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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Encore Presentation: Interview With Former President George H.W. Bush, Former First Lady Barbara Bush

Aired December 25, 2005 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LARRY KING, HOST: Back to our King-size Christmas marathon; now unwrapping some of our best shows of the year. In June, LARRY KING LIVE celebrated 20 years on the air, and two guests helped us by doing the program -- former President George Bush and his wife, Barbara.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the 41st president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush, and the former first lady, Barbara Bush, at their home in Kennebunkport, Maine. A special hour with the parents of the current president, as our special week marking 20 years of LARRY KING LIVE continues. The Bushes for the hour, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening and welcome to another night on this very special week, saluting 20 years of LARRY KING LIVE at CNN. It's also CNN's 25th birthday. Last night we had the Cheneys. Tomorrow night, former President Clinton. Thursday night, Dan Rather. Friday night Barbara Walters interviews me, and then the week even continues. Next Monday, Mark Geragos, the attorney, in the first appearance he's made since the Peterson trial.

And during this program tonight, we'll be showing you clips of interviews with former presidents.

We welcome, here in Kennebunkport, Maine, the Bushes to LARRY KING LIVE. They've made many visits to our show. It's great to be here in this -- what house are we in? We're in one of these houses.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is my mother's -- my mother's, my late mother's house, which was given to her in -- they got married in 1920, and that was her wedding present from her father, who lived over there. It was a little -- it's expanded since then, but...

KING: How far back, Barbara, does this whole thing go?

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: It goes back about 102 years, maybe -3. George's grandfather built it.

G. BUSH: We're anchored to windward. All the kids like to come here. All the grandkids like to come here. And Barbara and I now spend a lot more time here than we used to. But our home is Houston. Seven months in Texas, five months here. B. BUSH: It isn't true what Laura said. First prize, two days with the Bushes in Kennebunkport; second prize, 10 days with the Bushes.

KING: It's delightful here.

B. BUSH: Yes, it is.

KING: With the rocks and the water. But you do you get a little -- chilly?

B. BUSH: Yes.

G. BUSH: I know, but this is an unusual streak, as we say. Really, it should be warm now at this time of year.

KING: How's life?

G. BUSH: This is a great occasion, 20 years. Wonderful.

KING: Thank you. You're going to be 81.

B. BUSH: No.

G. BUSH: Yes, sir.

B. BUSH: Eighty-one?

G. BUSH: Yes. What the heck...

B. BUSH: I thought...

G. BUSH: She's going to be 80.

B. BUSH: Oh, no, never.

G. BUSH: June 8th. Be sure to send presents and cards.

B. BUSH: That's very funny. I'm out of town...

KING: You're 80?

B. BUSH: Going to be 80, and I do not want to hear it mentioned again.

KING: OK.

G. BUSH: However...

KING: Your birthdays are four days apart.

G. BUSH: Yes.

KING: What are you getting her?

B. BUSH: We don't know. We don't do that. No presents. We're giving away...

G. BUSH: We don't give birthday presents. She and I never have for the last 58 years of our marriage.

B. BUSH: We really don't. I mean, the truth is, everything that I want, George has given me for years. And he never says no. And we just don't give presents.

And I'm giving away now. Don't anybody send me a present. I mean nobody, because I'm giving away.

KING: You're giving away?

B. BUSH: Yes. What would you like? Look around.

KING: Do you feel 81?

G. BUSH: No. I feel good. Legs -- and my balance isn't as good as it used to be. But no, I don't. I feel younger in spirit.

KING: Still hopping around a lot. You go to China. You were just in Moscow.

G. BUSH: Yes. Just came back from Russia. Do a fair amount of travel, and of course, up here I get my kicks by driving my boat fast. And of course, you know, the pride that we have in our sons that are in politics, and the equal pride for those who aren't in politics and our daughter, Dorothy, gives an 81-year-old guy everything he needs in life, Larry.

KING: Do you like the fact that he still hops around?

B. BUSH: Yes, because I think he's happy doing that. I'm just not as happy hopping, so I hop half the time.

KING: Do you like -- still like traveling?

G. BUSH: I like to travel. And I get a little more jet lag than I used to. But yes, I love it.

B. BUSH: He was fishing in Test (ph) River last week. He loves fishing.

G. BUSH: Yes, where Bill fished -- William Shakespeare that is. He fished right there in that same river.

KING: Old Bill. All right, now, President Clinton's going to be on tomorrow night. You've both been to the tsunami. He's just coming back, I think.

G. BUSH: Yes. He's been over there for the U.N. this time, I think.

KING: What do you make of this friendship?

G. BUSH: Well, as far as I'm concerned, it is a friendship. And you know, Larry, there's a perception that if you run against somebody, you're enemies. Well, Bill Clinton and I were not enemies. When I was president, he was the Democrat governor in charge of the educational summit. He headed it up for the Democratic governors. We worked very closely together.

And, admittedly, when you run against each other, the elbows get a little sharp. But he knows that I did not criticize him excessively when he was president. And I -- we just -- I just enjoy being with the guy. And he is very considerate of me. I'm, you know, old enough to be his dad, and he's very considerate of me in every way. And he's -- he's...

KING: He never had a dad.

G. BUSH: No, he never did. He never did. But he...

KING: You genuinely like each other?

G. BUSH: I think so. I know I do. But you'd better ask him when you talk tomorrow.

KING: I'll ask him tomorrow. But this tsunami thing has brought you closer, right?

G. BUSH: Oh, no question about it. And Larry, you feel you're doing something bigger than your own political lives, or bigger than your own self. I mean, what we saw out there, and I'm anxious to see him when he gets back, about this -- what he's seen recently -- it just breaks your heart -- particularly the children. And he's been good to work with.

KING: How bad is it there?

G. BUSH: Terrible.

KING: What do you -- you been there?

B. BUSH: No.

G. BUSH: We -- I think there is progress being made. Progress has definitely been made, but there's a long way to go. We have a thing called the Bush-Clinton Fund, which was small, considered in the overall generosity of the American people. But it raised, I think, 12 million bucks, or something like that.

B. BUSH: In Houston...

G. BUSH: And we have -- in Houston -- we have four specific projects that he and I both signed off on. And I want to get that money out there and -- you know, we're covering the boats and playgrounds for children, and adopting an island in the Maldives. And these kinds of things where we can show the people out there something really is happening. And I think it -- I think it's beginning to.

KING: Are you concerned about his health? G. BUSH: A little bit. The guy's crazy. We went -- we went down there -- Greg Norman put on a golf tournament. The rain was going sideways. It was -- if you think you're cold here today, you should have been down there in the Medalist Golf Course, beautiful course. And he was the last -- President Clinton was the last guy on the course. I said, "Bill, you're being operated on tomorrow. Come in out of the cold." And he wouldn't do it.

KING: He's going to come here in June, right? You're going to play golf, and he's going to stay here?

G. BUSH: Yes, he's going to stay over at our house, yes.

B. BUSH: Yes.

KING: Two presidents staying together.

B. BUSH: We do that often at our house.

KING: That's right. You have others presidents get involved.

B. BUSH: You heard what Bill Clinton said? When -- when I jokingly referred to him as son, and he said -- a good Democrat friend of his said, "Those Bushes will do anything to get another president in the family."

KING: That's a great...

B. BUSH: That's Bill Clinton's line, not mine.

KING: Yes, it is. Are you fond of him?

B. BUSH: Yes. All right. Yes, no, I like him.

KING: You don't like him, though?

B. BUSH: No, I think he's...

G. BUSH: She hasn't been around him.

B. BUSH: No, I haven't. But he's been very good about not criticizing the president. As of today's paper, he did not criticize the paper -- I mean the president. And I appreciate that.

G. BUSH: He will if he has to. But he -- he's gone out of his way on this tsunami thing to back the administration on what it's trying to do.

KING: You like Hillary?

B. BUSH: I don't really know her that well, but I don't dislike her. Would I vote for her? No.

KING: Last night, Lynn Cheney suggested that Laura run against Hillary.

B. BUSH: That's crazy.

KING: Laura wouldn't run.

B. BUSH: We can't have another president in the family.

KING: Would you want Jeb to run? He says no.

G. BUSH: Some day I would, yes.

KING: But not now?

G. BUSH: He'd be awfully good. He'd be -- this guy's smart, big and strong. Makes the decisions. And you know, not without controversy, but he's led that state.

KING: Is the timing wrong now, though?

G. BUSH: Yes. The timing's wrong. The main thing is, he doesn't want to do it. Nobody believes that, but...

KING: You believe it?

B. BUSH: I believe it.

G. BUSH: Yes.

KING: You believe it, too?

G. BUSH: But he's a wonderful fellow. And he comes up here, and he's just -- he's just great to have as a son, I'll tell you.

KING: We'll be right back in Kennebunkport on this historic week. And we can't thank them enough for joining us, the Bushes. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

G. BUSH: And I think that fact that Clinton and I, once opponents -- you remember he defeated me very soundly in 1992 -- we're not talking about that -- but, we come together and, politics is aside, and we're doing the right thing. It feels good to give. It feels good to try again to help others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. UNITED STATES: I make decisions on what I bet -- on what I think is best for the country, but my faith is important to me, and a lot of times my faith comes up because I thank people for their prayers, and I mean, people from all religions, but, no I think the church ought to be separate from the state and the state separate from the church, but I don't see how you can separate your faith as a person. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back in Kennebunkport with President George Bush and Barbara Bush. The other President Bush held a press conference this morning. And of course, you see clips of him all the time on this program. He's been a guest on this program.

What is it -- what is it like, Barbara, to be the mother of a president?

B. BUSH: It's worrisome, because you worry about his responsibilities. Having said that, it's not very much different from the other children. We were in Washington last week, and I got there before George, and Laura was overseas, and it really touched me -- the president came out and met me at the door. I would feel the same way if Doro stopped work, or Marvin stopped work and came out of the building. I really loved it.

But it's not that much different, do you think?

G. BUSH: No.

B. BUSH: Except the huge...

KING: Does he call home?

B. BUSH: Lots.

KING: Calls Mom?

B. BUSH: To see how -- calls Mom and Dad to see how we're feeling. Is it cold up there? Or tells us what he's going to do. We ask, "What are you going to do today?" Or "Was it hard going to..."

G. BUSH: Checks in early in the morning and no agenda, no -- doesn't want anything or doesn't -- he's -- he knows what he's got to do, and he goes out and does it. But he's still -- family means a lot to him.

You asked what it's like. It's about family, Larry. It's not about the big deal or the head table or all that stuff. It's about a father and mother and a son. And you showed me pictures of your kids. I can whip out pictures of mine. I mean, it's -- that's what it's about, and it's hard for people to realize that. But we've been there and loved every minute of trying to serve. And we take great pride in our boys that are in politics. But it's exactly the same for the others.

KING: Can you honestly say -- it's hard, that you love every child equally?

B. BUSH: Absolutely.

KING: That Marvin is as important to you as George?

B. BUSH: Absolutely. KING: And Neil is as important as Jeb? And Doro is as important...

B. BUSH: Yes, and Doro. Absolutely.

G. BUSH: No question. I think they know that, too.

B. BUSH: And what's more, they all love each other, which makes it -- I mean, they're very loyal. If George gets hurt, Marvin hurts. If Marvin gets hurt, Doro hurts. They're -- and all the way down the line. They're very loyal, loving.

And maybe that's what politics does for you, it draws you either apart or together. In our case, it drew us together, I think.

KING: Do you ever really get over the loss of a child?

G. BUSH: Yes, but she's still here. We still -- feel like I can talk about it now, where I couldn't for the first 30 years or so. But you feel it. You kind of feel her presence.

B. BUSH: Lots of nice thing. There's a room up there in a hospice, a Ronald McDonald-type house, the Gary Pyke (ph) house, the Robin Bush room.

G. BUSH: M.D. Anderson.

B. BUSH: There's a clinic, as you know, at M.D. Anderson. The children's clinic is named Robin Bush, child and adolescent clinic. And there are schools and things named after her. So I feel like she really has done a lot of good.

KING: We were speaking last night at the house, the other house, about disharmony in government today, this anger.

G. BUSH: There does seem to be -- I'm not sure it's anything really new. But...

KING: Really?

G. BUSH: I think maybe -- well, we don't go to Washington much. Except when we do, we stay with George and Laura, and we're out of the cross-current, you might say. But I think it's probably fair to say there's more hostility and ugliness. You see it, I think, in the Congress a lot. But...

KING: Was it that way when you were in the House?

G. BUSH: I don't remember it being quite so -- quite so, so visceral. I mean, we...

B. BUSH: Your two best friends were Democrats in the House. Other than that...

KING: Who?

B. BUSH: Sonny Montgomery. Ludd Ashley.

G. BUSH: Oh, yes.

B. BUSH: I mean, and other very good Republican friends.

KING: But it seemed that, historically, Democrats and Republicans, had great friendships. Goldwater and Kennedy were great friends.

B. BUSH: Yes, but I think they still do. I really do think that some of them still do. There's certainly a lot of bitterness, though.

G. BUSH: Yes, there is.

KING: Do you feel it when they take on your son?

G. BUSH: Very much so.

KING: You get personal about that?

G. BUSH: Yes.

KING: Worse than when they hit you?

G. BUSH: Don't do anything about it, but yes, much worse. Much worse when your kids are criticized, in this case the president, our son, is criticized, or when Jeb went through a lot of -- lot of grief down there in Florida. You feel it. You feel it more than when it was about yourself.

When you're in the arena, you can strike back or you can call them "so-and-sos" and do something. But when you're -- when it's your -- when it's, in this case, one of our two sons, you really feel it. It affects me very badly.

KING: You, too?

B. BUSH: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) You bet!

KING: No, you the worst.

B. BUSH: Well it affects me when George was criticized. I was thinking he has a very short memory. He didn't just love being criticized.

G. BUSH: No, that wasn't the question. Which is worse? It's worse when it's your kids.

B. BUSH: It is worse.

KING: But you get angrier, right?

B. BUSH: Well, I...

KING: Historically, you seem to get...

B. BUSH: Hysterically?

KING: Historically, historically you've been.

B. BUSH: That's what you thought I did.

KING: Well, your image was...

B. BUSH: That's right.

KING: ... Barbara Bush...

B. BUSH: The enforcer.

KING: That's right.

B. BUSH: That's because he wanted to get -- be the good guy, and I was the bad guy.

KING: You were the...

G. BUSH: No. I believe you turn the other cheek. And they knocked that one off, too. So...

B. BUSH: Oh, you do not.

KING: Do you get mad at people?

B. BUSH: Oh...

G. BUSH: Quietly mad, yes. I don't get, you know, throwing stuff mad. But I -- yes, I do.

KING: But...

G. BUSH: I get mad at -- I'll tell you what I get mad at. I get mad at people in the press when I know something is blatantly wrong, and yet I've got friends who write stuff I hate. Now that's a little complicated. You may want to stretch me out and get me...

KING: I'm stretching. What do you mean?

G. BUSH: .. on the couch.

B. BUSH: On the couch.

G. BUSH: Who's that woman that always analyzes you to death at one of these fancy, slick magazines in New York. She's always analyzing us.

KING: Who was that?

B. BUSH: I don't know.

G. BUSH: But anyway, that kind of thing burned me up. But for the most part, I mean, you know, my view is, let them do their job, but I don't have to like it anymore. I can speak out once in a while. Maybe I should have gotten on the people in the press that I didn't like more than I did. I didn't do that.

KING: Do you think there's a bias?

G. BUSH: Oh, yes.

KING: You do?

G. BUSH: Oh, absolutely. Yes.

B. BUSH: Maybe both sides. Maybe both sides.

KING: Deliberate? You think the press gets up in the morning and said, "Let's hit George Bush today"?

G. BUSH: Some of them do. Oh, sure.

B. BUSH: Well, and I think some get up in the morning and say, "Let be against anything that isn't way, way right."

G. BUSH: Some get up and say, "We like the Bushes. Let's see what we can do." But we didn't come in here on a watermelon cart, Larry.

KING: But isn't it true that all they want is a good story?

G. BUSH: Huh?

KING: Basically, don't they just want a good story?

G. BUSH: Well, yes. But some of them -- look, I'm absolutely convinced that there is editorial bias in some of the news, some of the way the news is reported. And for people that sit in the editorial meetings, you'll get a little mole in there that'll come say, "God, you should have heard what they said today in the planning meeting for one of the big network guys." And then we're asked to believe that it's totally fair and even, and it's not.

KING: More on that in the minute. Our guests are the Bushes. We're in Kennebunkport. And this our 20th anniversary week. President Clinton tomorrow night. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

G. BUSH: I've got a car in Washington, but I don't drive it very much. I drive around the circle, in the oval, in front of the White House. I can drive when I got hunting.

KING: Still a Texas driver's license?

G. BUSH: Still. Do you want to see it?

Let me see -- I gotta be sure...

KING: Make sure it's not expired. G. BUSH: It's got to be in the right -- no, no, it's not expired.

KING: Man, I like that smile.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're with George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Bush, the 41st president of the United States, the former first lady.

Do you miss the White House?

B. BUSH: No, not at all.

You know, we do a lot of things, Larry, that are very exciting because we were in the White House.

I mean, you're involved in one. We're very involved...

KING: Your cancer project?

B. BUSH: C-Change, which we're very excited about.

G. BUSH: Very grateful to you for your participation.

KING: We'll be there again in October..

B. BUSH: Good.

KING: ...with our meetings. We're trying to affect the way cancer is treated in this country, is looked at in this country...

B. BUSH: Prevention...

G. BUSH: Prevention in this country. State cancer plans. It's a lot going on with some of the great cancer experts in the world.

B. BUSH: The round -- cancer roundtable...

G. BUSH: That's the CEO roundtable...

B. BUSH: ... getting every single company they can to get all of their employees insured and tested.

KING: Kills more people every day than 9/11.

B. BUSH: Oh, that's right. Every day.

KING: And our biggest enemy.

B. BUSH: Well, they're hoping to wipe out a million new cases and cure 500,000 by the year 2010.

KING: That was Nixon's role, remember? G. BUSH: Yes, he started it off, the Nixon cancer plan.

KING: All right. Dan Rather will be here Thursday. When he broke that story about your son, how did you feel when he broke it? How do you react to the aftermath?

G. BUSH: Well, Dan and I have kind of a controversial history, you might say, because we went toe-to-toe back when I was vice president, and that is not a good way to get along with Dan. I won that battle. The switchboard lit up, and he won the war. Because when we go back and analyze the coverage, CBS gave me far worse coverage on running for president against Bill Clinton than the other three networks, if you believe these media groups that are set up to analyze it.

But so -- but I've seen him since then. And I respect his career.

And, I don't know, I'm just not a good guy to ask about all his assets, but I would say one is -- one asset is that he served with -- for a long time with great distinction.

KING: What did you make of the story, though, about...

G. BUSH: Oh, the story on...

B. BUSH: George...

G. BUSH: I didn't like that a bit.

B. BUSH: It wasn't true, that's all.

G. BUSH: And I think he paid a terrible price. But he did pay a price for that. But I don't, you know, God, some of the people that were involved in that thing, we've known some of them -- Ben Barnes, for example -- and never that unfavorably but, after what he did to George...

KING: Did you know that he disliked George that much?

G. BUSH: Who, Dan?

KING: Ben Barnes.

B. BUSH: Ben Barnes.

G. BUSH: No. Because he had already said there wasn't anything to this. Then he came back in.

I don't know what drove that -- a lot of our friends in Texas don't quite know what did it.

KING: Did you enjoy the come-uppance of Dan?

B. BUSH: No.

KING: You didn't?

G. BUSH: You don't take pleasure in seeing somebody fall down.

B. BUSH: In fact, didn't the girl take most of the blame?

KING: Yes, but she's still working -- no, he's working but he's not anchoring the news.

B. BUSH: Well, no, you don't take any pleasure in that.

G. BUSH: (INAUDIBLE) took the blame on what?

KING: The producer.

B. BUSH: The producer.

G. BUSH: Oh, did she?

B. BUSH: But no, I don't take pleasure in that. Would I go across the street and hug him? Probably not. Nor would he hug me -- he couldn't catch me.

KING: What did the president think?

G. BUSH: Well, I don't -- if I knew, I would probably wouldn't say that, but I'm -- you could put me down as quite sure he didn't like it.

B. BUSH: I never heard him say a word about it.

G. BUSH: No.

KING: No?

B. BUSH: No.

G. BUSH: No, no, yes. It's really true.

But, no, we were, you know, we were getting down to the wire here, and for this thing to come out with that much flourish in that big a hurry -- you know, I didn't -- I don't know how it affected the president, but it sure adversely affected me.

KING: When the president has said, when asked at a conference, I believe, he held one this morning, but asked at the press conference, did he consulted you, he said he consults higher authority, meaning God, I guess.

Did you...

G. BUSH: I thought he meant me.

(LAUGHTER)

Come on, Larry.

KING: Did you react -- how do you react to that?

G. BUSH: I reacted -- I know that his faith is real. I know that he is lifted up by his strong personal belief.

I also know he doesn't try to dictate to others, as some charge he does, as to how they ought to...

KING: He does not?

G. BUSH: No. How they ought to worship.

One of my favorite stories, a "Washington Post" reporter that I like went into the president's house in Midland, Texas, years ago. A Bible was there. And the guy said, "You got this out there for a little politics?" And the president said, "No, I've read through every page of it. And it wouldn't hurt you a damn bit, Walt, to read through it yourself."

So this is real.

KING: It changed his life, right?

G. BUSH: Oh, yes, absolutely. But he's a firm believer.

But the point I want to make is that he's not trying to mix church and state. Abraham Lincoln said, you can't be president without -- I'm paraphrasing -- spending some time on your knees in prayer. And that's true, and it's true for me, and it's true for Barbara, and it was true for our president and Laura.

B. BUSH: Well, and, I bet, every president.

G. BUSH: Yes.

B. BUSH: They're huge problems.

G. BUSH: It's what I'm get objecting to is people telling us this is a new conspiracy, the right-wing religious right.

I'm religious...

KING: So there really is a right-wing religious right?

G. BUSH: Yes, and there's a religious left. And I went to many, many churches in Houston, Texas, where the opposition was endorsed.

Nobody made a big deal out of that because they were endorsing Democrats.

You know, there's a lot of conservative religious people, but that doesn't mean the president is, you know, supporting that view over everybody else.

KING: Is he more religious than you?

B. BUSH: Not going to say that. G. BUSH: Well, I don't know about more religious.

KING: He's more devout.

G. BUSH: He feels more comfortable talking about it than I did.

B. BUSH: Our generation didn't talk about that very much.

KING: That's right. We didn't.

B. BUSH: No.

G. BUSH: But that doesn't mean faith isn't important to us.

KING: At a Memorial Day speech here in Kennebunkport yesterday, you discussed the fact that you're not the greatest generation. We'll ask about that right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How did you, emotionally, hold up through all that?

BILL CLINTON, FMR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I'm here.

KING: I know, but -- what, what is it? Is it some sort of inner thing in you? A get-up-off-the-floor, a comeback-kid approach. Is that part of your structure? Where does that come from?

CLINTON: All my life, I was raised to believe that you should never give in and never give up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

G. BUSH: Well, it's fitting and proper that we pause to look back to reflect on the heroism of generations past. Let us not be afraid to look forward, with renewed faith, hope and courage, America's best days are yet to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Welcome back to our historic 20th anniversary week. We're with the Bushes in Kennebunkport. Bill Clinton will be with us tomorrow night. Dan Rather on Thursday. Friday night, Barbara Walters interviews me, and next Monday night, Mark -- attorney Mark Geragos.

We're with the president and Mrs. Bush, as we said, in Kennebunkport.

What do you mean, you're not part of the greatest generation? You fought the war that ended all wars, supposedly. G. BUSH: Well, it didn't go it. No, it was a great war. It was a huge war. It enveloped everything, Pacific, Atlantic, the whole world. So in that sense, it was the greatest challenge. But what I was talking about is these kids that are serving, all-volunteer force, in Iraq today are every bit as patriotic, every bit as motivated as all of us who fought years ago in World War II. That's the point I was trying to make. And I think Brokaw would agree with that. Actually, I talked to Tom about this stuff.

KING: There is no "greatest" man.

G. BUSH: Well, I would think not in terms of generations, because you've got a sample of these generation now, and I like what I see. I like the fact that these kids are serving for the right reasons, and some dying for the right reasons. And that -- that would make it difficult for me to say that our group that did the same thing was greater.

KING: All right, how does it feel to have a son sending people off to die?

B. BUSH: Same way as it felt to have a husband who did that. It's just to help the world become free. And it isn't easy...

(CROSSTALK)

B. BUSH: Terrible.

KING: But it's still (INAUDIBLE).

B. BUSH: Oh, terrible. But terrible for him, for Laura, for the country and the families.

G. BUSH: It's the toughest decision a president makes by far, because there's no buck-stopping. There's no committees. You can't -- should we take a vote? Should we go to fight or not? The president has to decide that. And some of these other things are tough too. Budgets, and what do you do for health care?

But the president makes that decision. It is a tough, you might say lonely decision, but it has to be his, and his alone.

KING: Do you ever -- when you disagree -- no one can agree with anything.

B. BUSH: You mean with us?

G. BUSH: That's for sure, Larry.

KING: With your son.

B. BUSH: Oh.

G. BUSH: Oh.

KING: Or with each other. When you disagree, do you tell him? Do you tell him?

B. BUSH: Very funny.

KING: Would you say to the president, I disagree with this? You don't have to tell me what it is, but would you say it to him?

G. BUSH: Oh, I think so. Yeah.

B. BUSH: Maybe he might ask, do you disagree? Or, I know you disagree.

G. BUSH: Yes.

KING: Has he asked?

G. BUSH: Come on, Larry.

B. BUSH: He might say..

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I know you're not going to be specific, but I can ask if he's asked.

G. BUSH: You can ask, but I don't have to answer whether he has asked.

B. BUSH: This is like "Who's on first?"

KING: OK, what's it like when you disagree?

G. BUSH: No problem. No problem. He's elected. I'm just sitting by here, sitting, you know, as a bystander these days. And the reason is, I don't want to say anything, do anything, publicly sign anything, op-ed anything that has one nuance of difference between myself and the president, because that would be the story. Rush down, the nutty father says this. Or look what the stupid son did. I mean, we don't need to get into that.

So of course, there's going to be differences of emphasis on things.

But he has -- and will always have -- my total support, without any reservation.

And I do stay out of a lot of discussions and yellow-pad conferences, because I don't want to be out there taking positions that in any way appear to diminish what he's trying to do.

KING: When it was reported that he went to Iraq to avenge you, to get Saddam Hussein because Saddam Hussein wanted to have you assassinated, did you buy that?

G. BUSH: No. But he did want to have me assassinated. No, that's of course not. That's not why the president would, you know.

B. BUSH: There were people being killed -- innocent people being slaughtered.

G. BUSH: No, he wouldn't -- but, you know, when that happened, the president, then a private citizen, was very concerned about it. We all were. A lot of friends with us on that trip -- Jimmy Baker...

B. BUSH: Laura was with us.

G. BUSH: Laura was with us.

KING: How close did that come?

G. BUSH: It came a lot closer than we knew when we were there. One guy came in with one of those belts strapped around him. I think there's three or four of them still on death row in Kuwait, and others got long sentences.

KING: Did you fear for his life when you were in the White House?

B. BUSH: Never. Never.

KING: Never did?

B. BUSH: I had the most amazing respect for and admiration for the Secret Service. And I think a lot of people are killed walking across the street these days, or just accidents.

I never worried about that. I don't worry about our children, either.

KING: We'll be right back -- hold up -- we'll be right back...

B. BUSH: What?

G. BUSH: There have been threats and...

KING: I imagine there are.

G. BUSH: Yeah, there are, always, every day, but sometimes they're more serious than others.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What is it like to be shot?

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't know I was shot. I heard a noise, and we came out of the hotel and headed for the limousine, and I heard some noise and I thought it was firecrackers. And the next thing I knew, one of the Secret Service agents behind me just seized me here by the waist and plunged me head first into the limo. I landed on the seat, and the seat divider was down, and then he dived in on top of me, which is part of their procedure, to make sure that I'm covered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with the former president and the former first lady, the Bushes.

The Schiavo case got a lot of attention. Do you have a living will?

G. BUSH: Yes.

B. BUSH: We had one before.

G. BUSH: Now we got a complicated one that I don't understand, but we...

B. BUSH: I better pull the plug on it (ph).

G. BUSH: Everybody went and looked at whether they had a living will or not -- and should, people should have living wills.

KING: Did that case disturb you?

B. BUSH: Well, it did, because there were no winners. I mean, there was nobody who won, and that was very, very sad.

But it disturbed us doubly because our boys were -- somehow or other got involved, whether they wanted to or not.

KING: Well, Jeb did, heavily.

B. BUSH: Heavily.

G. BUSH: (INAUDIBLE) disturbed me is the way some -- Jeb got it from the left and the right. Some people say we didn't do enough, you've got to violate the law.

KING: At the end, it was from the right.

G. BUSH: Exactly. And...

B. BUSH: He did everything the law allowed.

G. BUSH: And he believed strongly that he's not going to go beyond the law and the constitutional provisions there. You know, he did it just right.

But when you see that, Larry, that's a good example of what gets you as a father and a mother. You can't do anything about it, but in that case I was just a proud father when it was over, because he -- I know these decisions are tough, but he did the right thing and stood up with his head high. And I think in the long run, people are going to say this is a man of conviction.

KING: Did you spoke to him during that?

G. BUSH: Yes, I'm sure we did.

B. BUSH: He was very, very sad.

KING: What do you make of this stem cell controversy?

B. BUSH: I don't make anything of it. I'll let George make that one.

G. BUSH: Well, I think there's some misunderstanding. Stem cell research can go on and on and on. What the president has said is you're not going to have public financing for certain kinds of stem -- but I don't think the American people know that. I see the debate. I mean, it's like all the private research that goes on is not going on. I think it's -- I think it's a really tough issue.

KING: So -- federal research would be bad why?

G. BUSH: Well, federal money, because it has to do with one's belief in life, and the president has made his position very clear. And that doesn't mean that there's not stem cell research going on with federal funds. It is. But I'm not an expert on umbilical cord research or anything like that.

But again, here's a position that the president -- under him, federal money is being spent on research. And I don't believe it's happened before. Maybe it has. I don't remember what it was with us.

But I don't think people know that. Because they're out front saying, "Go more, do more." And I think he's done what he thinks is right. And you've got to give respect to the guy.

That's one thing about this president. I mean, I come back from abroad here just now -- Moscow, Geneva, England -- and I think people say, "Look, I might not agree on this issue, but I know where he stands, and I know he means it, and I know he's not posturing for politics. That's good.

KING: Does it bother you when his poll numbers go down?

B. BUSH: You've asked the wrong person, because it doesn't bother me a bit. I don't believe it. George goes up and down with each poll.

KING: It doesn't bother you at all?

B. BUSH: No, because I don't believe it.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) below 50 percent?

B. BUSH: I don't believe that. I think if you asked the average American and you look around the country -- you see what's happening in colleges -- I think they're asking someone else. Nobody's ever asked me or anybody I know.

G. BUSH: It's the oldest one in the world, Barbara.

B. BUSH: Well, it's true, though. Anyone ever ask you?

G. BUSH: No.

(LAUGHTER)

G. BUSH: But that doesn't mean you don't believe in polls...

B. BUSH: No, no, I don't believe...

G. BUSH: Look at the vote in France here, recently.

B. BUSH: Well, it's tough. I don't -- I'm not interested in France. I honestly think that when push comes to shove, George -- people know George is doing what he thinks is right with advice from very good people.

KING: It upsets you?

B. BUSH: Oh, yes.

G. BUSH: Well, now, I don't worry too much about it. And what goes down can go up.

KING: Well, the Social Security thing has hurt him.

G. BUSH: Yes, and there's something that he's doing the right thing on, totally the right thing.

KING: You agree with him totally?

G. BUSH: Absolutely.

And a lot of people say, "Oh, the private thing won't exist until 2050 or something. Let's not do anything."

And I think he's going to win that battle ultimately. But in fact, I'm not sure why people are -- if that's the reason for the polling going down, why it has...

KING: The polling shows Social Security is sacrosanct, isn't it?

G. BUSH: Well, it's sacrosanct, yeah...

KING: It's the most popular program in America.

G. BUSH: ... but I think...

B. BUSH: But he's not taking it away.

G. BUSH: Sure. Every time I ran for office, the Democrats would say, "He's going to take away your Social Security." I remember in Texas, they had signs all up there. You want to eliminate Social Security, take it away. The debate is, you know.

B. BUSH: He's not going to take it away.

G. BUSH: Of course not.

B. BUSH: He's giving you a choice of whether you want to put a small part of yours in the private sector. And that doesn't -- you don't have to do it.

G. BUSH: (INAUDIBLE), frankly.

KING: You do?

G. BUSH: Yeah.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What, President Ford, is the toughest part of being president?

GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, the toughest part, Larry, is that you -- you have to be available 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and you never know when something is coming up that could lead -- that could bring about a challenge to the United States at home and abroad. So you just have to expect the worst and always assume the best will take care of itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with the Bushes. Do you know John Bolton?

G. BUSH: Yes. Not well. He worked in our administration.

The thing that impressed me, though, is Jimmy Baker was so strongly for him. And he worked very closely with Bolton. And that's good enough for me.

KING: What do you make of the fight over it?

G. BUSH: What?

KING: The fight over him?

G. BUSH: Well, a lively debate. I guess you can't -- you know, I think there's a little partisanship involved in that.

But I hope he's confirmed. And I think he -- I think Baker's point is that he's very knowledgeable, very bright, and that's what the president feels, and that's what the top people around the president feel.

I wish I knew him better to give you a personal view on him.

KING: Amnesty International condemned the United States the other day -- Dick Cheney, last night, said he was offended by it -- for our actions in Guantanamo, and comparing it to the Russian gulag. G. BUSH: Well, that's ridiculous. And I'm inclined to agree with General Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who's the most honorable of officers, who just denies that that's the case at all. You know, you get -- you get some of these people that are kind of self-appointed on all the human rights stuff, and that's -- they've got their opinion. Let them say it. But I don't agree with it at all, and I don't know enough about Guantanamo, but I know the people that are in charge of our policy, and I have great confidence in them.

KING: How did 9/11 change you?

B. BUSH: I think it changed us all. I think it made us more careful, more appreciative, more caring.

KING: Are you worried about it happening again?

B. BUSH: No, because...

KING: You don't?

B. BUSH: No, I really don't, because I feel as though, I can't do anything about it, so I'll worry about seeing that people read and that people are educated and they get health care -- I worry about things I can do something about. I can't stop someone who's been educated in our country, who is so vicious that they'll blow up people who have been their host. I just can't worry about that.

KING: Do you?

G. BUSH: Yes.

KING: You worry.

G. BUSH: Well, yes, because there's fanaticism involved here. You can strap a belt around you and go in and blow yourself and a whole bunch of other people up. Yes, I worry.

On the other hand, I worry less than I would have if we had not had a very active homeland security, people -- the department working on this problem. I think we're safer now. And I think we have less of a chance of having planes fly into buildings like this.

But I'm still concerned. And I think it's right that we're spending all this money on safeguarding the American people.

B. BUSH: Worry is different than concern.

KING: Yes. I asked you..

G. BUSH: You're trying to get out of your position.

B. BUSH: Yes.

KING: She's angling.

B. BUSH: I'm dangling there a little. Worry is different than concern.

KING: North Korea worry you? You've dealt with them.

G. BUSH: Not so much worry. I think that one will be resolved.

KING: But you're concerned.

(LAUGHTER)

G. BUSH: Sure.

B. BUSH: Depends on what your definition of concern is.

G. BUSH: You know, when they're -- they -- you know, I have -- it may be unproductive to say it, but I have no confidence at all in Kim Jong Il. I don't know the man, obviously.

I have great confidence in South Korea, and our friendship and alliance with South Korea.

I like the multi-party talk idea, because it's wonderful having China taking a role that they have heretofore not taken in terms of international diplomacy.

KING: You're going to China.

G. BUSH: Going back there in the fall. I've been back there about 14 times since leaving the presidency. And I know the leaders. And I have great respect for what China has done.

KING: You like China a lot.

G. BUSH: I do. Well, we lived there in 1974 and '75. And it's so different now, so much more open, so much more individual freedoms than there used to be. Now, they got a long way to go on some of the human rights questions and all of that, but the market economy has just done wonders for China.

KING: Do you have hope that the Middle East is going to work out?

G. BUSH: Yes, more hope now than I did, than I have had. And I think the president's visit with Abbas was a good one. He seems to have a lot of confidence in Sharon, and maybe he'll be a catalyst to get them together.

KING: That's been the worst, right?

G. BUSH: Oh, yes.

KING: Every president has said it.

B. BUSH: Every president.

G. BUSH: I can say it.

KING: That's the toughest.

G. BUSH: It is tough, Larry, very tough.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with two of the most delightful people, the Bushes. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say that a new president could change the tone of American foreign policy even the first day that he is in office, with the inaugural speech. An eagerness to reach out to other nations, to elevate human rights or civil liberties to a top level, and to resolve conflicts in the world in a peaceful way. You know, those kind of messages I think would send a very clear signal that the foreign policy provisions are going to change, and the implementation of those changes could obviously take time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is it hard to come back to this city? Is it hard to drive by the Watergate?

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I've never been in the Watergate. So it's not a hard thing.

KING: Never been in? Haven't been in the restaurant?

NIXON: No, no. Other people were in there, though, unfortunately. So.

KING: But is it hard for you?

NIXON: No, I don't live in the past. As a matter of fact, one of the problems older people have when they get together, and they only want to reminisce about the past. I don't do that. I like to think about the future. And that's what this book is about. It's not about the past. We use the past only to the extent that it points the way to the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with our remaining moments with the Bushes. Tomorrow night, Bill Clinton.

Got a favorite for the Republican nomination to succeed your son?

G. BUSH: No. Too early.

KING: You think Hillary will be the Democratic nominee?

G. BUSH: If she wants to be. She'll be challenged, though. She'll be challenged. I don't know.

B. BUSH: I'm betting on her.

KING: To be the nominee?

B. BUSH: I'm not going to vote for her, but I'm betting on her.

KING: So you don't think she'll be beaten in the Democratic primary?

B. BUSH: No. And then she may not be beaten in the Republican -- the general election.

G. BUSH: No, she will (INAUDIBLE). Come on.

KING: It's going to be a -- you got to take it seriously...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: What?

B. BUSH: What a burden he's borne.

G. BUSH: All these many years, the burden here. Of course the Republicans will beat her.

B. BUSH: Well, good, I'm going to work for him.

KING: But she's also honest. She is a serious threat.

G. BUSH: Who, Barbara?

KING: You would not take Hillary -- you would take Hillary seriously, wouldn't you?

G. BUSH: Of course. Of course.

KING: So, you're 81. You're going to be 81.

You're going to be 80. I'm sorry.

B. BUSH: No, no, you're allowed to say it. No, no, it's just I don't like birthdays. I don't care if I'm 80.

G. BUSH: And don't send presents.

B. BUSH: And don't send presents.

G. BUSH: I take back what I said. I'm the kind of guy that takes back what he says.

KING: Life is good.

B. BUSH: Life is great.

KING: Do you, when you're at this age, do you make plans? B. BUSH: Yes. We're building a house down here. Sure.

G. BUSH: I've got goals.

B. BUSH: Sure.

KING: Goals?

G. BUSH: Yes, goals. I want to be alive in 2008 when the George H. W. Bush, the latest nuclear carrier, is Christened. I want to be on the bridge. I can do it. 2008, I want to be there to be commissioned -- Christened in 2006, commissioned in 2008, go to sea. And so it's something. I got to make another parachute jump in 2009. So -- but you have to have goals.

B. BUSH: 2009? Is that 85? I guess it is. Want to go, Larry?

(LAUGHTER)

KING: My doctor wouldn't let me. I was going to go.

G. BUSH: He was. That's right.

B. BUSH: I remember.

KING: Why don't you parachute onto the ship?

(LAUGHTER)

B. BUSH: He can do it.

KING: Thank you.

B. BUSH: Thank you.

KING: Thank you for being part of this week for us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: When we come back, we'll go from one American political dynasty to another -- JFK's nephew, Christopher Kennedy Lawford. Boy, does he have some stories. A King-size Christmas continues after "CNN SUNDAY," which starts right now.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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