TODAY   |  November 09, 2010

Bush: ‘Hope I’m judged a success’

Reflecting on several crucial decision points during his time in the Oval Office, former President George W. Bush says “I'm gonna be dead when they finally figure it out. And I'm comfortable knowing that I gave it my all.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now our exclusive interview with george w. bush , his first since leaving the white house . his memoir "decision points" comes out today. we talked about the big choices the president made during his eight years in office. mr. president you have remained mostly silent, largely silent over the last couple of years. why did you remain silent?

>> well, for two reasons, number one, i didn't want to get out there anymore, i didn't want to get back into what i call the swamp. i'm trying to regain a sense of anonymity. and the other thing i don't think it's good for the presidency for a former president to be opining about his successor.

>> he is speaking out now about his own time in office.

>> let's talk about waterboarding.

>> okay.

>> we believe america 's going to be attacked again. there's all kinds of intelligence coming n and one of the high value al qaeda operators was khalid sheikh mohammed and they said he had information, i said found out what he knows. i said are the techniques legal? the lawyers said they are, so i said use them.

>> so it did not fall within the --

>> anti-torture act.

>> you say it's legal and the lawyers told me, you got the justice department to give you the legal guidance and the legal memos that you wanted. they got legal opinions they wanted from their own people.

>> o'he obviously doesn't know. i hope mr. kaine reads the book. he can draw whatever conclusion they want. but i will tell you this, using those techniques saved lives. my job was to protect america and i did.

>> on the decision to go to war in iraq , he says he was the decider. in a conversation i think over lunch that you had with dick cheney in a period of buildup to the war in iraq , he said are you going to take care of this guy or not? first of all i was surprised by the phone that the vice president would use with you, was it surprising to you?

>> we had a very frank relationship.

>> but was dick chain pushing you to go to war in iraq ?

>> it didn't matter if he was or not. i am the guy who makes the decisions and i wanted to give diplomat my a chance.

>> he's still haunted by the fact that the intelligence turned out to be wrong, and weapons of mass destruction were not found in iraq.

>> your words, no one was more sickened or angry than i was when we didn't find weapons of mass destruction . you still have a sickening feeling.

>> i do.

>> was there every a consideration of apologizing to the american people ?

>> apologizing would mean that the decision was the wrong decision. i don't believe it was the wrong decision.

>> if you know what you know now, you would still go to war in iraq ?

>> i first of all didn't have that luxury. i will say definitely the world is better off without saddam hussein in power. as are 25 million people who now have a chance to live in freedom.

>> in the summer of 2006 as iraq descended into chaos, he made the unpopular decision to send 20,000 additional troops in.

>> what made you think that would be successful? give me your thinking on that?

>> i wasn't sure what would be successful, but u knew what wasn't going to be successful.

>> the reaction to the surge immediately, one critic called it the most dangerous decision since vietnam. how hard a decision was the surge for you, where does it rank?

>> it was a very difficult decision. made easier by the fact that i had met with many families of the fallen who said to me, do not let my loved ones sacrifice go in vain and i really didn't care about popularity. everybody wants to be liked, but as the commander in chief, i was more interested in success than my personal popularity.

>> you said that history is not ready to judge you yet.

>> that's right.

>> it's going to take time.

>> true.

>> when it does come about, president bush , do you think you'll be judged a judge says or a failure?

>> i hope a success f i'm going to be dead when they figure it out. i'm comfortable knowing that i gave it my all and i love america .

>> he's another peace with a lot of those decisions and he will be live in our studio tomorrow morning right here on "today." you can post questions for the president on and on our facebook pages as well.