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If you like George H.W. Bush's story, you might also like:
Jimmy Carter,
Tom Clancy,
Colin Powell,
Mikhail Gorbachev,
Peggy Noonan,
Shimon Peres,
Norman Schwarzkopf
and Alan Simpson

George Bush also appears in the video:
President George Bush: Lessons of Leadership

Related Links:
George H.W. Bush Presidential Library
The White House
Bush Library Foundation

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George H.W. Bush
George H.W. Bush
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George H.W. Bush Interview (page: 4 / 4)

41st President of the United States

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  George H.W. Bush

All public figures are subect to criticism attacks. How do you respond to attacks?

George H.W. Bush: If you're attacked personally you have to basically ignore it. You've got to go back in history and recognize that there's nothing new here. It's more vindictive, more outrageous, more unaccountable.

The way that Franklin Roosevelt was treated in the Presidency by the press is entirely different than the way President Clinton, or me, or President Reagan were treated. There's been an evolution of incivility. But that isn't to say that there weren't, in our history, ferociously nasty editorials and charges and counter-charges that weren't true.

You have to have a really thick skin, you've got to turn the other cheek. You've got to try to do what your little kids in high schools do, make friends, and go the extra mile to see that the critic knows where you're coming from. But it can be ugly. There's a pack mentality today. And one hound gets out in front and the rest of the pack are baying at the heels of whoever it is that's being pursued. That's not a good thing. And so, what do you do when you're under fire? Try to tell the truth. Try to give it your best shot. Don't take it too personally, and get on with your life.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

It helps if you believe in the vision.

George H.W. Bush: I think it helps.

I don't want to be called a senior citizen, I feel like a spring colt. I don't want to be called a has-been, because there's things I want to do in life. But, I've been there and I'd say, "Don't let the bastards get you down." And they don't anymore, I don't talk to them anymore, so they don't get me down. I've got my family, and I've got so many blessings that I don't think I've earned, that I'm a very happy man. I can't wait for the next day.

George H.W. Bush Interview Photo
Some people say that President Roosevelt allowed the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor.

George H.W. Bush: I think that's absurd. I don't believe it for a minute, that he would have on his conscience the death of those people, and the battleship that you can see today, some bodies still in it, out there at Pearl Harbor, that he would have that guilt on his hands. I don't believe it for a minute. I think there have been cases in history where the disclosure of information would cost more lives than the price for not disclosing. I think Commanders in Chief face dilemmas, but I don't think Roosevelt would ever be guilty of permitting a Pearl Harbor, so as he could mobilize public opinion to bring the United States into the war on the side of our allies against fascism, and on the side of our allies against imperialism. An allegation can be made against a public figure, or a private figure, or a neighbor. Say it once loudly and get enough coverage, or spread enough disinformation, and the person can be severely damaged.

I'll give you a personal example. It was alleged that I was out of touch. "Bush is a President that's out of touch. He came from a privileged background, doesn't understand the hurt around this country." I went down to see a technology show and one of the items in the show was a brand new technology for check-out counters. It showed a machine that had never been invented before and, if my recollection is correct, wasn't even on the market at this point. The guy brought in a crumpled milk carton and ran it across this scanner and it did something that no other scanner could possibly do. I made some comment. "Amazing, this is a wonderful thing." And the people that produced this were saying, "This is the state-of-the-art, and we've got more to come." It was wonderful. A lazy little journalist with a famous name working for The New York Times, the son of a decent and honorable father, but a lazy little journalist, was sitting in another room. He didn't see this. He wrote that, "Here is Bush, he's out of touch. He saw a scanner. He didn't even know that at supermarkets you can scan something." It played right into the hands of the press that wanted to show I was out of touch and it was picked up. We pointed out to the press afterwards that, one, the guy wasn't there; two, this was brand new technology. CBS, not my favorite, came and defended me. Another one of the wire service reporters said that I got a bum rap, but the people don't remember that. What they remember is that I was out of touch, that I didn't even know what a grocery scanner was. You can't fight back against that kind of thing. You can do a better job in communicating. I plead guilty to not being the world's greatest communicator. But that was a myth, that was a lie, that was bad for me. And yet it lives on, people remember it. The fact that Bush was out of touch, he didn't even know there was a grocery counter scanner. Now, what's the equity, what's the fairness in that kind of reporting, that kind of cynical attack? But the answer is, you can't let them get you down, you've got to keep on trying to do your best.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

George H.W. Bush Interview Photo
It gets back to what my mother said, "Do your best, try your hardest, be honest." Those high achieving kids -- I hope they're listening to that advice. Because if they get to be President, if they get to win the Nobel Peace Prize, it's those kind of values that are going to matter.

Communication is very important.

George H.W. Bush: It is. Nobody has ever accused me of being a superior communicator. If I could have conveyed to the American people the concerns I had, and my heartbeat, a little more clearly, maybe I would not be unemployed and retired. And I might not be this happy, either.

George H.W. Bush Interview Photo
I learned a lot from Ronald Reagan about communication. Never got to be in his league in terms of it, but he could say something and the American people might not agree with the issue, but they could empathize with him. He could communicate in a marvelous way, with humor, and conviction.

I suppose it's a skill you can learn, but I always figured, if I do my best and try my hardest, there will be some good things, there will be some failures, the American people will judge me on all of that. And they will. It takes time. I'm not going to write a memoir. Let somebody else figure out my shortcomings and my possible successes.

Thank you, Mr. President. It's been a privilege.

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This page last revised on Feb 26, 2008 16:31 EST
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