RATHER: Mr. Vice President, thank you for being with us tonight. Donald Greg still serves as your trusted adviser. He was deeply involved in running arms to the Contras, and he didn't inform you. Now, when President Reagan's trusted adviser Adm. Poindexter failed to inform him, the president fired him. Now, why is Donald Greg still inside the White House and still a trusted adviser?
BUSH: Because I have confidence in him and because this matter, Dan, as you well know, and your editors know, has been looked at by the $10 million study by the Senate and the House, it's been looked at by the Tower Commission. The (Felix) Rodriguez testimony that you put on here, I just think it's outrageous, because he was totally vindicated, swore under oath that he never talked to me about the Contras. And yet, this report you're making, which you told me, or your people did -- you have a Mr. Cohen that works for you -- was going to be a political profile. Now if this is a political profile for an election, I have a very different opinion as to what one should be. Don Greg works for me because I don't think he's done anything wrong and if he had, this exhaustive examination that went into, gone into by the Senate and by the House would have showed it, and you've impugned the, my integrity by suggesting with one of your little boards (visuals) here that I didn't tell the truth about what Felix Rodriquez. You didn't accuse me of it, but you've made that suggestion, and other people in the media including Mr. Nick Brady and he has said that my version is correct. And so I find this to be a rehash, and a little bit, if you'll excuse me, a misrepresentation on the part of CBS who said you're doing political profiles on all candidates and then you come up with something that has been exhaustively looked into.
RATHER: Mr. Vice President, what we agreed to or didn't agree to, I think you will agree for the moment, can be dealt with in another way. Let's talk about the record. You say we misrepresented your record.
BUSH: (interupts ... uninteligble) ... the whole record.
RATHER: Let's talk about the record. If we misrepresented the record in any way, here's a chance to set it straight.
BUSH: Right. Let's set it straight on one count because you implied from that little thing -- I have a little monitor sitting on the side here -- that I didn't tell the truth. Now this has all been looked into. Now ... (unintelligble).
RATHER: (interrupting) Where did we imply that, Mr. Vice President?
BUSH: Just up here on this board where you had the idea that Bush "says" that he didn't tell, didn't tell, didn't hear about the Contra supply from Felix Rodriguez. Felix Rodriguez testified under oath, he has been public, and you could have at least run a little picture of him saying that I never told the vice president about the Contras. I'm asking for fair play, and I thought I was here to talk about my views on education, or on getting this deficit down ...
RATHER: (interrupting) Mr. Vice President, you want to talk about the record on this because the framework here ...
BUSH: (interrupting) Let's talk about the whole record ...
RATHER: (continuing) ... is that one-third of the Republicans in this poll, one-third of the Republicans and one-fourth of the people who say they rather like you, believe you're hiding something. Here's a chance to get it out.
BUSH: I am hiding something. You know what I'm hiding. What I told the president and that's the only thing. And I've answered every question put before me. Now if you have a question.
RATHER: Please, please.
BUSH: Go ahead.
RATHER: I have one. Now you have said that if you had known that this was an arms for hostages swap, you would have opposed it.
BUSH: (interrupting) Exactly.
RATHER: (continuing) You also said that you did not know ...
BUSH: (interrupting) May I answer that?
RATHER: That wasn't a question. It was a statement. May I ask a question about ...
BUSH: Yes it was a statement and it was ... (unintelligble) ...
BUSH: (continuing) ... and created this program ... (unintelligble)
RATHER: (interupting) Let me ask the question.
BUSH: (continuing) ... has stated publicly that he did not think it was arms for hostages. It was only later that, and that's me, and you know why I went along with it, Dan?
RATHER: (interrupting) That wasn't the question, Mr. Vice President ...
BUSH: (continuing) Because I saw Mr. Buckley, heard about Mr. Buckley being tortured to death. Later admitted as a CIA chief. So if I erred, I erred on the side of trying to get those hostages out of there.
RATHER: Mr. Vice President, you've set the rules for this talk here. I didn't mean to step on your line there. You insisted that this be live, and you know that we have a limited amount of time.
BUSH: Exactly, that's why I want to get my share in here on something other than what you want to talk about.
RATHER: The president, the president has spoken for himself. I'm asking you to speak for yourself, which you have not been willing to do in the past which, if I may suggest, leads people to say "either George Bush was irrelevant or he was ineffective, he set himself outside of the loop." Now let me give you an example, let me ask the question.
BUSH: Now explain out of the loop -- No operational role. Go ahead.
RATHER: Now, you said that if you had known it was an arms for hostage swap, you would have opposed it. You said theefirst you knew it was an arms for hostage swap was in December 1986.
BUSH: When the whole thing became briefed to me by Senator (David) Durenburger and the proximity of arms to hostages much closer than we had thought.
RATHER: But Mr. Vice President, you went to Israel in July of 1986 and a member of your own staff, Mr. Craig Fuller, has verified, and so did the only other man there, Mr. Nir, Mr. Amiram Nir, who is the Israeli's top anti-terrorist man, those two men were in a meeting with you and Mr. Nir, not once but three times, three times, underscored with you that this was a straight out arms for hostages swap. ...
BUSH: (interrupting) What they were doing. Read the memo, read the memo. What they were doing.
AP-BA-01-26 1415EST BC-Bush-Rather-Text, 1st Add,1098
WASHINGTON: were doing.
RATHER: How can you reconcile that you were there when Mr. Nir underscored on three separate occasions that it was an arms for hostages swap and told you that you were dealing with the most radical elements in Iran, that you were dealing with straightaway with the Ayatollah Khomeini.
BUSH: They told me what they were doing, what they were doing, and not what we were doing and that's the big difference, and Dan, I've expressed my concerns and reservations about that. That has been testified to under oath by Mr. Poindexter. And it has been confirmed that I had reservations and spoke up by Don Regan. In fact he said the other day that I expressed them to the president.
RATHER: That's correct.
BUSH: I won't discuss what I talked to about with the president because there's a principle involved. It has nothing to do with Iran-Contra. It's the principle of confidentiality between the president and the vice president.
RATHER: Mr. Vice President, Mr. Vice President.
RATHER: The president, himself, has said he wants all the facts out. He gave up such things as even his own diary ...
BUSH: (interrupting) He didn't give up his own diary ... (unintellgible)
RATHER: (continuing) ... every principle including Secretary Shultz, he gave up some of it ...
BUSH: Now, Dan, let's be careful here because you're trying ...
RATHER: (interrupting) Yes, I want you to be careful, Mr. Vice President because the problem here ...
BUSH: (interrupting) I am being careful.
RATHER: The problem here is you repeatedlly sat in the meetings, you sat in the meeting in which Secretary Shultz in the most forceful way raised his objections and then you said you never heard anybody register objections.
BUSH: I wasn't there for a most forceful way. If it was a most forceful way, I've heard George Shultz be very, very forceful and if I were there and he was very, very forceful at that meeting, I would have remembered that and I don't remember that and ... (unintellgible)
RATHER: (interrupting) Then how do you explain you can't remember what other people at the meeting say ... (unintelligble)
BUSH: (interrupting) Because I wasn't there at that point.
RATHER: You weren't in the meeting?
BUSH: I'm not suggesting. I'm just saying I don't remember.
RATHER: I don't want to be argumentative, Mr. Vice President...
BUSH: You do, Dan. This is not a great night, because I want to talk about why I want to be president. Why those 41 percent of the people (referring to poll figures) are supporting me.
RATHER: (interrupting) Mr. Vice President ...
BUSH: (continuing) And I don't think it's fair to judge a whole career, it's not fair to judge my whole career by a rehash on Iran. How would you like it if I judged your career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York? Would you like that? I have respect for you, but I don't have respect for what you're doing here tonight."
RATHER: Mr. Vice President, I think you'll agree that your qualifications for president and what kind of leadership you'd bring the country, what kind of government you'd have, what kind of people you'd have around you, is much more important than what you've just referred to. I'd be happy ...
BUSH: I just want to be judged on the whole record, and you're not giving me an opportunity.
RATHER: I'm trying to set the record straight.
BUSH: You invited me to come here to talk about, I thought, the whole record.
RATHER: I want you to talk about the record. You sat in a meeting with Secretary George Shultz. He got apoplectic when he found out that you and the president were being party to some of these missions to the Ayatolllah Khomeini, the ayatollah of Iran. Can you explain how you were supposed to be, you are the anti-terrorist expert. Iran was officially a terrorist state and you went around telling ... (unintelligible) ... in the
BUSH: (interrupting) I've explained that. I wanted Mr. Buckley out of there before he was killed.
RATHER: (continuing) Mr. Vice President, the question is you've made us hypocrites in the face of the world. How could you sign on to such a policy? How could you ... (unintelligible)
BUSH: I'll tell you how I could. The same reason the president signed on to it. When a CIA agent is being tortured to death, maybe you err a bit on the side of human life. But everybody's admitted mistakes. I've admitted mistakes. And you want to dwell on them. And I want to talk about the values we believe in, and the experience and the integrity that goes with all of this. And what I'm going to do about education. There's nothing new here. I thought this was a news program.
RATHER: Well I had hoped, Mr. Vice President, that you would tell us to whom you expressed your reservations.
BUSH: (interrupting) Yes, I did.
RATHER: (continuing) When you expressed them and what the reservations were.
BUSH: (unintelligible) ... under oath!
RATHER: What were your reservations?
BUSH: Reservations about getting the control of an operation in the hands of a foreign power. Don Regan stated the other day, and I never heard a word of on CBS, that the vice president in the presence of the president spoke up about his concern about the whole cover of an operation being blown and secrets and people which you're dealing with and putting their lives in jeopardy ... (unintelligible) ... every covert action.
RATHER: (interrupting) And you weren't concerned about selling missiles to the Ayatollah Khomeini?
BUSH: The president has explained that. The committee looked at that and so there is nothing new on this.
RATHER: Mr. Vice President, I appreciate you joining us tonight. And I appreciateethe straightforward way in which you engaged in this exchange. There are clearly some unanswered questions remaining. Are you willing to go to a news conference before the Iowa caucuses, answer questions from all comers ...
BUSH: (interrupting) I've been to 86 news conferences since March ...
RATHER: I gather that the answer is no. Thank you very much for being with us, Mr. Vice President. We'll be back with more news in a moment.