Calling leaks 'damaging,' Bush says Wikileaks will hurt U.S. relations
November 29th, 2010
07:21 PM ET
12 years ago

Calling leaks 'damaging,' Bush says Wikileaks will hurt U.S. relations

(CNN) - Former President George W. Bush joined a chorus of U.S. officials calling leaks of sensitive government information "very damaging," telling a forum at Facebook headquarters that Wikileaks' recent release of 250,000 documents may significantly hurt Washington's image abroad.

"It's going to be very hard to keep the trust of foreign leaders," the nation's 43rd president said of the documents on issues ranging from Iran to Honduras to Turkey. "If you have a conversation with a foreign leader and it ends up in a newspaper, you don't like it. I didn't like it."

A relaxed Bush was joined by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on stage in Palo Alto, California, with hundreds watching from the audience and up to 6,500 following the interview live online.

The hourlong discussion centered on Bush's memoir, "Decision Points."

Released just over two weeks ago, the book ranks atop the New York Times' hardcover nonfiction best-seller list, topping works by the likes of rapper Jay-Z, rocker Keith Richards and the late Mark Twain.

The president made it clear that pitching that memoir was his main reason for visiting the social network's office, saying, "you have got a lot of people paying attention, and I'm trying to sell books."

Still, beyond hawking his 481-page memoir and pushing several initiatives from the George W. Bush Institute, Bush said he had no desire to intervene in day-to-day politics or be the center of the world's attention once again.

"I have no desire to generate publicity," said Bush, 64. "I've had enough of fame, and I want to go back to a life that is productive ... without generating the [limelight]."

Beyond passing references to current events, like calling South Korea a "force for peace," Bush focused on key moments from his time in the Oval Office from January 2001 to 2009. He offered anecdotes, talked about sports and even kidded with Zuckerberg, no stranger to the spotlight after this year's hit movie "The Social Network," which presented one version of Facebook's rise.

The president admitted personally using "the Facebook" since leaving office, pointing to his 600,000 online friends. And he playfully, though publicly, asked Zuckerberg to join him in a "joint venture" promoting public education - in light of his initiatives at the Bush Institute and Zuckerberg's donation this fall of $100 million toward improving public schools in Newark, New Jersey.

As he has in other interviews, Bush stated his confidence that the decision to invade Iraq was just, predicting that Iraq will become a crucial hub of democracy in the Middle East. He said that promoting "freedom" - be it personal, political, educational or economic - will be central to his post-presidency life.

"We're involved in an ideological struggle that will eventually be won, as freedom prevails," Bush said.

While his standing has improved, a poll released this month shows that four in 10 Americans say Bush was a poor president, and another third rate him as average. Another 28 percent rated him as a good or as one of the greatest presidents ever, up from 20 percent when he left the Oval Office in January 2009.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll was conducted November 11-14, with 1,014 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Bush said he won't criticize President Barack Obama, saying, "it's not good for the country ... [and] I don't want to." And Bush said he's learned, from his time as a business and political executive, how to handle criticism - including when to ignore it and when to learn from others - and come to grips with what others think of him.

"Anybody can distinguish between someone who is trying to be helpful and someone who is trying to hurt you," Bush said. "You don't have to be a rocket scientist or a college graduate, for that matter." Here he pointed to Zuckerberg, who dropped out of Harvard to found Facebook.

Filed under: President George W. Bush • WikiLeaks
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    If McCain had it to do all over gain, I wonder if he would still pick Palin. I bet the former President Bush would probably say H... no, she ruined him. Nobody seems to be willing to ask McCain that question but they sure are quick to ask him about President Obama's policies knowing he hates the president. Or better yet, would Palin pick McCain for her running mate. LOL

    November 29, 2010 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  2. James klimaski

    I don't know about the trust of foreign leaders, but after reading some of these documents you don't have my trust. This leak has done a great service to the world. The game has been exposed.

    November 29, 2010 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  3. Greenspam

    Former President George W Bush talking about damaging relations between USA and its allies, ladies and gentlemen, that's what I call an irony.

    November 29, 2010 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  4. T'sah from Virginia

    "Bush said he won't criticize President Barack Obama, saying, "it's not good for the country ... [and] I don't want to."

    Even though I did not agree with Bush's policies and/or ideologies – he does represent what ALL AMERICANS should be doing right now – RESPECT the President, DISAGREE with policies only!!

    Most importantly, GIVE credit where credit has PAID OFF instead of still finding something to HATE on!!!

    Let's continue to Move America Forward with our current leader, President Obama!

    November 29, 2010 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  5. Clark Wilhelm Griswald

    28 percent of Americans rate W as "good" or "one of the best prsidents ever." Of course, 34% of Americans believe in UFOs and 22% claim to have personally encountered a ghost. Pretty much the same group, I imagine.

    And they vote.

    November 29, 2010 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  6. Right Leaning Independent

    First class as usual.. WIsh the current commander in chief knew how to act in this manner...

    November 29, 2010 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  7. Clwyd

    Who gives a flying anything that this war criminal says! I hope some real incriminating stuff comes out on this lying politician. The worst President our country has every voted into office. With an approval rating of 19% when he left office I think most Americans could see right through this evil man!

    November 29, 2010 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  8. Bob in Pa

    Are we all this ignorant to think that the source is someone other than a loyal leftist that gained access by means of working for the Obama administration ? It wouldn't surprise me if Obama isn't personally involved or gave the okay at some point. Now our lame duck congress will pass some outrageous law that will hide what is truly important from our eyes. This feels like an orchestrated event to rob us of a little more freedom. This administration had more than enough time to detect the person(s) involved in distributing this information after the first publication, especially when you consider the volume involved. No way they were not directly involved.

    November 29, 2010 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  9. Lucas Breen

    If anyone knows how to make foreign leaders mad, it's good old W.

    Thanks for taking the opportunity to exploit the situation, Geo.

    November 29, 2010 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |