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O'Reilly-Bush Interview - Transcript: Part One

Reported by Marie Therese - September 28, 2004 -

TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH
THE O'REILLY FACTOR, SEPTEMBER 27, 2004 (8:03 PM to 8:07 PM and 8:12 PM to 8:17 PM EDT)

BILL O'Reilly: Once again, we thank President Bush for sitting down with us and here is Part One of the interview.

[Begin tape of interview.)

O'REILLY: First of all I want to thank you for talking with me, since so few people will.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH (chuckling): Well, it's a big gamble on my part.

O'Reilly: Nah, it isn't. Not really, though. We talked four and a half years ago.

BUSH: I'm teasin'.

O'Reilly: Yeah, when ya'...

BUSH: I enjoy, I enjoy how ya' interview people and I appreciate ya' givin' me the chance ta' come on and have what we say in Texas is "just a visit".

O'Reilly: Yeah. We're gonna have a visit here. I've got fifteen questions for you. If they're dumb, tell me they're dumb, ‘cause the audience will like that. [The President laughs.] If they're dumb [say] "Look, O'Reilly, that's just dumb".

The first one is: According to a poll taken by the Coalition Authority last spring only 5% of the Iraqis see the United States as liberators. Are you surprised they don't appreciate the American sacrifice more?

BUSH: I think they're beginning to appreciate the sacrifice, because the country's getting better. It's tougher than heck right now, because Zarqawi and some of the former Baathists are killing innocent Iraqis and killing our soldiers in order to try to get us to leave.

I also saw a poll where it said by far the vast majority of Iraqis believe the world is getting better. And that's positive. Now those people are beginnin' to see progress. Electricity better. Schools are opening. Hospitals are running. I think, when it's all said and done, Iraqis gonna look back and say "Thank God for America!"

O'Reilly: How long is it gonna take before that happens, do you think?

BUSH: Ya' know, it's a - as soon as possible. Now, I think the elections are gonna have a very positive effect and they take place in January and - look, the people wanna vote.

O'Reilly: But can they vote when people bein' blown up...

BUSH: Yeah.

O'Reilly (continuing): ... and these guys threatening them. Can they vote?

BUSH: That's when you're supposed ta' vote. Ya' gotta stand tough with these terrorists. You cannot allow the terrorists to dictate whether or not a society can be free or not. You remember that happened in Afghanistan when the Taliban pulled the four women off the bus and killed ‘em because they had voter registration cards. I think there's been about three million Afghan citizens that registered at that point in time.

A lot of people said "Well, the elections look like they've gotta be over in Afghanistan because the Taliban is too violent to allow the elections to go forward." Today ten million citizens...

O'Reilly (glancing to his left, interrupts): South Vietnam...

BUSH (continuing): ... in that country have registered to vote. Forty percent of them are women, which is a powerful statistic.

O'Reilly: The South Vietnamese didn't fight for their freedom, which is why they don't have it today.

BUSH: Yeah.

O'Reilly: Do you think the Iraqis are gonna fight for their freedom?

BUSH: Absolutely.

O'Reilly: You do?

BUSH: No question in my mind they will. You bet. I was with Prime Minister Allawi yesterday. He is a tough guy. He is a strong leader. He believes the future of Iraq is the future of freedom and he tells me that, you know, at these places where they go bombin' recruits - people tryin' to sign up to serve in the army or police - the next day more recruits come....

O'Reilly (whispered): Oh, yeah...

BUSH: ...'cause people wanna defend their country. I believe that. Ya' know why I believe that - and this is really important - uh, uh - it's because I believe everybody yearns to be free. I believe Muslims yearn to be free and I - and this is tough, look, no questions - it's tough times, but, if we send mixed signals, if we waver, the times will be tougher. That's what the terrorists are watchin'. They're watchin' us like hawks.

O'Reilly: What happened to Saddam's chemical arsenal? Do you know?

BUSH: No, I don't. We thought we'd have stockpiles. We do know he had the capability of making weapons - and that capability could have been passed on to terrorists. And that was a risk after 9/11 we could not afford to take.

O'Reilly: No, I understand that. But you, to this day, don't know what happened to his chemical weapons. He didn't tell us in interrogation?

BUSH: Not yet. No, not yet.

O'Reilly: He hasn't given us much, has he?

BUSH: No. He doesn't have anything to - he doesn't have anything to gain by givin' us much. I mean, he's gonna go on trial and the Iraqis will lay out a case and - you know, I mean, uh, why would he, why would he tell the truth?

O'Reilly: Wall Street Journal says - and that's a conservative paper - that, uh, the Defense Department and the Pentagon wasn't aggressive enough in getting al "Sayder" and crushing Fallujah.

BUSH: Yeah.

O'Reilly: The Journal wrong?

BUSH: I think this - uh - look I think that the government of Iraq - Allawi - did a good job in Najaf with "Sayder" . In other words, they now control the shrines and they did so in a way that he, Allawi, thought would be best for the political process.

In other words, there's a dual track here. There's a political process going forward and a security operation going forward. And the two must be parallel. And Allawi made the decision that the best operations in Najaf would be to - uh - the way we handled it. And - uh - if they're sayin' that maybe last fall we should have moved on Sahder [pronounced differently than above], it's a judgment call that, ya' know, history will have to look back on.

O'Reilly: Fallujah. Should we have crushed it when we could have?

BUSH: Well, there again there was a dual track with a political process going forward. A lot of people on the ground there thought that, if we'd a gone in Fallujah at the time, the interim government would not have been established and, if the interim government would not of been established, we wouldn't have been able to transfer sovereignty.

I happen to think the transfer of sovereignty is a key moment in the history of a free Iraq. The reason I believe that is the Iraqi people are gonna follow Iraqi leadership, not U.S. leadership, and - Prime Minister Allawi's been there for about two and a half months, nearly three months. He's getting his feet on the ground. He's establishing a government. They're training police. They're training army. They're beginning to move out in places like Samaria (sic) and Najaf in order to make the place a more peaceful country.

(8:08 PM - News and commercial break. Interview resumes at 8:12 PM.]

O'Reilly: Continuing now with President Bush, we begin with the controversy over the President's "Mission Accomplished" speech.

O'Reilly: The "Mission Accomplished" statement in May 2003. If you had it all to do over again, would you not have done it?

BUSH: Well, first of all the statement said "Thank you for serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thank you for being on one of the largest - longest - cruises in our nation's history. Thank you for serving our country and we still got tough work in Iraq." Now, I'm gonna go and thank our troops every chance I get.

O'Reilly: But the press spinned [sic] it - you know how they spinned [sic].

BUSH: Well, they spin everything.

O'Reilly: Me, too?

BUSH (laughing): Well, (garbled) you know - maybe you deserve it more than me, but, nevertheless [O'Reilly laughs] No, look, I ....

O'Reilly: You've taken some heat for that.

BUSH: I take heat for a lot of things and - uh -

O'Reilly: Would you do it again?

BUSH: You mean, have the sign up there?

O'Reilly: No. No. But, go in there with the flight jacket.

BUSH: Absolutely.

O'Reilly: You would?

BUSH: ‘Course. I'm sayin' to the troops on this carrier and elsewhere "Thanks for servin' America". Absolutely.

O'Reilly: OK.

BUSH: And, by the way, those sol - those sailors and airmen - loved seein' the Commander-in-Chief!

O'Reilly: Oh, that's (garbled)

BUSH: These kids had been on a very long cruise. They'd been on a cruise to both - in two theaters of war now - Afghanistan and Iraq. I flew out there and said "Thanks, thanks on behalf of a grateful nation". You bet I'd do it again!

O'Reilly: This is really a tough one.

BUSH: OK.

O'Reilly: Iran ...

BUSH: Yeah.

O'Reilly: ... said yesterday "Hey, we're gonna develop this nuclear stuff. We don't care what ya' think" You ready to use military force against Iran, if they continue to defy the world on nuclear?

BUSH: My hope is that we can solve this diplomatically.

O'Reilly: But, if you can't?

BUSH: Well, let me try to solve it diplomatically first, of course. All options are on the table, of course, in any situation, but diplomacy is the first option ...

O'Reilly (interrupting): Would you allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon?

BUSH: We're, we are workin' our hearts out so they don't develop a nuclear weapon - the best way to do so is to continue to keep international pressure on ‘em.

O'Reilly: Is it conceivable that you would allow them to develop a nuclear weapon?

BUSH: No. We've made it clear. Our position is that "You won't have a nuclear weapon."

O'Reilly: Period.

BUSH: Yeah.

O'Reilly: TIME Magazine investigation says three million illegal aliens crossed the Mexican border - and we talked about this four and a half years ago.

BUSH: We have. Yeah, I know. It's an issue you're concerned about.

O'Reilly: Every year, three and a half million illegals come over. Why can't the federal government control that?

BUSH: Well, as you know, I was the governor of Texas. I was very aware of the issue. There is a long border. Makes it hard to control. We have beefed up places along the the border to try to stop the process of - uh - of - uh

O'Reilly: With all due respect, though, it's not workin'.

BUSH: Well, it's workin' a little better. They're doin' a pretty good job down there in Arizona which is the main border crossing. But I was tryin' to get my words here for a minute. Tryin' to give ya' some facts that what - I think there's a thousand more Border Patrol agents along the border. We're modernizing border techniques. We're using better surveillance methods to stop the crossing at the border. Now look. People are comin' ‘cause they wanna work ya' know. Family values don't stop at the border.

O'Reilly: Absolutely.

BUSH: If you can make fifty cents in the interior of Mexico and five dollars in the interior of the United States, you're comin' for the five bucks and, therefore ...

O'Reilly: Ninety percent of them are but ten percent of them are bad guys.

BUSH: Well, let's look...

O'Reilly: There's a lot of bad guys comin' here.

BUSH: Yeah. I don't know how ya' got the ten percent number ... maybe

O'Reilly: The Border Patrol, ya' know. Incarcerations. Violent crime. That ...

BUSH: No question about it, it is a ter - a serious issue. I happen to believe the best way to enhance the border is to have temporary worker cards available for people and - uh - I think it's best for the employers who are employing these people, I think it's best for the employees. I think the long-term solution for this issue on our border is for Mexico to grow a middle class. That's why I believe in NAFTA.

O'Reilly: We'll be in the grave!

BUSH: I don't think so - it's happenin'. Look, I wish I could have taken you down there and shown you the northern tier of states in Mexico ten years ago compared to today. I mean, it's happening.

Free trade helps lift lives. Free trade develops commerce. Free trade gives people a chance to realize their dreams. And so long as the wage differential is as big as it is, and so long as moms and dads feel the necessity to feed their children, they're gonna come and try to make a livin'.

O'Reilly: So you're not gonna militarize the border to stop ...

BUSH: No. We're gonna use the Border Patrol and beef it up and make it - give it better technologies and better equipment to do its job.

O'Reilly: OK. Ya' know, a lot of people are not gonna like that answer. You know that?

BUSH (shrugging it off): What's it to - truthful answer.

O'Reilly: OK. Umm.

BUSH: You mean as opposed to putting a military on the border?

O'Reilly: Yeah. A military to back up the Border Patrol to just stop the rampant ...

BUSH: No. I think the best way to do it is to give the Border Patrol the assets it needs to do its job. [End of taped interview.]

O'Reilly: OK. We'll continue our conversation with President Bush tomorrow evening when we'll talk to him about domestic policy, what the President will do for you, what he says he'll do, if he's re-elected.

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