Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Larry King Live

Interview with George H.W. and Barbara Bush

Aired November 22, 2010 - 21:00   ET



LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, President George H.W. Bush and Barbara.

Hear his comments about President Obama and her candid message for a prominent Republican.

A moving, revealing hour with a few special guests, too.

GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I poured vodka in the fishbowl and killed my little sister Doro's goldfish.



KING: What a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE for the umpteenth time the Bushes. We're at the Houstonian Hotel, the famed hotel in Houston, Texas.

George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, and Barbara, the former first lady who did not wear her suspenders.


KING: You should have, right? One of them keeping. By the way, let's start with you. How are you feeling?

BARBARA BUSH: Very well.

KING: What was wrong?

BARBARA BUSH: I don't know.


BARBARA BUSH: But may I give you some advice? Never ask anyone over 70 how they feel. They'll tell you.


KING: But you were taken to the hospital. Was it an emergency?

BARBARA BUSH: Mm-hmm. But I feel great. That's it. KING: You're not going to tell me what was the matter?


BARBARA BUSH: You mean when I had the --


BARBARA BUSH: No, when I had -- oh, no, I'm not going to tell him that. When I had the perforated ulcer?


KING: What that it was? It wasn't the heart?

BARBARA BUSH: No, I had the heart. I did have that. I have a pig valve. And don't say oink or suey, suey (ph) as some people I know say.

KING: They gave you the pig, not the mechanical?

BARBARA BUSH: Which is better. You don't have to take Coumadin.

KING: That's correct. See -- and how are you feeling?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Fine. I've got a leg, you probably may have noticed how I limped in here. But it's something called Parkinsonitis. It's like Parkinson's in the lower extremities. So you lose your balance. Nobody wants you on their team anymore.

KING: You can't play.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: You can't play on every sport. But life is good. It doesn't hurt and we're very happy here. We're living a very quiet life, Larry.

KING: But doesn't it bother you, Mr. President, being so active? You jumped out of airplanes.

BARBARA BUSH: He can still do that.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I mean one more, my 90th birthday, June 12th, 2014. But other than that -- that's no -- they don't let you solo anymore. So it's just in the army.

KING: I was going to do one with you and my doctor wouldn't let me.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I know it. I remember, we talked about that.

BARBARA BUSH: Maybe I'll go with him, and we can go together.


KING: You're not kidding, though. You will jump on your 90th? GEORGE H.W. BUSH: It's all set. With the Golden Knights. They've committed to it.

KING: Are you happy out of office? Do you still miss it?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I don't. I miss some aspects. But it's been so long since we were there. Much closer is when George W., our son, was there. And it was feel -- we still feel active about that. I mean memories are much clearer.

But I don't miss it. I don't miss going to work every day in the White House. I miss the presidency, of course, and I love being president. I love working at trying to help people and helping solve problems. But it was great. But that's gone. That's history.

KING: I saw you both at the World Series. Was that fun?

BARBARA BUSH: Was it ever.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: What a thrill.

BARBARA BUSH: It was so exciting.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: The thrill for me was going out on the field. Well, it's the World Series game. I'm a baseball fan. So is Bar. But with George, because he worked bring the Texas Rangers to life and did a lot for them. And they -- he had a wonderful ovation. And he said, do you want to throw the ball? I said, heavens no.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH: So he -- he didn't go to the rubber this time as he did in Yankee stadium on that big day.

KING: That was some night.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: That was a big day. But he's -- it was a wonderful, very emotional for us.

KING: Speaking of George W., he has a message for both of you. And if you look to your screen, we will show you.

BARBARA BUSH: That's scary.


G.W. BUSH: Hey, Mom and Dad, how are you? And Larry, thank you very much for interviewing two people I love. I thought what I'd do is read from the book I wrote called "Decision Points."

"As I got older, I came to see that my parents' love was unconditional. I know because I tested it. I had two car wrecks when I was 14, the legal driving age back then. And my parents still loved me. I borrowed dad's car, carelessly charged in reverse, and tore the door off. I poured vodka in the fishbowl and killed my little sister Doro's goldfish. At times I was surly, demanding and brash. "Despite it all, my parents still loved me. Event actually, their patient love affected me. When you know you have unconditional love, there is no point in rebellion and no need to fear failure. I was free to follow my instincts, enjoy my life and love my parents as much as they loved me."


BARBARA BUSH: That's pretty nice.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: That's so sweet. Did you write that for him?


KING: How did you feel about the book, his book?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Good. I think he'd done a good job selling the darn thing. He's been out there all over the place. But no, I liked it. And it's from the heart and it's how he feels and why he made tough decisions and how he made them. It was good.

KING: How did you feel about it?

BARBARA BUSH: I loved the book. I thought it was very frank. And he's not trying to write a biography or -- he's trying to tell how it is in the White House. Lots of people didn't know that you couldn't just go when there's a hurricane and just take troops in.

You have to be invited. And I remember George went through that with Hurricane Andrew. And it made me so mad that he got -- both my child and my husband got criticized for not taking troops in. You can't go unless the governor calls you.

KING: Did he let you pre-read the book?

BARBARA BUSH: No. But he did ask permission to tell a story or two.

KING: About that sad story. Why did you let him do that story?

BARBARA BUSH: Well, because he said he wanted to.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: About which?

BARBARA BUSH: He really wanted to point out, I think --

KING: You lost a child?

BARBARA BUSH: Yes. He wanted to point out -- well, barely a child. But he wanted to point out how close we were. And I must say he was the cutest guy you ever saw. Just 14. No socks on. Drove me to the hospital like a grownup man and paced the hall and some woman said, don't worry, your wife will be fine.


KING: You lost the baby -- you lost a child.


BARBARA BUSH: Well, that part was tough on him and it was tough on the other children, which I never realized before. Not in George's book. But Doro wrote a story once and said, you know, Robin's death affected my life. I thought I ought to be blond, curly haired, I ought to be all those things.

That's tough on them.

KING: You wrote that wonderful book.


KING: About your letters.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: "All the Best."

KING: This was -- "All the Best," surely you're the number one letter writer in America.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Used to be.

KING: You don't write them out anymore?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: No. You know what's ruined it? E-mail.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH: You don't write the letters. Just get on that -- hit the reply button or the send button and it's -- you know, it's fast and quick.

KING: Not you?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: No, it's not.

KING: We'll be back with the Bushes in Houston. Don't go away.


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

KING: I'll read parts of it. This is a letter to his mother after wanting to have another daughter. Their daughter Robin had died of leukemia 1953 at age 3. The letter was found among his mother's things.

"We need a legitimate Christmas angel, one who doesn't have cuffs beneath her dress." You have to be a father to know this. "We need someone who is afraid of frogs. We need someone to cry when I get mad, not argue. We need a little one who can kiss without leaving egg or jam or gum. We need a girl.

"We had one once. She'd fight and cry and play and make her way just like the rest but there was about her a certain softness. But she is still with us. We need her and yet we have her. We can't touch her and yet we can feel her. We hope she'll stay in our house for a long, long time. Love, Pop."




KING: Still has a Texas driver's license?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Yes, want to see it?

KING: Yes. Sex is male. Eyes are brown. Birthday 6/12/24, and this expires 6/12/93.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I'm legal. See? Where's your car? Let's go for a drive.


KING: We're back with the Bushes in Houston. So thankful that you did this. I know you don't do a lot of interviews anymore. So I can't tell you how much the staff and I appreciate it.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: We're Larry King fans.

BARBARA BUSH: That's right.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I don't know what the air is going to be like without you on it. It's going to be very different.

KING: Thank you.

In talking about his relationship with you, the -- your son George knocks down the notion that he was competitive with you. He writes, "Over the years there's been a lot of speculation about my relationship with Dad. I suppose that's natural for the first father and son presidents in 172 years. The simple truth is I adore him. Throughout my life I respected him and admired him."

What did you make of the stories that you had a clash?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: They burned me up.

KING: And a movie "W" made a whole deal -- did you ever see that movie?


BARBARA BUSH: I may have. Probably hated it.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I don't think I will.

KING: OK. GEORGE H.W. BUSH: But it -- you know, I thought it was crazy because we know who we are. We know how we get along. And there's no rivalry or there's no kind of trying to live up to something or bring the boy up.

I mean, it's crazy. We're a close, loving family, Larry. And these speculative stories just drove me crazy.

KING: How about you?

BARBARA BUSH: Well, they are nutty. There was people saying we wanted Jeb to be president, not George. That's -- who writes things? Two books were written about me by someone who never said booked me ever. So I mean, I think you just overlook those. They're just not true.

KING: But you got angrier than your husband, didn't you?



GEORGE H.W. BUSH: She still does.

KING: You're feistier than him?


BARBARA BUSH: Well, you're not so modest.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Well, I'm quiet, kind of --

BARBARA BUSH: You're quiet.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Laid back.

KING: But he doesn't get as angry as you would get at something printed that's wrong, right?

BARBARA BUSH: Right. But I -- I mean, I'm older now and more mature. But truthfully when someone can write --

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: You're older than anyone.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH: But no -- but you see --

KING: Good line.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Thank you. She -- Barbara doesn't -- she's even and she doesn't get all fired up about these things anymore.

KING: But when they -- for example, it was always printed that you disagree with your son in a lot of political areas. Was that -- you don't have to reveal them but was that true? GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Not true.

KING: You didn't agree with him all the time?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I'm sure there were times we differed. I'm sure they're times Barbara Bush differed and she probably went and told him.

BARBARA BUSH: I told him.

KING: Yes, you would.

BARBARA BUSH: He didn't ask me.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: But I didn't -- you know he was running doing his thing. He's elected twice president of the United States. And he didn't need his father -- I noticed one of these individuals he did, you should have talked to your dad.

The truth is, he had his people around him. His people that he knows. A wide array of people. They have the facts and they know what's going on. And I'm an old guy on the sideline. A loving father. And I don't have an opinion on all these issues now. And he knew that, I'm sure.

KING: Did you ever want him to call you?


BARBARA BUSH: He called all the time about other things.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: He calls a lot.

BARBARA BUSH: He still calls a lot. But --

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I didn't want him to call, Dad, what do I do now? You know?

KING: Didn't want that?


BARBARA BUSH: No, but he -- George knew, having been president, you have all these people. CIA, FBI, foreign intelligence. All the intelligence comes to the president. Doesn't come to his father. And once you're out, you're out.

KING: How do you look at yourself -- I mean, we have only three -- well, we have four families in America that are comparable in some way.


KING: The Adams, the Roosevelts, the Kennedys, the Bushes. They can be called dynasties.

BARBARA BUSH: That's a compliment.

KING: Presidents, uncles were president, senators, CIA, Congress.

BARBARA BUSH: That's a compliment.

KING: Do you look at -- you ever look in the mirror and say, jeesh?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Part of a dynasty? No.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH: You just -- you don't, Larry. We don't operate that way. And people say, why don't you write a book? It will be good for your legacy. I've banned the "L" word in our office. We don't use that word. And let the historians figure out what we got right and what I got wrong. And so --

KING: You don't ever say to yourself? I mean look at this country, still young, it has had four families that continue on.

BARBARA BUSH: No. But I'm not against the "L" word because I think we have passed on to our grandchildren or -- and children. Neil heads the Points of Light Foundation as a volunteer.

KING: Going to talk about something coming in March about that.

BARBARA BUSH: That's right. Most of our grandchildren who are of an age are doing wonderful things. I think that's a legacy. They've seen their mothers and fathers and their grandparents. I think that's a legacy.

KING: Were your children always equal to you even though one -- two became governors of states, one became a president?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Yes, we felt the same about all of them. We feel the same about Neil and Marvin and Jeb who were never involved -- Jeb was governor. But the other two were not. Doro, our daughter -- they're all the same in terms of love and in terms of being close -- closeness.

It's a good question. People say well, you must feel closer to one or closer to another and we don't. I can speak for Bar and me.

KING: So when Marv comes in the room, it's the same as George?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Definitely.

BARBARA BUSH: Absolutely. And George counts on him as being -- young George counts on him as being a great friend. Every one of them worked for him.

KING: He's a friend as well as a father?

BARBARA BUSH: That's right. KING: We'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with the Bushes, who have always been so gracious to me personally and to our staff at the White House, at their home in Kennebunkport, here in Houston as well.

We've had a closeness that is hard to describe over these years. Spent so much time together. It's great knowing them and talking to them and seeing them especially to me here tonight.

You also disclose, Barbara -- George discloses something very personal about you, which he says you gave him special permission to write about. He wrote that when you once had a miscarriage, you showed him the fetus in the jar.

BARBARA BUSH: No, really the truth is --

KING: We touched on it before. But we didn't elaborate.

BARBARA BUSH: I didn't put it in the jar.

KING: What?

BARBARA BUSH: It's not in the library. No --

KING: I know.

BARBARA BUSH: George -- Paula put it in the jar. And I was shocked when she gave it to him to -- but, you know, memories dim a little bit but anyway -- but he was very --

KING: Were you shocked that he put it in the book?

BARBARA BUSH: No. He asked permission and I gave him permission. It's his book. And I think he was trying to say that he and I have a very special relationship. We tease all the time, and that's not very nice of me, but --you know you've got to tease a little bit. And he teases me unmercifully. But we're very close.

KING: You had differing opinions, though, on pro-life, did you not?

BARBARA BUSH: I don't remember.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Yes, they did.

BARBARA BUSH: Shh, George.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: You were never that fired up about it.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH: When I was president. BARBARA BUSH: I wasn't president, nor was I president when George was president. But that's one issue. I'm not a one-issue person. I mean, I'm -- I don't believe in that and I don't think my Georges do either. I think they try to think of what keeps America safe and what is -- you respect other people's feelings, religions, beliefs. And I do that, too.

KING: But you have your own opinions.

BARBARA BUSH: Of course I do. But I wasn't in office. I wasn't courageous enough to run. And I'm still not courageous enough to run.

KING: It took courage to run, didn't it?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I wouldn't say courage but I had determination. And, you know, go right down, give it -- give it your all. A kind of all-out effort. But I don't think it's a courageous thing to do.

KING: You face winning and losing?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: That's right. Well --


GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Losing is tough.

KING: I mean there's nothing worse for -- and you get a day -- there's a day in November where a politician gets measured.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: That's right. And losing is not -- losing hurts. In my case, I just felt I had let a lot of people down rather than -- what am I going to do? I mean --

KING: You mean the people who work for you?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Oh, yes. Campaign people and chairman and -- you know?

BARBARA BUSH: People who gave you money.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I mean the donors. I mean everybody. You just felt, well, I've let this crowd down.

BARBARA BUSH: Tell him what Doro said after we lost. We came out and got in the car and Doro burst into tears. She was about so big and we said, what's the matter? And she said I'm the only one in my class with a daddy without a job.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I lost -- one of my losses in the Senate race.

KING: You have a great family, though. You appreciate them a lot.


KING: George -- he writes in the book, "When I ran for governor I told people I had my daddy's eyes and my mother's mouth."

Great line. True?

BARBARA BUSH: Probably. I wish he'd said, I had my -- no, he shouldn't have said that. Maybe he should say I had my father's brain and left me out.

KING: Maybe.



KING: We have another message from you and this is from your son Neil. Watch.


NEIL BUSH, SON: I remember coming home from school oftentimes and mom would tell us what she was doing during the day, you know, working in an incurable disease ward at a hospital or participating in a literacy program at a school, or dad coming home on weekends from the Congress when he was serving as a young congressman and working with inner city youth, baseball programs and that kind of thing.

They devoted their lives to serving others. It's not remarkable that when they got the highest bully pulpit available in the world, the presidency, that they used it to push community service and volunteer activism in the nation.

And the Points of Light Movement is being pushed aggressively forward. Over 60 million Americans serve today.

I'm proud of you, mom. I'm proud of you, dad, for setting such a great example for others to serve.


KING: I think he almost lost it.

BARBARA BUSH: Like a true Bush. He cries.

KING: Yes. The Bushes -- the Bushes cry.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: We're a very emotional family. Very.

KING: What's special about Neil? We'll talk in the next segment about Points of Light. What's special about him?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Well, he's the kindest boy -- boy. That man. He's the most generous, thoughtful person in our whole family, I think. And he's just kind. He just -- he's good to people. He's always doing things for others. When he was little, who's going to -- who's going to go out and get the -- take the trays out? Mr. Perfect, Mr. Perfect. I'd look at Neil, and out he'd go. But he's always helping. Always doing something for somebody else.

BARBARA BUSH: If they voted Kennebunkport on who's the favorite it's always Uncle Neil because he takes them in George's boat every night over to go (INAUDIBLE) to get ice cream. Now granted they may need sleep, the little ones. But Neil is, I'll be through my work at 5:00. They're all at his door at 5:00.

KING: It came right through on that tape.

We'll talk about Points of Light and other things when we come back.



GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I will keep America moving forward, always forward, for a better America, for an endless enduring dream and a thousand Points of Light. This is my mission, and I will complete it.


KING: We are back with the Bushes. Neil mentioned the Points of Light Movement. There is I understand a big event coming at the Kennedy Center in Washington in March to honor you for your work in that area.

What's going on? What's planned?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Well, we don't go back to Washington much -- so it's a return to Washington, I'd say. Aha. But a lot of friends are going to participate. And this Points of Light Movement -- it is a movement. It means something to me, the volunteerism, one private sector helping each other instead of making government do everything. And it's really, I think, just a nice way of getting us back there and honoring us. And we're very excited about it.

KING: You looking forward to this?

BARBARA BUSH: Very much. I really think it's going to be exciting. They're hopeful that they can get -- well, they have gotten a lot of people to offer. We're hoping it will be more music and dancing and not too much talking. We're hoping that people who come --

KING: It's not a speech night?

BARBARA BUSH: Not a speech night, that it will be a fund-raiser. So, we're hopeful that people will --

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: For Points of Light.

BARBARA BUSH: -- will be entertained and will be amused and they won't say, oh, not another night. I think it's going to be --

KING: It sounds great.

BARBARA BUSH: I think it's going to be great.

KING: I'm going to come and if I can help you, let me know.

BARBARA BUSH: OK. We're onlookers, supposed to be sort of a surprise.

KING: I emceed your 80th birthday.

BARBARA BUSH: Remember that. Don't go into it.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Remember how long it went on? Poor Larry, you had to be somewhere.


KING: -- Texas and Gorbachev, he wanted to speak. And every other head of state wanted to speak.

BARBARA BUSH: Well, they were good sports. But he just -- not only did he speak, he spoke long and then had to be interpreted.

KING: Yes.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: But he's a good man. We were proud he was here.

KING: He said, I wanted to be here and I will speak.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Exactly.

KING: That was some night, though, the entertainment. Right here at the ballpark.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: That's right. That's right.

KING: Boy, what a -- was Points of Light, by the way, your idea?

BARBARA BUSH: Absolutely.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Well, I'm sure it was my idea, but it was a statement I made in one of my inaugural addresses I think talking about thousand points of light. And then it took on from there, but I guess it was my idea, our idea.

BARBARA BUSH: Remember what you said -- he said about George? You have one fault only. You never take credit. It was your idea. It was your speech. And you did say it.

KING: So, take credit.

BARBARA BUSH: Take credit.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I take the credit.

KING: All right. It's your idea.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: All right, Larry.

KING: We'll be back with more of the Bushes in Houston. Don't go away.



GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Do you know what the best selling bumper sticker is? Annoy the media. Reelect Bush. And you know why?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For two years, you did not recognize that people were hurting out here a when we were in a recession and I'm tired of your party and you preaching to us about family values.

KING: Don't make a speech. Do you have a question?

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



KING: We're back with the Bushes. We have to touch a little politics here. There's so much being said about 2012 and everything. Is Jeb thinking about it?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I don't think he is. In fact, I know he's not.

But, would he be a good president? Absolutely. Don't just take that from a father prejudice view.

I mean, he's a good man. He performed as governor. He's well spoken. He is not an extremist. He's not a wild guy that attributes bad motives to those that disagree with him and he's good.

And people that know him and hear him say the same thing. So, I think the bottom line is he just doesn't want to try, doesn't want to do it.

KING: How do you feel about the Tea Party?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Well, I don't know what it really is, Larry. I don't really -- I mean, some of the ideas make a lot of sense. But how if fits in -- I noticed in the paper today they were talking about whether -- what the Tea Party would do to get the Republicans in Congress to do something. Well, I don't -- these people have all been elected, whether they're Tea Partiers or not. So, I'm confused by it frankly and I don't know -- nobody has ever been to see me, we represent the Tea Party. But I think it's all right.

KING: What's your read about Sarah Palin?

BARBARA BUSH: Well, I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful, and I think she's very happy in Alaska. And I hope she'll stay there.

KING: You have a way of putting things, Barbara, that are very unique and are uniquely Barbara-isms. You've had this all your life with her.

B. BARBARA: He's put up with it.

KING: I mean, if you want a direct opinion, she likes Alaska, stay there.

Do you have any personal favorite in 2012?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Well, I mentioned Jeb, but he's not going to try. So, I don't. I don't really.

If you asked me, who was the nominee be, I couldn't tell you. We like Mitt Romney. We know him well and like him very much.

KING: He's more in your -- in keeping with the Bush political stance, isn't he?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Don't want to kill him off.

KING: No, he's been called middle of the road?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Yes, he's a reasonable guy. A conservative fellow, which is good. But, no, I think he'd be a good president, a very good president.

KING: Do you have a favorite?

BARBARA BUSH: I'll go with George. Mitt Romney. I like a lot of them. But I like people who feel that you can respect other people's ideas. I like that a lot.

KING: Respect is not popular in America.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH: We don't know them all. You've got Pawlenty out there from the Midwest.

KING: Yes.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I don't know him. Never met him. Everybody says he's a wonderful person.

BARBARA BUSH: We like the governor of Louisiana.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Haley Barbour. BARBARA BUSH: Well, and the governor of

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Mississippi.

KING: Haley Barbour is Mississippi.

BARBARA BUSH: I like Louisiana and Mississippi.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Bobby Jindal.

KING: Yes.

BARBARA BUSH: There's just a lot of people who are voices of reason. I think of Jeb as a voice of reason.

KING: What do you think of President Obama?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Well, he's been very pleasant to me personally, very. And I remember when I went up to Washington to do something. I forget what it was. And he heard I was going -- with Jeb incidentally. The White House sent word over he'd like us to come by. We did that.

He came here to my library, at Texas A&M, for a Points of Light event. And he was very gracious. So, on a personal basis, I'm very strongly impressed. And he's a decent, decent man. And he's taken a lot of heat lately. But that goes with the territory.

KING: Do presidents, despite the politics, have sympathies for other presidents?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: I think I would. I mean, I think so. And, I mean, I don't like to see anybody beat up on and down.

And people are -- some are down on him today, although his numbers aren't bad. And -- but I -- he's a good man. He's a decent man.

And my trouble is if you like somebody, it's hard to be hypercritical.

KING: What do you make of Michelle?

BARBARA BUSH: I like her very much. She's been very nice to me. I feel a little bit like George W. There are plenty of people who can pick on the president. We've been there. I mean, dowdy and fat and whatever.

But she's -- she's very attractive. She's into literacy. She's into children. That's good. I'm for that.

But I'm not going to criticize her, nor am I going to criticize the president, much to your shock.

KING: I'm not -- well, yes, I'm a little shocked. But I didn't expect you to be. We'll be back with more of the open Bushes after this.


KING: We're back with the Bushes in Houston.

By the way, if you want more information on Points of Light, on the event in March, just go to -- a wonderful organization.

By the way, George discloses in his book that he wrote you a letter the day he declared war in Iraq, saying that he knew what you went through and that you wrote him back saying he was doing the right thing. Did that turn out to be the right thing?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Yes, it did. Saddam Hussein is no longer around. And that in itself makes it the right thing.

Now, do you worry about the lives lost? Of course you do. But I think he made a courageous decision, a proper decision. And we forget that Congress and many people in the press wanted to bring down Saddam Hussein, and George stepped up to the plate and did something about it.

Now, the weapons of mass destruction was a great disappointment to him, as he said, that they weren't found in big numbers or found at all. But that doesn't mean that the mission itself isn't worthwhile.

KING: You think history will be kinder to him?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Yes, definitely. History will be kind to him because he's a man of principle, did what he said he's going to do, kept our country safe in the first time we were really attacked on that 9/11. And that in itself --

KING: He says he doesn't think about history much. He says history will decide. Do you think about history much?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: For him? Yes.

KING: For you.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: No, not for me. Larry, I'm too darn old. I just think about how to get home and go to bed.

No, but I don't -- I don't think about history and I don't keep up with events like I used to. So, it's different now -- very, very different. But history will be kind to George.

KING: We have another message for you and this is from your daughter Doro. Let's watch.


DOROTHY BUSH KOCH, PRES. BUSH'S DAUGHTER: One thing you may know about my dad is that he jumps out of airplanes but one thing you may not know about my dad is that he's a wedding crasher. This I guess you could call hobby includes two of his very favorite things -- one, his boat, and two, making other people happy.

So, my dad will go down the Kennebunkport River in his boat and he'll see a bride and groom along the shore having a wedding at one of the many hotels in Kennebunkport and he'll wave at the bride and groom. And the next thing you know he's pulling over at the nearest dock and the bride and groom, and sometimes the entire wedding party, are running down to jump on the boat with my dad and get their picture taken.

And I love to think of how many brides and grooms have the 41st president of the United States in their wedding album.


BARBARA BUSH: That's great.

KING: So, we learned something here.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: The last time I did that was with Phil Mickelson, a great golfer and great friend of ours, Amy and Phil. And yes -- well, he's a good guy.

And so, I think we went into this wedding and all the people came around as Doro said. And I had the feeling they were saying, who is this guy with Phil? Look at me. I might have been wrong, but I think so. He's a bigger than life, wonderful person.

KING: By the way, did you -- I know about the Clinton. Did you go to Chelsea Clinton's wedding?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: No. You know, it's interesting. About two or three days before the wedding, we're in Maine, I think, and we get a phone call from Bill Clinton. Nothing to do with the wedding, just he's busy. He just called up, how are you doing? I have a very good personal relationship with him.

KING: I know.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: But, no, we weren't invited nor should we have been.

BARBARA BUSH: No, we were thrilled. We think it's -- that's the way it should be.

Jenna's wedding had no politicians, none. They had family and close friends. I think that's what Bill did and Hillary. And that's difficult because she's -- she has a job and they're much closer to politics than we are.

KING: What do you think of his relationship with Bill?

BARBARA BUSH: I liked it. It took me a little while, I confess. But you can't dislike Bill Clinton. He's very likable. And he was so good to George. George told me over and over again he would -- he would let George have the bed. I mean, he's just really nice.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: When we traveled.

BARBARA BUSH: I have a feeling that Bill wishes he had a father like George, truthfully.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: And we have a close, friendly, personal relationship, and he's been extraordinarily kind to me.

BARBARA BUSH: George W. says the same thing.

KING: He does. That's well said, though. Might have been the father he never had.

BARBARA BUSH: You know what Bill said when I called him my boy, Bill, when I introduced him at something just being funny. He said, those Bushes will do anything to get another president in the White House.


KING: We'll be back.



KING: A letter to President-elect and Mrs. Reagan written November 10th, 1998. You are vice-president elect.

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

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

And you'll see no leaks in Evans and Novak, bitching about life. At least, you'll see none out of me. And he didn't.


KING: We're about to celebrate the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan --


KING: -- next year. What are your memories of him?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: You know, I ran against him and he defeated me. And through that, we got to know each other a little, and he asked me to be his vice president. And through that, I got to see him up-close-and-personal as a kind, honorable, decent man. And he was -- he was a wonderful fellow. I mean, he -- you know, Reagan said -- well, id don't -- I'm against raising taxes. Well, he raised taxes. But he made the points very well, and without chicanery, that this is a bad thing to do. He had to, one time, a couple of times.

But he's -- he was just a decent, kind man is the way I --

KING: What did you think of Nancy?

BARBARA BUSH: I think she's great. Great wife. Loved her husband very much. I wish you'd ask me about him because I think he was --

KING: What did you think of him?

BARBARA BUSH: I loved him. He was innately polite.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: His sense of humor was wonderful.

BARBARA BUSH: More than that, he was a -- he was just a very innately polite man.

KING: He got up and opened the door for you?

BARBARA BUSH: That's right.

KING: Let's now see a tape from one of my favorite little Bushes whom I first met when he was 14, I saw earlier tonight, at the Republican convention in Philadelphia. This is grandson Pierce.

Pierce, go.


PIERCE BUSH, PRES. BUSH'S GRANDSON: A few summers ago, we were arriving back at our little dock at Kennebunkport and my grandfather gave me the great honor of taking his boat back to the mooring. It was low tide. A big wave swept in right as I had taken the helm of the boat and the boat sadly found itself slammed up against the rocks. It was a horrifying moment and for the rest of the day, I was pretty devastated to have just crashed my grandfather's prize possession.

Later that night, after kind of a day spent moping and worrying, I weren't to my bedroom and I found a note which I will always carry with me in my heart. It was addressed to "My man Pierce."

It said, "Pierce, I remember days when I felt I could do nothing right, but then the sun would come up and a bright new day would embrace me. Do not worry about the boat. You're a good man who got a bad bounce, but all is well, believe me. I hate to see you worrying and down. You brighten my life, so forget today's little incident. You're the man. And I love you. Danny does, too."

It's been a great honor to have George and Barbara Bush as grandparents, and I'll treasure all the little lessons I've learned from them.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Too much.

BARBARA BUSH: Sweet boy.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: He's a sweet guy. Sweet fellow.

BARBARA BUSH: You know, they live across the street from us. Not pierce, but his mother, his father and family. And we don't go over there, but they come to see us almost every day and Pierce is wonderful about that.

KING: He's a great kid.

We'll be back with our remaining moments, don't go away.




BERNARD SHAW, CNN: The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Our cause is just. Our cause is moral. Our cause is right.



KING: A couple of other things, do you agree with the president's keeping up in Afghanistan, adding to help (ph) the troops?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Yes, I do. I do. I'd like to see an end and I'd like to know, have a time certain for an ending, but you can't do that. And I think he's done the right thing.

KING: What are your memories --

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: He's taking some flak on it, incidentally, from his own left.

KING: Yes. What are your thoughts back to the Gulf War?


KING: I understand they're going to come and see you, the mayor?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: A bunch of them are coming. Unfortunately, General Schwarzkopf can't, I don't think he's well. But a lot of them will be Colin Powell and Brent Scowcroft, and Bob Gates and Dick Cheney, they'll all be here. And it was a proud moment for our country and we did the right thing. We had to use force to put down a dictator. And we set a goal. The goal was to kick them out of Kuwait and we did, and then we left. We didn't have mission -- we didn't expand the mission.

KING: All right. You don't want to think about a legacy, you do?

BARBARA BUSH: Well, only just that the children are decent and the grandchildren, honest and that they're giving and caring and they know that they owe a lot. That they're blessed and they owe a lot.

KING: May I say something? I don't like to get personal, but one of the great honors of doing this show for 25 1/2 years is knowing you.

BARBARA BUSH: Oh, that's so sweet, thank you.

KING: And you.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Well, Larry, let me just add, the reason we're doing it is great confidence in you and you've always been fair. You ask some tough questions over the years, but it was always from the heart, straight, no curveballs. And we respect you and love you, and that's why we wanted to visit. We don't do this kind of thing anymore.

KING: I thank you.

The Bushes in Houston.

"AC 360" is next. Good night.