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Transcript of Bush Interview

The Post: Yes, three times in one sentence. We had to figure this out, because we're in an argument with the RNC [Republican National Committee] about how we should actually word this. [Post staff writer] Mike Allen, the industrious Mike Allen, found it.

THE PRESIDENT: Allen did what now?

The Post: You used partial privatization.

THE PRESIDENT: I did, personally?

The Post: Right.


The Post: To describe it.

THE PRESIDENT: When, when was it?

The Post: Mike said it was right around the election.


The Post: It was right around the election. We'll send it over.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm surprised. Maybe I did. It's amazing what happens when you're tired. Anyway, your question was? I'm sorry for interrupting.

The Post: So have you talked to Senate Democrats about this?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I have talked to Senate Democrats, and I will continue to talk to Senate Democrats. And I'll continue --

The Post: Did you --

THE PRESIDENT: We had a meeting with -- I think before Christmas we had the leadership in, didn't we?

MS. DEVENISH [Nicolle Devenish, the White House communications director]: That was Republicans.

MR. McCLELLAN: For Social Security?


MR. McCLELLAN: The bipartisan meeting at the end of last year, toward the end of last year.

THE PRESIDENT: And before we went on the Christmas break?


THE PRESIDENT: It was right after, I think Harry --[Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid was there, I know for certain. I'm trying to remember -- I can't remember all who were there. But, yes, I have, and will continue to do so, and continue to speak to the people.

The Post: But you haven't reached out personally to [Senate Democrats] Ben Nelson or Mary Landrieu or [Joseph] Lieberman, people that seem open, at least to the idea, because so many Democrats say, no way.

THE PRESIDENT: I will. First step is to make sure people address -- are willing to address the problem. In other words -- in the campaign, you might remember, in going to one of the debates -- Senator [John] Kerry said -- I don't want to put words in his mouth, but basically said, this is something that we can grow the economy and Social Security will be okay. I think he said that. It's not fair for me -- I don't like when people put words in my mouth, and I try not to put in theirs.

But my point is, is that to me, that points at part of the challenge of getting the issue moving forward. That's why I love when you all put it in the front page of your newspaper, the different aspects of Social Security; so and so says this, and so and so says that -- because it means people are at least talking about it. And my view is, the more it's talked about and the more it's debated, the more likely it is people will recognize that we have a problem that we need to address.

And I meant what I said in some of the big speeches I gave, and oftentimes on the campaign trail, where the job of the president is to confront problems, not to pass them on. Plus, I enjoy confronting problems. I enjoy it when hot shot political reports say, can you believe -- sitting around the coffee table -- can you believe old Bush is trying to take this on?

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