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What's Next for George W. Bush?

His values are unshaken by a controversial presidency: "I take pride in being the same person."

George W. Bush portrait on his ranch in Crawford, Texas; 10/23/2010

— Dan Winters

ATM: What else does it take to win?

President Bush: It's important to take risks. I'm talking about living life to its fullest. Running for governor of Texas against a very popular governor [incumbent Ann Richards] was deemed to be risky. Everybody thought I would lose. As I put in my book, my mother said, "You're going to lose!" (Laughs.)

I could have easily not run for president, and people would have come up and said, "Oh, man, you would have been a great president." Or even a lousy president. But I never would have known had I not chosen to run. Part of life is seizing the moment.

 REPUTATION

ATM: Your private image is often different from what is portrayed in public.

President Bush: (Smiles.) A number of people walk up to me and say, "You're much taller than I thought."

ATM: Do misperceptions ever sting?

President Bush: No — I mean, there's nothing you can do about it. I didn't fake it, and I didn't try to be something I wasn't. The key thing about life is to be true to a set of beliefs. And to be genuine. What mattered to me was that I didn't compromise my soul in order to try to achieve a kind of popularity. The only thing you can do is just live your life.

Look, I was popular at some times and not so popular at other times. But what mattered was trying to solve problems and deal with circumstances. Some of which I was able to anticipate. Some of which caught us totally by surprise.

In terms of what people think about me, the truth of the matter is, I guess I care to a certain extent, but not enough to try to go out in the public and plead for some kind of new understanding of me. I served. And now it's time for the new man to serve. I have zero desire to be in the limelight.

ATM: I think a lot of folks respected that you weren't armchair quarterbacking the new guy.

President Bush: Well, sometimes armchair quarterbacks are doing it to enhance their own image. I'm just not comfortable with that idea.

ATM: Your whole book is about being the decider, but detractors say, "Well, it was really Dick Cheney."

President Bush: If they read the book, they'll realize it wasn't Dick Cheney.

ATM: And what they say doesn't bug you?

President Bush: No. First of all, it wasn't true. So I didn't pay attention to that. And I don't think many other people did either. It's kind of the Washington, D.C., chattering class. They kind of talk amongst themselves. No, Dick Cheney was a fine vice president. Glad I picked him. I was pleased I picked him from the beginning, and I was pleased I picked him in the end. He didn't agree with me on every issue. I didn't expect him to. But when I made up my mind, he supported the decisions, as did everybody else in the administration. And frankly, if they couldn't support the decisions, it was time for them to move on.

REGRETS

ATM: You seem to be somebody who's remarkably free of second-guessing the past.

President Bush: In terms of trying to re-create an image, I think that's a waste of time. I have no interest in doing that. The decisions I made are done. And history will judge whether or not they were correct. There's no such thing as accurate short-term history. So I'm comfortable that I made the best decisions I possibly could.

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