You must get that all the time. Uh, I get it some. When I go to campuses. But did you hear what I did? I just let him rant. And when he was finished, he had no question, he just wanted to accuse me of undermining the Constitution and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. And I said, "Thanks for your thoughtful rant." And he sat down. And I said, "Now do you feel better about yourself?" And he said, "Yeah." And I said, "Well, I want you to feel better about yourself." And everybody laughed, and we went on.
Want more politics from GQ? Click Here
But is it hard when people-- No. No. Look, everywhere I go, people say nice things to me. I don't live for that. I appreciate it, and I'm grateful for their kind words, but I don't live for it. And similarly, when people say ugly things? It doesn't affect me. They want their words to affect me. And as a result, I'm not gonna let 'em. But when people say, "You've created this climate of fear—" I laugh.
You laugh? Yeah. I laugh. Sure. How? What, exactly? I'm not apologetic about what this administration has done. It's protecting America. It has won important battles in a war that we as a nation better win or we will leave the future to our kids, a much darker and dangerous future.
What's the biggest misconception about your role in the Bush White House? That it was all about politics.
If that's the misconception, what's the overlooked truth? Look, I'm a policy geek. What I've most enjoyed about my job was the substantive policy discussions. Being able to dig in deeply and, you know, learn about something, ask questions, listen to smart people, and form a judgment about something that was from a policy perspective.
When you look back at your career, especially in the Bush administration, what's the worst thing you did? I'm not gonna be good at answering that.
But is there anything you feel guilty about? Or wish you did differently? [exasperated laugh] Off the record?
No! Don't go off the record. Off the record.
Okay, let's look back, to the very beginning of the Karl Rove story, when you got handed the keys [from Bush the father, to deliver to Bush the son] until now. And you look at where the president's approval ratings are today-- Yeah.
What did you do wrong? Oh, look, I did a lot of things wrong. But the main thing is, we're fighting an important but unpopular war.
You still think it was the right thing to do? Absolutely. Absolutely. And you know, one of our biggest mistakes was, the first time Harry Reid got up and said, "You lied and you deliberately misled the country," we should have gone back immediately and hit back hard, and we didn't. We let that story line develop. In reality, you go back and look at what Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore -- I'd be happy to supply you the quotes -- what they said about Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction.
What are you most proud of? Being part of a group of people I have a great deal of respect and admiration for in service of the country.
If you had to make a bet, can Hillary pull it off? The odds are long, but improbable things have happened almost every month in this race. She wasn't supposed to win New Hampshire, and she did. So we'll see. You know, she's got a lot of strengths, and he does, too. We got two well-matched opponents going at each other hammer and tongs. It's fun to watch.