George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
A World Transformed
ISBN: 0679432485
A World Transformed
It was one of the pivotal times of the twentieth century—during George Bush's presidency, an extraordinary series of international events took place that materially changed the face of the world. Now, former President Bush and his national security advisor, Brent Scowcroft, tell the story of those tumultous years.

Here are behind-the-scenes accounts of critical meetings in the White House and of summit conferences in Europe and the United States, interspersed with excerpts from Mr. Bush's diary. We are given fresh and intriguing views of world leaders such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin, Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl, and Francois Mitterand—and witness the importance of personal relationships in diplomacy. There is the dramatic description of how President Bush put together the alliance against Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. There are the intensive diplomatic exchanges with Beijing following the events of Tiananmen Square, and the intricate negotiations leading up to German reunification. And there is the sometimes poignant, sometimes grim portrayal of Gorbachev's final years in power.

A World Transformed is not simply a record of accomplishment; Bush and Scowcroft candidly recount how the major players sometimes disagreed over issues, and analyzes what mistakes were made. This is a landmark book on the conduct of American foreign policy—and how that policy is crucial to the peace of the world. It is a fascinating inside look at great events that deepens our understanding of today's global issues.
—from the publisher's website

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TRANSCRIPT
A World Transformed
Program Air Date: October 4, 1998

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 tell ya.
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 that…
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 are reached.
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 process.
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 personal diplomacy?
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 him up.
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 tremendous difference.
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 is invaluable.

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 Storm.
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 that.
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 can...
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 great.
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 alluded to.
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.
LAMB: Why?
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 sanctum.
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 done.
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 special?
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 foreign governments?
Gen. SCOWCROFT: My counterpart in Great Britain, Charles Powell.
LAMB: Why?
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 idea?
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 of Germany.
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 back-channel connection.
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 gonna...
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 American diplomacy?
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 anymore.

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 personally.
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 emotional?
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.
LAMB: Why?
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 other American.
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 there...
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, reunification...
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 you do?
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 first one.
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 the years?
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 don't know.
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 wall.
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 again.'
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 my grandkids.'
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.
LAMB: Why?
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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