An Interview With The President

(White House Photo)
CBS News White House correspondents Peter Maer (top left) and Mark Knoller (bottom left) interviewed President Bush in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.
We had to wait nearly an hour for President Bush to enter the Roosevelt Room for our radio interview.

But actually, we'd been waiting more than seven years.

My colleague Peter Maer and I have been pitching the White House to grant us an interview with the president since the year he took office.

Most recently, we were told that Mr. Bush doesn't like doing radio interviews. He doesn't think his comments get a fair shake when we only use "snippets" of what he says in our radio reports and on the hourly radio newscasts.

Well, that's the nature of the business. But through the magic of this , you can hear everything thing he said, in the context in which he said it.

We were given 15 minutes, and tried to wring every nanosecond out of it.

to listen to the entire interview with President Bush.
Peter began with the Mideast – where President Bush begins a five-day visit on Wednesday. He still thinks – that before he leaves office - he can get Israel and the Palestinians to "define" the framework of a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Israel.

But he won't have a three-way meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas. What should we construe from that?

"Nothing," he said.

He thinks separate meetings produce more progress.

Earlier in the day, the first U.S. planeload of relief supplies was finally allowed to land in Myanmar – more than a week after a cyclone ravaged the Southeast Asian nation. He blasts the military regime in that country – which the Administration still refers to by its pre-junta name of Burma – for not moving quicker to allow foreign aid into the country.

He called it "another reason why the world ought to be angry and condemn the government."

"Here they are with a major catastrophe on their hands and do not allow there to be the full kind of might of a compassionate world to help 'em."

He said there's "no telling how many people have lost their lives as a result of the slow response."

He said the regime leaders are either "isolated or callous."

On the soaring prices of oil and gasoline, he declined to speculate on how high they would go.

He explained why he doesn't appeal to Americans to drive less to conserve energy. He said consumers can figure it out by themselves.

And he disagrees with those in and out of Congress blaming the big oil companies for rising prices and shortages.

"If you don't have a solution – step one is to blame somebody else," he said before adding, "That's politics. It's been that way -- anytime the price of oil goes up they blame somebody."

And he disagrees with calls for a windfall profits tax on Big Oil, saying "what I'd like to see is the cash being generated as a result of higher energy prices put back in the ground so that we can have more supply."

He said that would benefit consumers "a lot more than the government taking that money and growing the size of government."

The interview gave us a chance to ask the president questions we've been collecting for years.

I wanted to know why he never acted on the recommendations of his advisory panel on reforming the tax code. In running for re-election, he often said the tax code is "a complicated mess." He still thinks that way – but says he didn't find the political will needed in Congress to pursue it further.

We also asked him about competing claims from the campaign trail by those seeking to be his successor about which candidate is best ready on "Day One" to be president.

"You can't possibly understand what it's like until you're actually in the Oval Office," he said.

And take a listen to to hear why he thinks its tougher to be the son of a president than to be president.

Or you can listen to the "snippet" on the radio.
  • Mark Knoller On Twitter»

    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

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