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A Course of 'Confident Action'

His father's late political strategist, Lee Atwater, had told him, "Access is power." Bush said he learned this firsthand in 1988 when his father was running for president. "I can remember going to the vice president's house, and they'd be getting ready to have the campaign team come over. And I would be there about, you know, about 20 minutes before they arrived so they would see me with Dad.

"They didn't have any idea. We were probably talking about the pennant race or, you know, a brother or sister. They didn't know that. They knew that I had access to him, that it was just me and him alone. It was a very interesting lesson. I watched my stature grow the more that I had access to him."

"A president has got to be the calcium in the backbone," Bush told Bob Woodward. "If I weaken, the whole team weakens." (Eric Draper -- The White House)

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___ Post Series ___

PART 1: Confronting Iraq
Struggle for Bush's Heart, Mind
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell found himself out of step with the war cabinet and took his case for restraint straight to the president.

PART 2: The First Two Months
Doubts, Debate Before Victory
Despite public optimism, Bush's advisers harbored doubts during the early days of the Afghan war that the operation would not succeed.

CIA Led the Way With Cash
A clandestine operative and his ten-man team landed in Afghanistan to hand out $100 bills and redirect the U.S. bombing campaign.

PART 3: An Expansive World View
A Course of 'Confident Action'
In an exclusive interview, Bush outlines his belief that the U.S. may need to use unilateral action to fight terrorism and disarm rogue nations.

Iraq on His Mind
At home on his ranch, Bush hints that a successful blueprint for Iraq lies in lessons from Afghanistan.

AUDIO:  Listen to a book excerpt

Woodward Live Online Transcript
Bob Woodward answered readers' questions and discussed the "Bush at War" series.

___ About This Series ___

"Bush at War" is based on notes taken during more than 50 National Security Council and other meetings. Many direct quotations of President Bush and the war cabinet members come from these notes. Other personal notes, memos, calendars, written internal chronologies, transcripts and other documents were also the basis for direct quotations and other parts of this story.

More than 100 people involved in the decision making, including President Bush, were interviewed. Thoughts, conclusions and feelings attributed to the participants come either from the people themselves, a colleague with direct knowledge of them or the written record.

___ Related Series ___

Ten Days in September. This 8-part report from Bob Woodward and Dan Balz reconstructed the atmosphere inside the White House during the days immediately after Sept. 11.

'Tone It Down, Darling'

Toward the end of the interview, Bush was joined by his wife. He had just finished saying she had once told him that when talking about terrorists, " 'You need to make sure your rhetoric isn't quite as harsh about killing them.' And in other words, she was more concerned about kind of the West Texas . . . . tough guy."

"I didn't like the 'get them dead or alive,' " Laura Bush said.

"Why?" the president asked. "I just didn't," she said.

Why, the president persisted.

"It just didn't sound that appealing to me, really," she said. "I mean, I have -- I just said, 'Tone it down, darling.' "

Bush admitted he hadn't toned it down. And, said Laura Bush, "Every once in a while, I had to say it again."

Mark Malseed contributed to this report.

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