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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)

'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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