George W. Bush on Panetta, Petraeus Nominations: 'Is This Gossip or Truth?'

I had some fun with former President George W. Bush this morning. He came on to talk about the Warrior 100, a three day, 100km mountain bike ride across the Texas desert with wounded servicemen and women – and brought along Sergeant Major Chris Self, who despite losing a leg in Iraq was on the president’s "back wheel for 30 miles," Bush told me.

Self’s story – he returned to serve two tours in Iraq after losing his right leg – is inspiring, and President Bush told me that riding with Chris and other wounded service members will help him honor “groups that have helped these wounded warriors recover,” and “it gives me a chance to, in my retirement to get some exercise.”

I also tried to get the president to weigh in on today’s news. Though Bush is pretty determined to stay out of the political fray, I did manage to have him weigh in on the breaking news that CIA Director, Leon Panetta, will move to the Pentagon, replaced by General David Petraeus.

Bush: You know both of them are good men. I have a great respect for David Petraeus. I got to know him well. I also got to know Leon Panetta, not as well as I did David, and both of them are good, good public servants. And I wish them well. Is this gossip or truth?

Stephanopoulos: No, it's truth, we're reporting it this morning. It is done. It's being - It's being announced later this week.

Bush: Well just because you're reporting it, as you might recall... [Laughs]

Stephanopoulos: Well I’m fairly confident on this one this morning, Mr. President. [Laughs]

On the Americans killed in Afghanistan:

Bush: Of course our hearts go out to the families of those who have lost a loved one. And you know it’s, anytime a life is lost it’s a tragedy.

On gas prices:

Stephanopoulos: Something else that a lot of Americans are dealing with right now these high gas prices? Now that you are a civilian I guess you have to go pump your own gas as well. But what do you say to Americans – and you had to deal with this when you were president as well - who look at these prices going up at the pump and say there must be something you can do about it?

Bush: I mean, I would suggest Americans understand how supply and demand works. And if you restrict supplies of crude, the price of oil is going to go up and it affects gasoline. But you know I really, look I appreciate you giving me the chance to opine on all the issues of the day but as you know I’ve made the decision to support causes I’m interested in without feeling like I’ve got to give an opinion on every issue.

Stephanopoulos: And I recognize that and I do appreciate that. And final word –

Bush: So you're still going to try nevertheless. You haven't lost- you haven’t lost the steps Stephanopoulos. [Laughs]

Stephanopoulos: Well, neither have you Mr. President because you just ran out the clock on me. [Laughs]

Watch the interview here:

-- George Stephanopoulos

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