GEORGE BUSH: History will ultimately judge the decisions that were made for Iraq. And I'm just not going to be around to see the final verdict.I don't know why King acted puzzled over the phrase "I'm just not going to be around," but it was hilarious when Bush clarified the term. Lightheartedness at the idea of one's own death is disarming, and coming after King's strange confusion, it made us laugh. Perhaps King was hoping to draw Bush into some deeper contemplation of death. That didn't happen. We get a glimpse of Bush's social skill.
KING: Not going to be around. That's an interesting way to put it. You...
GEORGE BUSH (laughing): In other words, I'll be dead....
Having said so bluntly "I'll be dead," it was striking when Bush proceeded to refer to the post-presidency period as the "afterlife."
GEORGE BUSH: Democracies take time to evolve. Laura and I believe that women will help lead the democracy movements in these young democracies. And part of our afterlife will be to enable and empower women....What amused me more than anything else was the one time in the interview when Bush whipped out a higher level vocabulary word. It sticks out, because it's something he almost entirely avoids. In this, he's so different from Obama, whose speaking style feels like the result of a lifetime of positive reinforcement for talking like a professor. Bush was addressing the problem dealing with Katrina, in our system of federalism which places primary responsibility on the state governor.
GEORGE BUSH: ... And the role of the federal government's to be supportive. In this case, the natural disaster was so overwhelming, and the infrastructure was so overwhelmed that I had a tough choice to make. And people would just learn the facts. See, that's all I care about, and that's what I wrote in my book which I'm sure you assiduously studied.Laura laughs. "Assiduously" is there as a joke, and if you listen to the interview, you'll hear a lot of humor in the way he says it.
And let me throw in the next interchange, about the one way Bush could have moved control to the federal level:
KING: You talk about... the idea that you have a southern governor, a woman governor in a state with a large African-American population. A former governor yourself. And people were telling you, Mr. President, maybe you need to declare an insurrection.Notice how gently he refers to the vicious criticism he had to deal with. He doesn't say people were awfully cruel to him, which they were. He mentions "the decibel level," and that's only after his stock answer for almost everything: History will judge. And he wants the American people to think and learn. That's the idea of the library, which he refocuses on:
GEORGE BUSH: Insurrection, which would have been pretty difficult. Not pretty difficult. Very difficult. Yeah, so it points out the dilemma.
KING: Do you wish in hindsight you had done it?
GEORGE BUSH: No. Not really. There's no telling how history would have recorded the situation, had I declared insurrection. I can tell you that the decibel level would have risen even louder than it was.
GEORGE BUSH: The point is, is that it -- this helps Americans understand the decisions that I made during a massive storm. But also points out that — the dilemmas that presidents face. Not just me but every president who’s got a series of conflicting advisers. And you've just got to pick and make the best judgment call you can. And hopefully, people will go to the Decision Point Theater and say, "Wow, I didn't understand that" or "I now understand it better." And it's interesting to me, they say, of how a president makes decisions, and hopefully it will help them make better decisions.There's something very sweet and modest about the expression of hope that visitors to the library will be helped in their own lives as they go about making personal decisions.