How did President Bush respond to what he described as "a pretty interesting trick question"? Read on.
In a 30-minute interview with C-SPAN today, President Bush spent half that time responding to questions about Iraq and Iran. Here's the transcript of that Mideast-focused portion of the interview:
Q Mr. President, in 23 months our 44th President will be sworn into this office. With regard to the Middle East and Iraq, specifically, what will he or she inherit?
THE PRESIDENT: A society in Iraq that is learning to live with themselves; a unified -- a country that's heading toward more unity, based upon a modern constitution which was approved by the Iraqi people. There will be violence. There will be criminality. But they will also see a country in which the security forces are better equipped and better adapt at dealing with the extremists. They will see a political process that is working toward reconciliation. They will know there have been local elections, which enables the local folks to have more buy-in to the provincial government. They'll see a society that is an ally in the war on terror.
They will also know what I know, that the real challenge in the Middle East is to confront extremists and not allow the extremists to bully and marginalize and use their weapon of terror to gain safe haven and/or to gain an ideological advantage over the millions who want to live in peace.
Q What do you think the children of Iraq will view -- how they'll view the U.S. in 15, 20 years?
THE PRESIDENT: That's a great question. It depends on whether or not we help bring stability so that a child can grow up in a normal environment or, relatively speaking, normal environment. That's a fantastic question.
See, I believe most mothers want to raise their children in peace -- whether they be Sunni or Shia, Iraqi or any other part of the world. And if we can help this government be able to create the conditions so that a mother can raise their child in peace, I think people will look back and they'll be thankful of America. If America leaves, however, before the job is done, I think there will be great resentment toward America.
Q As you know, we hear from a lot of viewers every day. We had a call yesterday that wanted to know -- a viewer from Ohio -- what will victory look like? How do you define it?
THE PRESIDENT: That's a great question, and it's a difficult question to answer because a lot of people think in terms of victory -- in terms of the USS Missouri, for example, where there was a treaty signed on a battleship that said, "Japan has been vanquished."
You'll see a society that I just described, one where there's commerce and enterprise and the entrepreneurial spirit is flourishing; one in which there's -- life is relatively normal in a society that has been wracked by extreme violence, in the last year, in particular; one in which the government is exercising its responsibility on behalf of the people; one in which the constitution that had been voted on is the cornerstone of law for that society; and one which rejects extremism and violence and does not allow a group like al Qaeda to find safe haven within their borders.
Q The House this week, three or four days, 36 hours of debate and a resolution that is likely to be very critical of your policies. First of all, will you be watching the debate? And will it at all influence your policies in the future?
THE PRESIDENT: In terms of watching the debate, I've got a lot to do -- I'm not exactly sure what hours they'll be debating, but I've got a pretty full day, I mean, like, I started this morning at 6:45 a.m. and I've had meetings up until right now. So I haven't been watching anything.
Q But this will start tomorrow.
THE PRESIDENT: You know, I've got a full day tomorrow. (Laughter.) I mean, it's not as if the world stops when the Congress does their duty. I'm receiving foreign guests. It just depends on what my schedule looks like.
Secondly, look, I already know what the debate is. I hear a lot of opinions. A lot of people don't believe we can succeed in Iraq and, therefore, I presume, want to get out. That would be a disastrous course, as far as I'm concerned.
Look, if you asked me, do you approve of Iraq? And my answer is, no, I don't -- in other words, if one of those endless opinion polls reached into the White House and said, are you approving of Iraq? I would say to you, Stephen, no, I'm not. And, therefore, if I say I don't approve of the status quo, I have an obligation to make a decision to do something else.
One option that some in the Congress think makes sense was to withdraw from Baghdad. In other words, just let them fight it out. And some just say we shouldn't be there at all. Either one of those cases, in my judgment, would create chaos, violence and would make it much more difficult for us to have an ally in this war on terror, and much easier for the enemy to promote their hatred.
And, see, one of the interesting issues in this particular theater in the war against terror is that if we fail, then it is more likely somebody will come here and kill additional Americans. In other words, failure in Iraq emboldens an enemy which has caused us harm in the past and wants to do so again.
I listened to a lot of folks and said, instead of creating the conditions that would yield chaos, why don't we help this Iraqi government stabilize the capital city of Baghdad. Most of the country is in good shape. The truth of the matter is, if Baghdad looked like most of the rest of the country, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
And so, upon the advice of some smart military people and people inside -- diplomats and people who understand the situation -- they convinced me to add troops. We enforced the troops that are there. And General Petraeus will have that which he has asked for, and it's now in place and implementing a Baghdad security plan with the Iraqis in the lead so that, sooner rather than later, we can end up getting to what Baker-Hamilton suggested, which is a posture that is over the horizon, a defense posture that helps guarantee the territorial integrity of the country. We've got Special Ops guys chasing down al Qaeda and we're embedded with the Iraqis to help them do the security work.
Q I want to take you back to something that you said on September 12, 2002, with regard to Iraq. You said, "In one place, in one regime, we find these dangers in their most lethal and aggressive form." And my question is, do you sense the same with Iran?
THE PRESIDENT: There is no question that the Iranian desire to have a nuclear weapon poses a danger. And that is why our policy is aimed at convincing the rest of the world about the danger inherent with this regime having a nuclear weapon, and working together to do something about it.
Stephen, all major problems should be solved diplomatically. In other words, the military is the last resort to solve problems. And I believe we still have the capacity to solve this issue diplomatically, because a lot of the world now understands the dangers of Iran having a nuclear weapon.
And so we're working toward that end, and we're pressuring the regime through diplomatic channels -- i.e., a Chapter 7 resolution at the United Nations, thereby making Iran one of the few nations under Chapter 7.
The Iranian people are good, decent, honorable people. And they've got a government that is belligerent, loud, noisy, threatening, a government which is in defiance of the rest of the world and says, we want a nuclear weapon. And so our objective is to continue to keep the pressure in hopes that rational folks will show up and say, it's not worth it, it's not worth the isolation.
Q But you have Senator Dodd yesterday saying he was skeptical; Senator Lott --
THE PRESIDENT: Skeptical of?
Q That we were leading into a war. Newsweek Magazine had rumors of a war. Senator Lott saying that it's interdiction that's necessary, although we have to do something with regard to Iran. So what do you say to them?
THE PRESIDENT: I say we've got a comprehensive policy aimed to solve this peacefully. It's typical Washington, where people are out speculating and -- I do think it makes sense to make it clear to the Iranians, through the international community, that they're isolating themselves. And we'll continue to press hard to do so.
I guess my reaction to all the noise about, you know, "He wants to go to war" is, first of all, I don't understand the tactics, and I guess I would say it's political. On the other hand, I hope that the members of Congress, particularly in the opposition party, understand the grave danger of Iran having a nuclear weapon. Therefore, we all need to work together to solve the problem.
Q You use that word, "noise," a lot. How do you define that?
THE PRESIDENT: There's just a lot of chatter here in Washington. I mean, it's hard for some of your viewers to get it, I guess, unless they pay attention to the daily grind of news and comments and press releases. I guess I would just say that there's endless chatter, a lot of people on TV expressing their opinion -- which is fine, don't get me wrong, it's just part of the process -- after all, I'm on TV expressing my opinion with you. (Laughter.) But it's just a lot of chatter in Washington, a lot of people expressing themselves on a regular basis.
Q Some of your strongest supporters, Laura Ingraham on radio, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity have said that part of the problem is that the media haven't covered the full story in Iraq. If things go badly in Iraq, are the media responsible?
THE PRESIDENT: I think that's a pretty interesting trick question -- "if things go badly." I think they're going to go well, otherwise I wouldn't have made the decision I made. The question is what the definition of "go well" -- if the definition of success is, is that there will be no suicide bombers, then we've really placed our fate in the hands of those who are willing to kill themselves. If the definition of success is the emergence of a stable society that's beginning to reconcile and do the political work necessary, then I think we'll succeed.
Q But do you think the media are doing an adequate job covering the full picture?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm wise enough not to bash the media. I would hope, however, that they would take a good look at, for example, the rest of the country outside of Baghdad and Anbar province -- at least the reports I get are people are beginning to live a normal life. If you're a correspondent in a war zone, it's a little difficult to travel around the country on a free basis. But, look, I'm not going to complain about the media.