Vice President Bush's responses to Mary McGrory's questions.

What were they {the mistakes}?

I have said numerous times the process was flawed. There never was a formal NSC {National Security Council} meeting on the Iran initiative where all risks and benefits could be aired by all the participants at the same time. As a result, the initiative degenerated into a trade of arms for hostages and was linked, in the diversion, to our policy in Central America.

How do you explain your claim that you did not hear about opposition within the administration to the arms sales to Iran?

I was not at meetings in 1985, especially the Dec. 7, 1985, meeting when objections were apparently forcefully stated. Records indicate I probably attended an ad hoc meeting on Jan. 7, 1986, which was not an NSC meeting -- but I do not recall any strenuous objection. Had there been any strenuous objection, I am sure I would have remembered it.

Did {Bush} ever ask {Secretary of State George P.} Shultz or {then-Secretary of Defense Caspar W.} Weinberger for their views?

No. Nor do I recall their soliciting my views, again in large part because the usual NSC process for sharing views had not been invoked.

Could you expand on {reservations concerning the Israelis}? If you had other reservations, what were they?

As indicated by the {John M.} Poindexter testimony to the Congress and mine to the Tower commission, I was concerned that having another power involved gave us less than total control over the operation. I also had the concerns that I have when any covert action is undertaken -- how will it be interpreted if the cover is blown? Will lives be lost? Will our credibility be damaged? Unfortunately, my reservations turned out to be well-founded.

Did you tell the president that . . . the transactions, if exposed . . . could lead to hideous embarrassment for him and the country?

I do not discuss what I tell the president. In settings with others present, I expressed the concerns stated above. There were apparently others who shared those concerns.

Did you really think that there were "moderate Iranians" whose acquaintance we needed to make, and do you still think so?

Yes. And yes, I still do believe there are people in Iran more responsible than {Ayatollah Ruhollah} Khomeini. We were told that there are factions in Iran that believed it was in the interest of Iran to establish contact with the U.S. In that strategically important area of the world, that kind of information is worth checking out. If I learned that there was a leadership group in Iran that wanted to see an end to the war with Iraq and wanted to find the basis of a relationship with the U.S., I would want it pursued.

Doesn't the {Poindexter note concerning Robert McFarlane's trip} suggest an intimate familiarity with the operation?

I knew of the proposed trip by McFarlane in advance of his going from the president's morning briefing. I've never stated anything to the contrary. I would also like to point out that the Poindexter note was declassified in May of last year and the reference to this trip in my book has been public for some time.

How do you reconcile {a statement about erring on the side of human life and having an overconcern about freeing Americans} with your insistence that it was not an arms-for-hostages swap?

I have said over and over again that the original proposal was not presented as an arms-for-hostages swap. The president has so stated many times. This has been exhaustively looked at by Congress and the Tower commission. . . . Also, all during the discussions, I was terribly concerned about getting the hostages out and about the torture of the man that I knew to be a CIA station chief. If we had had the benefit of the formal NSC process, I think the president and I would both have understood the breakdown in implementing our policy.

How do you reconcile that admission with your previous claim that you had no idea it was a swap until Sen. David Durenberger {R-Minn.} told you, a year after the fact, that it was?

Sen. Durenberger briefed me in December 1986 about the many hidden dimensions of the Iran initiative and the diversion of funds to the contras. Not until that briefing did I fully appreciate how the initiative was actually implemented. Not until that briefing did I have all the detailed information about the operation. If everyone had been informed about the details revealed to me during this briefing, as probably would have occurred in the NSC context, I am convinced that the initiative would have been aborted by the president.

How can you brag about the {terrorism} report when you were secretly subverting it?

I am very proud of the report, and I was not subverting it because I do not believe in trading arms for hostages. I simply refer you to the president's many comments on this.

Can you tell us what you know about the secret shipments of arms to the contras?

I knew nothing of the shipments by the so-called private network of arms to the contras, as the Iran-contra report points out on page 502. "There is no evidence that Vice President George Bush knew about either the contra resupply effort or the diversion of funds to the democratic resistance."

Do you expect people to believe you never talked about the one {country} next door in Nicaragua? Did you not read you briefing papers?

Yes, I expect people to believe I told the truth. And I expect people believe Felix Rodriguez, who testified under oath that he never discussed arms to the contras with me. The Congress has exhaustively looked into this matter, and Felix's testimony has not been challenged. Everyone present at that meeting, including {then} Sen. Nicholas Brady, has testified under oath that the only topic discussed was the insurgency in El Salvador.

Could you explain why, when Eugene Hasenfus' plane was shot down, Sam Watson was the first to be told about it? If Watson and Don Gregg knew about it, why didn't they tell you?

Both Gregg and Watson have responded under oath to that question. And I would refer you to their testimony, which has been public for several months. They did pass on the information that a plane had gone down to my chief of staff. I also learned about it from the news accounts.

Was {Oliver L. North's shredding of documents} a "mistake," or do you think it was reprehensible?

The question of whether documents were improperly destroyed is a matter for investigators and ultimately a court to decide. I would never condone or approve of the illegal or unauthorizd destruction of documents.

Did the thought of cover-up ever cross your mind?

Absolutely not. The president and I cooperated fully with the various investigations, turned over thousands of documents and directed our staffs to do the same.

When, in your view, would be an appropriate time {to discuss pardons of Poindexter and North}?

That is a matter for President Reagan to consider.

Do you agree with Alexander Haig Jr. that the scandal will be an issue in the election if you are the nominee?

The entire record of this administration will be an issue in the election when I am the nominee. That means the people will evaluate how we have dealt with the economy, with the creation of jobs and with our educational system. It means our record of dealing with the Soviets, with our allies and the developing nations will be evaluated. We have an outstanding record of accomplishment, and we have some areas in which we have not succeeded. When the entire record is examined, the scales tip strongly in our favor. I believe my experience gives me the best opportunity to build on what we have done well and gives me the insight to avoid mistakes. It is this experience that translates into presidential leadership that the voters will look for in the primaries and in the general election. I am proud to be judged by this standard.