.
I just announced my vice presidential search headed by Dick Cheney, who is about as solid a citizen as America has ever produced. A leader is somebody who must listen and so I think the quality of the administration and the quality of my presidency will be determined by the people I bring to Washington.
|Bush rating himself|
|JIM LEHRER: As you said, one of the little rules
that people use sometimes to evaluate political candidates or leaders
is: What does he know that he doesn't know, does he know what he doesn't
know? How would you rate yourself in there?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I'd rate myself very strong on education, fiscal policy, domestic issues that I've lived with as governor, and I would rate myself as somebody who is going to have the best foreign policy team. But I'm a fast learner, and listen, I'm not going to play like I've been a person who's spent hours involved with foreign policy. I am who I am.
But when given a foreign policy task, I'd say I'll do well, like relations with Mexico, for example. I think if you were to check down in Mexico, whether with President Zedillo or anybody else who's paid attention to how I've conducted our relations between Texas and Mexico, they'd say the man did a fine job. Yesterday I met with the Russian foreign minister and when he left the meeting, he kindly said this is a man who - I'm going to paraphrase him and you need to check the facts -- but -- sophisticated thinker.
We had a great discussion about foreign policy and about our relations with Russia. It may be not a topic you want to head to but I talked about the antiballistic missile treaty, something you have and I have discussed before.
JIM LEHRER: You bet.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: But it's really important in my judgment for us to have a cooperative spirit with Russia so that we both can develop antiballistic missile systems, but, if not, then we've got to explain to them why our country must, and I tried -- I said to the foreign minister, please tell President-elect Putin if I become the president, I want us to redefine together the post-Cold War era.
I think we need to think anew about the old way of pointing as many missiles as we can at each other and understand that the real threat is not the U.S. aiming at Russia or vice versa, but the real threat is an accidental launch -- or a launch by what's called a rogue leader or, you know, some independent country or some country that feels like they've got to grab headlines by threatening ourselves and our allies. And he listened politely, and he didn't actually agree with everything, but I made the case for the future administration.
JIM LEHRER: When you think about being President of the United States and being confronted with all the kinds of things that we've been talking about and it's usually things that we haven't been talking about that come up -
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: That's right.
JIM LEHRER: Do you think about that with relish, with excitement, that you're sitting there and you're going to have some difficult decisions to make, or does that - oh, my goodness, what a tough job I'm signed on to - trying to sign on to
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: No. No. I can't wait.
JIM LEHRER: Can't wait.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I can't.
JIM LEHRER: Why?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: It's just in my nature, I guess. I'm running for a reason. I've asked my family to make a huge sacrifice. I'm away from my home and I love being in my home, because I'm running for a reason. There are some things I want to do, there are some laws I want to change, some systems I want to improve, but there's also a culture I want to help change, because I want people in this country to realize the full promise of America. I take great comfort - I've been a leader before and I fully recognize - I'm not trying to play like being the governor of Texas is being like the President of the United States -- it's just not the case -- and I know that.
But I understand what it means to assemble a good team and I take great comfort in knowing that I'm a persuasive person and will bring really good people to help make decisions.
I watched my Dad, and I watched Ronald Reagan, make the right decisions in many cases because they had such good advisers and good people surrounding them. And I know the president can set a tone, and I will set a tone. The presidency is more than just a person. The presidency is an administration, and I'm going to have a great administration. And so I take great comfort in -- in knowing that.