'This Week' Transcript: George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Mohamed Tawfik


DR. CHRISTINE KASEBA, FIRST LADY OF ZAMBIA: Many people are living, many men and women, children are living because of what President Bush has done.


KARL: Praise for President Bush from Zambia's first lady as she joined him and Laura Bush for the opening of a new clinic this week. Africa has become a frequent stop for the former president, who's devoted much of his post-presidency to confronting the continent's biggest challenges.

We met up with the former first couple in Tanzania, to talk about their involvement in Africa, plus the secret surveillance program President Bush approved, and his highly unusual meeting with President Obama.


KARL (voice-over): It was the rarest of road trips.

OBAMA: There is no question that Africa is on the move.

KARL: A meting of the presidents club thousands of miles from home.

BUSH: Laura and I are thrilled to be back in Zambia.

KARL: A commander in chief reunion, in Africa. President Obama and former President Bush traveled separately across the continent this week, but they met in Tanzania at a memorial for victims of the 1998 embassy bombing.

(on camera): It was an extraordinary moment to watch two U.S. presidents, especially you two, together here in Africa. What did you talk about when the cameras weren't rolling?

BUSH: What a big pain the press is.


KARL: You probably agreed entirely on that.


BUSH: We just chatted about his trip. He's at the end of the trip. I remember how tired I used to get. I said, you got to be kind of worn out, he said, I had a great trip, looking forward to getting back home. And I asked him about his old girls, were they having a good time? He said, you bet, because I remember bringing our daughters on some of these trips and how meaningful it was to be with them. And we didn't sit around hashing out policy.

KARL: Did you talk to him? Not much at all?

BUSH: No, not really. He's busy. And I'm retired.

KARL: And then you had this extraordinary moment with first lady, Michelle Obama.

LAURA BUSH: That was great.


MICHELLE OBAMA: You have an opportunity to speak to your passions.


LAURA BUSH: I always think it looks really great for our country, for our presidents and first ladies to be together, whatever their parties are. I think it's a really good example for the world.

KARL: There's something that you and President Obama have in common. And that is that you are both, seems to me, a lot more popular in Africa than you are back home.


BUSH: I thought you were going to say because we married extraordinary women.

KARL: That's true too.

BUSH: Great.

KARL: What do you make of that? You're something of a rock star here. He had these massive crowds, like you have seen. What's behind that?

BUSH: We both represent a great country. People admire America. And Africans are thrilled with the idea that American taxpayers funded programs that save lives.

KARL (voice-over): One of those programs, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, which President Bush signed into law 10 years ago is now celebrating a remarkable milestone. One million African babies born HIV-free, thanks to programs preventing mother-to-child transmission. Another 7 million with HIV are getting the drugs they need to survive.


OBAMA: I think this is one of his crowning commitments. Because of the commitment of the Bush administration and the American people, millions of people's lives have been saved.


KARL: President Obama said this is one of your crowning achievements. Do you agree with that?

BUSH: That's nice of him. I view it as an achievement of American generosity. And it has been an extraordinarily successful program. And I was honored to be a part of it.

One reason we're in Africa is because we have found out and discovered that women are dying of cervical cancer. They have been saved from HIV through antiretroviral drugs, yet they're dying of cervical cancer. We think it's needless, and we're trying to do something about it.

KARL (voice-over): That mission brought president and Mrs. Bush this week to Livingston, Zambia, a small town near the iconic Victoria Falls, one of the seven Wonders of the World. Where with a small army of volunteers they rolled up their sleeves to refurbish and reopen a clinic.

BUSH: This room was really messy. And as you can see they cleaned it up.

KARL: As part of the Bush Institute's Cancer Prevention Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Campaign women can now get screened there for cervical cancer. Pollah Musonda came here with her niece on opening day after recently losing her mother-in-law to the disease.


BUSH: She was the first lady screened. And was helping, is helping.

POLLAH MUSONDA: When you meet them, you feel honored. And I'm happy today that I've done it, and I'm free.


KARL: Why Africa? I mean was there a moment where this clicked for you? You visited earlier.

BUSH: There was a moment because I was the president of the most powerful, rich nation and pandemic was destroying an entire generation. And I thought it would be morally shameful not to act.

KARL: How important is Africa to your husband's legacy?

LAURA BUSH: I think it's very important. I think it's really important for people to know that the generosity of the American taxpayer has saved lives here. And that now seven million people are on anti-retroviral drugs and are living full, productive lives. They can contribute to their economy. They are not leaving orphans like what happened earlier in the big pandemic. I think it's, I think Americans should feel great about it.

KARL: President Obama has been criticized by those who say he hasn't done as much for Africa as you did. That he's neglected Africa. Is that a bad rap?

BUSH: President Obama cares deeply about whether or not people on the continent of Africa. All I can tell you is that the State Department under his leadership and under Secretary Clinton has been incredibly helpful in our efforts to deal with cervical cancer. It doesn't surprise me that presidents get criticized.

KARL: You saw that every once in a while?

BUSH: Not from you of course, Jon.

KARL: So what do you make, I know you're not into psychoanalysis. Some, these are your critics that say that all of this Africa work you're doing, that part of it is, you're trying to make up for mistakes you made in Iraq or --

BUSH: Oh yeah.

KARL: Or (inaudible) and this is -- what do you say to that?

BUSH: Let them continue to babble.

KARL: Not true?

BUSH: I'm trying to think of the proper word. Absurd psycho-babble.

KARL: I saw a journalist in Zambia asked you about gay marriage and whether it is compatible with Christian values. And you had an interesting response.


BUSH: I shouldn't be taking a speck out of somebody else's eye when I have a log in my own.


BUSH: I meant that I'm not going to answer the question then and I'm not going to answer it now in terms of the political question about whether or not, I just don't want to weigh back in the debate. I'm out of politics.

But I meant it's very important for people not to be overly critical of someone else until you've examined your own heart.

KARL: Have your views on this evolved at all? I mean you were --

BUSH: Jon, I didn't, you didn't hear my answer. I'm not going to weigh back into those kinds of issues. I'm out of politics. The only way I can really make news is either criticize the president, which I don't want to do, criticize my own party, or weigh in on a controversial issue. And I'm off the stage. Unless I'm promoting something I strongly believe in, and I believe that what we're doing in Africa is incredibly important. And will continue to do so, so long as I'm ambulatory.

KARL: Well, I've got one that you care deeply about.

BUSH: Yeah?

KARL: You tried very hard to get comprehensive immigration reform through. How big a missed opportunity will it be if it fails this time around?

BUSH: I think it's very important to fix a broken system, to treat people with respect. And have confidence in our capacity to assimilate people. It's a very difficult bill to pass because there is a lot of moving parts, and the legislative process is -- can be ugly. And -- but it looks like they're making some progress.

KARL: Because that was one of your real frustrations, was not being able to pass that bill.

BUSH: Yeah. I understand sometimes you get legislation through that you want. I was also frustrated we didn't pass Social Security reform. I thought the plan I had laid out on both was reasonable. But sometimes it takes, it takes time for some of these complex issues to evolve. And looks like immigration, you know, has a chance to pass.

KARL: Is the party going to be really hurt if they let this die?

BUSH: Well, the reason to pass immigration reform is not to bolster a Republican Party, it's to fix a system that's broken. Good policy yields good politics, as far as I'm concerned.

KARL: Your former spokesperson said, when you look at what President Obama's done on counterterrorism, this is basically the fourth Bush term. Are you surprised that President Obama has kept in place so many of your counterterrorism programs? Including those he criticized as a candidate?

BUSH: I think the president got into the Oval Office and realized the dangers to the United States, and he's acted in a way that he thinks is necessary to protect the country. Protecting the country is the most important job of the presidency.

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