Charles Gibson interviewed former President George Bush at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia before Bush was awarded the 2006 Liberty Medal for his fundraising efforts with former President Clinton. The following is a partial transcript of the interview:
Charles Gibson: Mr. President, what's your take on what's going on right now with Speaker Hastert in the House?
George H.W. Bush: Charles, you won't believe this. This will be incredible. I do not follow it nearly as closely as I did when I was in Washington. I'm out of that. However, I don't know, I mean I suppose Hastert, I think as we're talking is saying something, so, but I hope he stays there. I like him, I respect him, and he's a good man, and that's all I know.
Gibson: He's told people that you called him to express your support.
Bush: That's what I told him yester -- and it was yesterday. I just was tired of hearing all the flack about him, implying that a guy might've, not been corrupt necessarily but improper. And, uh ... I know -- [LAUGHS] I know him so well that I just wanted to express my, my strong conviction that he's a good man and hope he hangs in there.
Gibson: It's a question though, overall, of … institutions.
Bush: That's right.
Gibson: We're in an age when the approval rating of the president in the polls is in the- around 40 percent. I won't ask to -- you to comment on that because --
Bush: Except I'd like to say I think it's a hell of a lot better than 33 percent.
Gibson: It's -- it's up some. And the approval rating of the Congress is way down --
Bush: Yeah --
Gibson: -- in the 20s. Does that bespeak an American disillusionment with institutions, that we ought to worry about?
Bush: Oh, I don't think so, it seems to me we go through this from time to time, I remember the numbers of Congress being very low, in one of the years when I was there. And I, I … I just think what goes around comes around, I think it's -- I think, the American people, basically support their own representatives. They may not support the institution of the Congress, but they support their congressmen, their senators, and I think we see that because we don't see that much change, in the numbers of senators or the number of House members.
Gibson: But you worry in an instance like this whether the Congress is protecting its own, or the young kids who are there, to serve --
Bush: Well, if I thought that there -- we were -- it -- the speaker or somebody was protecting the status quo, and not protecting the kids I would be very upset about that. I'm sure there were some maybe that fit that description. But I don't think that's the speaker.
Gibson: We are in an age it seems when the leadership in Congress, is under fire all the time, you go back to Jim Wright, from Texas, Tom DeLay from Texas, Trent Lott from Mississippi, Newt Gingrich who got run out because of improprieties, Bob Livingstone who was going to speaker --
Gibson: And now, Speaker Hastert under fire. What's going on in Washington that this happens so often?