NBC's Engel to Bush: War on Terrorism Has Not Made World Safer

During an exclusive interview with George W. Bush, on Monday's "Today" show, NBC's Richard Engel seemed to blame all of the Middle East's problems on the President's policies as he charged that, "Iran's position in the world is rising because of your actions in Iraq," and that the war on terrorism "has not made the world safer."

This exchange was typical of the tone of the entire interview where virtually all of Engels' questions to the President were from the left.

RICHARD ENGEL: If you look back over the last several years, the Middle East that you'll be handing over to the next president has, is deeply problematic. You have Hamas in power, Hezbollah empowered, taking to the streets, Iran empowered, Iraq still at war. What region are you handing over?

GEORGE W. BUSH: Richard, Richard those folks were always around. They were here. What we're handing over is a, is a Middle East that one recognizes the problems and the world recognizes them. There's, there's clarity as to what the problems are.

ENGEL: The war on terrorism has been the centerpiece of your presidency. Many people say that it has not made the world safer, that it has created more radicals, that, that there are more people in this part of the world who want to attack the United States.

The following is the full interview as it was aired on the May 19, "Today" show:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: And now to an exclusive interview with President Bush, who arrived back home last night after a five-day swing through the Middle East, where he received a largely frosty reception. Sunday in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the President sat down for an exclusive interview with NBC's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. Richard, good morning to you.

RICHARD ENGEL: Good morning, Meredith. I started by asking the President about his controversial comments he made in Israel, which Democratic candidates interpreted as a political attack. You said that negotiating with Iran is pointless and then you went further. You're saying, you said that it was appeasement. Were you referring to Senator Barack Obama? He certainly thought you were.

GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, my policies haven't changed, but evidently, the political calendar has.

ENGEL: Negotiations with Iran. Is that appeasement? Is that like appeasing Adolf Hitler?

BUSH: No my, my, my position, Richard, all along, has been that if the Iranians verifiably suspend their enrichment, which will be a key, key measure to stop them from gaining the know-how to build a weapon, then they can come to the table and the United States will be at the table.

ENGEL: A lot of Iran's empowerment is a result of the war in Iraq.

BUSH: Yeah.

ENGEL: How do you feel that Iran is, its position in the world is rising because of your actions in Iraq?

BUSH: See, see, I'm not so sure I agree with that. That's, that's, that's, that's a premise I don't necessarily agree with. As a matter of fact, I think Iran is troubled by the fact that a young democracy is growing in Iraq. I, you know, this notion about somehow, if Saddam Hussein were in power, everything would be fine in the Middle East is, is a ludicrous notion.

ENGEL: Do you intend to finish your term in office with a military action of some kind against Iran?

BUSH: Oh Richard, that's highly speculative. I've, I've always made it clear that options are on the table, but you know, the biggest weapon we have against those who can't stand freedom is the advance of freedom.

ENGEL: If you look back over the last several years, the Middle East that you'll be handing over to the next president has, is deeply problematic. You have Hamas in power, Hezbollah empowered, taking to the streets, Iran empowered, Iraq still at war. What region are you handing over?

BUSH: Richard, Richard those folks were always around. They were here. What we're handing over is a, is a Middle East that one recognizes the problems and the world recognizes them. There's, there's clarity as to what the problems are.

ENGEL: The war on terrorism has been the centerpiece of your presidency. Many people say that it has not made the world safer, that it has created more radicals, that, that there are more people in this part of the world who want to attack the United States.

BUSH: This, this the beehive theory. We should have just let the beehive sit there and hope the bees don't come out of the hive? My attitude is, the United States must stay on the offense against al-Qaeda. Two ways.

ENGEL: What happens if you smash the bees, the hive and let them spread?

BUSH: Excuse me for a minute Richard. Two ways. One, find them and bring them to justice, what we're doing, and two, offer freedom as an alternative to their vision. And somehow, to suggest that bees would stay in the hive is naive. They didn't stay in the hive when they came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.

ENGEL: Despite a cold reception in the Arab world, the President reiterated his goal of reaching an Israeli/Palestinian peace agreement by the end of the year, although many analysts in this region say that, for now, that appears unrealistic. Meredith.

VIEIRA: Richard Engel, thank you very much. And you can see Richard's full interview with the President on our website at todayshow.com.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.