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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 November, 2004, 11:44 GMT
My son; Mr President
On Sunday, 7 November, 2004, Sir David Frost interviewed former President, George Bush Senior

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

George Bush Senior
former President, George Bush Senior

DAVID FROST: Now let's turn to what of course has been the main story of the week - as we said we would earlier on - the US election.

On Tuesday night President George W Bush enjoyed a remarkable triple victory this time, winning the popular vote, a majority of the electoral college and of course strengthening his grip on Congress.

But there was a distinct wobble earlier on Tuesday, when it looked as if John Kerry might do it.

Well the President's father, George Bush Senior, President George Bush as well of course, spoke to me earlier from his presidential library in Texas and I therefore began by asking him when he first heard things might not be going right for his son.

GEORGE BUSH SNR: Sir David, the first gloomy opinion poll was the exit poll. These exit poll people ought to be fired - the networks don't get their money's worth, they're wrong all the time.

But when I got off the airplane, flying to Washington to go to the White House, they said these exit polls all look bad. It felt like somebody had hit me right, square in the stomach.

And then I went in and talked to Karl Rove about two hours later and he explained to me that the sample was wrong and, but that's when it, that's when I first got the gloomy news.

DAVID FROST: And when did the first good news come through? When did you begin to realise that the exit polls might be wrong?

GEORGE BUSH SNR: Well Florida was of course a double victory for us - one because of our son and two because of the enormous importance of that for the President's re-election. But when Florida came through, and when it was that horrible Michael Moore left Florida because he found no, no corruption in the polls, that was a good sign, and then when the victory was clear why that meant everything and we began to feel much more confident.

DAVID FROST: And what about the campaign - I mean did you feel confident throughout the whole of the last two months?

GEORGE BUSH SNR: Well I can't say overconfident, but yes I had a feeling of confidence - quiet confidence. I, I thought that Kerry, who worked hard and did a good job out on the stump, wasn't offering anything except he kept going 'I have a plan, I have a plan'. Well nobody knew what the hell the plan was.

And so, so I, I think I felt confident that the President would get it but, but not overconfident, David, it was strange, difficult year. And when your, it's your own son in there, why it's, it's very, it's hard to explain to your, to your viewers, but it's, it's very difficult. It hurts far more when you son is criticised than when I used to be in that crossfire.

DAVID FROST: Everyone says this was a very divisive campaign and that the country now needs to be unified. Would you say it was any more divisive than usual?

GEORGE BUSH SNR: Well I think maybe more - there was more visceral hatred about the President than I've ever felt. I don't, I remember campaigns being really tough, when I ran against Clinton, but he wasn't, they weren't using words like liar and it wasn't as difficult - it's - this one is more difficult than, than in the past I think. I expect the Kerry people would say the same thing but I don't think they can point to any example where the President himself got into that name-calling, outrageous posture.

DAVID FROST: People here have been surprised that moral issues, indeed moral values, seem to be such a vital factor. Did that surprise you?

GEORGE BUSH SNR: Well I'm not sure I agree that moral values was the defining, defining difference in the campaign. I think it was a difference and I think the President did attract, you know, married couples and people that go to church and all of that, but there's a tendency now in the press, particularly the liberal part of it, people like the New York Times, I think, to say well it wouldn't have happened if the President hadn't appealed to the religious right, the far right. ... we're not talking on his values about the far right, in my view, we're talking about fundamental, basic American values.

So I would make that difference than what I'm reading in some of the, some of the opinion columns. But I think it had a difference, I think that people saw the President as a man of faith, a man of principle, a determined man, a man who, you know, had a wonderful, wonderful family, a wonderful, wonderful wife, and all those, I think all those things do make a difference. But I, I think to single it out that the religious right did it, I think that's just an excuse by, by the opposition.

DAVID FROST: When we last talked you had this wonderful quote that people in Europe saw the President as a two-gun, Clint Eastwood cowboy and so on - in terms of the relationship with Europe, do you think he can make some progress with that now?

GEORGE BUSH SNR: Well I think he can, I think they, I think the Europeans that have opposed him on things ought to recognise that there's, what I would say, a fairly substantial mandate for the President's approach. But I'd love, we've been working with France and Germany on matters, not the Iraq situation, so I would, I would expect that the President would do what he can to make clear that the European alliance is very important to us and very strong. And I think, I know the President feels that way.

So sometimes, David, personalities stand in the way of progress, from time to time, but in this case I think, I think you're going to find that the President will be reaching out to try to make things better - not just with Europe, but Asia, South America, some feel he's neglected South America. So he's got a big agenda and lots to do but it's a two-way street also, we can reach out but others can maybe reach out a little extend a hand to our president.

DAVID FROST: Tony Blair, in his congratulatory message, talked about the Middle East as the most vital issue, and I guess now with the President's mandate, and the situation with Yasser Arafat, there could be an opportunity there now.

GEORGE BUSH SNR: Well I'm, I'm absolutely - I, I - I agree with what Tony Blair said - of course we're grateful to him for his steadfast alliance with the President, support, and I hope it's been vice versa, the President's support for Tony Blair, in these critical times on Iraq.

But yes, I think there's an opportunity and I, I think Tony Blair was heard loud and clear in Washington about what he was calling for and there's a real opportunity - people forget that this President is the first president to call for a Palestinian state, and that, and then he got into the problems with Arafat and all of that, but Blair is correct, a hundred per cent correct, and I think that he'll find the President a willing and able partner - particularly if there's a change in leadership in the, in, in the PLO that we can deal with more openly and with more confidence.

DAVID FROST: And casting ahead to 2008, everyone's looking forward to a rerun of course, of Bush versus Clinton.

GEORGE BUSH SNR: Well, who knows, but I, I don't think so. I've not discussed that with Governor Jeb, but I'll tell you one thing, the way the Governor responded under great pressure to those four hurricanes - every time he turned around there was a new hurricane - but he lifted the, he lifted the spirits of Florida, he worked hard to elect his brother and he's, he's, this objective observer says he's done a wonderful job. Whether he aspires to the presidency or not, I doubt it, I doubt that he does.

DAVID FROST: I suppose the like for like contest would be Hillary versus Barbara Bush.

GEORGE BUSH SNR: [LAUGHS] I don't have many good lines but I said that if John Kerry took on Barbara Bush he'd need a fourth purple heart.

DAVID FROST: It's said that a president in his second term always looks to his place in history, his legacy. Do you think the President will do that?

GEORGE BUSH SNR: I think the President will feel somewhat like his father does, let the historians, down the road, decide what he got right, what he got wrong, what his legacy should be. He will not be out there making political decisions on how he looks in the history books.

That's not the way this president operates. He didn't operate that way when he was a teenager and he doesn't operate that way now that he's President of the United States. He just does what he feels is right and does it with conviction.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.


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