Transcript: Exclusive Bush Interview

The following is a transcript of Bob Schieffer's exclusive pre-State of the Union interview with President Bush, held on Jan. 27, 2005.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. President, there is certainly no shortage of questions to ask you today, and I guess I had better start with this thunderbolt from the Middle East that happened yesterday. We had a democratic election that the United States and others in the West encouraged, and, of all things, the party that has sworn to destroy Israel wins the majority of the seats in the Palestinian parliament. You said yesterday that unless they renounce violence, we can't deal with them.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Um-hmm.

SCHIEFFER: What if they don't renounce violence?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I--I said two things. One, they've got to get rid of that arm of their party which is armed and violent, and secondly, they have got to get rid of that part of their platform that says they want to destroy Israel. And if they don't, we won't deal with them.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what--

PRESIDENT BUSH: Aid packages won't go forward. Well, that's their decision to make. It's--first of all, the government is beginning to form. They're trying to work through all the—as you said, it was a lightning bowler, and it was--caught everybody's surprise, I suspect, including--I know that the Fatah was caught by surprise, maybe Hamas, and they have yet to work out how they are going to form their government. But we won't be providing help to a government that wants to destroy our ally and friend. I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you--if you don't renounce violent aims. The--the other thing that's interesting about the elections, though, that I found fascinating is that it reminded me that the elections are window panes into the actual condition of society.

SCHIEFFER: Um-hmm.

PRESIDENT BUSH: In other words, a lot of us were assuming that maybe life was this way or that way, and all of a sudden the people showed up to vote and said we want something different, we want good, honest government; we want people to listen to our needs; we want people to provide services so our families can, you know, be--grow up and be prosperous.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this question. You say you can't deal with them, but would it be beneficial to try to talk to them, to talk to them about moderating their stance, or is there just simply nothing to talk about?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well--well, in essence I am talking to them now.

SCHIEFFER: Okay.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm confident they're listening to what you've asked me and what I'm answering.

SCHIEFFER: Um-hmm.

PRESIDENT BUSH: And that is for them to, you know, have support from the United States and the United States Congress, and from this administration they must renounce their policies, stated policy that they want to destroy Israel.

SCHIEFFER: While we're in the neighborhood, let's talk about somebody close by there: Iran.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah.

SCHIEFFER: Can the United States allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon?

PRESIDENT BUSH: The Free World cannot allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon, not just the United States, but those of us who value freedom, and that is why our strategy is to present and--and—and hold together a united front to say to the Iranians your designs to have a nuclear weapon or your desire to have the capability of making a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. It's very important that we speak to two groups: One is the government, and also the people. And in speaking to the people, my message is this: You know, we're not going to tell you how to live your life, but we would like you to be free. We would like you to be able to express yourselves in the--in the market--in the--in the open--in open, so without fear of reprisal. We want you to be able to vote and elect. And--but to the government, our message is, is that if you want to be a part of the family of nations, give up your nuclear weapons ambitions. Now, one of the things we have done is they have said they want to be able to have a civilian nuclear capacity, we want to be able to have our own nuclear power plant, and we've said we understand that. But because you're a nontransparent government, because you've openly stated your desire to destroy one of our allies, that you should be able to have a plant, but the--the--the uranium for running that plant will come from Russia, and Russia will provide the--provide the fuel, you will burn the fuel, and Russia will collect the fuel under IAEA safeguards.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me ask you: If they continue to insist that they're going to do it in their country, Senator Clinton, for example, who seems closer to your policy on Iraq than to some in her own party, is already saying sanctions now. Do you think sanctions would work against Iran?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, first of all, we have already sanctioned Iran. The United States Government has got sanctions in place on Iran. I think probably what she is referring to is whether or not we should refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council. I have said that is certainly a very--a real possibility, and that once we are in the Security Council, of course, that's one of the options, but we are going to work with our friends and allies to make sure that when we get in the Security Council, we will have an effective response.

SCHIEFFER: But as some would say, that you put sanctions on Iran, it will drive the price of oil sky high and that will hurt everybody's economy.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, that's certainly one of the considerations that--that we will take into account as we work with the Perm Five, other members of the Perm Five on the United Nations Security Council.

SCHIEFFER: Let me--let me ask you, everyone in the government says the nuke—the military option can never be taken off the table. Have you actually reviewed plans, if it came to exercising the military option?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I think it's best I just leave it that all options should be on the table, and the last option is the military option. We have got to work hard to exhaust all diplomacy and that's what you're--that's what the country is seeing happen.
  • Tricia McDermott

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