During an interview with former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush on CBS's Sunday Morning, correspondent Jim Axelrod wondered: "In terms of how you understand how you are perceived is there a liberal bias in the media?" Mrs. Bush quickly replied: "Yes. He doesn't have to answer, but I will."
Axelrod seemed surprised by her response: "Why do you jump in so quickly?" Mrs. Bush laughed and backed off slightly: "No, I'm only kidding. I really don't know." However, she observed: "I will say that I really do see for most Americans a great feeling of affection for George that you don't read about. Yes, I think there's sort a conventional wisdom that's put out by the press." Axelrod was still skeptical: "And that conventional wisdom tilts left?" Mrs. Bush replied: "Yes."
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Axelrod put some that liberal bias on display throughout the interview. On the topic of Hurricane Katrina, Axelrod remarked that "'Failure to act' could have been the subtitle of the chapter" on that subject. He declared that: "This man [Bush] who saw decisive as his political brand....found his presidency undermined by his delay." Axelrod pressed Bush: "Why was Katrina the one event where you took too long to decide?"
Later, Axelrod concluded: "There was a common feeling that after Katrina, you could never fully regain the trust of the American people." Bush pointed out: "Katrina was just a part of a narrative that, you know, began to undermine me personally with some of the public – a lot of the public, for that matter." Axelrod acknowledged: "The long knives were out."
Axelrod also asked about the role of Dick Cheney: "The book is his chance to take on what he says are misconceptions, like the one about the shadow president. The question I always get the most is was Cheney running the place?" Bush discussed how: "Dick Cheney came to me and he said, 'if you want to replace me, do it.' Which I thought was unbelievably magnanimous." Axelrod asked: "Any part of you think, 'if I do this and replace him, that will put an end to, is Cheney running the joint'?"
Here is a full transcript of the interview:
JIM AXELROD: Mr. Bush writes about everything from running for president, to the stem cell debate, to 9/11, to the Iraq war. And the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein didn't have. You write about Iraq that, 'no one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn't find the weapons. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do.'
GEORGE W. BUSH: Right.
AXELROD: What was sickening?
BUSH: Well, because – sickening is the fact that so many people felt that that was the only reason we went in to liberate Iraq. And so the case itself became undermined. And it frankly – the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, in some ways, let Saddam off the hook.
AXELROD: Didn't it undermine the legitimacy of the U.S. invading?
BUSH: Well, you know, that's part of the problem. I mean in some people's minds they said, 'wait a minute. If this was the main part of the case, we made a mistake.' I don't think – I don't agree with that. I think that the liberation of Iraq not only makes America more secure, it gives 25 million people a chance to live in a free society. And that free society over time will have a transformative effect in the Middle East.
AXELROD: And so the liberation, in your view, justifies everything?
BUSH: Well, I think in my view what justifies everything is the removal of a threat. In other words, the decision to leave him in power, in my judgment, would have been a decision that could have created enormous chaos in the world. In other words, one could envision a nuclear arms race between Saddam and Iran. And then they'd have been saying, 'wait a minute. The failure to act created enormous stress.'
AXELROD: 'Failure to act' could have been the subtitle of the chapter on Hurricane Katrina. This man who saw decisive as his political brand-
BUSH: I'm the decider and I decide what is best.
AXELROD: Found his presidency undermined by his delay. Why was Katrina the one event where you took too long to decide?
BUSH: I got caught up in the legal system. It's not excuse. I'm just giving you the facts.
AXELROD: You're the president of the United States.
BUSH: No, I know. But in this case in order to send troops into New Orleans, the law says that the governor must declare an emergency and request or I have to declare an insurrection. In retrospect. Now knowing what I know today, which is not exactly what you get to do when you're sitting there, I would have sent in troops quicker.
AXELROD: There was a common feeling that after Katrina, you could never fully regain the trust of the American people.
BUSH: I felt Katrina was a part of a very difficult period for my presidency. In other words, I said let's reform Social Security and the Republican congress didn't. Iraq was very difficult in '06. And Katrina was just a part of a narrative that, you know, began to undermine me personally with some of the public – a lot of the public, for that matter.
AXELROD: The long knives were out, which is when the White House can be at its loneliest. How does it work, Mrs. Bush? Do you offer a point of view, criticism, when you're in the heat of it?
LAURA BUSH: Sure. All of those things. But not a lot of criticism. There are plenty of critics already for who lives in the White House. And that's just not really our relationship. Did we talk about issues? Sure. But also, I knew when he came home late in the afternoon from the Oval Office that, you know, what he wanted to do was sit with me and work on the jigsaw puzzle that we worked on and watch baseball on television or football on television or some other sport and relax. We always have really just had the comfort of each other's presence. And I knew that's what he wanted when he was at home.
AXELROD: Not that she ever held back, when she felt he needed her unvarnished opinions.
LAURA BUSH: I mean, I knew-
BUSH: I can remember a few examples when you said I was going down the wrong road. Like, 'you better watch your language, buster.'
LAURA BUSH: Well, that kind of thing for sure.
BUSH: There's an old poster out west, as I recall, that said 'wanted dead or alive.' I remember when I said that and I got back and she said, it wasn't – you know, it wasn't a harsh tone. It was like, 'hey, you probably could put this a little better.' And of course I said everybody understood what I meant. I was a little defensive, I must confess. But I mean her point was you're the president. Yeah, your plain spoken, but sometimes your plain spokenness sends the wrong signals.
AXELROD: To this day she remains his biggest protector and quick on the draw. In terms of how you understand how you are perceived is there a liberal bias in the media?
LAURA BUSH: Yes. He doesn't have to answer, but I will.
AXELROD: Why do you jump in so quickly?
LAURA BUSH: No, I'm only kidding. I really don't know. But I will say that I really do see for most Americans a great feeling of affection for George that you don't read about. Yes, I think there's sort a conventional wisdom that's put out by the press.
AXELROD: And that conventional wisdom tilts left?
LAURA BUSH: Yes.
AXELROD: The book is his chance to take on what he says are misconceptions, like the one about the shadow president. The question I always get the most is was Cheney running the place?
BUSH: You know, we laugh because – and I'm sure Dick Cheney would laugh. And anybody who's in the White House would laugh because that's one of the myths that arise when you're the president. And I do, you know, Dick Cheney came to me and he said, 'if you want to replace me, do it.' Which I thought was unbelievably magnanimous. And-
AXELROD: Any part of you think, 'if I do this and replace him, that will put an end to, is Cheney running the joint'?
BUSH: That's exactly right. That would have helped eliminate the myth. But the problem in that logic is that I hate the job he was doing. Cheney is a friend. He did a great job as vice president. And it would have been incredibly self-serving and shallow to have made a decision about my vice president based upon some misperception. Yeah, this is a very dramatic picture. That is right after the 2001 inauguration.
AXELROD: Another misperception, he says, that there was some deep-seated rivalry with his dad.
BUSH: When people read this book, they're going to realize that my relationship with my father is based upon admiration and love and appreciation that he gave me the great gift, and that is unconditional love.
AXELROD: So that's another myth that can be disposed of that there was some Shakespearian drama being played out?
BUSH: Yeah, exactly, some kind of psychological drama being played out.