Nov. 20, 2007 — -- Transcript of Nov. 20, 2007 interview between ABC News World News anchor Charles Gibson and President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush.
CHARLES GIBSON: Let me start with, did you put too much faith in President Musharraf?
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: President Musharraf is, right after September the 11th, was asked whether he was with the United States or with the radicals and extremists who had come to kill our citizens. And he said, he's with you, he's been a loyal ally in fighting terrorists.
He's also advanced democracy in Pakistan. He has, he has said he's going to take off his uniform, he's said there will be elections. Today he released prisoners, and so far I've found him to be a man of his word.
And the fundamental question I have for President Musharraf is, will these elections be under emergency rule or law, because if they are, it's going to be hard for --
CHARLES GIBSON: It'd be a sham.
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: -- well, it'll be hard for those of us who, have belief that he's advanced Pakistan's democracy to, to say that's, that's still the case. So, we'll see. Things are unfolding in Pakistan. But he's been a strong ally of the United States, and I certainly hope he succeeds.
CHARLES GIBSON: Is there a line he cannot cross, that he cannot cross, something that would go too far, where you might say to yourself, 'OK, that's enough?'
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: Well, he hasn't crossed the line. As a matter of fact, I don't think that, uh, he will cross any lines. I think he truly is somebody who believes in democracy. And he made a decision, we didn't necessarily agree with his decision, to impose emergency rule, and I, my, hopefully he'll get, get rid of the rule. Today I thought was a pretty good signal that he released thousands of people from jail.
CHARLES GIBSON: But he says he believes in democracy but this state of emergency, which he says he needs to do to fight terrorism, all he's done is arrest political opponents, he's arrested lawyers, he's arrested human rights people. It looks more about saving his own political skin?
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: Well, as I say, he has done more for Democracy in Pakistan than, than any modern leader has, and one of the reasons you're seeing the blowback that you're getting in Pakistan is because of the reforms that, that President Musharraf has put in place. Are we happy with the emergency rule? No, we're not. Do we, do I understand how important he is in fighting extremists and radicals? I do. And do I believe that he's going to end up getting Pakistan back on the road to democracy? I certainly hope so.
CHARLES GIBSON: Mrs. Bush, you were very outspoken when the Myanmar situation occurred, and the monks were protesting, and very outspoken about the call for sanctions when they would not tolerate protest. Why is Myanmar and different than Pakistan?
FIRST LADY LAURA BUSH: Well, that isn't my … I can't answer that. I can talk to you about Burma, because that's what I know the most about, and what I've studied the most, and know most about what's going on in those countries.
But there is a difference, and that is, this has been military rule since 1962 or something, and when there were democratic elections in the early nineties, they were never recognized by the military regime, and in fact the leader of the party, the National League for Democracy, that won those elections, has been under house arrest for most of the time since then, Aung San Suu Kyi. And the, what everyone in the world looked at in the, protest by the Buddhist monks was the violent, crack down on the, on the monks themselves.
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: Yeah, there is a difference in that, Pakistan has been on the road to democracy, Burma hadn't been. And um, I'm real proud of Laura's, she's learned that her voice can be pretty loud in international politics, and has really called the world's attention to the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese people.
One of the interesting stories, if I might, not to be Mister Interrupter here, but uh, was after my speech at the United Nations where it was pretty clear about Burma, and she got an email from a human rights activist on the Thai border that had gotten to know Laura, heard the comments that I had made at the UN, and emailed Laura as a, as kind of a conduit into the White House. So it's a, she's, her role has been very impressive and very important.
CHARLES GIBSON: Just one more question on Pakistan, are the, are the nuclear weapons, in your mind, safe from Islamic radicals, and can you be sure?
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: I certainly hope so. We feel pretty comfortable at this moment in time. And of course we'll pay very close attention to, to any, country that has got nuclear weapons. And, but yeah, I feel good about it right now.
CHARLES GIBSON: Let me turn to Iran, Admiral Fallon, the head of CentCom, said in a recent newspaper interview, he said the military strike against Iran is not in the offing. It would be a strategic mistake. Do you agree?
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: I think it's very important for us to pursue our objectives diplomatically. I also know it's important for all options to remain on the table, and they are on the table.
CHARLES GIBSON: Including military?
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: Yes, sir.
CHARLES GIBSON: So he's wrong?
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: As the Commander in Chief, all options are on the table --
CHARLES GIBSON: When he says it's a strategic mistake?
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: My, my objective is to solve this issue diplomatically, and I fully intend to, and I believe we can. But diplomacy is effective when all options are available to a president, and all options are available. No one wants to use military force to achieve any objective. But, but it's important for all parties to understand that, you know, while I'm optimistic we can solve it diplomatically, options are available to the president.
CHARLES GIBSON: There's been a lot of bellicose rhetoric that has been aimed at Iran, and you yourself, at a news conference recently, raised the specter of, of World War III if there was a nuclear armed Iran. Just my curiosity, why not turn the rhetoric around and smother them with kindness, call their bluff and say, look, if you're seriously interested in nuclear power, we'll build the nuclear power plants for you?
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: I've done that. You must have not heard it, but we actually did it with Russia. Russia and, has offered to, you know, construct Bushehr, which is fine. I supported Russia and said that not only should you build it, but uh, the major suppliers group will provide the fuel and collect the fuel. And, so Russia and the United States are in concert on that issue. Matter of fact, I said this in a press conference, that it's the sovereign right of Iran to have civilian nuclear power, and I agree, and I believe that.
But the problem is, is that it's, what's dangerous is there desire to learn how to enrich uranium, and, because the enrichment process could lead to a weapon. Let me, if I might, I might want to comment on what I said about World War III. I said, if you want to avoid World War III. And the reason I said that is because I take the words of their leader very seriously when, for example, he says he wants to destroy Israel. And you know, an attack on Israel, as far as I'm concerned, would draw the United States into a very serious conflagration in the Middle East. At least it would under my presidency.