August 17, 2004


CNN LARRY KING LIVE: Interview With George W. Bush, Laura Bush (August 12, 2004)

KING: But you've been attending -- you've been doing public forums now?

G. BUSH: A lot of public forums. A lot of bus trips. And we see people express their opinions. The great thing about our country is they're free to do so. And by far the vast majority of people who come out to wave are doing so in a friendly fashion.

Although occasionally there is the not-so-friendly wave. But I do believe -- OK, I don't know if it's going to be close or not. I believe I'm going to win. I believe the American people know my style of leadership. They know what to expect.

And they understand that the commander in chief must not waver in this era, that we must continue to stay on the offense.

But they're also beginning to understand my deep desire to spread liberty around the world as a way to help secure our country in the long run.

I think we have an obligation to lead. And we will lead, and we will continue to work with others in a vast coalition.

This debate on coalitions is a very interesting debate. Sometimes I think they're basically saying that there is no such thing as a coalition unless the French are involved. But the truth of the matter is, the French are involved in Afghanistan, and the French have been involved in Haiti. The French government just didn't agree with the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power. And, therefore, there was a difference of opinion on that issue.

But I will argue that Saddam Hussein out of power has made the world a better place and a safer place.

KING: Even without weapons of mass destruction?

G. BUSH: Well, we thought we'd find stockpiles. The whole world thought we'd find stockpiles, including, evidently, the French government, which voted in the United Nations Security Council to say to Saddam: Disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences.

But what we do know is Saddam Hussein had the capability of making weapons of mass destruction. And after September the 11th, a risk we could not take was that he would share that capability with our enemies.

Let me say one other thing. Had we not moved, Saddam Hussein would be even more powerful. He would have defied the world again, after 11 years of defiance, he would have defied the world again and would have been even more dangerous.

KING: So you'd do it again?

G. BUSH: Absolutely. We made the right decision.

KING: Would you send more troops, though? They had -- everything couldn't have been perfect, you certainly -- let me pick that up in a minute.


KING: We'll be right back with President Bush, Mrs. Bush, on LARRY KING LIVE. We're going to talk about stem cell research, about which Mrs. Bush has been strongly speaking recently, and they met with Nancy Reagan today, who has opinions on it. We'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. We're in Los Angeles with president and Mrs. Bush, and we're on the subject of, if we had to do it over, we would do it over, would we do it with more troops?

I mean, everything wasn't perfect.

G. BUSH: No. Listen, some things happened that were hard to predict. And some things didn't happen that we thought were going to happen. For example, we thought they'd blow up the oil fields. We though there'd be mass starvation, refugees.

Now, here's the way I'm doing my job. I set the strategies, and I ask the experts to provide the tactics. And General Tommy Franks came into my office. I said: General, do you have everything you want?

I'll never forget the day that we launched the war. And in my heart of hearts, I know that diplomacy had failed. The last option of a president ought to be to commit troops, in large right. It is a very serious decision.

And I went down to the situation room in the basement of the White House. And there was Tommy on the screen. And I said to him: General Franks, do you have everything you need? Are you satisfied with the plan? And do you have all you need? And he looked at me and said: Yes, sir, Mr. President.

And I went to around to all the other commanders that he had assembled there on the video. And I -- to a person, they said they had what they needed.

And I said -- gave the order to the secretary of defense, Tommy saluted. I said, God bless you, and left.

And the reason I tell you that story is that Tommy, General Franks, now Tommy, knew me well enough to be able to walk right into the Oval Office and say: Mr. President, we don't have what we need. We need of this or that.

KING: Does the buck, though, stop with you?

G. BUSH: Absolutely.

KING: President Kennedy was told the Bay of Pigs would go smoothly and then he took the rap. He said...

G. BUSH: I'm taking the rap, too, of course.

KING: So the buck does stop...

G. BUSH: Absolutely. That's what elections are about. The American people can go in that voting booth and decide whether or not...

KING: So is that what led you to say on that ship that the battle is over?

G. BUSH: No, I didn't say that. Now, let's be careful about that.

I went on that aircraft carrier to thank a crew.

KING: The sign said it, I think.

G. BUSH: No, the sign said, "Mission accomplished." It didn't say the battle was over. It said, "Mission accomplished." And I was talking to sailors and a pilot who had been on an extended tour -- I think, maybe the longest in a long period of time. They were both -- this carrier was both in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

And I wanted to look them in the eye and say: Thank you for doing your job.

In the speech I gave on the carrier deck, I also went on to say, there is more hard work to do. And I'll do it again. I would do it again. I think I have an obligation as the commander in chief to do a couple of things as far as the military goes: Thank the military every change I get.

The other day I was -- yesterday -- last night in Phoenix, there was this huge crowd. And there was a woman holding up a sign that said, "My son is in Iraq."

And I singled her out. And I said: I just want to tell you, ma'am, your son is providing a noble service during these historic times. And I want to thank you and your son for sacrificing for long- term peace.

And, you know, I owe an obligation to our troops.

KING: Was the sign a mistake?

G. BUSH: People make a big deal out of it. It was not a mistake to go to the carrier.

And there was certainly no intention to say that this was over; quite the contrary. If people had listened to what I said, I said, there is more hard work to do. And there is hard work to do.

I think it's an unrealistic expectation to say that Iraq was going to be a free society instantly -- or not instantly -- nearly instantly after Saddam Hussein had been removed from power. Because this is a man who had brutalized people for years. And...

KING: So why are so many of them so upset?

G. BUSH: So many so upset, you mean, the Baathists, why are they radical Baathists? Well, they are upset because they are not in power.

And but, by far, the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a free and peaceful world.

KING: What is the thing with Mr. Chalabi, and looking back, was that a mistake?

G. BUSH: You mean, to have him in the governing council initially?

KING: And he sat with you at the State of the Union address.

G. BUSH: Oh, oh, yes. Well, we'll see. I mean, he came with a...


G. BUSH: You know, I don't want to prejudge the facts. But I do know that Chalabi came with a...

KING: I keep saying Chalabi.

G. BUSH: That's all right.

KING: You pronounce it better than me.

G. BUSH: That's the only word I pronounce better than you.

But he came with a delegation of Iraqi citizens and leaders that we were able to herald to our country. It was important to say (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people here want to be free. And they want to self- govern. And it's important for the Americans to know that.

And whether or not Chalabi broke the law or violated this or that, the facts will be known on that. And hopefully it will be dealt by the Iraqis in a far way.

KING: So you reserve judgment?

G. BUSH: Yes.

KING: How will Mr. Hussein be tried?

G. BUSH: By the Iraqis...

KING: Do you know when?

G. BUSH: ... in a fair way. I really don't.

KING: That's totally up to them.

G. BUSH: You bet.

Listen, the governing of their country is up to them. They are a sovereign government. We are there at their request. They want us to be there.

KING: If they say go, you go?

G. BUSH: You bet.

KING: So if that governing council were to say tomorrow...

G. BUSH: "See you later." Yes. They are not going to. But it's their country. We said we'd pass sovereignty. And we did. And Prime Minister Allawi is in charge. And I have spoken to him several times. And he has thanked me. And he wanted me to thank the American people for the security we are providing.

And what we're really doing is giving them breathing room to prepare their own troops to be able to handle their own difficult situations. And they want to. And they will.

Don't hear much anymore about how the handover of sovereignty was phoney.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 17, 2004 12:00 AM

"And we see people express their opinions. The great thing about our country is they're free to do so."

Unless you're a Kerry supporter at a Bush rally, where you need to sign an oath of loyalty to enter a Bush/Cheney event.

Posted by: kos at August 17, 2004 1:47 AM

Unless someone sewed their mouths shut, those same Kerry supporters can still express their opinions. However, since it is Bush's forum, he can use a few simple methods to keep out the boneheads and keep the discourse civil. Causing chaos and disruption is not expressing an opinion, it's denying someone else their expressions. (The same way that, if I started cussing in this comment, the Brothers Judd would erase it so as to avoid dragging down the whole website to a lower level.)

Posted by: Just John at August 17, 2004 3:25 AM

This "loyalty oath" thing must be a DNC talking point -- it is popping up almost word-for-word in various letters-to-the-editor the past couple days.

Posted by: Gideon at August 17, 2004 9:15 AM


It would be hypocritical for the Senator to require loyalty.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2004 9:15 AM



Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 17, 2004 11:24 AM

Orrin, you should feel honored - or maybe not. This Kos is _the_ Kos of "The Daily Kos". Remember that nasty crack he made about the four US contractors who got murdered in Fallujah? Personally, I think he has his nerve coming here and lecturing us on loyalty oaths...

Posted by: Joe at August 17, 2004 4:36 PM

Oh, and I have a question for you, Kos, if you're still reading; would you defend the right of Bush supporters to come into a Kerry/Edwards rally and heckle Mr. Kerry in the same way you apparently want unlimited access for Kerry supporters to Bush rallies?

Posted by: Joe at August 17, 2004 4:42 PM


Never heard of him, but we welcome anyone who cares to comment in civil fashion.

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2004 4:57 PM


Your question was answered in 1992, when the Democrats refused to let Gov. Bob Casey speak at their convention.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 17, 2004 5:00 PM

"Sometimes I think they're basically saying that there is no such thing as a coalition unless the French are involved."

This is how it begins. This is how Bush & Co will convert Kerry into a laughing-stock by the end of October. The epitomy of Dubya's style---no daisy-cutter bombs, just the death of a thousand cuts.

Casually stroll up, insert knive between ribs, and walk on by.

Posted by: ray at August 17, 2004 6:33 PM

Then, too, this: "Saddam Hussein had the capability of making weapons of mass destruction. And after September the 11th, a risk we could not take was that he would share that capability with our enemies."

How can the Dems and anti-war folks seriously refute this in a way that can make sense to the undecideds? "No, Bush is wrong---we should accept the risk of Boston getting hit with chemical death"?

Posted by: ray at August 17, 2004 6:37 PM


Boston might be a bad example...

Posted by: oj at August 17, 2004 6:42 PM