BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Fitzhugh Green, author of "George Bush: An Intimate Portrait." Why a book on the president?
FITZHUGH GREEN, AUTHOR, "GEORGE BUSH: AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT": My publisher asked me to do it.
LAMB: Other than that.
CARO:And he asked me to do it in the spring of '88 and--because I wanted to do a book about super-bureaucrats, people who could go into the bureaucracy and really make it work. And he said, `Well'--and I have an idea of doing several of them--he said, `Why don't you do "the" supercrat to start with?' And I said, `You mean George Bush?' And he said, `Exactly.' So shortly after we signed the contract, the now president's rating against Dukakis went down 17 points in arrears and I said, `Are you sure you want to do this?' And the publisher said, `He's an important man. Win, lose or draw, we want to do this book.'
LAMB: Who's your publisher?
CARO:Hippocrene Books. It's a New York firm.
LAMB: And what kind of books do they usually publish?
CARO:They have a mix of books on public affairs, books on political matters, books on travel.
LAMB: This particular book on George Bush, do you have a special insider's view?
CARO:I think I do. I think this is what the publisher had in mind. That one way or another, I've had dealings with him or his family since I was a little boy. We grew up in a town next to where Barbara Pierce, his wife, lived and we were friends with her, and her sister and her brothers. And largely because of her, I think, I began to see him when he started coming to Washington. But I worked for the father-in-law of his brother, Prescott Bush Jr., as aide to an admiral. He was an admiral in the Second World War. So I've been aware of the family directly and indirectly for well over 50 years.
LAMB: So you got to know Mrs. Bush back in the early days? Lived next door to her. What year was that?
CARO:That was in the '30s.
LAMB: Go to school with her?
CARO:No, my sister and brother did, and I took her sister out a little bit when we were kids. She was a beautiful girl, somewhat older than the first lady.
LAMB: Where was this?
CARO:That was in Rye and Harrison, New York, just two stops down from where the Bush's lived up in Greenwich.
LAMB: Where did you grow up other than Rye, New York? Where did you go to school?
CARO:Well, my father was a naval officer so I went to public schools around the country, and then I went up to a prep school in New Hampshire and then I went to Princeton.
LAMB: When was the first time you can remember meeting the now President Bush?
CARO:I think the first time was when he was elected to the Congress in '68.
LAMB: How did you meet him?
CARO:I just met him socially.
LAMB: What did you think of him the first time you met him?
CARO:Well, I'd been aware of him for some time, and I remember him as a vigorous, tall, modest, unassuming, pink-cheeked fellow --very athletic-- and the kind of man that you automatically trust.
LAMB: One of the first things that you write about in here is a little -- I'm not sure if it's even an unknown fact, although I've never seen a definition of why they called him in the early days Poppy.
CARO:I haven't thought about that for quite a while. His great uncle was called Poppy--George Herbert Walker--and--so when they named him--and--and they called him Poppy for Po--you know--familiar for...
LAMB: For Pop.
CARO:...`Hi, Pop.' And so when they named George, George Herbert Walker Bush, they called him Little Poppy, and then it got to be Poppy.
LAMB: You had a nickname.
CARO:I had polio when I was a kid, which destroyed half of my face, and so my eye was always a problem and so they called me, of course, Popeye in school.
LAMB: Did the president have a hard time shaking that name?
CARO:I think he did just what I did. When he got into the Navy and into college, he just didn't answer to it anymore. People get tired of trying after a while.
LAMB: We see it most often, or at least did see it most often, when people would write about him in the current day referring to his New England upbringing in a preppy kind of a name. Is that fair?
CARO:I think it's very fair. I think that he did get rid of Poppy, but he never got rid of `preppy.' And he went down there to Texas clearly to get away from just being a carbon copy of his dad. Of course, his dad wasn't from New England either, but he'd gone to a prep school there and, of course, he was a New England politician and he was a very strong personality. And George Bush is a very strong, hard-driving individual himself, and he clearly wanted to cut his own furrows, so he went down to Texas and started his life all over again. And there's a million stories about how he keeps trying to be a Texan when he really isn't. And he once told Lyndon Johnson, `My Lord,' he said, `I've spent more time in Texas since '48 than you did.' And--but he still--I think I say in the book that he's never really shaken the fact that he's a--that he's not a Texan. And I say that he's 100 percent American, but as an ersatz Texan.
LAMB: What was his father like?
CARO:His father was a tall, husky, athletic man who was always the kind of fellow who comes into a room and dominates it simply by his strong personality and by his physical…yeah, there's a better picture of him--I don't know if it's on the next page or not, but in any case--this is when he already was dying of cancer, although it wasn't generally known in that picture that you're showing. But before that he was--he was a fine athlete, he was a champion golfer, he was a fine swimmer and a wonderful singer. He had a stage presence which may--you know, it may account for the fact that the president does not have a stage presence to speak of, compared to a--to an actor or a singer. He was the one person in his family who didn't sing. All the rest of them sang, and they were taught by their father how to sing parts and so forth. But George Bush never did that. His brother, Press, who--they--who was very close with him when they were young said that he could carry a tune but that seems to be a controversial point of view.
LAMB: Father was a senator.
CARO:Father became a senator. He was a businessman. He was a--a great doer of--of good. He worked on the hospital board, the s--the school board, and a--all things like that when he was--when he was working full time in New York. He'd come back in the evening, and go down and sit on these board meetings and raise a lot of money for the Republican Party, and finally they began to think of him as a candidate himself and eventually they got him to run. But he was--in World War II, he--he was in charge of--of the USO--United Service Organizations--you know, the--the thing that tried to keep the soldiers and sailors happy and give them something to do when they weren't on duty.
LAMB: What kind of influence did Prescott Bush Sr. have on George Bush?
CARO:I think he had a great deal. It's interesting that when I interviewed Barbara Bush for--for this book, she said, `Well, everybody says that, that--but the real strong influence was his mother.' And that could well be in terms of--of deep moral strength and so forth. But there's no question that his father was a very imposing man. He had a deep voice and--and he was a very upright man. They went to church a lot in that family and the children were required to go to church. And they stuck together as a family, and it's clear that he was a very strong role model. It'd be very hard not to try to be like a man of his strong personality.
LAMB: When he was a senator, where was George Bush?
CARO:George Bush was already in Texas. George Bush went to Texas in '48 and his father became a senator in '52 and stayed there for a couple of terms.
LAMB: What was his father's politics?
CARO:He was a Republican and they didn't have right-wing and left-wing Republicans and Democrats in those days, so much as he was an Eastern businessman, a moderate Republican, I'd think you'd call him.
LAMB: You think he would agree, if he were here today, with his son's position on politics?
CARO:Yeah. I can't think of any big breaking point that might exist between them.
LAMB: His mother is still alive?
CARO:His mother is still alive. She's rather frail. I interviewed her at that beautiful point they've got called--at Kennebunkport called Walker's Point, where she still lives in a smaller house on that point, which is a 10-acre thrust out into the Atlantic Ocean, mostly of rock at t--Kennebunkport. A spectacular place. And George's--I'm sorry--the president's sister, Nancy Ellis, took me over to see her one day in the summer of '88, and it was a cool, breezy afternoon, and this lady, who was then 87, and used to be very athletic herself--she and her husband were both great golfers and played together until--until the boys were really quite grown. She used to be able to outrun them in a foot race anytime. But she suffers from a deterioration of the bone structure but she sat there and she had a crisp white golf hat on her, and her eyes were very clear and very bright--they're brown--and she talked with a quiet sense of humor and very sharp.
LAMB: Where was she from originally?
CARO:She came from St. Louis.
LAMB: And where did her husband come from or...
CARO:They both came from the mid--Midwest.
LAMB: And they met in the East or in the Midwest?
CARO:They met in the Midwest, were married there and then they came East after they'd been married a while.
LAMB: You say in your book that you interviewed 400 people for this book?--400 or 200? I can't remember.
CARO:It was well over 400. And they weren't all formal, long interviews. They were a lot of them were a few minutes here, a few minutes there with a great number of people. We have many friends and even relatives that are in common.
LAMB: Did you interview the president?
CARO:I talked to him three times during the time I was working on the book.
LAMB: Would you characterize this as a favorable portrait of George Bush?
CARO:I've done my level best to portray the man as I found him through what I read, what I saw and what I had learned from people I talked to. I am a Republican and in fact, I gave him a fund raiser--you'll see a picture on the back which was taken at my house up in Rhode Island in 1979 where we tried to get Rhode Island's support for his effort, which ended in his getting to be vice president, not president, as you recall. But I went after every clue I could to what kind of a man he is, both good and bad. And I've dealt with every allegation and criticism that I was able to dig up. I was on the campaign as an environmental specialist, part-time environmental adviser to the campaign, but as soon as I signed the contract I quit the campaign because I wanted to be able to speak my mind and speak from my research.
LAMB: You cite in here...
CARO:I didn't answer you to say whether it was positive or not positive. I would think you'd probably say it came out positive. I found answers to all the bad things that people were saying against him. I didn't find anything to drive the good points away. So I guess you'll have to say that it's a favorable picture.
LAMB: You cite in here his own book, "Looking Forward."
LAMB: If someone had read "Looking Forward" and read this book, what kind of things would they learn from your book that they didn't from his own?
CARO:Well, I had trouble with the "Looking Forward," because it's a campaign book, basically. It's marred, as it would be bound to be, by the fact that he allegedly wrote it, although it was really written by an adviser called Vic Gold. And he has to be modest. He can't say the good things about himself. He's an innately modest fellow anyway. And also, I think it jumps around a good deal. I have to concede the fact that this book is for sale and I want to make it look better. I think it's better because it goes further into the past, and it is much more chronological than the other one. The other one jumps around. But it's a useful book to have; I read it carefully, of course.
LAMB: Your own background-in the jacket- they tell us something about you, but as you read through the book once in a while it will pop up here and there that you've had a lot of different jobs. Can we go back in your own past and take it through to where we are today? Where did you go to school?
CARO:Well, as I said, I went to public schools, both in the East and in California, and then I went to St. Paul’s school up in Concord, New Hampshire, and I went to Princeton.
LAMB: What did you study?
CARO:At Princeton I majored in English in hopes that I'd be able to write a biography someday. My father wrote a lot of books. He wrote 40 books in his spare time.
LAMB: What kind of books?
CARO:They were boys' novels, adventure stories for late teen-age boys. They were histories, they were Naval- a Naval officer, an Arctic explorer. There were 22 of these books he ghosted for famous people like Byrd and Lindbergh and other explorers of the '20s. And he was an Arctic explorer himself. And, in any case, I wanted to be in the Navy--he was an Annapolis graduate--but because of my polio I was unable to get into anything for a while. But I finally, by working in defense plants, tricked my way into the Navy with a waiver. After the war I worked for the Bic Chemical company for the--for Life magazine. And this was up in New York and it's an exciting place to work if you want to make a lot of money in your life. And, I think, as a result of going to these same types of schools that Bush did, I was imbued with the same feeling about what you do in life, which is that if you don't have a lot of financial problems because you've got too many children or so forth, you ought to serve your fellow man and your country. And Princeton's motto, if you don't mind me repeating it, is: Princeton in the nation's service. So when President Eisenhower said, `Let's go down and clean up the mess in Washington,' that grabbed me and I left Life--well, I was having a good time, but I felt that Life magazine was going to succeed whether it had me or not. So I arrived here full of hope for the country because I was going to help clean up the mess here. And I discovered nobody cared whether I came to town to clean up the mess. But I joined the Federal Trade Commission for a year; and I worked for the Citizens for Eisenhower to get him a Republican Congress in '54; and I joined USIA, the US Information Agency, where I stayed, with the exception of two years off on the Hill and--working for Senator Pell until 1970, at which time the political people in USIA said, `Why don't you go home and run for Congress?' By this time, I'd been to the war college up in Rhode Island. And so I wasn't given the nomination, I had to fight for it to run for Congress there that year, which was '70. And I didn't make it, but I came to work for Bill Ruckelhaus in the new Environmental Protection Agency.
LAMB: By the way, what district did you run from?
CARO:I ran from the second district. That's the one on the East Side.
LAMB: Are you talking about New York or Connecticut?
LAMB: I'm sorry. I apologize. That was--the Navy...
CARO:Because the Navy war college is in Rhode Island.
CARO:Maybe I didn't say that. And it was a very exciting period in the USIA--US Environmental Protection Agency--because we were just starting to get at these terrible problems of the environment. And while I was there I saw Bush a number of times. He was head of our mission to the UN. He came to a couple of environment meetings that I was in abroad. And then I quit after almost seven years there-seven plus years there- and stayed home and was a consultant on propaganda and the environment for six years.
LAMB: Here in town?
CARO:Yeah. And I wrote a book on how to control weather and climate in the environment. And then I was asked to--and then the US Environmental Protection Agency got in deep trouble. There was a lady from Colorado that came and--and tried to--she--she thought that Mr. Reagan, in saying we should get at these regulatory agencies, should--meant that we should ratchet back in the gains in any regulatory agency. But, of course, the American people don't want to go back in terms of controlling the environment problems. So there was a firestorm of discontent and--and Bill Ruckelhaus was brought back again and he brought me back with him. I stayed another four years and I--I quit in 197--'87 in order to write books, and I wrote this book on propaganda at that time. And--and then--but I was working as a vice-president in William D. Ruckelhaus and Associates. By that time he had started a--an environmental consulting firm. And after a year with--with that company and writing this book, I was then asked to do the Bush book.
LAMB: So we're up to the Bush book? And...
CARO:We're up to the Bush book.
LAMB: And when did you finish writing? What's the--when was the last word written for this book?
CARO:June of '88--'89--last year.
LAMB: And it's been in the bookstores for how long?
CARO:It's been in for--for two or three months here and there.
LAMB: And how is it doing?
CARO:Well, it--for a modest, young fellow like me, it's doing very well. It's--it's in all the bookstores that you can find around the country. And if anybody can't find it, please--please, to let me know through C-SPAN.
LAMB: What--what would we see in George Bush if we were able to know him real well and see him behind the scenes compared to what we see on television?
CARO:Well, of course, the short answer is, to paraphrase Mr. Bush, read my book. Because I think you'll find in there a fellow who was--he is a very moral person, a very hardworking fellow, a very joyful fellow, a very athletic, fun-loving, family-loving--he's a typical heart-of-America type of American. And he's had advantages that other people d--don't have, but--but he really--he lives a simple life and he cares about people. He writes--I think even now--one of his people t--in the White House told me that he's still writing as many as 40 private notes to friends and contacts around the country every day. And he's--he's that careful with the jobs he does. He's--he's always been a--a bear of a worker, and when he gets involved with something, he's--he's involved all the way to--to the marrow. And he gradually began to see that, if you're going to be in politics, you can do the most if you get to the top, just as it is in any walk of life. And he didn't make a big announcement anytime, but you could--it--it began to come through that--in the 70s, that this is where he ought to be going. And he went at it hammer and tongs. There--there--another short answer to your question is that you see a man when you get to--to pan in tightly on him who is much brighter than--than people see. They--they see him--him making his flip remarks and his--and his being a genial politician and so forth, and I--and I think that--that he was considered shallow and--and not even very--very powerful. They called him "The Wimp," as you remember, during the campaign. But the man is--is working all the time and he's very bright at what he does. He--he--he studied what they call a dismal science, economics, at Yale. He got through Yale in a year, two and a half years, and he was made Phi Beta Kappa, and he won--he--he--he won the also the top prize in that subject while he was there.
LAMB: What's Phi Beta Kappa, for those who don't know?
CARO:Phi Beta Kappa is--is the highest prize that's given on a national basis to people for a scholarship at the university level. He was also, all the way through his--his various careers, a very quick study. You never--you never see him--y--you could--you could tell this now in his press conferences--he doesn't have to look at speaking notes. He knows the answers because he's seen them and he--and he understands them. And so all the way through, thi--this is a much brighter man than, I think, than the--the image of him is. And the other side of him that I don't think has come through too well is how tough he is and how he's a--physically, he's a very brave man, as he proved that in the war on numerous occasions, and--but morally and managerially, he's a very tough fellow; and he's tough without being mean. There was a recent president, whose name I shan't mention, who used to say in the White House that if the president--that president was--was mean without being tough. This fellow is--is the opposite of mean. He's very giving. They used to call him "Have Half" when he was a kid because he was so generous with whatever he had in terms of food or clothes or baseball bats or whatever.
LAMB: You mean he'd tell everybody to have half of whatever he had?
CARO:Yeah. He said--that's right. If he had half a piece of pie left, he'd say, `Have half of mine.'
LAMB: You tell a story in there of him losing his temper when he was at the CIA. Can you recount that?
CARO:Yes. There was a--there was a great, big fellow over from the Defense Department one day, and Bush's chief of staff, Admiral Murphy, was on detail as his--one of his deputies. And he--were--discussing a matter with the Defense Department official. And this fellow began to be insulting to Dan Murphy, and Bush took it for a while and then he got physically enraged, to the--to the point where Admiral Murphy told me that he thought he was going to climb across the table and beat up on this fellow, who was much bigger than he was, even though Bush is a big fellow; he's 6'3" and weighs a little more than 200 pounds. And so he has--he has a temper and he's not afraid to show it.
LAMB: How often do you see that temper?
CARO:Very, very seldom. Murphy, I think, said he'd seen it only one time in the four years that--I guess he was with him about six years because he was his--his chief of staff when he was vice president.
LAMB: Was it hard to get people to tell anecdotes on the president?
CARO:I think so, because he doesn't really lend himself to anecdotes. He's not a fellow who tries to be like his father and--and command the room. In fact, this is probably the--the biggest difficulty he had in becoming a successful politician. Until he actually started to run for office, he was one of these people who--that--who nature has smiled on. He was handsome; he was always a good athlete. He had a very easy--he was a good-looking fellow, physically, and in all respects. And being a good athlete and being bright, he--people just sort of naturally made him a leader wherever he was. The---the mantle was laid on him. And suddenly a lifetime of--of--of never asking for anything for himself changed and he had to start, whenever he'd meet somebody, in effect, saying, `I want you to vote for me.' And it didn't set well with him. And it probably was a--that plus the fact that he--that he didn't have the experience of--of being on the stage as a singer, the way his father and some of his brothers and sisters and his--and his brothers were. He--he had trouble getting points across. In fact, when I talked to his mother, his mother said--I asked her about something which occurred--I--I think it was mentioned in--in his autobiography, which was that she had twitted him for boasting about himself. And he didn't like boasting about himself, and she made it harder. She said, `George, I don't think--I don't like the way you've bo--you go out and boast about your war record.' She said, `Your father never had to do that.' So I asked her when I interviewed her last su--summer, a year ago, I said, `You must have been teasing him. Surely Senator Bush had to say what a great man he was in order to get himself elected.' She said, `He never boasted.' So this is--this is a lifetime of preparation not to be self-advancing. And I think that explains why you--you--you don't see him up there pushing for the front of the stage, even now that he's president.
LAMB: He has one sister, Nancy.
CARO:One sister. A sister, Nancy.
LAMB: And how many brothers?
CARO:He has three brothers.
LAMB: How close is he to his siblings?
CARO:He was very close to his--his older brother, two years older, Press Bush Jr. In fact, they were so close that--they used to share a room when they were going to grade school, and Christmas came one year and--and their mother said, `Well, I've given you a Christmas present. I've given you each a--a--we divided up your room and now you've each got your private room.' And there was no reactions. She said, `Well, aren't you happy?' And they said, `Well, actually, what we'd like for Ch--Christmas would be for you to take that wall down.'
LAMB: Where are his other brothers?
CARO:One of them is in Ohio. And--he's a businessman. And one's in New York.
LAMB: His sister's husband just died.
CARO:And--and--and the third one is--well, two are in New York, Jonathan and--and Press Sr. His sister's husband, Alexander Ellis, just died a--a few days ago.
LAMB: And there were stories written at the time about how she came and spent a lot of time with her brother, George, and walked the beach and things like that. Would that--did that surprise you? Together--and they--they talked and spent a lot of time together. Were they close?
CARO:When--when was this?
LAMB: After the death of--of...
CARO:Oh, I think he clearly got together with her, yeah. They're very--they're very close. The whole family's very close.
LAMB: What--what is Barbara Bush like that we don't see in what we read in the press?
CARO:I think what you don't see is how beautifully organized she is and how strong she is. I mean, you see her as this person who jokes about her age and about her white hair and so forth, but--and I've known her since she was a child, as I said. But when I interviewed her, I realized this is no--this isn't just Barbara Pierce grown up; this is a person who could run a corporation, in the very best sense of the word. She's--she arrived for our interview at the vice president's house exactly one minute ahead of time. She left exactly on the half-hour of when we were supposed to complete it. And during the period that we talked, I was impressed by the fact that she valued the time that we were spending together; she--she was totally aware of all the things that were going on, good, bad and indifferent, about his campaign. And you felt this is somebody--if--if I--if I suddenly inherited General Motors, I'd like to have her run it.
LAMB: Is she any different today than she was when you first knew her years ago?
CARO:She's just--still just as friendly--friendly and funny and--and--and quick on the trigger. But she's become a very mature, strong person. I believe her mother was--was somewhat that way. And her father, of course, was an executive; he was head of a--of a magazine.
LAMB: You tell the story about when they were together at the UN and how she--they used to work as a team. Give us more about how she would be--how they would--she would feed him information.
CARO:Yes, well, I've served up at--there in the UN. I've done--in my own life I've--I've been in many of the places he--where he was. In fact, when he was learning how to drop a torpedo, as a naval pilot, we taught him up in--up in--a little camp--from an encampment at Hyaenas, Massachusetts. I didn't meet him, curiously, although it doesn't seem to have hurt his--his career much. But, in terms, of--of--your question was about her and how they worked together and--at the UN. And there we are at the UN; although it's our country, there are 150 or more foreign nations there. And the UN is a chance for the US to get points across to the representatives of the rest of the world. And it's done on a--largely on a personal basis because nobody pays that much attention to--to a lot of the speeches that are made there. It's the propaganda cockpit of the world and people are speaking for the way it'll look elsewhere. But there's a great opportunity for--for people to know each other on a personal basis and the--the Bushes are both very good at this and they've always been a good team, in terms of they--they've always been people who are part of the neighborhood where they live and they became part of the neighborhood in the UN. And Foxy Carter, who was one of Bush's assistants--I went to her one day and asked her if she would do--what she would like to do and she said, `Bring me the blue book,' which was the--the list of all the other delegates, and she got to know everybody's name, and their wives' names, and then she got to know, from looking at the intelligence reports that--that we--you have in a--in a US mission abroad, you know, where did this fellow go to school? In other words, so that you can act intelligently with the people that you deal with. I was also in the foreign service for many years. And I knew what she was doing, which was to--to know the territory and know the people in the territory. And between the two of them they would--they would develop relationships with--didn't matter what political power it was. It--a--any of the people that--that served there with the Bushes got to know them in a personal way. And this makes it a lot easier when you're trying to get hold of a fellow by the necktie and say, `Now, look, we want you to vote with us on this or that,' if your wife has become friendly with his wife, and--and your wife also knows him and--and they've been to your house and so forth. And the Bushes were absolutely first-class at this.
LAMB: Do you have any evidence where they, literally, worked together as a team and he would send her out to bring somebody to him that was a head of a delegation that--that we weren't getting along with?
CARO:This certainly went on, but I learned in the diplomatic service that if you ever boast of a diplomatic achievement, you don't have another one with those people. So I have to stay out of the details, but there are details that--that bear it out.
LAMB: Let me go, quickly, through a lot of different parts of the president's life and get you to comment, briefly, on each one of them. Let's start with when he was in the Navy. What was he like there?
CARO:Well, he--he decided to join the Navy on Pearl Harbor Day when he was only 17. He said, `I'm going to join the Navy.' He said that the next morning. And as soon as he was 18, which was in--in June the following year, which was '42, he joined the Navy and became the youngest pilot in the Navy. I've talked to people who served with him and he was known as a--he--he was a hard-charger; he was a--he was an eager beaver without being a pain in the neck about it. He was--he was--he was gutsy; he was on the job and he became an--an excellent pilot and a leader among his--his--the people in his squadron.
LAMB: What was he like as a businessman?
CARO:As a businessman, he started out working for one of his father's friends. Curious, though, although he was trying to get away from his father, he ended up at Dresser Industries, where Neal Malon was one of his--got him the job in the Dresser Industries, but he started out in a very, very low-level basis. It was--it was painting and maintaining and keeping records of--of oil-drilling machinery. And then gradually he--he worked up to where he was in the sales end. Of course, he's--he was a very good salesman. And, eventually, he went into business on his own. Throughout his business career, he--he was characterized by extremely hard work. He would get up early--work, work, work like the dickens. And--and always a--a very easy man to get on with. Although he worked hard and he kept people around him working hard, even when he became president of the company, he was down there with them. When--when they lost a drilling rig in the--in a--in a hurricane in the--in the Gulf of Mexico, he was out there in a helicopter searching for this thing for hour after hour. When everybody else was back wringing their hands, he was saying, `Take it easy. This is not the end of our company.' But he personally was out there trying to find the darn thing.
LAMB: Did he make any money?
CARO:Apparently he made a pretty good amount of money, but he got interested in politics be--before he made a great deal of money. He sold his interests in Zapata Off-Shore, which he became president of--formed and then was president of it. It was an offshore drilling company; it was a spin-off from Zapata Oil. The--the heads of which were his partners; later beco--later became the heads of--of Pennzoil. And they're vastly successful, of course--the Liedtkes--Hugh and Bill Liedtke. And, but--he--when he started to get active in Texas politics, he figured that he couldn't do both. After a while--he did some--some night work, but, along with Barbara, they'd go to meetings. But he--he sold his interest and--for something like $1 million. But if he'd--he'd held--if he'd held onto it for three more years, I think he'd be--the market proved he would have made about $7 million. So he would have been a really well-off fellow.
CARO:When he got to Congress, he was--here he--he learned specifically from his father wha--and was very, very punctilious about staying on top of the casework that--the individual relationships back in his district with--the seven district--7th District, Har--Har--Harris County down there in Houston. And he was--he was busy supporting legislation. You don't initiate much when you're a freshman congressman.
LAMB: What year was he a freshman?
CARO:'68. But he was very strong-minded. There was a bill for equal housing that was passed, and he voted for it. And from his district in--in--in Texas, there was a lot of complaining about this, and they felt that he was--he had turned into a great liberal, and they didn't want that. So he went down to Texas and he--he got into a--he allowed a meeting to be held and there were several hundred people there, and the--and--and he said, `I know you want to know why I voted for that Equal Housing Act,' and he said, `I'm going to tell you.' And he figured he was going to--he was going to kick up a firestorm, and he said, `I voted for--for that bill because I--I cannot see our boys of all ethnic stripes losing their--risking their lives and sometimes losing them in Vietnam, and then having either they or their brothers come back here to Houston or anywhere else and not be accorded the same right to buy a house as every other American.' He said, `I just think that's unconscionable, and I--that's not American, and I'd vote for that--for that piece of legislation every time it came up.' And there was a dead silence in the hall, and he thought to himself, `Well, I guess I've ripped it now, but I had to say it,' and suddenly, somebody clapped a little bit, and gradually it--it sunk into these people what he had said, and pretty soon, everybody was clapping, and pretty soon, they were all on their feet cheering.
LAMB: In those early years, how many times did he run for office and lose?
CARO:He ran for the Senate at the beginning and the end of his--of his then political career. He ran for the Senate in '64 and was defeated, and then he ran--but he did very well, and--but then he ran again a--in 1970 and was defeated. He thought he was going to be running against Ralph Yarborough, and he figured he could beat Ralph Yarborough and--who was the...
LAMB: Who was the senator.
CARO:...who was the then senator. And what he didn't realize was that--that Yarborough was in trouble. I interviewed Senator Yarborough for this--for this book. He's still alive, and he had a perfectly decent set of things to say about George Bush. But anyway, Bush figured it accurately; he was--and--and Yarborough was defeated not by him, but in--in--in a Democrat primary. So he--he ran against Bentsen, and Bentsen beat him.
LAMB: After he lost for the Senate, he was then nominated to go to the UN.
LAMB: What mark did he leave at the UN?
CARO:He left a mark of--well, he--he fought hard to--to sell the--the two-China policy. Those were the days when there were a lot of people in public life back here in--in Washington and in the country who felt that, since Chiang Kai-shek had been our--our ally in World War II--and then he'd, of course, gone down and taken this guy who had been thrown out of mainland China and started the Republic of Taiwan--that we ought to stick with him. There are still some people who feel that. But it--it was conceived that the way to--to deal with the fact you had a tremendous bunch of people in mainland China--it didn't make much sense to turn your back on a--on a billion people. So the policy that Bush was asked to sell was `Let's have a two-China policy; we'll have them both in the UN.' What he didn't realize was that, behind his back and without telling him, which is, I think, unconscionable, the president and Henry Kissinger were secretly negotiating with the Chinese on the mainland, and this became known and--and the people who were willing to vote for the two-China policy, finally, when they saw that he was having the--having this done to him, they felt that they didn't have to stick with their votes and th--they lost the vote. And then, of course, China was admitted because of the negotiations of Kissinger and--and Nixon.
LAMB: Did he think--did he take that as a personal defeat? Now what was the vote like, 59-52--or 53 or something?
CARO:Yeah, it was fairly close. It had been slowly co--coming to that over the years, and finally, it was a perfectly intelligent thing to do, but I--I think they should have told Bush. The ambassador to the UN or anywhere else is a personal representative of the president. I think if you're going to have an ambassador, you better tell him what you're up to.
LAMB: After the UN?
CARO:But i--just one final comment...
CARO:...that there are incidences--incidences whe--where the--the president has been--where Mr. Bush has been badly used in his career, and Kissinger did it there and a couple of other times, and there are two or three other people who--I--I mean, Senator Dole called him a liar when they were running for--for the primary--in the primaries. He has a--he has a way of not getting angry at these people. He--he does--he's not a wimp about it, but somehow, they don't become feuds, and they can do their damnedest, but they don't break a--they don't make him mad. The--there's an old Chinese saying, you know, that `If you want to destroy a man, make him angry.' Bush obviously understands this and doesn't--doesn't keep angers. Anyway, so you wanted to...
LAMB: UN and then President Nixon made him Republican National Committee chairman?
LAMB: What'd he do there?
CARO:Well, it was a little bit like being made captain of the Titanic after the--the ship had struck the iceberg, because it was the time of Water--of Watergate, and in many ways, this was his finest time. I saw him make a speech in Rhode Island when the president was clearly implicated in the--in the bad things of Watergate, and the Republican Party was under fire everywhere in the country, and he got up and told 500 or 600 Rhode Islanders under a tent--it was in the late summer--`Now's the time that we should fight for the party. This is not the party that's bad. This is some people in the party who have behaved badly. This is when we've got to keep this party going.' And he was not arguing--asking for votes for himself. This is a typi--this is the way this man is. He was fighting for something he believed in. He got all those people out of--out onto--onto the--onto the grass under that tent cheering him. It was a--it was a brilliant speech, and he'd made it, obviously, many times. He wasn't using notes. And--and--but he remained loyal to the president right up till the end, and finally, when he saw that the president was in trouble because of his own poor judgment on--on some of those matters, he was the fellow that wrote him a letter and said, `Mr. President, it's time for you to resign.'
LAMB: Next stop, China. How did he get to be our liaison to China?
CARO:Well, of course, he had the--he had the title of ambassador so he could still say he was ambassador, although you have got to--he was director of the liaison--US Liaison Office because we hadn't totally recognized the Chinese at that point. And he re--he replaced a veteran diplomat, David Bruce, and it was clear that--that Kissinger didn't want him--well, let's not get ahead of it. The president said, `You can have anything you want. You know, you can be in London or Paris.' He said, `You've done a...'
LAMB: President Ford.
CARO:Yes. No, this is still Nixon. `You can--you can do'--no, by that time, it was Ford. That's right. `And you've done a good job and--for the Republican Party.' No, I'm sorry, it's still Nixon. Nixon was--wasn't out yet. `And wha--what would you like?' And to make a long story short, he said, `I'll take China.' And the president thought he was kidding, but he--he obviously--this was one of those decisions where he wants to stretch out and not do what everybody else did.
LAMB: I think you're right in the middle. Your Chapter 11 says, `Gerald Ford swept into the presidency on a wave of public relief.' And then it goes on to talk about China, so it must mean that he was--`that he promptly honored his pledge to George Bush. He told Bush that he happily would accord him his pick of two top ambassadorships, London or Paris.' So it was Gerald Ford.
CARO:The--I--I haven't read the book lately. I'm sorry.
LAMB: And--and--and--and so what did he do--there--I want to ask you about Henry Kissinger and the story about the way Kissinger treated him when he was in China--when Gerald Fo--I mean, when George Bush was in China...
LAMB: ...and he came to visit.
CARO:Well, one of the things you do if you're secretary of state is you honor the fact that your ambassador represents the State Department and the--is the personal representative of the president. But on one of these visits, Kissinger arrived and Bush went out to meet him, and the top government officials of China were there, and everybody shook hands, and then Kissinger got into the--in--into the Chinese limousine and swept off to the meeting place that George Bush had arranged for them to meet, le--leaving him in the dust. And he went to this--this guest house complex--which I've stayed in myself when we were over there dealing on the environment and it's a very fancy place--and George had moved over there to--to be there when Kissinger was there, and it--there was the door closed and the Chinese and Kissinger were--were meeting and Bush was not even invited, so he quietly went back to his embassy. But he never talks about things like that.
LAMB: Do you think he does anything about them? In other words, does he ignore Henry Kissinger today or Richard Nixon because of the way they treated him when he was not on top?
CARO:Well, how many times have you seen him have meetings together in public? I don't suppose he--I think he just keeps busy on other matters. I don't think he seeks either of them out particularly.
LAMB: How long was he in China?
CARO:He was there less than two years, because Ford was defeated, as you recall, and--and so--he came--he was--he came back and he was not--he wanted to--oh, no, i--that's right. He--he--no, it was before that. He was invited back to take over the CIA, and--and s--and, of course, it's hard to learn a lot about what happens at the CIA except that he was--he was very popular there. It was in terrible trouble.
LAMB: Be--before we go to the CIA, what do you think he learned about China while he was there that affected his recent decisions on how to deal with the Chinese since Tiananmen Square?
CARO:I think that he reinforced the f--the--the--the basic premise that he sees in--in all dealings of business and politics, which is that decisions are made on--on personal relationships, and that clearly, the Chinese made a foul and ghastly mistake by losing their temper with the--with the--with the youth demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. And we could be very angry in a sort of Calvinist way and sit back here in our rage, and--and 10 years could go by and th--our rage wouldn't do any good. I think he felt that let's--let's be--what the Christians say we should do, which is to turn the oth--not turn the other cheek exactly, but don't keep emphasizing what went wrong. Let's see if we can find a way to get things right again. And tha--he's a--he's very positive and he wants to see action back toward the--the loosening of the--of the tight dictatorship that they'd had before, which had gone along so fast. Finally, they--the Chinese felt it necessary to regress, and I think it--I don't think he considers that a mistake. He--he thinks that you're not going to get anywhere unless you try.
LAMB: CIA--did he want that job?
CARO:Well, it was clear that if he took that job, it was going to hurt any chance he ever had of--of going ahead as a political power. Because, although you need CIA, there are a lot of people who think if you get into that, you've--you've done a--done--you've done a--you can't be really all good anymore. The CIA is a terrible thing because it's--it's sneaky and it--it's full of secrets and so forth. I mean, I think this is the sort of unexpressed paranoia that this country has. They don't like to have propaganda or intelligence agencies, but you need both kinds, and he realized that, and h--and he thought it was a chance to serve and he took it even though he realized that it might hurt him.
LAMB: What kind of a vice president was he?
CARO:He was a--a hardworking, crafty fellow who kept his--kept his own counsel. He learned very soon after he became vice president that, if he said anything, even in a Cabinet meeting, that it was at all controversial, it was going to get in the paper, and indeed, he said something one day that did get in the paper, so he learned to keep his mouth shut. He realized that--that the fellow who has his own agenda and pursues--pursues it as vice president is not going to succeed as a vice president. And his--his own agenda by that time clearly was that he wanted to be president.
LAMB: Have you seen him do anything since he's been president that's surprised you, based on what his past is all about and what you know of him?
CARO:I think that--to repeat, if you read this book, you'll find the man is--he has a penchant for making a surprise once in a while, but--which he continues to do, and he has a penchant for making his own decisions on things, although he tries to get--he tries to get consensus decisions.
LAMB: The last chapter of your book is six and a half pages, and it's devoted to The Vision of President Bush. Why did you need a chapter with this title?
CARO:You need a chapter for that title for two reasons. One, I--I think it's commonly felt that a--a leader of a country should have a vision for the country, and I think that--that Bush has a vision, but it's--it's based on--on the principles by which he's running his own life, and that, now that he's in the presidency, he wants to run his job that way and keep the country moving that way. In other words, where mi--mankind is more important than power; that--that people must be kept ca--people must be respected and cared for, both in this country and the rest of the world; and that this country's got to be strong, of course, if it's going to be a strong pursuer of--of the--the moral concepts and the--and the concepts for success, which he learned as a boy. And he wants to--he wants America to succeed, and--and the way he's going about it is to try to lead it way he's le--led his own life, which is quietly, with a great deal of hard work and prudence, but with--with a desire to surprise them sometimes.
LAMB: On page 256, the second to the last page, you write the following: `Bush would be well served to promulgate a, quote, "vision," unquote, or two. As president, he has writers and thinkers available on any quantity or quality he chooses. He should call for them to dish up visions to catch the country's fancy.' Why?
CARO:I think this is very necessary. It's--it's not because of the way he is. He's never going to do it himself. He's--he's always been self-effacing. Even as president, he's self-effacing. But I think it's important for him to have some slogans. I mean, Jack--Jack Kennedy got elected by saying, `Let's get this country moving again.' That doesn't mean anything particularly. Any president worth his salt wants to do that, but you've got to say it, and I think he--he ought to s--for example, it would be good if he had a sense or two to salute the people of Eastern Europe for the way they broke out into--they've broken out into the sunshine in the past year. He never managed to get a--a good solid reaction, statement or slogan to that. He should have, and he should have--he should be able to say things about going into Panama that is simpler and easier to sell, and I think that as he goes along, I hope that he--that he does build some sloganeering into his presidency, because it will help him to get better followership at home and abroad.
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