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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: Is there a point at which, if it becomes completely unwinnable — ?

President Bush: Well, I don't know how you can say that: something that is completely unwinnable. I mean, it becomes unwinnable if we decide to leave.

ATM: And if we stay, you think it's possible that we could make a difference.

President Bush: I believe that people want to be free. And that we face an enemy that murders innocent people to try to shake our psychology to get us to leave. They're very patient, and they're tough. They want us to pull out so that they can impose their ideology. I believe that democracy will prevail, so long as the United States stays with these young democracies to help them. And when it does, it'll be transformative. It will help other societies realize the benefits of freedom. Nothing's as big as that, in terms of peace.

RELATIONSHIPS

ATM: You seem like a really happy guy most of the time.

President Bush: I am. I am that guy.

ATM: Is there a secret to being happy?

President Bush: Look, I try to live a faith-filled life. I'm a believer. I recognize I am essentially a failed human being in the sense that I can't possibly live up to the expectations of an Almighty. On the other hand, I try to. I'm joyful in my religious belief.

ATM: When your conversion happened, did it make you a happier person?

President Bush: Well, first of all, it's not a moment. It's a walk. It's a continual journey. I think once you recognize the unconditional love of an Almighty, it tends to put joy in your heart. Which in my case, it did.

ATM: What's the secret to your strong marriage?

President Bush: It starts with being married to a remarkable person. And I am. I jokingly say that I stood up in front of a crowd once and said, "Laura's the greatest first lady ever," and then realized my mother was in the audience. But I meant it when I said she was the greatest first lady ever. Because she viewed the presidency and being first lady as an opportunity to improve people's lives. It wasn't a burden. She put her heart and soul into the experience, just like I did. So we had a shared experience. That makes a good marriage better. In many ways our marriage is great because she has made it great.

ATM: When people retire, they can start getting on each other's nerves.

President Bush: We spend less time with each other now than we did during the presidency. When you're president, you're usually out and back in the same day — at least I was. I just came from a trip to the Middle East last week, where I was gone for five nights, and when I left, Laura was out of town. And when I came back she was gone, so we had a pretty good chunk of time where we didn't see each other. My point is that she's busy and I'm busy, which makes our marriage not only interesting but exciting. It's exciting for me to see her busy and out there enjoying what she's doing. But we always make time to be with each other as well.

ATM: What about the empty nest? Your girls are gone.…

President Bush: I'm excited for my little girls. When they left the nest, I was excited because they were winging their way into life. I think for Laura it was kind of a sense of remorse because she is very close to the girls. They're busy little souls, and so we don't see them as much as we'd like to. But Laura talks to them all the time.

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