H.W. Bush lived 'a life of quality, a life of honor, a life of honesty': Colin Powell

Colin Powell, George H.W. Bush's former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who helped lead combat efforts in Operation Desert Storm, reflects on working for the 41st president.
5:08 | 12/02/18

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Transcript for H.W. Bush lived 'a life of quality, a life of honor, a life of honesty': Colin Powell
And we're joined now by another secretary of state, general Colin Powell. Who was chairman of the join chiefs of staff under bush 41. General, secretary, thank you for joining us this morning. I saw you called president bush the perfect American. Explain what you meant by that. I thought he was a perfect American in terms of how he served the country in so many capacities. In congress. As the envoy to China. In business. All the things he did throughout his life to include being CIA director. You name it. He did it. Became vice president for eight years and then president of the United States. But throughout that entire period, he never forgot who he was. He never let it all go to his head. He was a man of great humility. He was humble. My experience for a total of six years really, two years as national security adviser to he and president Reagan and four years as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. He was always kind. He was always contained within himself. He didn't let emotions get on top of him. And frankly, he was a product of his parents. They told him, don't show off, George. Just always remember, you're humble. You work for people. You serve people. So I think he was a perfect president. He didn't win a second time. But that was another -- subject of another discussion. Not the guy. As Jim baker just -- he will be seen as one of the best ones. I agree with Jim baker on that one. He was the last president to serve in combat. How did that shape his work as commander in chief? He knew what combat was all about. He knew it meant the death of people. People on your side. People on the other side. He wanted to avoid a war. People think about desert storm. You have to remember that throughout that period, we're building up the force. In desert shield getting ready for desert storm. He was doing everything. He and Jim baker were doing everything to see if we could avoid a war by getting the Iraqis to leave Kuwait. At the last minute, Jim went to meet with Aziz. The prime minister of Iraq. He wouldn't agree to it. And then the war came. He organized the war in way that was straightforward and direct. We had a specific mission. Kick the Iraqi army out of Kuwait. Restore the government of Kuwait. And then don't stay there. Come on out. As a result of that statement, he was able to get the U.N. On board. Almost every nation in the world joined in the coalition with troops on the ground or political support. We had gorbachev, then the head of the soviet union to be part of the political coalition. Because he made it a precise conflict, defined in terms of space and time, he got the support he needed. We were able to say to him, Mr. President, we guarantee the success of this operation. He gave us everything we needed. Everything general Schwarzkopf asked for. Everything I took to the president. He would listen carefully. He would ask questions. He knew what war was all about. And he would give us what we needed. And we did what we said we would do. You mentioned gorbachev. The temptation to crow when the Berlin wall was falling must have been so great. Not for George Herbert walker bush. Because as I said a few moments ago, it was in his DNA not to gloat. Not to be a braggart. It doesn't mean he wasn't competitive. He was very competitive. Especially with horseshoes and other sports. In matters like this, he felt it was his place to do the right thing. Not gloat. Not, you know, shout over somebody's grave. And I still remember not only with the end of the cold war and his treatment of gorbachev and working on the unification of Germany. But after desert storm, which was very successful, the American people loved it. They never thought their armed forces could really be this good. And we were. When we started having the parades. Especially when they decided to have a parade in New York. Ticker-tape parade up Broadway. The traditional ticker tape new York parade. President bush said, I won't be there. You won't be there? Why not? It's a parade for troops. General Schwarzkopf. The troops. The chairman. The joint chiefs of staff. Secretary Cheney. I will not attend. This is for them. This is not for me. He attended the one in Washington. I can think of very few people that would have passed up an opportunity like that. What do you hope Americans take today from his life? A life of quality. A life of honor. A life of honesty. A life of total concern for the American people. Everything he thought of everything he did in public life was always directed to helping the American people. He was a patriot. He demonstrated it in war. He demonstrated it in peace. He was the most qualified person with respect to foreign policy ever to serve as the president of the United States of America. He was able to demonstrate that for the four years of his service. It was my privilege to be his chairman for those four years. But also to have served with he and president Reagan. For two years. The last two years of the administration. That's what set me up to become the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Mr. Secretary. Thank you for your time this morning. Thank you, George.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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