Bush: All Options 'On the Table' for Auto Companies

President talks to Cynthia McFadden about auto bailout, presidency and faith.

ByABC News
December 8, 2008, 12:32 PM

Dec. 8, 2008— -- As the end of his presidency nears, President George W. Bush sat down with "Nightline" co-anchor Cynthia McFadden for a wide-ranging interview in which he discussed in depth his personal faith and how it has informed his presidency. At the outset, he also answered questions about the auto industry bailout.

Bush said that all options should be on the table when it comes to ensuring that U.S. automakers "can survive in the long term," and did not rule out asking the companies' top executives to step down.

Bush told McFadden that he was hopeful that Congress and the White House would reach an agreement soon, but stressed the importance of "viability," saying that "we just don't want to put good money after bad."

The White House has received a draft of a short-term $15 billion bailout package for Chrysler and General Motors to keep them in operation into the new year, and senators began debating the proposal this afternoon.

Bush said it's difficult to say how close they are to a deal, "because there are some pretty strict standards. One is that anything that's done would as best as possible guarantee the taxpayers get their money back. In other words, there needs to be viability."

When asked by McFadden if requiring the auto executives to step down was an option, Bush said, "I think all aspects of the deal are on the table. I don't want to take one single aspect. The danger with trying to pick out one thing and say this has to happen, is that these companies need a comprehensive review of everything they're doing, and all aspects of the business need to be on the table in order to make sure we don't put good money after bad, which would be unhelpful."

Bush: Iraq War 'Not a Religious Decision'

In the interview, Bush also spoke at length about his personal faith and how it has informed his presidency. The president said that his relationship with God has grown over time, and began when he decided to stop drinking.

"It is hard for me to justify or prove the mystery of the Almighty in my life," he said. "All I can just tell you is that I got back into religion and I quit drinking shortly thereafter and I asked for help -- I was a one-step program guy."

When asked if he thought he would have become president had it not been for his faith, Bush said, "I don't know; it's hard to tell. I do know that I would have been -- I'm pretty confident I would have been a pretty selfish person."

Bush said he is often asked if he thinks he was chosen by God to be president.

"I just, I can't go there," he said. "I'm not that confident in knowing, you know, the Almighty, to be able to say, 'Yeah, God wanted me of all the other people.' My relationship [with God] is on a personal basis trying to become as closer to the Almighty as I possibly can get. And I've got a lot of problems. I mean, I got, you know, the ego ... all the things that prevent me from being closer to the Almighty. So, I don't analyze my relationship with the good Lord in terms of, well, you know, God has plucked you out or God wants you to do this. I know this: I know that the call is to better understand and live out your life according to the will of God."

He also pushed back on the notion that the decision to go to war in Iraq was somehow based on his faith.

"I did it based upon the need to protect the American people from harm," Bush said. "This was a period of time where we were deeply concerned about the security of the country, and given all the behavior of Saddam Hussein, and given the intelligence that we thought was valid at the time, and given the fact that we tried to give him a diplomatic way out, it was the right thing to do, and frankly, the world is better off without Saddam Hussein and so are the citizens of Iraq, but it was not a religious decision."