RUSH: Well, it’s like saying that they’re all over the world. You’re not fighting a country here, a series of countries. You’re fighting a movement that will hide out anywhere it can, and you’re always going to have a renegade terrorist. Even if, let’s say, we wipe out Al-Qaeda. There’s some other group or individual that may spring up and blow up a bomb somewhere. That’s always going to happen because it always has.
THE PRESIDENT: Right. Really what I was saying to Lauer was, is that this is not the kind of war where you sit down and sign a peace treaty. It’s a totally different kind of war. But we will win it. Your listeners have got to know that I know we’ll win it, but we’re going to have to be resolved and firm, and we can’t doubt what we stand for, and the long-term solution is to spread freedom. I love to tell the story, Rush, about a meeting with Prime Minister Koizumi. He’s my friend. He’s the prime minister of Japan. It wasn’t all that long ago that my dad, your dad, and others dads were fighting against the Japanese, but because after World War II we believed that Japan could self-govern and could be democratic in its own fashion, Japan is no longer an enemy; it’s a friend, and so I sit down with him to help resolve issues like the North Korean peninsula. In other words, we’re working together to keep the peace. The same thing is going to happen in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that’s when I say the transformational power of liberty. That’s what I’m talking about.
RUSH: Well, I remember you also said in one of your first speeches after the 9/11 attacks that this is going to go maybe beyond one or even two terms that you might serve.
THE PRESIDENT: I think so. On the other hand, we’re making great progress. Today at the Legion I said, “We’re winning the war on terror, and we will win the war on terror.” There’s no doubt in my mind, so long as this country stays resolved and strong and determined, and by winning, I just would remind your listeners that Pakistan is now an ally in the war on terror. Saudi now takes Al-Qaeda seriously, and they’re after the leadership. Libya is no longer got weapons of mass destruction. Afghanistan, I don’t know if you’ve discussed this on your program, but there are over ten million people who have registered to vote in Afghanistan, which is a phenomenal statistic when you think about it. And then of course Iraq is now heading toward elections as well, and we’re making progress.
RUSH: Let me ask you —
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead.
RUSH: Let me ask you about Iraq, because as I look at your opponent and his party, it seems to me that they want to separate the war on terror as something that’s localized in Afghanistan, and that Iraq is a rogue war that you started for whatever reasons they’ve concocted, and they are trying to make the American people believe there’s no linkage whatsoever —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
RUSH: — between Iraq and the war on terror. Now, I’ve heard you not only today, but in previous addresses that you’ve made, there clearly is a linkage in your mind. Could you explain to the American people who are listening to this program, what is that linkage, war on terror to Iraq, why we’re there? What your vision is for the war in Iraq? In your second term, what do you hope ?
THE PRESIDENT: Sure.
RUSH: — happens and when?
THE PRESIDENT: First, let me address my opponents. They all, they saw a threat in Iraq, and they voted to remove Saddam Hussein by force if necessary. So, in other words, you know, John Kerry looked at the same intelligence I saw and saw a threat and voted for the authorization of force.
RUSH: Before he voted against it?
THE PRESIDENT: Pardon me?
RUSH: Before he voted against it?
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughing.) Well, that was — you’re talking about the actually funding of troops.
THE PRESIDENT: He made, in my judgment, a big mistake by saying yes, we can use force but we’re not going to provide the troops the equipment necessary to fight the war.
RUSH: That’s what it was.
THE PRESIDENT: Now, Iraq. You see, one of the lessons of September the 11th is that we gotta deal with threats before they fully materialize, and we saw a threat in Iraq. I say “we.” The Congress saw a threat, I saw a threat and the United Nations Security Council saw a threat. In other words, the world took a look and said, “Saddam is a threat,” and here’s why they thought he was a threat. One, he used weapons of mass destruction, and one of the most dangerous parts of this new war is that if the enemy were ever to acquire the capacity to use a weapon of mass destruction it would make September 11th, you know, pale in comparison, and so we saw that threat.
Secondly, he had ties to terrorists. Abu Nidal was housed in Iraq, his organization. He was the guy that killed Leon Klinghoffer. He was a known terrorist. Zarqawi — who’s now, you know, the person beheading people in Iraq today — was in and out of Baghdad and Iraq, as were members of his organization. So he had terrorist ties. As a matter of fact, not only did he have terrorist ties, he used to subsidize families of these suicide bombers, which is a terrorist act.
Thirdly, he invaded his neighbors. Fourthly, he was an enemy of this country, and we had been to war with him once. He had invaded others in the neighborhood. He was a source of great instability. So I saw a threat, and given the lessons of September the 11th, we decided to remove him from power, having tried diplomacy. See, I think it’s very important for your listeners to know, Rush, that the commander-in-chief ought to try all avenues of diplomacy prior to committing troops and we did that. And so I’m sitting in the Oval Office, and I’ve seen a threat. I now see that he’s ignoring the demands of the free world, he had no intention of disarming, as a matter of fact was systematically deceiving inspectors, and so I made the decision, a very difficult decision.
The way forward, which was to remove him from power — and, by the way, we weren’t “alone” going in. As a matter of fact, I talked to Tony Blair this morning, which I do on a regular basis, and Tony Blair saw the same threat. And so now the way ahead is this. We will work with Prime Minister Allawi to enable a political process to develop. In other words, we’ll provide as much security as we can to help a political process forward which means elections in January, but more importantly we will train Iraqis so that they are capable of providing their own security, and that’s an important ingredient about enabling me to say that troops will be there as long as necessary, but not a day longer — and by that I mean when the Iraqis are capable of defending themselves and as the political process emerges, we will then be in a position to say the mission has been completed, which is a democratic Iraq, an ally in the war on terror and a source of stability in a part of the world that needs stability and freedom.
RUSH: A couple quick things. I know your time is short. The Democrats — one voice I know for sure Elliot Spitzer, the attorney general of New York, warned, literally warned the Republicans not to mention the September 11th attacks at the convention.
THE PRESIDENT: (Laughing.) Well, they — evidently Rudy didn’t heed his warnings.
RUSH: (Laughing.) I was going to ask you, because they did. They, of course, were allowed to do what they did on their first right. I thought it was tastefully done last night —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. I tell you, I’m traveling with John McCain; I thought he gave a great speech. Look, September 11th is a defining moment in our history, and it’s certainly a defining moment in my presidency, and the question is whether or not we’ve learned the lessons. Three quick lessons. I’ve already given you one lesson that I think is important to remember. We deal with threats before they fully materialize. What that means is that in the old days you could see a threat, and you may deal with it or you may not deal with it, but you never thought a threat would come to harm us. Those days are gone.
Secondly, if the United States ever says something we better mean it, and I say, “If you harbor a terrorist, you’re just as guilty as a terrorist.” When you say something you gotta act on it. And by acting on it not only is Afghanistan free, but the world now knows that we mean what we say, which makes the world a more peaceful place in my judgment, and the third thing is that these killers are people you can’t negotiate with. You’ve got to find them. So that’s why I told Matt Lauer what I told him. It’s an unconventional war. In other words, these are people that, you know, they use terrorism as a tool to support and promote their ideology of hatred. And, you know, we must bring ’em to justice, and we are. Thursday night I will tell the people that three-quarters of the known Al-Qaeda leadership has been brought to justice. And we’re still obviously on the hunt.
RUSH: Okay, final point. I remember your campaign for president, 2000. You mentioned some specific things that you would do if you were elected. One of them was tax cuts, and there were a couple other things. You talked about Social Security reform — and after you were elected and inaugurated, you set out to proceed to do those things, and I remember reading that the Democrats were surprised that you were actually doing what you said you were gonna do. Now, my last question: are you going to trick them again and actually do in your second term what you’re going to campaign on doing? And what is that? What is your agenda the second term?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m going to save some of it for the speech if you don’t mind.
RUSH: All right.
THE PRESIDENT: I mean, you’re a good friend and I would hate to let you down, but —
RUSH: I understand. I understand totally. But I had to ask. I’m curious.
THE PRESIDENT: Having said that — no, no, I understand completely. Look, what we’re going to do is we’re going to have government — look, the world has changed. No longer does just one person, generally a dad, work for the same company and receive a pension plan or health care from the same company. People change jobs. Women are in the workforce and therefore the role of government ought to be to enable people to be able to live in a changing world. Now, that means promoting policies that say you can own your own health care account like health savings accounts, promoting policies that says younger workers should be able to take some of their own money and set up a personal savings account as a part of Social Security, so they can call it their own. They can take it from job to job and they could pass it on to another generation, and so those are the kinds of things I’m going to address. It’s how government doesn’t give order to people, but how government can enable people to realize dreams in a changing world.
RUSH: Mr. President, thanks so much for your time. It’s always an honor and a thrill to speak to you —
THE PRESIDENT: How you feeling? Most importantly.
RUSH: Never better. I’ve never been happier. I’ve never been better, and you sound like you’re ebullient as well. It’s great to hear. I’m getting all kinds of comments about the optimism that was on display last night at the convention. People are very, very upbeat and ecstatic. People wish you the best and they’re praying for you every day.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s the most important thing people can do is pray, and I appreciate that. I tell you the crowds we’re seeing out here are really big. I believe something is going on here in the hinterlands, in the heartland that is going to mean a victory come November, but I want to assure you I’m going to keep working and keep laying out my vision, so people understand exactly why I’ve made the decisions I’ve made.
RUSH: Well, make no mistake about something. I can’t speak for everybody, but I can speak for quite a few. They love you out there, Mr. President, and they only wish you the best.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir.
RUSH: Alright. George W. Bush.