Huffpost Politics

Bush On Shoe Incident: "It Was Bizarre"

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President George Bush sat down with CNN's Candy Crowley in the Oval Office. In the interview, Bush talked about his attempts to control the auto industry. He termed the shoe incident in Iraq "bizarre," and once again blamed the faulty rationale for the Iraq war on bad intelligence. While Karl Rove has said that maybe the U.S. would not have gone into Iraq if we knew the facts, Bush said, "The idea of us walking back in time and saying, well, this, that or the other, is -- it's just not a realistic assessment. Because once you're in, you're in for victory."

Here are some highlights.

On the auto industry:

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me ask you just because there is a couple of news of the day things I wanted to get you on. And the first is, are you going to bail out the auto industry?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're considering all options.

CROWLEY: Is that a yes?

BUSH: Well, I've made it clear I'm concerned about two things. One, the financial markets and such that a disorganized bankruptcy could create enormous economic difficulties -- further economic difficulties.

And you know, I feel a sense of obligation to my successor to make sure there is not a huge economic crisis. Look, we're in a crisis now. I mean, this is -- we're in a huge recession. But I don't want to make it even worse and -- but, on the other hand, I am mindful enough putting good money after bad, so we're working through some options.

CROWLEY: So it sounds like you need some assurances from the auto industry to give them some sort of assistance.

BUSH: Right, well we're just working on options. What you don't want to do is spend a lot of taxpayers' money and then have the same old stuff happen again and again and again.

CROWLEY: And you're -- know you can't it out of the existing money, that $25 billion stash and probably will have to take it out of elsewhere?

BUSH: We're looking at all options.

CROWLEY: OK. And how -- when -- and so how soon do you think?

BUSH: We, you know, we're told that the automobiles are, you know, teetering here or teetering there, and obviously taking in their concerns and taking in the concerns of all the stakeholders and we'll try to get this done in an expeditious way.

CROWLEY: But you can't be the president that oversees the collapse of the auto industry in the U.S.?

BUSH: Well, I am -- obviously I made a decision to make sure the economy doesn't collapse. I have abandoned free market principles to save the free market system. I think when people review what has taken place in the last six months, put it all in one package, they'll be able to realize how significantly we have moved.

And I'm so sorry we're having to do it. I'm not real happy about the fact that there have been excesses in the financial markets which are affecting hard-working people and affecting their retirement accounts.

Having said that, I am very confident that with time, the economy will come out and grow and people's wealth will return.

On the shoe incident:

CROWLEY: Simply because you are the symbol, really, overseas of the United States. Was there ever a part of you that, in reflection, went, wait a second, we have poured billions of dollars, not to mention U.S. blood and treasure into this country, how dare this guy, even if he is a single guy?

BUSH: No, I -- look, first of all, I didn't have much time to reflect on anything. I was ducking and dodging. And I -- first of all, it has got to be one of the most weird moments of my presidency. Here I am getting ready to answer questions from a free press in a democratic Iraq, and a guy stands up and throws a shoe.

And it was bizarre. And it was an interesting way for a person to express himself. I was asked about it immediately after the incident and I said, here's a person that obviously was longing for notoriety and he achieved it. But I don't feel this is - I'm not angry with the system, I believe that a free society is emerging and a free society is necessary for our own security and piece.

CROWLEY: You think they're going to let them out of custody?

BUSH: I don't know what they're going to do - he's - I'm not even sure what his status is. They shouldn't overreact.

On making the decision to go to war in Iraq:

CROWLEY: What's the most important decision you've made in here, sitting there?

BUSH: Sending troops into harm's way. And the reason it's the most important is because it's the most consequential.

CROWLEY: Right.

BUSH: And it's a -- it is a decision that no president should ever take lightly and every president should take a lot of time thinking about it because lives will be lost. And, in my case, obviously I came to the conclusion twice that we ought to send troops in order to protect the United States because that is the most important job of a president.

CROWLEY: If you made that decision with clarity, would you -- say you did -- and did you ever come back in here on a dark night or after seeing relatives or after watching something happen in Iraq -- did you ever come back and think, wow, and revisit that decision?

BUSH: I thought about it of course, but I usually came back and -- with a concern about whether or not we would succeed.

CROWLEY: Are you worried about that sometimes?

BUSH: I have worried about it in the past, in 2006 in particular. In Iraq, I was deeply concerned about whether or not we would succeed. And I felt that the -- you know, the political, one of the people beginning to fall away were people were saying, you must withdraw. It wasn't just the political people. A lot of people in Washington, were saying, let's get out now. And I obviously chose not to do that. But, that was a very difficult period.

CROWLEY: Did you consider it, ever?

BUSH: Of course. I considered all options. But, absolutely.

You know, ultimately I had great faith in the universality of liberty. I had great faith in our military. I had faith in the Iraqis who had suffered so much. And I could not live with myself, if I had chosen to just leave and leave behind the valor and the sacrifice of a lot of our young men and women. I would have never been able to face their loved ones.

You know, the military looks at the president and wonder whether or not the president's going to make decisions based upon victory. Or, whether or not the president would be making decisions based upon its political skin. And if you ever make decisions based upon your political skin where troops are in harms way, you as Commander-in-Chief will have a lot of problems keeping the respect of the military.

...

CROWLEY: You know, Karl Rove, you know him fairly well, right?

BUSH: Never heard of him.

CROWLEY: He said last week, listen, maybe if we'd known the WMD weren't there, al-Qaeda wasn't there, that there was no connection between Saddam and 9/11, maybe we wouldn't have gone in. Did you have a moment in your presidency where you began to learn these things? When you began to learn that the intelligence was wrong. Did you think, maybe we shouldn't have gone in?

BUSH: First of all, my dear friend must recognize there are no do-overs. So, the idea of us walking back in time and saying, well, this, that or the other, is -- it's just not a realistic assessment.

Because once you're in, you're in for victory.

...

CROWLEY: Were you ever angry about it? When you found out -- like what was that moment when you found out?

BUSH: No weapons?

CROWLEY: No weapons and the intelligence was wrong.

BUSH: I think angry is too strong of a passion. I was not happy and I vowed to find out why the intelligence was wrong. And then to do something about it.

Because one, I respect the intelligence communities. I've got great regard for the people who work at the CIA and I want to make sure the institution was credible because -- in the future -- because a president's going to have to rely upon the intelligence in order to continue to protect the United States. We've worked hard to strengthen the morale, the spirit and the foundation of our intelligence communities.

CROWLEY: Did you find out what went wrong? Was it a matter of interpretation? Or, was it a matter of just bum information?

BUSH: I think it was just bad analysis. But, it wasn't just our CIA. It was intelligence services all over the world that believed the same thing.

And you know, obviously it made it harder to sustain the public in the -- support in dealing with Saddam and in Iraq. I mean, everybody was for it. A lot of people were for it, to take Saddam Hussein out of power. It was just afterwards that it was difficult to sustain support when we didn't find any weapons.