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Interview with the president

"Interview with the president" Continued...

And so what you've got to worry about is, it's not unexpected that the enemy wants to hit us, but you got to worry about how they intend to try to hit us.

And, inevitably, a crisis will arise over who knows where, and the United States will be drawn into it. There will be natural disasters-no telling how many hurricanes I've been through-a lot-or tornadoes or fires. So he'll have to be ready to deal with those.
THOMAS: Harry Truman went home without any money. Dwight Eisenhower retired to his farm in Gettysburg. Only recently have ex-presidents started making a lot of money-six-figure speeches, that sort of thing. What are you going to do? Probably write the book, right?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I am going to write a book. I am going to set up an institute at Southern Methodist University to talk about many of the ideals we've been discussing here in this interview. I'm concerned about a country that says that isolationism is OK-it's not OK as far as I'm concerned-or protectionism is the way to go from an economic perspective. I worry about people saying, '"Well, you know, we shouldn't be in the lead on certain issues."

I will use the institute as a place to herald dissidents and freedom fighters, and Laura will use it as a place to talk about women in Afghanistan or women in the Middle East. I'll use it as a place to talk about education reforms in the Middle East, for example, so that the American people can see some of the positive things taking place. I'll use it to continue to advance the faith-based initiative at home. I can see us using this institute as a platform to encourage people to love a neighbor, whether it be at home or in an AIDS clinic in Rwanda.

I am very much interested in staying involved with the Malaria Initiative as a way to show the American people that we're living the adage, "to whom much is given much is required."

I do want to continue to advance the No Child Left Behind agenda, because, again, I want to repeat to you, when I was governor of Texas, it was just so much easier to move certain children through the school system-such a process-driven world. "How old are you," they would ask. Well, if you're this age, you're supposed to be in this grade. And we started a major change, along with other reformers, that basically said, we want to ask not the question, "How old are you," but the question is, "Can you read?" And if not, why? Why can't you read? The gateway to reform in public education is accountability, and I want to continue the accountability agenda.

So there's a lot I want to do through this institute, and it will be attached to a museum and archives on the Southern Methodist University-that's where Laura went to university and I'm really looking forward to it. It's a wonderful urban campus, right there in Dallas, and not very far from the house that I now own.
THOMAS: Very nice. OK, well, let me do a two-for-one here. A farewell address?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thinking about it.
THOMAS: And biggest do-over? Knowing everything you know now, what would you have done over again?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I probably, in retrospect, should have pushed immigration reform right after the '04 election and not Social Security reform.
THOMAS: Because?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I campaigned on Social Security reform. A lot of politicians ignore it because they're afraid it's the third rail. I happen to believe not talking about it is the third rail. I also was very firm in my desire to get the Congress to think about a defined contribution plan as a part of a Social Security modernization program, all aiming to encourage ownership.

And I knew it was going to be a hard issue, because generally legislative bodies don't react until the crisis is upon us, even though there is a funding crisis that is pretty evident to a lot of people who study the issue.

And so if I had to do it again, I probably would have run the immigration policy first, as a part of a border security/guest worker/compassionate campaign. See, I happen to believe a system that is so broken that humans become contraband is a system that really needs to be re-examined, seriously. I know there's a lot of concern about our borders, and there should be. And we've done something about that. On the other hand, I don't see how you can have comprehensive border security without a program that recognizes that there will be people doing jobs Americans aren't willing to do, and therefore there ought to be a way for them to temporarily come here on a verifiable basis in a way that would cause them not to have to sneak here or pay for a coyote or get stuffed into an 18-wheeler, or try to walk across the desert and die.
© 2009 Tribune Media Services Inc.

Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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