One-On-One With Bush - Part II

Full Transcript Of The Exclusive '60 Minutes II' Interview

Scott Pelley: The investigations into the Cole bombing, and the bombing of our embassies in Africa are likely to go into your watch. What do you have to say to the people who perpetrated those crimes?

George W. Bush: There will be a consequence, and you're not going to like it. The best way for our nation and other free nations is to punish those who would harm our citizens. And if we find out who did it, there's going to be a consequence.

Pelley: If I can take us back to election night for a moment, there came the time when Vice President Gore called you to retract his concession.

Bush: Yes, he did. (Laughter.)

Pelley: What was that conversation like?

Bush: Well, it was - let me just give you a general characterization, 'cause I don't want to share the actual words that I - he and I spoke. I don't think it'd be fair to him. But I was somewhat taken aback, obviously, a little disappointed.

I was right here in the governor's mansion. And I took both calls. I was, you know, we'd rallied our family, and we were headin' out to the state, which was right around the - the corner here from the governor's mansion. And the vice president said he had some information to show the election was going to be closer than he thought, and he was going to take it back.

And I ended - it ended up with me saying, "Well, you need to do what you - if that's what you feel like you got to do - you know - you know, do what you need to do," and just hung up the phone. And -

Pelley: Come on, you must have been angry.

Bush: Well, I wouldn't - I wouldn't say angry. I was disappointed. I wasn't you know, I wasn't warm and fuzzy on the telephone, let me put it to you that way. I was fairly abrupt. I was somewhat taken aback. And - and I - you know, he did what he thought he had to do.

Pelley: (The) vice president has described you as sniffy - in that conversation.

Bush: Well I'm not exactly sure what that means. We don't use that word here too often down here in Texas. So I'm not exactly sure what that means. (Laughter.) But - I - if he meant abrupt, I was abrupt, yeah.

Pelley: When you put the phone down after he called, what did you say to the people in the room?

Bush: Well, in the room was my little brother, Jeb, and Secretary Cheney, and - my - my mother and dad, and Miss Cheney and Laura. I said, "The vice president called, and he's changed his mind." And we had a pretty good indication that he had changed his mind, because - because they had asked for about 10 minutes.

When - when he called to concede, they asked for 10 minutes, and that he was going to go on and make his con- spe- concession. And I was - and they asked for us to wait. And I said, "Sure. Only right thing to do."

And then - so I had some indication that he might have changed his mind. And, you know, after about 30 minutes, we al decided to go to bed. It was about 3 in the morning, I - as I recall.

Pelley: You must have been reeling. "What is going on?"

Bush: Yeah, I was tired. And you know, we - we - we were just - you know, felt like it (sic) all be sorted out - in short order. I didn't realize it'd take a month. But needless to say, it's been an interesting experience.

And I'm so honored to be a part of history. It's - it's just - (Laughter.) It's been a fascination - as I'm sure you can imagine. I - I - I'm not a very good novelist, but it'd make a pretty interesting novel.

Pelley: In recent days and weeks, we had seen your running mate, Mr. Cheney, holding news conferences, opening the transition office, moving things forward. We have not seen a great deal of you.

Bush: Right.

Pelley: Who's in charge?

Bush: Vice President-to-Be Cheney's doing exactly what I've asked him to do. And I appreciate his - I appreciate him taking on the role as leader of the transition, for example. And it was the right thing to do to put - put Dick in that position.

I want - this is a - sending a signal. One, as a very competent man. But two, that my vice president is someone who is going to be a (sic) integral part of the administration. I'm not s- not suggesting other vice presidents haven't been.

But I felt like not only could he do a good job on the transition, but it would signal that when he speaks, he's speaking on my behalf. One of the things you'll find, Scott, is I'm a delegator. I - I surround myself with the very best people I can find.

And I set goals. And I delegate. And I hold people accountable for achieving the goals. And - strong, good people - you know, want to serve a president who is a delegator. And - and I'll be that.

But make no mistake about it, I'm integrally involved. I'm - asked the vice president-to-be to carry on these tasks. And I'm proud to report to you that he's going a very good job.

Pelley: And no one's confused about who's in charge?

Bush: No, they shouldn't be.

Pelley: When Bill Clinton assumed the White House, he escorted your father to the door and saw him off. Are you going to do the same?

Bush: Of course. I'd be very respectful - to the president, and now Senator Clinton. And you bet.

Pelley: There will -

Bush: There's a great tradition in America, Scott, that is so important - for those of us who have sought the office to set aside the politics and to remember that the office of the presidency is larger than its occupants, that we have a solemn obligation - to the office, and to - to the country. And - and the - the - the first step would be to treat the former president with the respect of a - of a former president.

Pelley: And there would have to be tremendous personal satisfaction for you - to see him out the door.

Bush: (Laugher.) I don't think so, no. I really haven't thought of it that way.

Pelley: Oh -

Bush: Now seriously. I - Listen. Let me - give you a little history. As you know I ran for governor and 1994 against a woman - very powerful strong lady named Ann Richards, and - and - defied all the political odds, and beat her. And - but people kept saying, "Boy, it must have been such a great - that you sought revenge for the fact that she had belittled your father, and - at the c- at the '88 convention."

And I - I told people then, I said, "You cannot win office - with revenge in your heart." People aren't going to vote for somebody's (sic) revengeful. People want to vote for somebody who says, "Here's the agenda, follow me. Here's what I want to do. And there's so many things we must do in order to make America a positive place."

And - and it's the same - it's on the same - (unintel) the same thing, of course. And it's a natural question for people to ask. "Aren't you thrilled that you've sought revenge?" And I think that (the) American people, if they thought I was running to seek revenge, would have, you know, soundly rejected my candidacy.

And no, I don't - I don't feel any great sense of accomplishment for negative purposes. I feel a sense of accomplishment for positive reasons. I - I feel a sense that - I - I met thousands of people that dedicated their lives, that are hungering for something different in Washington, that are anxious for a Social Security system that works.

And that's the reason to be joyful. Because I - it's not me. I stand - I - I stand representing a lot of folks who've got great hopes for the country.

Pelley: It seems clear, Mr. President-Elect, (laughter) or Governor, as you prefer to be called -

Bush: It is my living room, after all.

Pelley: That neither campaign closed the deal with the American people. Neither campaign won this election decisively. Do you look back and think about what you might have done wrong, what you might have done differently?

Bush: I ran the campaign the best I knew how. And - it's pretty good lesson in life, I think, just to say - "I'm going to give it my all. I'm going to campaign my heart out. I'm going to speak from my heart, and trust the people."

And no, this was neither (unintel) decisive isn't the right word. But you know what the right word about this election is? One, it's historic. And two, it provides the most unique opportunity in a long time for people to say, "You know, our country is more important than partisan politics." More than ever, a president-elect has got a unique moment to seize. And I'm going to seize it. And do what's right for America.

Pelley: Governor, do - if you - if you can impose upon your time for just a second, I want to make sure I've done you justice and I haven't skipped anything.

Bush: Sure.

Pelley: Thee is anxiety at some level.

There is some level of anxiety in the land about this election, about whether we will ever know who was truly elected president on Election Day, about whether our system of voting actually works. What do you have to say to people who are concerned, and wonder whether we will ever know who was really elected president?

Bush: I would say this is one of the most scrutinized elections in the history of the United States. There's been more counts, recounts, legal proceedings that will finally verify, once and for all, that the system does work. That people have had their day in our courts.

I mean remember, Scott, there's been a Supreme Court hearing on this election. I think when it's all said and done, the people are going to say this has been a fair election. And more importantly, they're going to say, "It's now time to move forward."

And my job is going to be to capture that wonderful American spirit that's so positive and so hopeful, and to say, "Everybody, I'm the president of everybody. You may not have voted for me. You may not have voted at all. But I'm going to be your president. And I'm going to give it my all to make sure our great land is - is hopeful and optimistic for every single citizen."

Pelley: Well said, and thank you very much again.

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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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