O'Reilly's interview with Bush: Softball questions, misleading assertions, and attacks on Democrats

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

On the October 16, 17, and 18 editions of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly aired portions of his October 16 interview with President George W. Bush, which consisted of such "tough questions" as whether Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) is "soft on terrorism," whether "the anti-Bush press" is responsible for popular opposition to the war, and whether Bush was aware that critics "are trying to destroy you." O'Reilly also asked Bush, "[Y]ou work hard, right?"

In his introduction of the interview on October 16, O'Reilly stated, "This is my third interview with the president. He does get a fair shake here, but he also gets tough questions, as everybody does." He explained that "[b]ecause every presidential interview is finite," he would concentrate on "what is happening now." Absent from the interview, O'Reilly stated, would be any questions that "look back," because "What good does it do to rehash WMDs?" According to the on-screen text, "Looking back doesn't do anybody any good." Later in the same show, during a discussion with author and Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward, O'Reilly further announced: "I'm worried, though, that all of the politicizing of this topic, the war, makes it more difficult to win the war. ... I think that the harping and constant, 'Bush lied and they're screw-ups and they don't listen.' This all helps these horrible people."

After airing the second portion of the interview on October 17, O'Reilly hosted Fox New political analyst and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) to comment on the interview. Gingrich congratulated O'Reilly for "manag[ing] to get him [Bush] not with talking points and kind of speeches but really talking from the heart," and informed viewers: "People -- it's worth looking at a second time at that interview just now. ... [T]his guy is telling you, as president of the United States, as commander in chief from his heart he believes that is what it takes to defeat people who want to kill us and destroy us." Gingrich concluded: "I thought it was a very compelling." O'Reilly agreed with Gingrich's praise, saying: "I spoke to the president before the interview began, and I said 'Listen, Mr. President, this is the third time we spoke, and the first two times, it came off great because you didn't give me rehearsed answers. You know, you just spoke from the heart of what you really believe, and that's what I hope we can accomplish today.'"

"Tough questions"

Throughout the course of the interview, O'Reilly asked Bush a series of open-ended, supportive, and softball questions, with little follow-up, and even Bush took issue at least twice with some of O'Reilly's harsher comments. For instance:

  • O'Reilly asked Bush: "Sixty percent of Americans are now against the Iraq war. Why?" After Bush replied, "Because they want us to win," O'Reilly pressed Bush further, asking: "Is one of the reasons they've turned against the war in Iraq is that the anti-Bush press pounds day in and day out in newspapers, on the network news, in books like Bob Woodward's, that you don't know what you're doing there?" Bush replied: "I'm disappointed that people would propagandize to that effect because the stakes are too high for that kind of illogical behavior." [10/16/06]
  • O'Reilly then asked Bush "Why doesn't Russia, France, China see it your way?" and asserted, "If they would help the United States, particularly with Iran and if they would help inside Iraq, we would win this thing very quickly." Bush responded that he "would give them more credit than" O'Reilly was, stating that he had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin "about the Iranian issue, and he knows full well that Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon." [10/16/06]
  • While discussing North Korea, O'Reilly asked Bush about China's vote in favor of United Nation sanctions against North Korea followed by its refusal to inspect cargo going to or coming from North Korea: "You are saying they are not 'no-spin' guys over there in China?" Bush replied: "I think there may be some 'spin' guys over there in China." [10/16/06]
  • O'Reilly asserted to Bush that "it looks like in Iran and North Korea, that both Russia and China want the USA to be weakened." Bush, to O'Reilly's apparent surprise, "strongly disagree[d]" with O'Reilly's assertion, adding: "I think you're wrong on that." [10/16/06]
  • Leading into further questioning on North Korea, O'Reilly asked, "Ever think about this North Korean leader -- 'Is he just insane?' " Bush replied, "We will see." [10/16/06]
  • Discussing Bush's recently enacted Military Commissions Act of 2006, O'Reilly asked: "You think Hillary Clinton is soft on terrorism?" [10/17/06]
  • While discussing the Iraqi insurgency, O'Reilly asserted: "I think the bottom line is this crazy insurgency on the Islamofascists, as I call them, it's never going to end in our lifetime," and that Iraqis were "scared" of the insurgents because "these guys will kill you and your family and every kid you have. And they'll cut your head off." Bush replied: "In a minute. ... Not only will they kill their families. They'll come and kill us." [10/17/06]
  • After addressing Bush's low approval numbers, O'Reilly asked: "Is it discouraging that more people don't see why you're doing what you're doing?" [10/18/06]
  • O'Reilly then steered the conversation toward Bush's critics, telling Bush: "I'm just wondering, psychologically" how Bush responds to his low poll numbers, stating: "You work hard, right? ... I don't think you can ever take a day off, right? ... Seven days a week, bang, bang, bang. You're in the most intense time -- one of the most intense times in U.S. history. And then you're getting pounded day after day after day, pounded, pounded, pounded. How do you process that?" [10/18/06]
  • While discussing Bush's critics, O'Reilly claimed that, next to Bush, O'Reilly is "the second most criticized person in the country," and stated that "I get really furious, especially if it's [criticism] dishonest. ... But you don't -- you're different than I am. You're more philosophical. See, I'm sitting there going, 'Oh, if I had this guy's neck.' You know?" Bush replied that he was "not as big as you are, so ... I wouldn't be able to get away with that." [10/18/06]
  • Continuing to discuss Bush's critics, O'Reilly asked: "You don't take it personally. ... Because they are trying to destroy you, you know that?" [10/18/06]
  • O'Reilly then used the interview as an opportunity to promote his book: "[T]here's also something else in play here, Mr. President. The secular progressives -- I just wrote a book called Culture Warrior. And we sent you a free copy, by the way. ... The secular progressives don't like you because you're a man of faith. ... They think you are some kind of evangelical, who -- God tells you what to do, and you go out and do it. And they hate that." [10/18/06]

"You cannot be confrontational with the president of the United States"

On October 16, O'Reilly asserted, "You cannot be confrontational with the president of the United States." Indeed, O'Reilly gave Bush ample opportunity to attack Democrats, distort their positions, and make otherwise false claims, unchallenged. For instance:

  • O'Reilly asked Bush to comment on Sen. Clinton's remarks regarding the Military Commissions Act, stating: "Let me read to you what Hillary Clinton, who could be the nominee for presidency in 2008 on the Democratic side, said about this bill that she voted against, this detainee bill you're signing today. Quote, 'If enacted, this law would give license to this administration to pick people up off the streets of the United States and hold them indefinitely without charges and without legal recourse.' " Bush responded, "You mean pick the enemy up off the streets?" When O'Reilly then stated that "she [Clinton] says people," Bush replied: "I don't know who she's talking about." O'Reilly then asked Bush if Clinton is "soft on terrorism." [10/17/06]

    As Media Matters for America has noted, the Military Commissions Act effectively grants the president the authority to detain any noncitizen in the United States or outside its borders, for any reason, indefinitely. Several Senate Democrats highlighted this provision in their denunciations of the bill. Moreover, as Media Matters has further noted, Bush has asserted the same authority with respect to U.S. citizens, a claim that the bill leaves unaddressed. [10/17/06]

  • Discussing the Bush administration's proposals for trying terror suspects, O'Reilly asked: "Your administration has been accused of being fascist, violating human rights, ignoring the Geneva Convention. And it's been a fierce campaign against this policy. Why has it been so fierce?" Bush replied: "I don't know," and suggested that there may be opposition to his policies because "maybe there are some in this country who say, well, they're [terrorists] not coming again." O'Reilly did not ask Bush who these people may be. Later in the interview, O'Reilly also did not question Bush's baseless assertion that the Democrats who voted against his military tribunal proposal are "opposed [to] questioning people we've picked up on the battlefield." [10/17/06]
  • O'Reilly repeatedly suggested that, despite evidence to the contrary, "Iran ... is behind the insurgency in Iraq"; "that U.S. forces are now fighting an insurgency fueled by Iran"; and even that Russia was complicit with Iran in allegedly providing weapons to the Iraqi insurgency. After Bush stated that he had a "good talk" with Putin about "the Iranian issue," O'Reilly, presumably referring to Russia's support for Iran, asked: "So why are they selling them all kinds of weaponry? ... They are killing our people in Iraq. They are sending the weapons over. They are sending bombs over to Iraq. And, Putin is arming them. Why is Putin arming them?" Earlier in the interview, Bush appeared to agree that Iran was partly behind the Iraqi insurgence, stating "[w]e are concerned about some Iranian involvement. Particularly in the delivery of certain kind of weapons." But Bush disagreed that Putin was "arming Iran to the point where they are using a lot of Russian weapons in the theater."

    In fact, while several Russian companies have allegedly provided weapons to Iran, British troops in southern Iraq investigated Bush administration claims that Iran was providing weapons and support to the Iraqi insurgency and found those claims to be without merit. The Washington Post reported October 4, "British commandos in the deserts of far southeastern Iraq have been testing one of the most serious charges leveled by the United States against Iran: that Iran is secretly supplying weapons, parts, funding and training for attacks on U.S.-led forces in Iraq." According to "several senior military officials" the British troops have "found nothing to support the Americans' contention that Iran is providing weapons and training in Iraq." [10/16/06]

  • Discussing the Iraqi insurgency and the effectiveness of the Iraqi government, Bush asserted that the way to halt the insurgency is to have "a political process that says, Sunni and Shia will participate in a new government, in a new country," and falsely claimed "it was about six months ago that we had elections where 12 million people said, 'We want it to happen.' " In fact, the Iraqis last held nationwide elections more than 10 months ago, on December 15, 2005. O'Reilly did not correct Bush's claim. [10/16/06]

From the October 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: With his poll numbers down and a crescendo of criticism directed his way, President Bush wants to tell you a few things. So this morning, we were invited to the White House to speak with him. This is my third interview with the president. He does get a fair shake here, but he also gets tough questions, as everybody does.

Now, interviewing a president is not like interviewing anyone else on the planet. You cannot be confrontational with the president of the United States. You can be direct, but you can't be disrespectful.

Over the next three nights, President Bush will have his say. You will know exactly where he stands on the most vital issues facing America and the world. Because every presidential interview is finite -- that is, time is always a concern -- I decided to concentrate on the conflicts -- Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and terror -- rather than on domestic issues.

Also, I think it's important to look ahead rather than to look back. What good does it do to rehash WMDs? Does that do you any good? So the questions are about what's happening now and whether we are winning or losing the high-stakes battles we are fighting.

[...]

O'REILLY: Fox News military analysts say Iran now is behind the insurgency in Iraq to a large extent. The war has morphed, it's shifted, and that U.S. forces are now fighting an insurgency fueled by Iran. Is that true?

BUSH: I think the enemy is more complex than that. We are concerned about some Iranian involvement. Particularly in the delivery of certain kind of weapons. But the violence that the American people see on their screens is some sectarianism, some criminal activity, and Al Qaeda.

[...]

O'REILLY: But if you continue to have insurgents blowing up buildings and kidnapping people, you can't police that insurgency. It's impossible. You have to get the insurgents to stop.

BUSH: No question about it. And that's why there needs to be a political process that says, "Sunni and Shia will participate in a new government, in a new country."

O'REILLY: But why should we be, after three and a half years, encouraged that that will happen?

BUSH: Well, because it was about six months ago that we had elections where 12 million people said, "We want it to happen."

O'REILLY: Just because they want it doesn't mean it's going to happen.

BUSH: Well, it can happen if we continue -- look, the alternative is to say, "It's not worth it. Let's leave." In other words, ignore the fact that 12 million people voted, ignore the fact they got a constitution, ignore the fact they got a unity government, and say, "We leave." And that's not going to work.

[...]

O'REILLY: Sixty percent of Americans are now against the Iraq war. Why?

BUSH: Because they want us to win. They believe -- they are wondering whether or not we have the plans in place to win. They want to know whether or not we have the flexibility on the ground to constantly meet the enemy.

And I can understand why there's frustration, because the enemy knows that killing innocent people will create a sense of frustration, and they know that they know America. They know that we're a conscience-driven people that value life. And the more people they destroy and the more innocent lives that are destroyed, the more likely it is we will retreat, in their way of thinking.

This is what Osama bin Laden and [top Al Qaeda lieutenant Ayman al-] Zawahiri have plainly stated, that it's just a matter of time before America loses her nerve and leaves.

O'REILLY: Is one of the reasons they've turned against the war in Iraq is that the anti-Bush press pounds, day in and day out, in the newspapers, on the network news, in books like Bob Woodward's, that you don't know what you're doing there. You have no strategy. You don't listen to dissent. You've got this thing in your mind and you're stubborn and you just can't win it.

BUSH: Well, I'm, you know, I'm disappointed that people would propagandize to that effect because the stakes are too high for that kind of illogical behavior. We have got a plan, we've got a -- first of all, a stated goal.

And I have said to our commanders on the ground, you achieve that goal, and we'll give you the tools necessary to do it. I have faith in [Gen.] John Abizaid, with whom I have constant -- he is the head of CENTCOM, and [Gen.] George Casey, who is the general on the ground. We've got fine people there, all who are working with the sovereign government in Iraq to achieve a common objective, which is a country that can govern itself and sustain itself. A country which will serve as a huge defeat for a group of extremists and radicals who have made it clear that they want to establish a caliphate, a governing structure, a point of view that is opposite our point of view, all throughout the Middle East.

Here's the stakes, as far as I'm concerned. It is conceivable that within decades, the Middle East will be a place where moderate governments have been toppled, extremists and radicals will have gained control of oil resources, and then will use that to create a blackmail situation against the West. And Iran will have a nuclear weapon, to complicate the mix.

And 20 or 30 years from now, if that were to be the case, people would look back and say, "What happened to them? How come they couldn't see the threat?" as a generation of Americans are dealing with something much more violent than we're seeing today.

And so to the critics who say we don't listen: of course we listen. I listen to the most important people of all, the people on the ground who are actually in Baghdad making the difficult decisions necessary to help this government succeed.

O'REILLY: Why doesn't Russia, France, China see it your way? If they would help the United States, particularly with Iran, and if they would help inside Iraq, we'd win this thing very quickly. France, Russia, and China do not help here. Why not?

BUSH: I think they will help with Iran in terms of the Iranians ending up with a nuclear weapon.

O'REILLY: Tough, though. It's not easy. It's not like they want to help. They are jumping on that, you know --

BUSH: No, I think I actually would give them more credit than you are, from my perspective. I had a good talk with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin the other day about the Iranian issue, and he knows full well that Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon. Those weapons can fly west or they can fly north. And he is fully aware of the threat of --

O'REILLY: So why are they selling them all kinds of weaponry? I mean, they're killing our people in Iraq. They're sending those weapons over. They're sending bombs to Iraq, and Putin is arming them. Why is Putin arming them?

BUSH: Well, I don't think he is arming Iran to the point where they are using a lot of Russian weapons in the theater. There were a lot of Russian weapons in Iraq before we even got there. What I -- and of course that would concern me if there is a lot of evidence that he's doing that.

I am concerned -- I do believe, however, that he understands the strategic importance of making sure Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapon. Let me say this. To the extent that we find anybody helping the enemy inside of Iraq we bring our concerns forward.

[...]

O'REILLY: Was Jimmy Carter, and Jimmy Carter last week in The New York Times says, Bush administration is screwing up because they won't talk to them one on one.

BUSH: I just disagree with him. I think it is a much more effective policy to have China using her leverage, South Korea using its leverage, Japan using its leverage to say to the North Koreans, "Give up your weapons programs." As a matter of fact, I'm confident that this is the way to go to solve this issue peacefully.

O'REILLY: China says they're not going to inspect. You know, you got the U.N. mandate, and everybody was happy for about 10 minutes and then China says, "Well, yeah, OK. We're on board with the mandate, but we're not going to inspect."

BUSH: I -- we're -- Condi Rice is going out to the --

O'REILLY: But why would they do that?

BUSH: Well, you know, I haven't seen the comments. Sometimes there are, you know, different levels of, you know, government saying things, Bill, you know. I'm sure they look at the United States government here --

O'REILLY: Are you saying they're not "no-spin" guys over there in China?

BUSH: I think there may be some "spin" guys over there in China. As I understand it, and I am going to learn more about exactly what their complaints are. First of all, I usually don't react to the first comments coming out of a government source. I do know that the Chinese are deeply concerned about North Korea having a nuclear weapon. I know they're concerned about the statement that came out of Japan today that said Japan is now rethinking its position on nuclear weapons.

O'REILLY: Of course they don't want -- Japan and China historically hate each other. But here's -- maybe I'm wrong on this, but it looks like in Iran and North Korea, that both Russia and China want the USA to be weakened.

BUSH: I don't think so.

O'REILLY: Really?

BUSH: I strongly disagree with that. I think you're wrong on that. And as a matter of fact, I'm pretty confident you're wrong. China and the United States share the same objective. They understand the stakes of North Korea having a nuclear weapon. They're worried about nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. They're deeply concerned about countries in the neighborhood deciding to arm up in order to protect themselves against North Korea. They understand the consequences of an arms race in the Far East.

O'REILLY: Ever think about this North Korean leader -- "Is he just insane?"

BUSH: We will see. We will see as he reaches more decisions.

[...]

O'REILLY: Now what about the posture that goes against your book? I mean, this is the clash. President Bush made it clear that Casey and Abizaid, the two military men in charge of the Iraq campaign are saying to the commander in chief, "We're going to win. We're going to win this. OK? It's painful. It's going to take a little time, but we're going to ultimately prevail." This is the president's thesis. So that he, the president in Washington, is going to allow those men the room to win. Anything wrong with that?

WOODWARD: No. But what my reporting on this and what the book shows, he referred to this -- that these books or something propagandizing.

[...]

O'REILLY: Continuing now with analysis of President Bush's statements. Today, we're talking with Bob Woodward, the author of the book State of Denial. By the way, if you're just tuning in, my interview with President Bush is posted on billoreilly.com so you can see it this evening.

OK. Is it fair for you and me, who don't have the intel, we don't have obviously the war plan, we don't get the dailies, to not undermine, but to question the war effort in a way that makes it more difficult to wage the war?

WOODWARD: Well, but -- you are absolutely right. I don't have all that information, but in the course of reporting, John Negroponte, the top intelligence person, the director of national intelligence, I report that he says we have a policy that is not working, that we need to shift, that we have repeatedly underestimated and miscalculated this insurgency. It's not somebody coming in who's a Democrat or a critic. General [James L.] Jones, the NATO commander, four-star Marine officer, been the commandant of the Marine Corps, is quoted in the book saying that he's worried Iraq -- this is last year -- will be a debacle.

[...]

O'REILLY: I'm worried, though, that all of the politicizing of this topic, of the war, makes it more difficult to win the war. Because President Bush made --

WOODWARD: That's a fair point. But we can't win the war --

O'REILLY: But he made a very good point when he said, "Listen, all they want to do," they being the insurgents, who are basically operating in concert with Iran, because Iran wants to dominate the region, and if Iran does, Barbra Streisand and her pals are going to get a shock they won't believe, trying to run those mansions out there. OK? So --

WOODWARD: OK.

O'REILLY: You -- he basically says, "Look, what their strategy is, is just to blow up as many people as they can on a consistent basis, like they did in Northern Ireland, like they did in Algeria." OK? They ain't gonna win. They'll break -- they'll break our spirit to confront them.

That's what President Bush is worried about. And I think that's the big enemy right now, in addition to the insurgency.

WOODWARD: Yes, I think there are many enemies out there, and you have to sympathize with it. I mean, look, it's a political season. The president is the commander in chief, he bears this burden.

But we can't have blinders on, as [former White House chief of staff] Andy Card is quoted in the book saying, when he goes to the president and says, "You need to get a new defense secretary." This is a couple of years ago. And he goes again --

O'REILLY: But he disagreed. I mean, the last time we talked, I asked you, point-blank, are we losing in Iraq? And you said, point-blank, no. So --

WOODWARD: That's right. I'm saying the exact same thing. I'm saying --

O'REILLY: We're not losing the war. But we're making it harder -- and believe me, I sympathize with the troops.

WOODWARD: I do, too. And I get emails from them.

O'REILLY: I'm not Mr. Hawk here. But I want to win it, and I think that the carping and constant, "Bush lied and they're screw-ups and they don't listen." This all helps these horrible people. I'll give you the last word.

From the October 17 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Today, you're signing the bill that overwhelmingly passed in the House and Senate that gives the Bush administration and subsequent administrations the military tribunal option in bringing suspected terrorists to justice. Your administration has been accused of being fascist, violating human rights, ignoring the Geneva Convention. And it's been a fierce campaign against this policy. Why has it been so fierce?

BUSH: I don't know. That's what observers of our society like yourself can help figure out. I -- you know, I -- look, after 9-11, I vowed to protect this country. And when we pick up somebody on the battlefield, we want to know what that person knows. And we can find information without torturing that person. And we have found useful information necessary to protect the American people.

As you know, we picked up a fellow named Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Intelligence folks believe or suspect that he was a person that masterminded the 9-11 attacks.

I want to know what he knew in order to prevent another attack. Now, maybe there are some in this country who say, "Well, they're not coming again. And therefore, all this is unnecessary."

I believe they are coming again. And I believe it is the responsibility of the federal government to protect our people. And, therefore, had a program in place that said we will question these people.

[...]

O'REILLY: But if the public doesn't know what torture is or is not, as defined by the Bush administration, how can the public make a decision on whether your policy is right or wrong?

BUSH: Well, one thing is that you can rest assured we're not going to talk about the techniques we use in a public forum, no matter how hard you try. Because I don't want the enemy to be able to adjust their tactics if we capture them on the battlefield.

But what the American people need to know is we've got a program in place that is able to get intelligence from these people. And we've used it to stop attacks.

The intelligence community believes strongly that the information we got from the detainee questioning program yielded information that made America safer, that we stopped attacks.

Secondly, the courts. Yeah, I believe that it was necessary to have military tribunals because I ultimately want these people to be tried. And it took a while to get these tribunals in place.

The Supreme Court ruled that the president didn't have the authority to set up these courts on his own, that he needed to work with Congress to do so. And we did.

What's interesting about these votes that took place in the Congress is the number of Democrats that opposed questioning people we've picked up on the battlefield. And I think that's an issue that they're going to have to explain to the American people.

[...]

O'REILLY: Let me read you what [Sen.] Hillary Clinton [D-NY], who could be the nominee for presidency in 2008 on the Democratic side, said about this bill that she voted against -- this detainee bill you're signing today.

Quote, "If enacted, this law would give license to this administration to pick people up off the streets of the United States and hold them indefinitely without charges and without legal recourse," unquote.

BUSH: You mean pick the enemy up off the streets?

O'REILLY: She says people. Pick people up off the streets.

BUSH: I don't know who she's talking about. But this law will enable us to find people who would like to kill Americans. You know, Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda affiliates, and be able to find out their plans. And be able to -- more protect this country. I have no idea who she's talking about.

O'REILLY: You think Hillary Clinton's soft on terrorism?

[...]

O'REILLY: All right. I think the bottom line is this crazy insurgency on the Islamofascists, as I call them, it's never going to end in our lifetime.

BUSH: Well, I think that's an interesting question, an interesting point. The question is how do you marginalize them?

O'REILLY: Right, how do you control them?

BUSH: I think this is the big ideological debate of the 21st century. And that is extremists, Islamofascists as you call them, radicals aiming to topple moderate people. And it is a massive challenge for the free world and for Muslims who cannot -- who want to leave in peace. By far, the vast majority of people want to have a peaceful existence.

O'REILLY: But they're scared.

BUSH: Yeah, they're scared.

O'REILLY: Because these guys will kill you and your family and every kid you have. And they'll cut your head off.

BUSH: In a minute. In a minute. And that fundamentally asks -- that means what's the U.S. role? Not only will they kill their families. They'll come and kill us.

The biggest issue we face for this country is how do you protect yourself? And our strategy is twofold. One, get on the offense and stay on the offense and bring them to justice. When we find them, bring them to justice.

And secondly, defeat their ideology by helping moderate people, particularly in the Middle East, to come up with competing systems that actually speak to people's hopes and aspirations.

And I've been widely criticized for promoting liberty, but I believe it works as an antidote to the dark visions of these radicals. And I know this, if the United States becomes isolationist and pulls out, a generation from now, people will say, "They lost their way. They forgot what caused America to be created in the first place. They lost their faith in liberty."

O'REILLY: But in the back of your mind, there must be some Muslims want Sharia. They don't democracy.

BUSH: Yes.

O'REILLY: They want to be in a theocracy. They want to be told what to do.

BUSH: Some do, but it's a small number compared to the vast majority of people who just want a peaceful way. They want to be able to practice their religion.

See, this is not a struggle of religion in my judgment. This isn't Christianity versus Islam. People in the Muslim world need to look at the United States. We welcome Muslim-Americans. They're free to worship the way they so choose.

This is a struggle between people who have subverted a great religion to meet their own ambitions and kill. I don't believe religious people kill innocent people. I don't believe that.

I believe these are totalitarians who want to impose their vision on others. And they use murder as a weapon to achieve it. And the fundamental question facing all civilized world and facing nations in the Middle East is can we have systems in place that end up marginalizing radicals and extremists? It's really the call of this generation, Bill.

O'REILLY: Brutal.

BUSH: Well, it's brutal, but it's necessary.

O'REILLY: But it is brutal.

BUSH: It is necessary.

O'REILLY: Absolutely.

BUSH: And I clearly see the problem. And look, I understand there's a lot of second-guessing because I'm asking the American people to -- and our military and intelligence services to do hard work. But I believe it's necessary work now so a generation doesn't have to deal with it in a much more violent form.

[...]

GINGRICH: Let me say first of all -- I just want to say for the audience, I have looked at that interview and I think that I don't remember very often seeing the president as comfortable and as engaged as he was. I think it got stronger the more he talked with you.

And really I'm looking forward to tomorrow night's segment because it seems to me you managed to get him not with talking points and the kind of speeches he gives, but really talking from the heart. I mean, people -- it's worth looking at a second time at that interview just now.

Whether you like him or dislike him, whether you agree or disagree, this guy is telling you, as president of the United States, as commander in chief, from his heart he believes this is what it takes to defeat people who want to kill us and destroy us. And I thought it was a very compelling -- just at a national security level, very compelling.

O'REILLY: Yeah, I appreciate that. That's exactly the feeling that I got. And I spoke to the president before the interview began, and I said, "Listen, Mr. President, this is the third time we spoke, and the first two times it came off great because you didn't give me rehearsed answers. You know, you just spoke from the heart and what you really believe, and that's what I hope we can accomplish today."

And tomorrow, when he talks about his faith and the personal attacks, you'll be -- you'll be surprised. But it is clear to me -- two things are clear to me. Number one, he believes every word he says. He's not a liar. He's not a manipulator. He didn't fake anything. This is what he believes.

And number two, he doesn't know whether we're going to win or not. He's going to go out and give it his best shot, but he doesn't know, although he can't ever say that. He's got to say, "We're going to win. We're here, we're there." But I think that there is some doubt.

GINGRICH: Well, you know, you've heard me say before, Bill, I think that President Bush finds himself much like President Lincoln in that he's on a journey that he can't avoid, he can't get off of. It's not how he wanted to spend his presidency, but the threat to our nation is so great and the problem is so hard.

From the October 18 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Is it discouraging that more people don't see why you're doing what you're doing?

[...]

O'REILLY: I'm just wondering, psychologically --

BUSH: Yeah?

O'REILLY: You work hard, right?

BUSH: I think I do.

O'REILLY: I don't think you can ever take a day off, right?

BUSH: That's true.

O'REILLY: OK. Seven days a week, bang, bang, bang. You're in the most intense time -- one of the most intense times in U.S. history. And then you're getting pounded day after day after day, pounded, pounded, pounded. How do you process that?

BUSH: I believe in what I'm doing. If I didn't believe in what I'm doing, I guess the pounding would end up affecting me. But when you believe in your soul, in the very fiber of your system, that taking on these extremists and radicals in the Middle East is necessary to have peace in the long run for our children, then you move on. And you -- and this is a job where you have to do what you think is right. I get a lot of advice. I listen to a lot of smart people, but ultimately, it's the president's job to make the decisions.

O'REILLY: But then Woodward says you don't listen to anybody. You just blow them off.

[...]

O'REILLY: Continuing now with the president of the United States, who is under attack on the personal front constantly.

O'REILLY: When people criticize me, I think I'm the second most criticized person in the country. You're first by a large margin, but I'm second.

BUSH: Yeah.

O'REILLY: I get really furious, especially if it's dishonest.

BUSH: Yeah.

O'REILLY: But you don't -- you're different than I am. You're more philosophical. See, I'm sitting there going, "Oh, if I had this guy's neck." You know?

BUSH: Well, I'm not as big as you are, so I can't -- you know -- I wouldn't be able to get away with that. I -- look, I understand politics. Remember, I'm a man who watched a guy I love dearly go through the same thing I'm going through. And that's my dad. And I -- it's much harder when you see somebody you love being criticized than when you yourself are criticized.

O'REILLY: Now, did you get angry about that?

BUSH: I did get angry about it. And --

O'REILLY: But when it's you, you don't get that angry?

BUSH: No, not really, not really.

O'REILLY: You don't take it personally?

BUSH: No, I don't.

O'REILLY: Because they are trying to destroy you, you know that?

BUSH: Well, it's too bad. And I think most Americans don't want to see the president destroyed. I think most Americans want this country to come together and work for the common good. I suspect a lot of Americans are sick and tired of Washington politics.

O'REILLY: Oh, you bet.

BUSH: And my job is to, again, talk as clearly and plainly as I can to the American people about the stakes in the Middle East and the stakes in the Far East and the stakes in this economy and the stakes in making sure our children get an education, and try to defuse the politics as best as I can.

The problem is is that we're now headed into a political season.

O'REILLY: You bet.

BUSH: And, you know, it's just -- it's -- listen, I hear the criticism, but I believe -- it's just like these polls you asked me about. If you do not believe in what you stand for, in other words, if you're somebody that doesn't stand on principle, then all that matters. If you believe in what you're doing and believe in the principles by which you make a decision, such as freedom is universal. It's a principle. Some don't -- some say, "Well, that may be not the case." But I believe that.

O'REILLY: You stand -- yeah, you sink or swim on your principle.

BUSH: That's it.

O'REILLY: But there's also something else in play, here, Mr. President. The secular progressives -- I just wrote a book called Culture Warrior. And we sent you a free copy, by the way.

BUSH: That's good.

O'REILLY: The secular-progressives --

BUSH: Might entice me to actually read it.

O'REILLY: The secular-progressives don't like you because you're a man of faith.

BUSH: Yeah.

O'REILLY: You know that.

BUSH: Yes. That causes me to be sad for people who don't like somebody because he happens to believe in the Almighty.

O'REILLY: But you know that's in play.

BUSH: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: They think you are some kind of evangelical, who -- God tells you what to do and you go out and do it. And they hate that.

BUSH: I guess that I have pity for people who believe that. They don't understand the relationship between man and the Almighty, then. And --

O'REILLY: Don't believe it?

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