- The Washington Times - Friday, January 28, 2005

President Bush considers Ronald Reagan his ideological “mentor,” Abraham Lincoln the greatest president and Franklin D. Roosevelt a source of endless fascination, he said in a TV interview that will be aired tomorrow.

In a wide-ranging discussion with C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb, Mr. Bush also said he and his father, former President George Bush, rarely compare presidential notes.

“We really haven’t gotten to the stage yet where we’re sharing common experiences in the White House, although there’s kind of knowingness about our positions,” he told Mr. Lamb on Thursday. “He did the same thing I did.”

Mr. Bush said his presidential library will be built in Texas, although he has not yet settled on a site.

“We’ll be doing that soon,” he said in the Map Room of the White House. “We want to make sure we understand fully the legal obligations so that when we start approaching universities or cities or whoever we approach, that everybody understands the ground rules.”

He added: “I want to be very thoughtful about who we approach, and give everybody a chance that’s interested to come up with their best shot at attracting it.”

The president said he is also determined to make the library vibrant.

“It’s not just a collector of interesting artifacts,” he said. “Hopefully good thought will come out of there, because the library will cause there to be a dialogue. It will advance higher education or secondary education in some way.”

Mr. Bush said he does not have an official presidential historian who shadows him throughout the White House, although he wishes that were possible.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of security matters, particularly given the nature of the war we’re in,” he said. “I don’t think the government would have felt comfortable allowing an observer to record.”

But he said transcripts of his press interviews will be made public some day, as will records of his phone conversations.

“When I call a foreign leader, there’s an understanding that somebody is listening to the conversation,” he said. “That will be made available for the records.”

Throughout the 23-minute interview, Mr. Bush repeatedly spoke of Mr. Reagan.

“You know, I think if I had to have a mentor, a public figure that reminded me on a regular basis about the power of freedom and liberty, it would have been Ronald Reagan,” he said. “He was a stalwart when it came to proclaiming as clearly as possible the need for people to be free.”

Yet Mr. Bush acknowledged his own struggle against global terrorism is unlike Mr. Reagan’s victory in the Cold War.

“It’s a very different kind of war,” he said. “It’s a different kind of confrontation than President Reagan would be confronted with.”

For example, the war against terrorism sometimes requires alliances with nations that do not share America’s basic values.

“We have to work with all kinds of countries,” he said. “So that’s the realistic part of my job, how do we work with a country that may not honor women’s rights like they should.”

Asked whether he sees ghosts of past presidents in the White House, Mr. Bush joked that he “quit drinking in ‘86.” Turning serious, he spoke of President Lincoln, whose portrait hangs in the Oval Office.

“I’ve tried to empathize, at times, with Lincoln, to imagine what it would be like to be the president of the United States when the country was at war with itself,” he said. “I think he’s the country’s greatest president.”

Mr. Bush added: “He had such a clear vision about keeping this country united, in spite of the incredibly divisive times in which we lived. He seemed to have a good spirit about him.”

Mr. Bush, who received a degree in American history from Yale, said he “was fascinated by the Roosevelt era — Franklin Roosevelt — probably because I had a teacher that was so good in the Roosevelt era.” The president said he had been reading books about George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, which have reminded him of how difficult it was to establish democracy in America.

“Here we are in Iraq, trying to help them get democracy started, and yet it’s expected to be done nearly overnight,” he said. “And so it helps me keep a perspective of what’s real and what’s possible, and some of the struggles we went through.”

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