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8:00 CT - Liveblogging the interview. King starts off by getting Bush to admit that turning 60 is "traumatic".
8:01 - North Korea. Bush knew the missiles were "teed up", but says that seven launches took him by surprise. Says he's talked to the other parties in the multilateral talks and they all agree that a strong response is needed.
8:03 - Bush says no to bilateral talks: "We tried that before and it didn't work." He insists on the multilateral approach. Bush tells King that the US has taken the lead, and this is why the multilateral talks have existed at all.
8:05 - Laura Bush scores a couple of points by telling King that they spent the time watching the shuttle launch instead of Kim's fireworks.
8:06 - King asked Bush if Iraq was a diplomatic failure. Classic Bush response: "Well, yeah, after seventeen failed UN resolutions." He insists that removing Saddam was the right decision, and that establishing democracy in the Middle East is an important key to improving the conditions that breeds terrorism.
8:07 - King asks Laura about Iraq, and she reminds him of the twelve-year quagmire. She's obviously ready for this interview. Bush says, "It's easy to lose resolve if you govern based on polls." He reminds people that Japan also had democracy imposed on it by an occupying American force, and 60 years later we now have one of ourrongest relationships with Tokyo. Could we count on Japan as a countervailing force against Kim if we hadn't done the tough work in the postwar period?
8:12 - Bush seems more at ease with Larry King than with other one-on-one interviews. The last such event featured Tim Russert, and Bush seemed strained and defensive. He appears more natural and at ease with King.
8:16 - He answers the "Why me?" question by saying that he considers himself fortunate. Again, he's coming across much more personably than almost any other time I've seen him interviewed. Bush insists that the polling doesn't bother him, and that he expects criticism. Laura makes a great point by reminding people that they saw what the job was like under Bush Senior's term.
8:18 - Bush: You cannot achieve great things if you're worried about opinion polls. He tells King that he'd rather be right than popular, inadvertently paraphrasing Harry Truman.
8:19 - Funny moment when King continued to press Bush on whether he'd rather be popular. Bush laughed and said, "Well, you rely on ratings. No wonder you keep asking questions about popularity!" He insists that he's been popular and unpopular, and neither has changed his core principles or the focus on his goals. He sounds confident without being cocky,.
8:25 - You could see Bush's anger at the leakers who turned over the NSA and Swift stories. He agreed with King about the need for a free press, but he also emphasized the fact that we're at war.
8:27 - Bush on Guantanamo: Supreme Court okayed Gitmo but told him he had to work with Congress on military tribunals, which he said he would do. He disagreed with the Court's application of the Geneva Convention to non-state actors out of uniform and targeting civilians for political purposes. Good answer on that point.
8:28 - King has done a good job on this interview as well, at least so far. He has been respectful but still asking probing questions.
8:30 - Oooh. He backed off of phased implementation a bit here, still insisting he wants comprehensive immigration reform. He says amnesty equates to making people citizens automatically, a strange definition; amnesty has always referred to forgiving their illegal status, not the granting of citizenship. He did say that legal immigration applicants should be at the head of the line.
8:34 - Bush wraps up his immigration discussion well, appearing quite at ease discussing the details of the arguments. I didn't agree with him on some of it, but he has remained consistent.
8:35 - Why different approaches between Iran and North Korea? "They're two different situations ... North Korea got concessions, and then failed to honor their commitment."
8:36 - Still insists that he has a good relationship with Putin, as does Laura. Bush thinks he has the kind of relationship with the Russian president where he can speak frankly about disagreements. Well, okay, but Bush doesn't seem to have much influence on Putin's actions.
8:39 - The First Mate: "I just flat-out like George Bush ... he's real."
8:41 - King asks Bush about Lieberman and his independent run; would Bush support Lieberman? Bush says that King wants to "get me to give him a political kiss which might be his death!" He declined to comment on "hypotheticals".
8:43 - About Katrina: "There were a lot of heroics, and a lot that could have been done better." Laura tells King about grant programs to completely restock school libraries. Not too much on this topic that would surprise anyone. Earlier, Bush told King that he knew Ken Lay "pretty well," and that he was surprised by his death.
8:48 - Bush pledges to handle any war-crimes charges against American troops in a transparent manner, and describes the allegations as "despicable, if true". He wants to stress that these are the actions of a few, and not indicative of the totality of the American military. He understands that the Iraqis are concerned, and they should be.
8:50 - On Al Gore's charges about Bush and Cheney, he reminds people that he started the hydrogen initiative and is now funding clean coal.
8:51 - He tells King that he will be very involved in midterm campaigning. He seemed very enthusiastic about it -- maybe not TomKat enthusiastic, but still charged up.
8:52 - He says we will use persistence to get Osama bin Laden, but also reminded people that al-Qaeda no longer runs training camps and that most of their leadership has been captured or killed. He assures people that we will bring him to justice.
8:57 - Final segment. Laura says that the Presidency hasn't changed George much, just a little gray in the hair. Bush recommends daily exercise to keep the stress down. King reminds Bush that Nancy Reagan also has her birthday today, and they both talk about their admiration for her. Bush plans on being in full sprint throughout his entire second term -- a lot of initiatives to tackle, and he remains very optimistic about the American capacity for solving problems.
Analysis: I think Bush did himself a lot of good in this interview. He came across as very natural, very relaxed, and confident. He answered clearly and avoided the strangled syntax that often dogs his appearances. Hillary Clinton recently described him as "charming", and I think viewers got an opportunity to see that side of him.
King did well, but one criticism may be that he tried to tackle too many topics for a one-hour interview. It came across like some of his stream-of-consciousness columns at times. It may have benefitted from a clearer focus on two or three topics and more in-depth questioning. However, King remained relaxed and respectful.Sphere It View blog reactions
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