spite of the fact that at times I would
challenge their authority. They provided unconditional love.
Do misperceptions ever sting?
else in the administration. And frankly,
if they couldn’t support the decisions,
it was time for them to move on.
I was also fortunate that I was raised
in a part of the world, West Texas,
where individualism is strong. Where
people can dream big dreams and
achieve them. But where people also
have a great sense of community. They
cared about their neighbors. And those
values, I think, have stood me well.
No—I mean, there’s nothing you can
do about it. I didn’t fake it, and I didn’t
try to be something I wasn’t. The key
thing about life is to be true to a set of
beliefs. And to be genuine. What mattered to me was that I didn’t compromise my soul in order to try to achieve
a kind of popularity. The only thing
you can do is just live your life.
You seem to be somebody who’s
remarkably free of second-guessing
What else does it take to win?
It’s important to take risks. I’m talking
about living life to its fullest. Running
for governor of Texas against a very
popular governor [incumbent Ann
Look, I was popular at some times
and not so popular at other times.
But what mattered was trying to
solve problems and deal with circumstances. Some of which I was able to
anticipate. Some of which caught us
totally by surprise.
In terms of trying to re-create an image, I think that’s a waste of time. I
have no interest in doing that. The
decisions I made are done. And history will judge whether or not they
were correct. There’s no such thing
as accurate short-term history. So I’m
comfortable that I made the best decisions I possibly could.
In terms of what people think about
me, the truth of the matter is,
I guess I care to a certain extent, but not enough to try to
go out in the public and plead
for some kind of new understanding of me. I served. And
now it’s time for the new man
to serve. I have zero desire to be
in the limelight.
I think a lot of folks respect-
ed that you weren’t armchair
quarterbacking the new guy.
Well, sometimes armchair quar-
terbacks are doing it to enhance
their own image. I’m just not com-
fortable with that idea.
PASSIONS AND PURPOSE
At left: the biker-in-chief in Texas, 2007;
above: with Jenna in Haiti in August 2010.
Your whole book is about be-
ing the decider, but detractors say,
“Well, it was really Dick Cheney.”
In your book you say that Social
Security reform was the single big-
gest missed opportunity.
I regret that we weren’t able to re-
form Social Security. The fact that
we weren’t able to when we had
majorities in the House and the Sen-
ate I think reflected poorly on our
political party. People expect those in
authority to take on big problems and
to solve them. We had an opportunity
to reform Social Security in a way that
would have protected people’s ben-
efits and created a solvent system.
Younger workers would be confident
that the money they were putting into
the system would be available to them
when they retired. It was a missed op-
portunity. I regret that.
FROM LEFT: CHARLES OMMANNEY/GETTY IMAGES; JULIE ROUZIER/COURTESY
OF THE OFFICE OF GEORGE W. BUSH
Richards] was deemed to be risky.
Everybody thought I would lose. As
I put in my book, my mother said,
“You’re going to lose!” (Laughs.)
If they read the book, they’ll realize it
wasn’t Dick Cheney.
The economic crisis didn’t change
your mind about that piece of the
Social Security plan that would have
put money into private accounts?
I could have easily not run for presi-
dent, and people would have come
up and said, “Oh, man, you would
have been a great president.” Or even
a lousy president. But I never would
have known had I not chosen to run.
Part of life is seizing the moment.
Your private image is often different
from what is portrayed in public.
(Smiles.) A number of people walk up
to me and say, “You’re much taller than
And what they say doesn’t bug you? That gave people the option to put
No. First of all, it wasn’t true. So I didn’t money into private accounts. I still
pay attention to that. And I don’t think think that would be a meaningful op-many other people did either. It’s kind tion. The main thrust of the Social
of the Washington, D.C., chattering Security reform was to get the benefit
class. They kind of talk amongst them- structure in line with the realities of
selves. No, Dick Cheney was a fine vice the Trust Funds.
president. Glad I picked him. I was Thatistosay,ifyou’reapoorworker—
pleased I picked him from the begin- this is for new workers coming into
ning, and I was pleased I picked him the workplace—your benefits will
in the end. He didn’t agree with me increaseatthecurrentrateofincrease.
on every issue. I didn’t expect him to. If you’re a wealthier worker, your
But when I made up my mind, he sup- benefits would increase at the rate
ported the decisions, as did everybody of inflation. And (CONTINUED ON PAGE 70)
Listen to excerpts from our editor’s interview
with the president at aarp.org/georgebush.
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