BRIAN LAMB, HOST: General Scowcroft, I'll start with you and ask you at what point in
this process did you know that you were gonna share the cover and
authorship of this book with the president?
General BRENT SCOWCROFT (Co-author, "A World Transformed):
We didn't decide on the cover until very late. I think the authorship--the
president made it clear at the outset that it was to be a dual authorship.
LAMB: Mr. President, why did you decide to do this as a twosome?
Former President GEORGE BUSH (Co-author, "A World Transformed"):
Well, because Brent was such an integral part of the decision-making
process as head of the National Security Council,
the coordinator as well, bringing together very able but very
different cabinet officers: Dick Cheney, Jimmy Baker, you name it.
An NSC adviser has to coordinate and try to work out the differences
between strong-willed cabinet people before the president has to
decide everything. And so he is an integral part of everything
I tried to do, and it just seemed like it would be a better, more
thorough book if we collaborated. And so I asked him, and
that was the genesis. That's how it happened.
LAMB: Can you remember the first time you ever met this man?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Yes, I can. He was ambassador to the United
Nations. And I was--the first time I met him, I was a military
assistant to President Nixon. And so I knew him then. I knew him
when he was party chairman. And, of course, I was his titular boss
when he was director of Central Intelligence and I was national
security adviser in the Ford administration.
LAMB: Can you remember the first time you met General Scowcroft?
Mr. BUSH: No, but I can't remember where I was yesterday, either.
So, you know, you got to give me a break on that memory stuff, I'll
LAMB: Can you remember the first time you said to yourself, `This is
somebody I want close to me and involved in everything I'm doing'?
Mr. BUSH: Well, ever since I can remember working with
him--clearly, the time we started really working together was
when he was running the NSC and I was at CIA. And I came in
there from China with no professional intelligence experience.
I'd been a consumer of intelligence. But Brent had lived through all
the Church committee hearings and these turbulent times, and I just
was dependent on him in order to have the confidence or the closeness
to the White House that any director needs, and also to help me
navigate through the mine fields. So it was there that I saw him
working 1,000 hours a day, as he does, and that's where the respect
started growing, right there.
LAMB: The Scowcroft Award.
Mr. BUSH: Well, Brian, Brent's a modest man and he never felt
that the award, which is given to those who fall asleep profoundly
in meetings during the day, should've been given to him. Modesty
is the thing that kept him from celebrating that award the way
it should've been.
LAMB: Mr. Scowcroft, we have the picture here in the book of you
either starting off on the Scowcroft Award or getting it here. What
do you think of that?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: I remember that day. I was waiting--he was in some
interminable office--meeting in the Oval Office and I was sitting
there patiently outside, and I thought, `Why should I waste time?'
Mr. BUSH: `I could be sleeping.'
LAMB: How does it work?
Mr. BUSH: The award?
LAMB: Yes, sir.
Mr. BUSH: Well, there's a secret committee, a ranking committee.
We've tried to-- it's kind of like Deep Throat, it's
never been discovered who's on the committee. And I will protect...
Gen. SCOWCROFT: It's very small.
Mr. BUSH: Small committee. And because of the modesty of the
recipients, Scowcroft the first year and Dick Cheney the second year,
it's better to keep it quiet like that. And it is a coveted award.
It went international. I don't know whether we touched on
Gen. SCOWCROFT: No.
Mr. BUSH: ...in this book or not, where the Iceland
delegation--the guy speaking, the foreign minister and the finance
minister were all asleep at the same time. It's marvelous to be able
to speak and sleep, and so it was great. It's a great, great--great award.
Gen. SCOWCROFT: The president used to sit in big international
forums with endless speakers and write little notes about who was
eligible for the Scowcroft Award.
Mr. BUSH: `We have a challenger here from Denmark,' you know?
LAMB: How did you do this book?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: We did it, in every respect, collaboratively. We
decided what the scope of the book would be. And one of the most
difficult things was how to individualize it so we didn't have
a homogeneous book. And we hit upon the notion of having what you
could call a skeleton or a spine, where we would collectively talk
about `we,' which was the two of us or the administration to
outline what really went on. And then the president, in his own
voice, would describe what he was trying to do or what he was thinking
about a particular situation, and then I would. That
actually facilitated the writing of the book 'cause most of the time I
was in Washington and he was in Houston. That and the
marvels of computers made it quite simple.
Mr. BUSH: I think that we weren't quite sure how it would work, nor
was our very good friend and able publisher Ash Greene of Knopf 'cause
I don't think it's been done before in quite this way. But
what I think it does do, what I think it has done, is reveal more
about the decision-making process than if it had just been my voice or
just a book by Brent in his voice 'cause it--there are some
nuances of difference here. Bush wanted to--I wanted to meet early
with Gorbachev, and then Brent and Jimmy--Brent saying, `Well, Jim
Baker and I felt maybe it was going a little too fast.' So we tried to
be frank, each in his own voice. And I
hope that, for scholarly readers, that they'll see, well, this is
interesting because it gives--it reveals how some of these decisions
LAMB: Now I had a little--wrote out a little structure here on
something called the way you receive visitors at the White House,
which you explain rather in depth. And correct me if I'm
wrong about this. I want you to explain how it worked and this
was all around, I think, a Yeltsin visit that you describe this
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Yes, when he was out of office, had no
office at all, and how would we receive him?
LAMB: The first possibility is that someone gets a visit with the
president. The second one is a visit with you, Brent Scowcroft,
and then a drop-in to see the president. The third one is a visit
with you, Brent Scowcroft, and then the president drops in. And the
fourth one is a visit with Brent Scowcroft. The fifth one is not
getting into the White House at all and a...
Mr. BUSH: Fifth one's two visits with Scowcroft.
LAMB: Yeah. And then the sixth one, which is probably gonna sound
unfair, was a visit with Vice President Quayle.
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Well, that's sort of outside that.
That's a separate kind of thing, but, yes, when he
was not going to be in the White House itself.
LAMB: Now how did you two work out who got to do what on this?
Mr. BUSH: Well, I would get recommendations from the national
security adviser, who, in turn, would've talked to Jim Baker or, if it
was somebody active in the defense system of another country, to
Cheney. Intelligence people might or might not be a part of such a
decision. And we just had a protocolary sense, also, as to--how
to treat a visitor without appearing to side with or
undermine--side with the visitor against the seated prime
minister or seated president of the visitor's
country. And there is some sensitivity there. If you give a
challenger too royal a welcome, then the government with whom you're
dealing every day on matters of international affairs is saying, `Wait
a minute. Are they trying to undermine us? Are they trying to use
the power of the Oval Office to help our challengers?' So you have
to consider all those things. It's not just form. I mean,
there's some real substance to those decisions.
LAMB: Did you ever make a mistake?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Oh, I'm sure we did.
LAMB: I mean, did you ever get a sense of, `Oh, that should've been
an Oval Office visit'?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Yes, I think so. The biggest mistake we made
was not with President Bush, but with President Ford and Solzhenitsyn,
where we had this kinda decision to make. Solzhenitsyn had traveled
all through Europe, had never seen a single head of government, and so
when came to Washington, we thought he didn't warrant a meeting with
the president--serious mistake.
LAMB: The other thing you talk about is entrances and how you get
into the White House, and they all seem to make a difference. What
happens with the diplomatic entrance? Who gets that?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Well, the diplomatic entrance is for a head of
state, a prime minister, a senior government official. That's the
formal entrance. Then, for meetings where we want a lot of publicity
and so on, they won't necessarily--they either go in or come out of
the West Wing entrance, where the press sees them, when we want them
to have access to the press. And for private meetings, where
we don't--not interested in the publicity, they come in what's
called the basement entrance. It's not a basement, it just happens to
be on the street level.
Mr. BUSH: West exec there.
LAMB: Personal diplomacy--you write about it in this book and
you obviously carried it out. What, in your opinion, was the Bush
Mr. BUSH: Well, I felt, whether I was president or not, that
personal relations are important, not that if someone likes you or
someone knows you, they're gonna change their policy towards the
United States of America. But I believed--and I tried this--tried to
practice this when I was vice president and long before that--that you're
better--you have a better chance of succeeding if you
know a person, know his heartbeat, know about the family and are
interested in those things. I guess I first learned that at the
United Nations, which is a huge political forum, and I believed it
there, I practiced it there and tried to do it the rest of my life.
And I don't think you can overdo it. I think if you let your
friendship with a foreign leader color your judgment--the objectivity
of your judgment, then you make a big mistake. But I still believe
that the personal contacts are--you get a break. God's gonna give you
the benefit of the doubt if you know the person and he knows
you're not trying to blindside him and knows you're not trying to set
LAMB: How would you describe it, General Scowcroft? And what is
the George Bush personal diplomacy from your perspective?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Well, first of all, it was enormously invaluable.
As the president said, people are not gonna change their national
interests by any relationship, but how the work gets done, how the
business gets done is enormously important.
LAMB: How'd he do it, though?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: How'd he do it? He did it by reaching out
especially with the telephone, the first president, I believe, who
routinely used the telephone for communication. First of
all, a bureaucracy doesn't like a president to use a telephone. He's
out of control when he's on the telephone. So that was a little
breakthrough. But the president used to pick up the phone and call
people just to say, `Hi, how are things going?' not necessarily with
anything in particular in mind. So when he did call and wanted some
help or something, they were disposed favorably, and that is a
LAMB: Give us a for instance. Talking to a foreign leader that
didn't understand a word of English that you talked to a lot and you
wanted to do it right now. Let's take Mr. Gorbachev. He was
here for BOOKNOTES once and said he didn't know English. Did he
know--did you ever talk English with him?
Mr. BUSH: No. He could--by the end of his presidency, he could say
a few words. But what you would do, if I wanted to talk to him,
I would call General Scowcroft and he would set it up--set the call up
through the White House communications--the signal, we called
them--and they would set a time for it. And in that case, we
would--each of us would know that the other was taking down
what it was we talked about so you'd have an accurate record of
the call. And then you just go ahead and talk. And it--you know,
sometimes you get off the talking points and ask personally, `Well,
how's Raisa recovering from that terrible experience in the
Crimea?' or, `It was wonderful seeing you at Camp David,' or all the
little things you'd do with a friend. And those, I think, are
some of the things Brent's talking about, that this personal feeling
Francois Mitterrand's a good example. But we had him up to Maine--and
that's in the book-and I think the Reagan administration had a
rather chilly relationship with him, as we did on some issues. But he
came to Maine. Barbara was terrified: `What are you doing having the
president of the French Republic, formal--very formal, erudite man
that he is, coming to our rather informal lifestyle up there?'
But he did. We had marvelous chats. General Scowcroft was there, Jim
Baker was there, totally--went for walks. I gave him the no-necktie
rule. And it helped. It helped later on when we had some huge
potential differences with France on domestic--I mean, on Desert
Gen. SCOWCROFT: It made an inordinate difference.
US-French relations are always complicated, but never after this
meeting--never did the president go to Francois Mitterrand when he
really needed something and get turned down.
LAMB: I know this is small, but you say that he didn't want anything
to do with your boat, Fidelity.
Mr. BUSH: Yeah. But that's not a small matter, as a matter of fact.
However, we respected him. You see, this is how you build a
relationship. The guy wants to chicken out, fine, you can understand
LAMB: What did you do with him while he was there?
Mr. BUSH: We went for walks and...
LAMB: Did he speak English?
Mr. BUSH: No, very little. He spoke about the same amount of
English as I speak French. I remember the last day I saw Mitterrand
in office. We stopped by...
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Mm-hmm.
Mr. BUSH: ...Paris on our way back from Moscow. He had offered,
because of the pleasant relationship, to fly over to say goodbye. I'd
lost the election. He knew that we were not feeling too good about
that. And I said, `No, no, no, we're gonna be in
Russia. Let us come by to say goodbye to you at the Elysées.' So we
went there. And I remember this little dinner, there might've been 10
or 12 of us there...
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
Mr. BUSH: ...and he spoke more English then--but not a lot--than I'd
ever heard. But he had a translator, an interpreter with him, who
could almost know what he was going to say. And I forget the fellow's
name, but you remember how good he was?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Yes, he was excellent, yes.
Mr. BUSH: And you almost--just like we're talking, you
weren't aware you're talking in a different--that he was talking in a different
language from ours. And there was others. The German, Helmut Kohl,
had a marvelous interpreter...
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Mr. BUSH: ...that did exactly that...
LAMB: Did he speak any English at all?
Mr. BUSH: A couple of words--I mean, again, like `auf Wiedersehen.'
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Probably less than anybody, I think.
Mr. BUSH: Yeah.
LAMB: Here we are with a photograph of you on the left there
and Helmut Kohl in the middle at Camp David. Talk about Camp
David and what that did for your personal diplomacy.
Mr. BUSH: Well, Camp David was invaluable, in my view, for a couple
of reasons, one, in terms of a president's family getting away and
relaxing. And, you know, I said when I came in I'm not gonna
talk about the burdens of the office, the loneliness of the job.
Well, I didn't. And Camp David was--had I been so inclined, would've
been a great antidote to that because it's just totally relaxing. I
found that you could bring people up there, important visitors with
important agenda items, and because of the ambience, because of
the climate, the relaxed atmosphere there--open fires and each
had his own little cabin and stuff--that you could get a lot done
there. And we had some very important meetings up there. Maybe Brent
Gen. SCOWCROFT: No, I...
Mr. BUSH: ...better on the memory department, but...
Gen. SCOWCROFT: ...I think it greatly facilitated substance
because you could dispense with a lot of the ceremony. And
sitting around a fireplace chatting was a lot more conducive to really
deep discussion than a meeting in the Oval Office, where it was either
30, 45 minutes or an hour and a lot of staff people and so on. So
It gave the opportunity for really deep discussions on issues,
which was tremendously important.
Mr. BUSH: And you could see if somebody was tired or jet-lagged out
from coming halfway--`Hey, that's enough. Let's go have a beer
or let's--you--why don't you go home and put your feet up or take a
nap for about four hours and come back?' I mean, it was that kind
of informality. The no-necktie rule was in effect, and it was
LAMB: From what you saw over those four years, and if you heard that
President Bush wanted to go to Walker Point at Kennebunkport, Maine,
Camp David, the Oval Office--of those three places, what would
that mean to you? Would that signal anything to you?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Yes. It would signal really the degree of
personal touch he wanted to give. The most formal is the Oval Office,
the second was Camp David, and the most intimate was Kennebunkport,
Walker's Point, because that was his home, that was purely personal.
Mr. BUSH: You know, that's an interesting point--and I don't know
how other presidents looked at it, other national security advisers,
other secretaries of state--but I believe having someone in your home
is a great tension-breaker. I'll never forget going down to Chile and
the president had a dinner. Here we were with a huge entourage
and a great big Boeing 747 and all kinds of people, and the president
had us in his very, very modest home, and there wasn't barely room to
get 10 people in the dining room. And he had his grandchildren out
there, and it was tremendously flattering to me and
conducive to the kind of conversations that Brent just
LAMB: You open up on one of the chapters where you go
into some lengths about the Oval Office, and I'll just read a little
bit of it. It's Chapter 2. You say, `The Oval Office itself is not
that large, but it has a special atmosphere about it. Even as I left
the presidency, I had the same feeling of awe and reverence for the
room as when I first entered it in early administrations.' Do
you remember the first time you ever went in that office?
Mr. BUSH: Well, I think I was there as, like, a
tourist or--I know I was there when I was a member of Congress, but,
you know, very briefly. I was a junior member.
LAMB: What was that, '64 or '60...
Mr. BUSH: But--yeah, well, I was elected in '66, so I was
there '67, '8, '9 and '70. But I think before that I went maybe as
as a tourist. I'm not sure, maybe when Eisenhower was president
and my dad was in the Senate and maybe I got to stick my head in.
Whether Ike was there or not, I don't remember 'cause they have those
evening tours, you know, where people can come and look, see the...
LAMB: Do you remember the first time you were there?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Yes, I do. It was when I was being interviewed for
the job of military assistant to the president. I went in--President
Nixon was president. I was scared to death.
Gen. SCOWCROFT: There's an awe about the office that, as the
president said, never left me. I've been in there, I guess, thousands
of times. Never leaves you. It is different. It is the inner
LAMB: You say in the book, `It is similar to the institution of
the presidency itself, with an almost overwhelming aura of history. I
could feel the presence of the long line of presidents preceding me,
of feeling reinforced by my own pleasure in reading American history
and learning about events that had taken place in the room where I was
sitting. That sense of presence could also be inhibiting at
times--for example, whenever someone would think, "Well, I'm going
in there and tell this guy how he ought to do it." Somehow, once
inside, his knees would go wobbly.'
Mr. BUSH: Well, I think that's true. And it wasn't just me. I
mean, every president, I think, would confirm
that experience--'I'm gonna tell this guy off. I'll get him.'
And then they go in there, and there's something about the office
itself and the respect that--and all Americans and a lot of--most
foreigners have for that office, where you just don't feel like
bawling out the president or taking him on the way you told your
colleagues you were going to do.
LAMB: Do you...
Gen. SCOWCROFT: I probably saw that more than the president did.
People would come in to me fuming about something the president had
Mr. BUSH: Imagine.
Gen. SCOWCROFT: `Oh, horrible. Oh, just terrible. How can he do
it?' And I said, `Well, let's go down and talk to him about it.'
LAMB: Can you remember--and this is a picture of Colin Powell and
others--I can't see from where I am whether Brent
Scowcroft's in this or not. Can you remember when somebody came in to
you, in that room and got nervous? And can you tell when they're
nervous as president?
Mr. BUSH: Yeah, you can tell. You can tell. And it happens a
lot with civilian, with people in--you know, your countrymen and once
in a while with foreign visitors. But there's kind of--a politeness,
politesse between heads of state, chiefs
of--heads of government and all. So it doesn't lend itself to,
`Just a minute. I'm gonna tell you how this'--the difference, you
kinda--I can't think of a specific incident, though, Brian. I
mean, I--but there were plenty, I'll tell you. You just--we tried to
treat it with respect and wear our necktie in there. I'd
go over sometimes late at night or sometime and maybe not be this
formal. But there's something about that room that makes whoever goes
in there have a certain awe, but also made us--and I'm not talking
just about me; I'm talking about our team, our cabinet, the wonderful
people I was surrounded with--treat it with respect. I mean,
it's a given.
LAMB: You--and let me just read a little bit more. You say, `Just
off the office is a smaller private study or office, a cubbyhole
really, where I could go with a couple of people to speak in a more
formal, relaxed setting when we needed one. It was an inner sanctum
for me. There was also a small dining room which opened onto a
garden.' Did you ever--I mean, was there a protocol thing here where
somebody who got to go in the inner sanctum there was somebody really
Mr. BUSH: Well, we took some of the visitors that
came to the Oval Office and then we'd be going--on a state visit, for
example. And the drill would be they'd come to the
diplomatic entrance, then we'd go upstairs for a little coffee,
Barbara and the spouse was there. Then we'd go to the Oval Office,
then we'd work through till noon, and then at noon, we'd go back to
the residence. And so I remember taking a lot of the visitors, and
saying, `Wait a minute, let the others go on across to the
White House and let's us walk through here,' walk into that special
little office. Then there's the dining room next to it. Off the
dining room was the recreational area for the president, a pool
and a little place with some Lifecycles and things and a
horseshoe pit, and then walk back through, again, showing them a
certain inside look at this.
Now that office is for Brent and I, and Jim Baker and I had a lot
of very important meetings. It was quiet. I had a little computer
there. We had a TV set there. We had a couple of telephones there.
And we did a lot of business in there. And it's tiny. And it's a
tiny--but again, it--the aura of respect for it--I think a lot of
people felt, `Well, boy, if I could see that,' they'd feel
they were really on the inside, is what your question's about.
LAMB: Well, by now, people watching this probably wonder if we're
ever gonna get to what they would say would be substance. But I
wanted to go through all this because, through your book, you write
about all this. You talk about all these places. What's your
sense--after seeing these places over the years, how important are
they to what the decisions finally were?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: I think that, to me, they're very important because
you sit down in the Oval Office, for example, you're aware that this
is the United States, that you're the custodian of a huge tradition
and you better get it right.
Mr. BUSH: With respect--with respect.
LAMB: I think one of my biggest surprises in
reading your book was that the Dutch prime minister--and I'm not even
gonna pronounce it right--Ruud Lubbers...
Mr. BUSH: Ruud Lubbers, yeah.
LAMB: ...`one of my closest friends'?
Mr. BUSH: Well, he was a very interesting guy. He's younger than I
am. He was very frank. We had some tough trade negotiations when he
was head of the EC there. He was a friend of the United States,
and he became a friend of mine. And I could always get an honest
opinion from him. He was so--he'd drive his own car around
Amsterdam. He was very grass roots, loved to play soccer,
football. And I could count on him to give me the unvarnished truth,
`How are the Europeans looking at this? Do they think our trade
representative, my great pal and strong friend Carla Hills, is being
too tough on you guys?' And he would level with me, and I
valued his friendship and will always be grateful
for his trust.
LAMB: I'm gonna just talk about people for a while and just get
your reaction to it. Who, in all the people you used to deal with
that wasn't in the top job, do you remember the most, of
Gen. SCOWCROFT: My counterpart in Great Britain, Charles Powell.
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Because we had a unique relationship. We had a
private phone line, and I could just pick up the phone and it would
ring on his desk, and we would discuss issues of importance. He knew
his prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, very well, I knew the president
well, and we would discuss what the limits were of how far each could
go in making agreements, so that when the two principals would talk,
they would each know pretty well what was doable and what was
not doable. It just facilitated the business of government,
especially between the United States and Britain, enormously.
LAMB: Brian Mulroney--you mention him a lot. You call him a close
friend. You say he came down to visit you some nights just for
dinner, get on a plane and drop into Washington.
Mr. BUSH: Yeah.
LAMB: We wouldn't even know it.
Mr. BUSH: And he would--well, maybe you'd know it, but...
LAMB: Not if he went in that west basement entrance.
Mr. BUSH: Well, no, that's right. No, Brian, we would shoot
in the front door. No, he was, again, a frank, very knowledgeable,
very pro-US--I think we say in there--if we didn't, we made a--I made
a mistake--that he paid a price for being extraordinarily supportive
of the United States. But he just had good judgment. He
had--he was intrigued by international politics, too. He loved
dealing with Gorbachev and Helmut and Francois Mitterrand and, of
course, with his command of French, he always was a great window into
how the French were looking at things. So here was a man who fiercely
defended Canada's interests--trade matters, environmental
matters--pounding away and sometimes, you know, getting it just the
way he wanted it, but always an ally, always--you never wondered
whether he had some other agenda.
LAMB: You wrote a whole column this morning in The Washington Post
about Helmut Kohl.
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Yes.
LAMB: How did that happen that you-- was that your
Gen. SCOWCROFT: No. I'll be frank, I was asked to do it.
LAMB: By The Post?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Yes.
LAMB: And what did you say?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: I just said that he was the end of an era. He was
the last of the leadership which brought the Cold War to an end, that
he had been a stalwart friend and ally, that he had three goals that
he wanted to achieve, and he bent every effort to achieve them, and he
was a great man, and he may be the last European chancellor
LAMB: Where is this picture, Mr. President, the one down here on the
bottom with your wife sitting on a bed somewhere?
Mr. BUSH: That's sitting in our bedroom at Kennebunkport,
Maine, and I think it's the picture where I'm on the telephone--and I
was out in my boat, we get a message, `You got an important call,'
came back, and they had made connection with Mikhail Gorbachev in the
Crimea, first connection internationally, I think, with him. And he
had--we were worried that he might've been killed or done in, in
this coup. And we couldn't get through, couldn't get through. And,
suddenly, they had him on the phone, and the phone conversation was
quite reassuring, quite emotional, and that's what that was.
That was not a secure--particular secure phone there, but it came in
through the White House signal, I believe, in Washington.
LAMB: You write also about back channels, when you first get into the
book, and one of the back-channel conversations that you were to have
from time to time was with former ambassador to the United States, Mr.
Dobrynin. What's a back channel, and how often do you have back
channels in diplomacy?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Well, a back channel is a means of communication
between heads of state, which bypasses the bureaucracies in both
countries. In other words, it goes right from the White House,
usually from me, to a counterpart of different sort in the former
country and then directly to that head of state, so the two can
communicate indirectly without everyone in the system on both sides
knowing. So it eliminates sometimes a lot of resistance, leaks,
things like that.
Mr. BUSH: We had a--you know, Jimmy Baker, who is my
dear, dear friend, was very wary of back channels because he felt,
`I'm going to get blindsided someday.' Him and Scowcroft are over
there with these fancy secure phones which they had at the State
Department, too, but I've got to be informed. So Brent would bend
over backward to be sure that after I had a back-channel conversation
or he did with his counterpart, that we would inform the secretary of
state, the secretary of defense and, depending on the relevance,
you know, the intelligence people so we wouldn't have people
blindsided. But the back channel was very important because you've
got layers of bureaucracy in all these department who don't have,
quote, "The need to know," unquote.
And there is such a thing as need to know. There's a huge desire to
know. And you can make a case: The lowest analyst, the more access
he has to high-level information, the better his future analysis
will be. But sometimes that has to be subordinated to
the private nature of the call, of the
LAMB: Did this book have to be cleared by intelligence?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: It was cleared, yes.
LAMB: By--I mean, what does the former president have to
do in situations like this?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: I simply...
Mr. BUSH: He goes to Scowcroft.
Gen. SCOWCROFT: I simply submitted the manuscript to
Sandy Berger, my national security successor, and he had it--looked at it.
LAMB: Did they take anything out?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: No.
LAMB: What do you want--I mean, let me just step back again.
When you got out of the presidency, you, obviously, decided not to
do a lot of interviews. Why?
Mr. BUSH: Well, because I didn't want to be a constant
critic of my successor. He beat me fair and square. Even today, if I
got into this hurly-burly here in Washington, somebody'd say, `Hey,
this is the guy that lost. Now he's trying to get even or go one up
or say, "I told you so."' And I've tried to stay out of all of that,
and I just think that it's better for me to say I had my
chance. We did the best we could, tried to conduct myself with honor,
and now it's somebody else's turn, and after him there'll be someone
else. And then there's another point, and that is I have two sons that are
involved in the political process, both up for election on the same
day. We'll be nervous wrecks. And if I'm always sounding off on some
issue or, `Here's what I'd be doing,' or, `Here's what I should--this
administration ought to be doing this,' it would involve them
peripherally because good reporters would immediately rush down to
Florida or to Texas and say, `Here's what your dad says.' They might
say, `Here's what your nutty dad said,' and try to
juxtapose them against their father. And they don't need
that. They don't need to be thrown off course by that.
So, but it's mainly the first part. I just feel it would be
wrong to be a critic of the president or the Congress or
anything else. I don't do it. I've got a good life.
LAMB: Did you read much in the way of these kind of books at any time
during your career?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: I read quite a few of them before I ever got to the
White House. I didn't read anything after I got to the White House
that I didn't have to read.
LAMB: And why would you read a book like this? What would
be the value to someone in the middle of the White House?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Well, if you're interested in government, if you're
interested in how things get done, government, foreign policy and so
on, this is sort of at the heart of how things get done the way they
do. You know, if you read--you go to a course in US
government or US foreign policy, it all sounds very logical, very
simple and sometimes you can't understand why things don't work out
the way they obviously should. Books like this or some of the earlier
ones I read about the inner workings of the Nixon administration
show you what goes on and why the process of government is a lot more
complicated than it logically appears it should be.
LAMB: Let me ask you about it because you have to find them;
they're buried in this book. But there are comments you drop once in
a while about how you feel about the media and they're in the
middle of the discussion.
Mr. BUSH: I mean, are you a part of it because I'm
LAMB: Have at it.
Mr. BUSH: ...I'm so diplomatic now that I want to give you a good,
frank answer, but I don't want to hurt feelings. Go ahead.
LAMB: No, have at us. No problem. Here's a quote from your
diary. And, by the way, how did you do your diary?
Mr. BUSH: First place, I didn't do it very well. I was sporadic,
and I'd dictate into it, not to be--that I thought it would ever be
transcribed verbatim, but just that I would use it as a personal
reference. Unfortunately, some of these things make me sound like
Dana Carvey, which perhaps I am. But, nevertheless I tried to
do it religiously, and then there'd be a gap. I'd forget it. But I
could do it by dictating, and then subsequently it was transcribed,
quite a bit later.
LAMB: Where are all those transcripts?
Mr. BUSH: They're in our library, I think.
LAMB: How much of it's available to the public?
Mr. BUSH: Not anything that I say is not available because
these are personal and--but eventually--we're trying at the library,
in the advice of the archivists, to make as much pertinent data
available to scholars as soon as possible, maybe try to advance that
process. But on personal diaries--Brian, I don't want to hurt
feelings. I mean, I don't want to be in the business of unloading on
some guy, even in the press, and saying that I, you know,
again, I hope I'm not a bitter person, but when you're caught up
in something and you see you're trying hard to do something you think
for your country and you see assault in some editorial so then I would
find that it was--that I would find it kind of like releasing tension to say,
`I can't stand that so and so,' and then it would go away. I don't think I attacked
the press much. I remember writing one publisher on one subject in
the four years I was president. That's all.
LAMB: When did the media give you fits?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Almost always.
LAMB: But really give you fits, where you felt
that they were doing something wrong and it was really hurting
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Go ahead.
Mr. BUSH: The best example, and I don't mean to single him out
because he's under fire, is Peter Arnett broadcasting from Baghdad.
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Oh, wow.
Mr. BUSH: And that caused us a great deal of problems, and it caused
Saddam Hussein great joy. And I'm sorry. I know he differs with me
on this, but that's how strongly I feel about it.
LAMB: You write, `The more I saw of Peter Arnett, the more I thought
his reporting was one-sided and played into the hands of Iraq.'
Mr. BUSH: Well, that's a very erudite way to present it there.
LAMB: And you also write, `You have the networks, led principally by
Dan Rather, pitching everything with the highest emotional content and
driving to almost break relations with China, and I don't want that.'
That was all during Tiananmen Square.
Mr. BUSH: Yeah. Well, I don't know what I can add to that. I had
differences with the media. I also had some very pleasant times with
the media. But, I'll tell you a little sidebar on all
this. I was out giving a speech here, just since leaving the
presidency, and I got, like, 14,000 people in Utah and 18,000, I think
it was, in St. Louis, back-to-back, bashing the media. I got a note
from a friend of mine, Vic Gold. He said, `Don't do this. This is
beneath you. You shouldn't be out there,' and he's right. So I
joined `Press Bashers Anonymous' and I've been clean for about two
months now, eight weeks of not bashing, and I don't plan to do it
But when you're in my position here and you're trying, in
this instance, to keep policy with China on track while leading the
world in putting sanctions on him, I was just saying,
`Well, gosh, we ought not to stir this up anymore.' I think
that's what I was saying in here. So I hope Dan doesn't take it
LAMB: There's a conflict in this book, and I want you to settle it
for us. There's a place where the president says, `I'm not an
emotional kind of a guy,' and this is right after the Wall comes down,
but I've got several other instances in here where he's worried about
choking up. Before I ask him about this, what is he, emotional or not
Gen. SCOWCROFT: He's emotional. He has a very kind heart,
and he has great difficulty in delivering at emotional times, speaking
at a funeral...
Mr. BUSH: Yeah. That's true.
Gen. SCOWCROFT: ...speaking at a memorial service and so on. Tries
very hard, but he chokes up because he feels for people
on a very human level. He's very emotional. Does the emotion get
into the policy? No. Does he get angry and make decisions when he's
angry? No. Anger is not the kind of emotion I'm talking about.
LAMB: You say in the book that you asked Ronald Reagan how he stops
from choking up.
Mr. BUSH: Yeah. And it was a great lesson 'cause I remember this
superb speech he gave at Normandy, and I said to him in one of our
weekly luncheons, `How do you do this?' And he said, `I say it over
and over again.' And he did. It works. I've tried it at
Potter Stewart's funeral, for example, my very close friend, who used
to be on the court, and he died, and they asked me to speak. I don't
like speaking at funerals because I do choke up. But if you say it
over and over again, it becomes less personal. And yet the way Reagan
delivered that Normandy speech, you would never guess that
he had conditioned himself to get through it.
Back to the Berlin Wall, when I was talking about emotional, kind of
standing around jubilantly, dancing with kids, beating yourself on the
chest, `We did it. We won,' I mean, it's that kind of emotion that I
did not want to try to demonstrate. When Dick Gephardt
and Senator Mitchell said, `The president doesn't get it. He
doesn't understand the emotion we feel. He should go and show these
German kids by dancing on the Wall how we feel.' The dumbest possible
thing I could have done because who knows how Gorbachev's legions,
right there in the GDR or Hungary, might have reacted?
So when I was talking about that, I was talking about containing a
feeling I had of joy so as not to kind of stir up feelings that
might have gotten out of control on the part of the Soviet military or
nationalistic forces inside Russia. Gorbachev was not that--you know,
forever not that stable there.
LAMB: Again, people in Russia and Gorbachev and others, but General
Akhromeyev--did you know him very well?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: I wouldn't say very well. It's very hard to get to
know a Soviet very well.
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Well, don't have that much contact with them.
There's always a lot of debris in between you of the Cold War, so
it isn't easy. But I think I got fairly close to him.
Mr. BUSH: He liked Brent and he respected Brent, and that's why he
leveled with Brent in a way, I don't believe, he ever talked to any
Gen. SCOWCROFT: We had an honest relationship with each
other, which is very hard.
LAMB: Here's a picture from--I think it was--is it Camp David
Mr. BUSH: Camp David.
LAMB: ...with Mr. Gorbachev and Shevardnadze? The reason I brought
him up, I wanted to ask either one of you, right in the middle of all
this, the coup and everything, he committed suicide.
Mr. BUSH: Yes.
LAMB: Did you ever get any insight as to why?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: I think--and I describe in the book a discussion we
had at a lunch where he said he's lost his anchors,
he's at sea. He doesn't know what to believe anymore. He was
raised as a patriotic Soviet citizen, went into the military convinced
he was fighting for the future, not only of the Soviet Union, but the
world. Now, all of a sudden, he's been told everything that he
believed in is a lie. He said, `My children hate me.' And it was the outpouring
of a tortured soul.
When the coup came, he gave some support to the coup plotters. And I
think this was, for him, the last straw because he had turned
against his president, whom he believed in, in support of the coup
plotters, who really represented what he traditionally had been taught
to believe. And I think that was the final thing.
Mr. BUSH: Too much for him.
Gen. SCOWCROFT: And he committed suicide.
LAMB: How close are you still to Mikhail Gorbachev?
Mr. BUSH: I'd say fairly close. I don't see him regularly anymore,
but if he walked in here, I'd feel I was greeting a friend, and I
think he would feel that way.
LAMB: How close did you get to him?
Mr. BUSH: Pretty darned close. Going back to your question about
emotional, emotionally close, because I remember when--my last
talk with him while he was in office. It was Christmas, maybe
Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, and it was very emotional as
he said goodbye. And I'm close to Gorbachev.
LAMB: How did he do it?
Mr. BUSH: How did he...
LAMB: The whole thing. I mean, watching him up close, you knew him
'89--of course, when was the first time you met him?
Mr. BUSH: I met him when I was vice president. When he
assumed office--the day he assumed office--I was the guy that, in
those days, went to a lot of funerals over there. I was vice
president. And I cabled back to Ronald Reagan, `This man is
different--much more open, much more frank, much less
inclined to turn to his aides to tell him what to say, much less
programmed.' And I'm not sure we put that cable in there. I can't
remember, but it was a very revealing first meeting. And I
felt that he was different, and nothing convinced me to the day he
left that he was different. He had some big problems there, but he
was good to work with.
LAMB: When you look back on the Wall, you look back on the East
European situation, the troops moving out of Germany,
Mr. BUSH: Baltics.
LAMB: ...all that, what did he --was it the people up or the
leaders down that made that happen?
Mr. BUSH: I think it was a combination, but I think that Brent
and I may differ on Gorbachev--and I don't think he'll
differ with this--I think history's going to be extraordinarily
generous to Gorbachev. We forget, because of how fast events have
moved in Russia--some good, some not so good recently--that glasnost
and Perestroika were significant breakthroughs: openness, reform.
Now whether he did it fast enough or whether he did it out of his
convictions about democracy, these things--questions are all going to
be asked and debated by historians.
But he will be remembered in history as the man who dramatically
changed Russia and, also, was the one who presided over the
dissolution of the Soviet empire.
LAMB: How did he do it?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: He was a Communist. I don't know whether he
still is, but he was a Communist and did not change that. But I think
he understood what was wrong with the system, and he came in
determined, not to overthrow the system, but to reform it and his
attempts were to reform it. Now he did a great job in terms of
removing the terror from the system, but the other things he did, he
was continually frustrated by the party, by the resistance of the dead
hand, if you will, of Communism. And in his attempts to reform it, he
pulled away the sinews of the state and wasn't able to replace them.
So, in the end, he brought the temple down around him.
LAMB: Go back to the Polish situation or Hungary or East Germany.
Again, was it the people up or the leaders down over in that part of
the world? What really changed...
Mr. BUSH: That permitted that kind of change?
LAMB: Yeah, how did it happen?
Mr. BUSH: I think the leaders recognized that they could no longer,
well, defeat us, bury us, outmilitarize us. And I think the
leaders began to make that clear to people. I don't think
the people were that wed to Communism per se--you know, go out and
quoting Marx and Lenin all the time. There was a subculture
under there for all of its history, in terms of religion, worshiping
of God. And so I think it--I think once the leadership began to
lighten up on them, this freedom, this concept of choice
and freedom became contagious. They couldn't be contained.
Gen. SCOWCROFT: I think it was people up in Eastern Europe putting
pressure on the leaders, a pressure which Gorbachev significantly
supported because his view was he would rather--he would like Eastern
European leaders who were, if you will, little Gorbachevs, Communists
but reform-minded. And I think he misread Eastern Europe; that there
was no in between repression of the people and an explosion of the
people, and that's what happened.
LAMB: Go back to this. This is a show about books. Is this the last
book for you?
Mr. BUSH: It's not the last one for me. It's the second to last one
for me because we're now working on a book on letters, letters I've
written over my life--think it starts with letters I wrote to my
mother during World War II and goes right up through letters I've
written in my post-presidential years. But that's a very different
kind of a book. It's not a--has nothing to do with foreign
policy. It's more of a personal insight. It would be a substitute
for a memoir. Barbara wrote the definitive memoir for the Bush
family, and I am not going to try, at this late stage of my life, to
compete with my wife of 53 years. She wrote very well, and it says it
all in terms of the heartbeat of my family. This letters
book might be a little bit of a PS to that, in the sense that here's
what President Bush really is or really is about or
really cares about or cries about or laughs about.
LAMB: When's it coming out?
Mr. BUSH: Next fall, not this fall, but year from now.
LAMB: Thousands and thousands of little notes from George Bush over
the years. Does either one of your political sons write notes like
Mr. BUSH: I think both of them do.
LAMB: Do they?
Mr. BUSH: Yeah. They're not instructed to by their father, but I
think it's just something they do. They care about people and
people's feelings and like to share the joy of somebody or the
hurt of somebody.
LAMB: General Scowcroft, you remember the first note you ever got
from George Bush? And did you keep it?
Mr. BUSH: Is it printable?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: I've kept most of them, but I don't remember the
LAMB: How many do you have?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: I don't know. Stacks of them.
LAMB: Do you have any sense of how many you've written over
Mr. BUSH: No. No sense at all, but a lot.
LAMB: When did you start that?
Mr. BUSH: It's so easy to do.
LAMB: When did you start it?
Mr. BUSH: Probably when I got out of college or
right in that time frame, way back in the late '40s, I guess. I
LAMB: But how do you do it, though? How did--I mean,
they're--they're a legion around this town.
Mr. BUSH: Well...
LAMB: I mean, everybody's--if they've got one, they've got it on the
Mr. BUSH: Well, you just sit down and you try to say what
you're thinking at the moment, whether it's gratitude for someone's
hospitality, whether it's concern when somebody's hurting.
LAMB: Did you ever pick up on that and do the same thing yourself?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: No, I don't. I don't. But I treasure
his, especially the kind--sometimes when we had leaders over on
informal visits, we would have a meeting and then a very small lunch
in what was called the Family Dining Room, just maybe 16 or 18 people,
and some of them were pretty heavy lifting for the president, you
know. A leader of a very obscure country with whom we had very
little to do, and I would get a little note about halfway through the
meal, `If you think you're being paid just to sit there and eat, think
LAMB: There was a time--and I don't remember whether it was a
helicopter ride--you were with Mr. Gorbachev, and you, I
think, passed him something. You said, `I want your signature for all
Mr. BUSH: Ride in a helicopter to Camp David.
LAMB: Now what was it you gave him to sign?
Mr. BUSH: Can't remember that, but I do remember he signed each one,
five of our kids, I think it was.
LAMB: And why did you do that?
Mr. BUSH: History. I just thought this would be perhaps a little
corny, he might think, but I just thought it would be something they
would treasure for the rest of their lives.
LAMB: Now when the two of you look back at all that you wrote--this
is a book that covers only three years. I'm right about that. You
said that first chapter that you wrote was 400 pages, so you had to do
something new on that one. Well, what did you change after you'd
written a chapter and it was 400 pages long? How did you get this
down to 560 pages or whatever?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Well, the first full draft was probably twice this
long, and then we just pared it out, took out some entire topics. For
example, Panama. We originally had Panama, and we took it out and
reduced it to a size which was manageable as a book for people to
read, hopefully manageable.
LAMB: And you didn't keep Bosnia or Somalia in here. Why not?
Mr. BUSH: Same reason. I mean, I don't feel inclined to do
a book--or maybe Brent does--on these chapters. They were
fascinating, but I think it was just--we had it pretty well defined
with the chapters--with the subjects we did cover.
LAMB: Of all the meetings you had and all the decisions you reached
and all the moments, what was the--probably the most interesting
moment for both of you in the entire three years?
Mr. BUSH: Oh, boy. That's so hard.
LAMB: The most important, the most interesting moment that you'd put
at the top? General Scowcroft?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: I think it was not a dramatic moment, for me, given
a life in the military and foreign policy. It was a moment that the
flag came down--the hammer and sickle came down from the Kremlin.
LAMB: And why was that the big moment?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Well, it was the end of an era that, for most of
the Cold War, no one thought could happen, at least that way. A
peaceful end to probably to one of history's great
confrontations. It was a--I don't know, I just had a indescribable
feeling when that happened.
LAMB: President Bush?
Mr. BUSH: I'd maybe say the fall of the Berlin Wall because we'd
worked very hard with Kohl, we'd worked with our allies to try to
bring them along and not try to stand in Kohl's way; worked with the
Russians to be sure they understood what Helmut wanted to go. We were
determined Germany should be free, be unified, stay in NATO
aligned with the West. But when the Wall came down--this was before
all that--that really started this final chapter, and I think it is
such a strong symbol that that's one I'd remember.
LAMB: Last question. You know, you write a lot about the Oval Office
in the beginning of chapter two. If you could sit in that Oval Office
with any other American president that you've never met over those...
Mr. BUSH: Abraham Lincoln.
Mr. BUSH: Just because of such a huge presence for
preserving the union and, in the process, eliminating slavery. So
I'd say Lincoln.
LAMB: General Scowcroft, he gets the last word. You got the first
word; he got the last word. Here's what the book looks like: "A
World Transformed." George Bush and Brent Scowcroft, thank you very
much for being with us.
Gen. SCOWCROFT: Thank you, Brian.
Mr. BUSH: Thank you, Brian.
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