[Snippets of this interview were used on Nightline's
coverage of President George W. Bush's first one hundred days
You've picked up on what seems to surprise
a lot of people, that the president is as conservative as people
in Texas said he was.
You mean that he's completely the opposite
of what he said during the campaign. I think it's a brilliant
move. He said in the campaign he was a uniter, not a divider,
compassionate, all of those things, and yet he didn't win the
popular vote. So, when he got into the White House, he thought,
"Well, that wasn't planned. Hey, I got an idea. Let me take Reagan
to the right. See where that takes me. Maybe that'll be popular."
I'm excited about it. I think what he realized
is, over these last eight years of peace and prosperity, we've
learned one major thing as a country, and that is we need an enemy,
and he is just going through the Rolodex right now. "Let me throw
some bombs at Iraq. What's Russia doing? Send their spies back.
Nothing? What about China? Let's kick their ass. Hey, can I ask
you guys a question? Poland still a country? Can we go after them?"...
I would not be surprised this is obviously
the first 100 days, but when you come back for the second 100
days, maybe he attacks Canada, maybe Vancouver. We need an enemy,
and no one's cooperating. We sent 50 Russian spies back, and what
did they do? "Ah, all right. We're going to send yours back."
They gave us back our plane in 10 days. The
guys still on the island in "Survivor" have been on there longer
35 days. We need an enemy, brother, and he's going to find
it because he's a Texan. Don't mess with the bull.
Is any of this making sense?
It's all making sense.
All right. I just, I had so much water today
because you're supposed to drink a lot of glasses, and I think
the arsenic has weakened me, so I'm not able to speak and think
He did go off on a nice tear there
with rolling back all of these regulations. We had arsenic, as
you mentioned, CO2.
He is listen. Jacob Javitz was the great
reformer. He is the great repealer. It's like anything. When you
move into a new house, what do you do? You spend the first 100
days peeling off the wallpaper, getting the paint off of that,
stripping everything down so that you can look at it and go, "Uh,
you know, what do we want to put in here?"
So he's repealing. He's rolling back. It's
compassionate. It's conservatism. I love the way he his
speech pattern is tremendous he's literally the master
of the obvious. He just says, we'll say, "How are you going to
deal with this China thing?" "We're going to learn the facts.
We're going to make good decisions based on the facts about China,
and the situation in China. We're going to use the facts about
the situation in China and make some good decisions. Helen?"
The Vice President
What about the notion that Cheney's
running things? That seems to be a standard staple in your business.
In my business, you say, with contempt dripping
slowly from your ears and eyes.
You know, the staples in our business seem
to come from the staples in your business, and I believe that
the idea that Cheney I don't know why people would get
that impression that a man with 30 years of federal government
experience and has worked through recessions, wars, booms, would
be calling the shots over a guy who owned a baseball team. I don't
know where people got the impression that this guy, Cheney, might
somehow have more what's the word I'm looking for?
gravitas than a guy who, let's say, traded for Kenny Rogers.
The syntax mangling seems to
he hasn't really left that behind on the campaign trail.
Yeah. We're trying to lay off the syntax mangling
and concentrate on the arsenic in our water.
Yeah. No, all jokes aside, you know, it is
somewhat disconcerting to hear your president basically have to
look down I mean, I saw him, I won't say this morning because
obviously this is running I don't know when.
A couple weeks.
But when he said that the crewmen were coming
home, he had to check a card. Now, I don't know how many crisis
hostage situations were going on at that time. Maybe he is juggling
these, but I would think it was literally a 30-second sound
bite, you know, his press conference or his statement. Why you
can't just come out and say, "The crewmen are coming home," without
going, "The crewmen... in China..." and then every time he hits
a word, he's got to wink at me like, "Uh, thought I couldn't do
it, didn't ya?"
I think our expectations of him are honestly
so low that he wins, as long as the country doesn't cleave and
ebb. I've heard that if China doesn't respond as an enemy, he
will fire on Fort Sumter. He will turn on his own people to get
You told us once on "Nightline"...
that the Republicans reminded you of the guys that laid off your
father. He's sort of surrounded by, you know, corporate CEO, banker
types. What do you think when you look at the Cabinet?
What do I see when I look at the Cabinet? A
portfolio I wish was mine. I see guys, listen, any time a guy
has got to make a decision about whether to unload $20 million
worth of stock options, hey, that's one of those, what do they
call those in the business? Win-win. Oh, you've got $20 million
Taxes. We've heard almost nothing
but: $1.6 billion, 10 years. Some people say 45 percent of it
is going to the top 1 percent.
It protects working families, protects Social
Security and Medicare. It's compassionate, tax cut. [Laughter.]
I'm sorry. The guy kills me. I can't help it.
It literally, I mean, it's, you know, they talk so much about
he's the CEO of a company. What CEO of a company could get away
with being that vague? Could you possibly imagine Warren Buffet
walking into a stockholders meeting going, "I'm making some decisions
about our products, based on sound research."
"What products would those be?"
"Fundamentally sound products, products
people use, products that help people." That's the end of the
meeting. I think that the tax cut is going to be very healthy
very helpful because I am in that top 1 percent, and man-oh-man,
I'm licking my chops.
I think it's a, you know, he's absolutely right.
You can't make those decisions on who should pay taxes. Here's
the thing, it's a fundamental difference of opinion. They trust
the government. He trusts the people, even though he is the government,
but still, he trusts the people, not to count votes, mind you,
but for what to do with their own money, the tax cut money, not
the other money. He trusts the government for that, with that
money. I trust him with my money.
Do you remember the Ramos family he
had at the quasi State of the Union speech, and he pointed them
Yeah. I think that's going to catch on with
politicians. I think the idea of pulling real people to represent
your policies, boy, what a great idea. I think that might really
Yeah. It really gives it a down-home feeling.
It really, it makes it accessible to me. Because you know what
I thought to myself? This tax cut seems really, really skewed
to the rich, but these Ramos folks, they're going for it. Who
am I to argue with that? I can't argue with the Ramoses. Look
how real American they are.
You had the president poking fun at
himself, reading from his own book of malapropisms the other night
at the correspondents dinner. Does that work at all, do you think?
Does it take any of the sting out?
No. For me? I thought to myself, "You know
what? Yeah. I'm drinking a little arsenic. Okay. I maybe have
a little mercury in the system. Okay. I might not live as long,
but that dude's funny."
No, I don't listen. If I want "snigletts,"
I'll go to Rich Hall. I really don't, I don't appreciate that
from the president. I don't judge my president based on, "Here's
the thing. You don't be funny, I won't bomb Iraq. Let's make that
And also the malapropisms thing, he's going
to do that every year, you know? Do you think Norm Crosby's in
the back going, "That's my shtick, you bastard."...
You know, all I hear about is what a good guy
he is. You know, that's the reputation: good guy, not so bright.
Here's what I think: Very bright, mean as hell. My opinion is
that he is not a patsy in any way. He is not a prop. He is not
a puppet. He is in charge. He is large and in charge. And while
he had the book of malapropisms open, underneath was a book called,
"The Prince," by Machiavelli, and that's what he was really reading.
How important is what you do, in terms
of shaping the image of the presidency? I mean, he's
In terms of what I do? On a scale of zero to
10, I'd go with a zero, not very important. I don't know how else
to put it.
I mean, in other words
Okay. If the president's image is this, we're
we're not very important. Listen, I have trouble shaping
my own image, and I host the damn thing. I don't think that we
shape the president's image.
At all. You don't think people see
late night monologues, the jokes and all of that
Yeah, but people don't watch the late night
monologues like Manchurian Candidates. They don't watch the late
night monologue and go, "Bush is nitwit. Queen of diamonds. Bush
I think they watch it for what it is. It's
a satire. There may be truth in it, but people will make that
judgment based on what they perceive to be the truth in it, you
know. Nobody made more jokes about, or no one had more jokes made
about them than Bill Clinton, certainly. I mean, that was historic.
He was the "Babe Ruth" of presidential humor, as far as I was
concerned, and the guy left office with a rating in the 60s.
So, clearly, we're not you know, if
you're listening to us, you're not forming your opinions necessarily
But the jokes about him were about
his, his predilections outside the Oval Office or in the
Oval Office, but
But the insinuation was that he lacked morality.
And while his morality ratings were low, I don't think it was
because of comics, I think it was because he was having sex with
But I think what people, in many ways, I think
the comedy diffuses what are dangerous situations for these politicians,
in a lot of respects, that it almost humanizes the situation to
the point where, if people are laughing about them, they are not
angrily writing letters, you know, to their congressman about
Do you think it works with reporters,
too, when they're all there at the Hilton, and he's cracking jokes
about policy and his own
Yes, I do. I think that reporting on the president,
though, has become about the strategy of being president, not
about the actuality of the policy. It's about how well he sticks
on point, how well he stays on message, how tightly they hold
ranks, as a cabinet. I don't think it's got anything to do any
more with it seems far more important not about the arsenic,
but about how he handled the release of the information through
Ari Fleischer and how Christie Whitman might be feeling.