“He’ll be dealing with Iran. But in the case of Iran, he does have a coalition of nations who have dedicated themselves to pressuring Iran to give up their nuclear-weapons ambitions. … He’ll have an opportunity to work with the Palestinians and Israelis to define a Palestinian state. One substantive change since I’ve been president is now the two-state solution has become the centerpiece of thinking on both sides.”
The president said Mr. Obama also will be dealing with al Qaeda threats and that “his biggest job, and the job of future presidents, will be to work to secure the country.”
Mr. Obama will face a rising China, an India that is “now more confident in its relationship with the United States,” but “at the same time, will have to deal with Pakistan, and encourage the Pakistan government to continue to go after the terrorists in the remote regions of their country.”
In the newly emerging democracy of Iraq, “he’ll find it interesting to deal with elected officials as they work through their - these issues through their parliament. You know, politics is breaking out in Iraq, and sometimes their politics can be very emotional. But it is a democracy.”
In Afghanistan, the new president will grapple with the Taliban, “which refuses to give up.”
“On the other hand, he will have more troops available, if he so chooses, to put them in Afghanistan,” Mr. Bush said.
Further out on the radar screen, Mr. Bush said, Mr. Obama will need to deal “with these drug cartels in our own neighborhood.”
“And the front line of the fight will be Mexico. … The drug lords will continue to search for a soft underbelly. And one of the things that future presidents are going to have to make sure of is that they don’t find a safe haven in parts of Central America,” he said.
‘History will be objective’
The president bristled when asked about charges among Washington’s elite journalists that he brooks no dissension among his advisers and that he is so stubborn that he rejects opposing viewpoints.
“There’s an urban myth involved with my presidency. It’s a convenient line for some. But when the truth comes out, people will know that on a lot of issues, big and small, there were differences of opinion. And I listened carefully to the differences of opinion. And the president has got to know - have a sense of timing of when to make decisions and then be decisive,” he said, citing his decision to dispatch 30,000 additional troops in a “surge” to Iraq.
“There were a lot of opinions. And the truth of the matter was, there wasn’t a lot initially who would have said 30,000 more. Some said get out. Some said pull out of Baghdad. Some said ‘some’ troops. And I eventually decided on 30,000 more troops. But there was a lot of debate,” he said.
Mr. Bush also brushed back the notion, put forward by his former spokesman, Scott McClellan, that he made no effort to push past partisan politics and work with Democrats.
“I strongly disagree with that characterization. … I went up to Capitol Hill early. I was reaching out to a lot of members of the Congress, and we got a lot done. The spirit was good, and the spirit was good after September the 11th.
“But war creates tensions, and when the war didn’t go exactly the way some had hoped, it created a certain sense of vitriol in the system. Plus I think there were some - well, there are some in this town who believe that the best way you can advance your own cause is to destroy somebody else.”