President George W. Bush is confident that he and first lady Laura Bush have lost money in the economic crisis, but that they won't find out until after he leaves office how much their financial accounts have lost.
In an interview with CNN's Larry King on Tuesday, the president said his personal assets are in a blind trust and that the last time he talked with the trustees was eight years ago. Bush said he has "no earthly idea" how much he and his wife have lost in the market slump but said he's confident that they had lost some.
Asked what part of the responsibility for the financial meltdown rests on his shoulders, Bush defended his decision to ask Congress to approve a $700 billion financial rescue plan. He said his actions have mitigated the effects the economic crisis is having on Americans. He also argued that his administration called for reform of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but that no legislative reform was ever passed.
"Not to blow my own horn, but I recognized the dangers inherent with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and asked Congress to regulate them," Bush said, adding that he was worried they were getting a little overextended.
But he acknowledged that his administration did not foresee the meltdown.
"No, we didn't see it coming," he said. "We saw that there could be dangers in an unregulated Fannie and Freddie and they needed a regulator and they needed to be reined in."
In the interview held in the White House library, Bush also defended Vice President Dick Cheney, describing him as an intelligent patriot. He denied allegations that some of the harsh interrogation techniques used on terror suspects amounted to torture and said he was "comfortable" with the methods used because they were based on legal opinions. While he said the U.S.-led invasion in Iraq was the right decision, he acknowledged being "worried Iraq was going to fail" at the time he decided to dispatch 30,000 more U.S. troops there in 2007.
Bush was asked if Hurricane Katrina was the lowest point of his presidency.
"Well, I think being called a racist was the low point," Bush replied, referring to reaction to the federal government's sluggish response to the needs of hurricane victims, many of whom were black.
Asked if he thought he had gotten a bum rap as president, Mrs. Bush chimed in, saying that she thought he had. "A lot of it was very personal and demeaning," she said.
The president, however, brushed off the criticism, saying he couldn't and didn't make decisions based on polls.
On other issues, the president said he was a little surprised that his brother, Jeb, decided not to run for the Senate from Florida. Bush declined to tip his hand about whether he planned to issue more pardons before leaving office. And he said he had no interest in being commissioner of baseball - that even though he loves the sport, he was going to focus his attention on writing a book and developing his presidential library and center at Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas.