Transcript: President Bush, Part 1

Katie Couric interviews President George W. Bush, Sept. 6, 2006
White House Photo
CBS Evening News Anchor and Managing Editor Katie Couric sat down with President Bush at the White House to ask him about the state of the war on terror five years after the 9/11 attacks. This is Part I of the transcript of that interview.

KATIE COURIC First of all, thank you so much, Mr. President, for talking with us.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Glad to do it.

COURIC:We really, really appreciate it. As you well know, Monday is the fifth anniversary of– of 9/11. And so many Americans are thinking about that day. And I'm just wondering what your thoughts are as we approach that anniversary.

BUSH: Well, you know, I – I make a – I approach it with mixed emotions. I remember the horror. And I remember the, you know, the loss of life. I also remember the lessons. And…September the 11th affected my thinking. It basically changed my attitude about the world. And – I resolved around that time that I would do everything to protect the American people. And it, frankly, has defined much of how I think as the president. And so for me it's not just a moment. You know, it's really been a – a change of life.

COURIC: A major shift in your philosophy of the world.

BUSH: Yeah, it really has been, it–

COURIC: How so?

BUSH: Well, it reminded me that – that we're in– we're in a – a– a major struggle with extremists. You know, when you really think about why would somebody kill 3,000 Americans? And the – I – I thought that, the more I learned, the more I realized that this is an enemy that – is bound by ideology and has got desires. They wanna drive us out of the region. They wanna establish a caliphate, which is like a Muslim, you know, empire.

And I realized the struggle was more than just defeating an al-Qaeda. It is really an ideological war between extremism and moderation and reasonableness. And it's been a – it was a profound moment. It was – but – but I – I say that. But it was no more profound than the– the thousands of our citizens who lost a loved one. And so the – September the 11th is gonna be a sad moment, a day of remembrance and a day of commitment.

COURIC: You have said, Mr. President, that America is safer but we are not yet safe.

BUSH: Right.

COURIC: When you think about the threats out there, what is your biggest fear?

BUSH: Well – my biggest fear is somebody will come in and slip in this country and kill Americans. And I can't tell you how. Obviously there would be the spectacular. That would be the use of some kind of biological weapon or weapon of mass destruction. But as we learned recently from the British plots, people were, you know, gonna get on airplanes and blow up airplanes with innocent people flying to America.

And – you know, one way to look at it is we have to be right 100 percent of the time in order to protect this country, and they gotta be right once. And it's just a – just a fact of life. The – the – we're facing an enemy, Katie, that just doesn't care about innocent life. I mean, they really are evil people.

They – they – they – they just don't care if somebody suffers in order for them to achieve a– a mean. And – and that makes an awfully ruthless enemy to deal with. And – and I say we're safer because we've done a lot to protect the country. I mean, the mentality has changed a lot.

I mean, you know, the – the matters we now recognized, we gotta talk better inter – interagency. That means the CIA and the FBI have gotta share data. And Congress passed some laws that enable them to do so without, you know, violating law. We gotta talk to – we gotta share intelligence with our friends.

That was one of the successes – because of the British operation is because they knew some things and we knew some things. And our people got together and just talked about it. One of the controversial programs has been this notion about listening to people who are from outside the country, calling in or inside the country, calling out, to determine their intentions. And I – that's a vital tool. I know it's created controversy, but nevertheless, it is a tool to make sure we get the intelligence necessary.

And then today I'm gonna give a speech talking about the need to be able to interrogate people – within the law and within our Constitution in order to get information to protect us. And so we're better. We really are. But nevertheless, the question is: Can you be perfect? And that's– that's what we're striving to be. But the enemy's gotta be right one time. And so we're working hard to protect the people.