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May 3rd, 2012
05:28 PM ET

A day spent behind the scenes with George W. Bush: "No big handlers guiding every shot – just the President and slow-cooked ribs"

Editor's Note: Julie Zann, a "Piers Morgan Tonight" editorial producer, shares her behind the scenes insight and impressions of her time spent at the Warrior 100.

I’ve just returned from the W100k in the Texas panhandle, George W. Bush’s 2nd annual 100 kilometer mountain bike ride with 20 Wounded Warriors. As someone in this business for nearly 10 years, I admit that I often get jaded from working behind the scenes. The unfortunate reality is that in the modern age of news and politics, everybody’s getting a little more trained, a little more polished when it comes to dealing with the media; it makes getting authentic moments all the more difficult. So you can imagine my surprise this weekend when we were permitted to have truly intimate access to one of the most powerful men in the world, President George W. Bush.

Whatever you think of President Bush, this was a case to simply stand back to try to understand this man and what makes him tick. I can tell you honestly, American veterans light him up.

Two things were striking: his ability to blend in with any other Texas mountain biker – a unique little group if there ever was one – and his comfort and camaraderie with the wounded warriors. At dinner following the day’s ride, the warriors addressed the group, sharing their story and what the ride meant to them. It’s difficult to pluck one story from this group of wounded men because each is worthy of tears. There is was one veteran suffering severe PTSD who was bouncing in and out of counseling, had significant drinking and drug problems, and suicidal thoughts. Only two months ago, his closest fellow Marine, who had gotten him into counseling in the first place, killed himself. Rather than continue his spiral down, this young man was able to pull himself up, return to intense counseling, get involved in a biking charity for veterans, and concluded his address by telling President Bush that it’s been a month and a half since his last drink and the President’s sobriety has been a huge inspiration to him. President Bush bear-hugged him like a son as the rest of the room crumbled in tears.

Earlier in the day, the President showed that he was no wuss when it came to the Palo Duro Canyon, amongst a group ready to give him a run for his money. A couple members of the press who rode along struggled to keep up, while the bulk of the warriors stuck close to the President’s swift flank. Honed on stories of his athleticism for decades, the remarkable thing is how Bush blends into this group with total ease. You can see he is at home here, with what New Yorkers call “regular people,” spent from the day’s ride. Just a hundred or so salt-of-the earth bikers, their families, and a barbeque. You would’ve thought it was a community ride had you wandered by past the Secret Service. No big handlers guiding every shot – just the President and slow-cooked ribs.

As President Bush said in our interview, he doesn’t intend to lead a public life, but he wants to maintain a relationship with the veteran community. I can testify to his authenticity. Each President finds his own way in their post-POTUS years. Clearly, the man is keeping a toe in the policy world, but you can tell that the press never sang a siren song for him. Now that he’s left D.C. and doesn’t have a book to sell, he doesn’t have to talk to anyone he doesn’t want to. He’s his own damn man now, doing the things that are important to him.

Some interviews aren’t meant to be Frost/Nixon. Some are simply trying to understand a man that most people think they know, while few actually do. This is the latter and it was a true privilege to slip through the aperture for a day as we watched President Bush so at peace three years after he left office. We civilians can only imagine the emotional toll a presidency has on a man. When he left, he seemed beaten by the collapsing economy, low poll ratings, and still fighting wars on two fronts. Texas has taken 10 years off his spirit as he almost bounded between the veterans.

There’s not much we can all agree on politically these days, but as I harken back to our interview with the Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, in January, supporting our servicemen and their families should be one thing we can all agree on. It’s rewarding to see men and women from the highest levels in the Bush and Obama administrations driving this point home together.

Tune in this evening at 9 p.m. for the complete "Piers Morgan Tonight" exclusive with George W. Bush.

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Filed under: Behind The Scenes • Keeping America Great
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Phil Smith

    Ted Turner is no better than that comunist former wife of his, I am a 24 yr Army Vet, this guy likes Obamas policies and things nobody should have Nuke capabilities says not fair that we and Isiral have Nuks and Iran cant have any. thinks we should let the court's and the UN settle issues and not have wars ! he is a jerk

    May 3, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Seth

    Kind of funny to see the man showing Crocodile Tears and pretending to display compassion to the Tens of Thousands of People he sent to their Deaths. The man is the biggest Traitor of all time that the World has ever known and has declared War on the proud Servicemen and Women of our great Country. He, and "Draft-Deferrment: Dick are the biggest Traitors this Country has ever known and it is shameful to look at them.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • jw

      you sir are a Fool

      Keep drinking that cool-aid

      May 4, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • Ralph Spyer

        were the WMD? having been in vietmam in 1968 during TET I know this country lies.Ron Paul once said there over here because we have been over there. Iran in a great example of the CIA working for American oil companys

        May 6, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • maria

      Amen he is a psycho egomaniac . he is EVIL!

      May 6, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • heartlandpatriot

      Dear Seth,

      I spent 20 years in the US Air Force fixing airplanes. No one shot at me, and I make no claims of being a hero. I went to the sandbox a few times and did my job. However, I do have friends and a close relative in the US Army. They have all been to places where people DID shoot at them...and they all liked GWB much better than the current POTUS. It is YOU that have the problem. Its called "Bush Derangement Syndrome" and you really aught to see a professional and get some help...either that, or stop being such a punk.

      October 5, 2012 at 6:00 am | Report abuse | Reply
      • Eric

        Dear "Heartlandpatriot",

        Turn off Fox 'News' and educate yourself about the legacy of the CATASTROPHIC Bush/Cheney administration. Were you aware neither Bush nor Cheney can leave the country for fear of being tried as war criminals? And, FYI, the ENTIRE GOP is suffering from "Bush Derangement Syndrome" too. Almost no one from the Bush/Cheney administration was invited to the Republican National Convention for good reason: they don't want to be associated with the Bush/Cheney administration either.

        P.S. Dissent is more 'patriotic' than willful ignorance.

        October 5, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Frank Stalfa

    I will not watch you again. And I deeply regret this decsion, because you also bring a civility and sensitivity to your conversations that is much needed in our contentious world. You are far softer and more naive even than Larry King, but much less inquisitive in a way that would demand critical thinking from your interviewees, What has happened to your original presentation of yourself as a person who tries to get at the truth? So eager to be pleasing and kind, you do not ask the hard questions any more. You promoted your conversation with former president George W. Bush as an interview. It was, instead, an opportunity for him to provide a testimonial for his support for troops whose wounds and deaths are a direct consequence of his deceitful and pre-emptory war with a country that did not pose a threat to us and was not implicated in the tragedy of 9.11. I think you have lost considerable credibility with many who thought you would bring some challenge to the posturing of those who have much to defend and little to justify their actions while in office. You have become, I sadly conclude, a celebrity interviewer who has little to offer a public who hungers for someone who will ask the hard questions. I wish you well, but am no longer a viewer. Peace be with you.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • steve

      Frank, you want hard questions asked? Shouldn't that have been done with the man was in office? yes, I think he received plenty of hard balls and criticism.

      When was the last time the media asked Obama about his budget? Not really a hard question, but given the explosion of our National Debt under Obama, one would think "hey Mr. President, when are you going to present a detailed budget that your own party will consider bringing to vote ?"

      "Mr. President, isn't 95 rounds of Golf a little much considering we are at war and have 9% unemployment ?" ..."Doesn't that send the wrong message sir?"..."almost 6 Trillion has been added to the National debt under watch"

      "Mr. President may I speak bluntly? When will you stop blaming Bush for your challenges, and take ownership of Leading America forward?"..."Can we not acknowledge that some Democratic policies are to be blamed?"...."Such as, everyone deserves to own a home"?

      "Mr. President, you often speak of raising taxes on the wealthy who already burden the most load to pay for our federal spending, but sir, isn't the real issue due to Government waste, size, fraud, and inefficiencies? Shouldn't congress and the Administration show the highest tax payers they have tightened the belt before asking for more tax dollars?"

      "What cuts are you wanting to make and why?" "How much will these cut impact the deficit of 1.3 Trillion?"

      Can you you share how this will get the government back on track?"

      Isn't HC going to officially bankrupt America Mr. President?"

      The numbers don't add up today, how can adding 30 million to the payroll not push us off the economic cliff? Please be specific Mr. President? Let's be honest Mr. President, almost every branch of Government is upside down in their budgets, why should the American people trust the Government to manage HC?" On what track record can we have any confidence this will be done right?"

      You see Frank, lets get real honest...let's deal with today, let's deal with Obama since he is leading.... Bush was a big spender too, and he is enjoying retirement...

      May 4, 2012 at 7:38 am | Report abuse | Reply
      • j

        well said, steve!

        May 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • maria

      Since Larry King left I ever watch this man ,I think the show lost a good journalist in some way ,this one? I don't think so! bringing this sycho to interview him it makes me sick ! thnaks Goodness I didn't watch it,

      May 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jim Hester

    I was privileged to witness Former President Bush in action during the Wounded Warrior event in Palo Duro Canyon this past week. Julie Zann's report accurately described the authenticity of Mr. Bush's unabashed respect for the veterans. There was a personal warmth that was evident throughout his 3 days in the canyon. Although we may continue to debate whether the Iraq invasion was the best option, I am now convinced that his decision was based upon what he genuinely thought was best for our country and NOT for political gain. ( I am NOT a Republican, rather an independent voter, so I don't consider this opinion to be biased by anything other than my recent encounter with the former president).

    May 4, 2012 at 1:11 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. eva

    George Bush is one of the few people in the world that will actually make me watch CNN. There is no doubt in my mind that he loves, cares and is grateful for our service men and woman. God Bless that man.

    May 4, 2012 at 3:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • maria

      Eva: George Busch is the only one who makes me NOT TO WATCH CNN ......when I see him I get physically ill ,I see Devil or Satan on him........it make me believe that is a EVIL on this world !I am not kidding !

      May 6, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • Misu

        That is a great way to describe how I feel about Obama.

        May 7, 2012 at 4:31 am | Report abuse |
  6. Suzie

    Eva, well said.
    George W Bush is very much appreciative of our service men and women...he truly cares for them & is very thankful for their huge sacrifices which they give on a daily basis for our freedom & democracy which we enjoy today

    May 4, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sheldon

      We can not wait for this event to start!!! There is so much hidden tenalt and creativity in the Brazos Valley that this really gives a good chance for everyone to see how much we have to offer up close and personal. We'll be holding a special Art Step event in downtown Bryan that will showcase many artists performing their tenalts right on the street for everyone to watch. We will also have horse drawn carriages, Texas A&M Jazz Band, and our local Farmers Market. COME EXPLORE THE LIFE AND BEAUTY OF BCS!!!

      June 28, 2012 at 4:37 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elton

      Thumbs up for above answer. You deircsbed aphids perfectly. They are a sucking insect that cause cells to collapse thus the curling. They can also transmit diseases through feeding. Apids come in all colors, just depending on the plant. Soap and water is fine for these guys as they are soft bodied and are affected by the soap. Soap is less effective against hard shelled insects.

      June 30, 2012 at 2:14 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Eric

    George W. Bush was incompetent. His catastrophic administration destroyed the economy and started two wars based on lies that made his cronies very rich, while sending thousands of Americans to their deaths. He also can't leave the country for fear of being arrested for war crimes. Only a brain-washed Fox "News" viewer could possibly believe in any merit this twit has.

    May 4, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • jw

      Guess we should have asked you. seems you have all the answers

      May 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • maria

      Amen ,kudos to you! if I love Bush I probably hate this Country ,but since I love my Country I hate Bush !

      May 6, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • UhYeaOk

        Your just a hater in general. Typical democrat hypocrite...

        May 6, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
      • Steve

        Maria, seriously? You know hate is a strong word we should all avoid using. Additionally, I just can't believe people are so politically biased. When you have news media such as the likes of Piers Morgan, Nancy Grace and the like, it's no wonder hate is felt. If people would take the time to study the facts and watch other news outlets, they would see the blatant agenda in the media. Yet those on the left can only spew hate towards Fox. How the Treyvon/Zimmerman case has been handled by different cable news channels is a prime example of how media can divide Americans over false or mis-represented information.

        Sorry, Maria, but come on now...these kinds of comments are un-called form .shallow and divisive...which adds no benefit to anyone.

        May 7, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Beata

      Unfortunately there aren't a whole lot of good' options for real, usieanbd information as far as media outlets go. They are no longer in the game for real news, they're in it for entertainment and sensationalism. Your best source in this case is the records of the people you are reading articles about. What they've done speaks quite a bit more loudly than what they say, or what the media reports that they say.

      July 30, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mike

    Thanks Julie for your thoughts. Sadly the wacko partisans are more wacko then ever, so you'll get mostly nasty feedback. But there are those of us out here who aren't wacko's and don't live and breath wacko politics who thank you for doing a good job and being honest at what you saw and heard.

    May 4, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Phil

    George W. Bush is just like all the rest of us - some good and some bad. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

    May 4, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • John G

      I agree Phil. I think he is genuinely a nice guy and he tried his best. I don't think he was up to it though. I think the problems were too much for him. Hopefully history will be kinder to him than the nation has been.

      May 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. David Telliard Sr.

    Wow you forgot to remind your viewers the reason the poor soldiers lost their limbs in the first place, Wasn't that because the very man you intrviewed, George W. Bush was the commander and chief that sent them into harms way for weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist?

    May 5, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim

      You lost any credibility when you called Mr. Bush the "commander AND chief." It's Commander IN Chief. Sometimes it's best not to comment, thus letaving us to wonder about your credibility, rather than submit a comment that removes any doubt.

      May 5, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • maria

      Amen ,the only WOMD was a hole and in that hole was Husseim what a travesty,this was just about power this guy goes to bed everynight in peace? I don't think so! kudos to you! you are right I don't know other person will think intelligentely .

      May 6, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • Ashley

        N, I've been trying for years to find any Republican letislagion that puts people before business. Twilight, Has any good come from your anger at Bart's candidate preference? Have you come to punish the heretics for their sins?

        July 31, 2012 at 5:15 am | Report abuse |
  11. Mike in SA

    Wow, reading some of the comments makes me wonder how you dolts will respond to all of the deaths under ANY POTUS' watch. I served for 21+ years under various presidents and guess what...all of them had deaths on their watch. As to the WMDs, you guys do realize that much of the WORLD thought Hussein had those very wepons because he stated he did and he used them on this own people, right? Probably not since all one needs do is say "Bush" and you start foaming at the mouth.

    May 5, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • steve

      Agreed Mike, I guess it will take another 911 under another President's watch to get past the "Bush lied, people died". For a while, a lot of left leaning thinkers supported Bush right after 911...then it faded.

      The world is an evil place, the USA didn't ask for 911, but we sure had to respond and root out this group, who frankly was open about "yes, we did it"...meanwhile they hid behind woman and children. With that, like many, I am tired of this 10 year war and ready to have the boys come home...I never fully understood the Iraq move. Bottom line: We aren't changing their culture or way of life. It is what it is. I am so thankful for our country and freedoms. Which bring me back to my rant earlier.

      Our government is a money spending machine. We can't afford it. We are eating ourselves away in debt. 50% of Americans do not pay one dime towards Federal taxes. 50%! Yet, many of these folks are enjoying the fruit of Government programs and hand outs. So, Obama's talking points of the rich can afford to pay more taxes is popular among many of his supporters. it's all very simple...and it's become class warfare versus being united and grateful for our gift, talents, freedoms, needs, as a people.

      Common sense tells us the Government should be doing everything it can to tighten the budget belt. A lot of smart people give the US about 7-10 more years before it completely falls economically... But Democrat thinkers keep supporting a President that likes to play 100 rounds of golf in 3.4 short years. I'm 46, a 13 handicap and haven't played that many rounds in my entire life. I have a small business, active in church, 2 small children, cut my own grass etc...No way I have that kind of time to go play. I think maybe 6 rounds the last 3 years. How does a president with so much more responsibly than me, have time to go play so frequently? I think it's a fair question. These a tough times. Even Obama refers back to the great depression to make comparisons. It's just a bad message to go play so much IMHO...he isn't serious about cutting anything....And that's why the man needs to be sent back to Chicago.

      Is Mitt up to the Challenge? I have no idea...but I know what we have in Obama. he Blames others, then takes credit for fixing things from printing money, that we the people have to pay back. I didn't grant him permission to do that. Did you? I could save a lot of businesses with 5 Trillion dollars to handout also...hardly an accomplishment... it's embarrassing, criminal in my book...ADDRESS THE MASSIVE OVER-SPENDING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Well, back to your Wii and TV shows America

      May 6, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • maria

      Mike : the only ones who believe it was WOMD were you Bush and the vicepresident ,they got confused it was just a hole and in that hole was Husseim hat was the WOMD .what a waste of lives ! how sad! you and your Bush lovers try to insult our intelligence! You know and we know it was a huge mistake it was just about power from a egomaniac with a mental disoreder called MEGALOMANIA! I don't get foam in my mouth since everytime I see him on TV I just turn the channel I don't want to have nightmares while sleep !

      May 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • KWL

        Marie-how do you think the world was to respond to the US being hit on 9/11? President Bush went to the UN, went to the world and the world said, it is time to go in and take care of business for the safety of the REST of the world. Not any President would ever WANT war-you have to know that deep down in your heart and soul. Stop hating, try understanding, look at what a good man he is and how he led our country well. You are so wrong and so unhappy in your hate. Obama has keep all of the policies of Pres. Bush and VP Cheney in place-Gitmo, etc. They are necessary to deal with the evil of radical Muslims–you must agree that the evil is here and evil will always be here. They want to detroy anyone who is not Muslim–that is a fact and a scary fact–but one that must be dealt with. God help you.

        May 6, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Maria

    I will not waste my precious time listen or watching his show ! Bush by a psychoanalyst /autor defines him is :Megalomaniac,a mental disorder marked by fatnasies of power,wealth,and omnipotence that is how I define Bush.I wonder how he goes to bed everynight and sleep with his conciense after he send all those soldiers to Iraq to get killed ,after he and his Vice-president another moron decide to look for WOMD when in reality it doesn't exist! anytime I see this guy on TV I just turn the channel is the best way to avoid the Evil in this world ! I just wonder but I believe in Karma and someday will came !not being rep or demo I just see evil in people and one of them I BUSH!

    May 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Trueguy4ever

      I guess when the UN was sending in those people looking for WMD's that was Bush's fault too? Huh?

      May 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Akk

      Magnificent victory for itaimidtnion and scare tactics. The silver lining is now that the right-wingers have total control of our government there can be no more excuses (awww .the recession started before Bush took office in 2000).After four more years of a recklessly increasing defecit, more corporate scandals, more lost jobs, fewer civil liberties, a further degraded environment, more anti-Americanism abroad, more people below the poverty line and, most frightening of all, more pre-emptive wars based on lies, after all that, then we'll finally convince enough of the easily duped electorate that it is really time for a change.Congratulations to the extreme right-wing Republicans in charge. Keep running our country into the ground so all Americans will finally realize that unless you are a millionaire, Christian conservative or Zionist extremist, you have to finally dump the right-wing agenda in 2008.

      August 2, 2012 at 12:13 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Zoglet

    Why no questions about WMD's?
    Ohright, CNN never did bother to ask any questions, even during the build up to war and it also ignored the many doubts surrounding Bush's claim. Arrest the man, and hold him to account for his lies. Its only going to happen again until there is accountability.These men are not above responsibility -or at least they shouldnt be; otherwise whats the point of democracy?

    May 6, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Frank Stalfa

    A spirited conversation which I much appreciate. My comment was directed to Mr. Morgan's lack of journalistic integrity by advertising this as an interview when it was in fact a kind of infomercial for president Bush's effort to present himself as a supporter of our troops. I have no doubt that Mr. Bush cares about the troops, after the fact; but it's a bit too late for that kind of care to be honored so easily. It should have evidenced itself in waiting for confirmation of WMD rather than rushing to war before he could certify its actual threat–one more week until the investigators would have submitted their final report. Let's remember that Mr. Bush granted the director of the CIA who gave him the misinformation about WMD (as a "slam dunk") George Tennant, the Medal of Freedom award after Mr. Bush knew the intelligence was false. I really believe that much of what happens in this world is truly tragic and unintended. However, those we elect to the highest office must be held accountable at the highest level. This opportunity to allow preseident Bush to present himself as a caring supporter of our brave troops is hypocracy of the highest order and Mr. Morgan has participated in it. I only hope Mr. Morgan will take the time to address this serious concern among those of us who still look to him as a voice of moderation and civility. I continue to wish him well. I trust that his heart in in the right place. Blessings, Frank

    May 6, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Christopher

      Now that is funny! Thanks for the chuckle. I wodner if she is really going to take his name or not. I wish I didn't take my hubby's name. I had a nice normal last name, now I have "Sklaroff". Nobody can handle the three consonants in a row and when I tell people how to spell it, I always have to say "f f as in 'frank' 'frank' " or they write "Sklaross" instead.

      June 27, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Sadun

    So George W Bush supports fssaicm? This is a shocking and troubling comment from the world's most powerful puppet. I'll try to alert CNN, hmmm, they don't seem to care that what Bush is saying is that he's born to lead a country of morons into centuries of war. Who would have thought? Historically, ameriKans are the absolute stupidest people on the planet. I hope they rot.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:43 am | Report abuse | Reply
  16. MIKENSCAL

    This so-called "interveiw" was a political stunt designed to make people change thier opinion about Bush's disastrous presidency right before the election. He should care for the troops; they were killed and maimed because he dragged this country into 2 wars, 1 of which is still going on after 10 years, on false pretenses. And people fall for these theatrics, and Mr. Morgan gets huge ratings.

    July 9, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse | Reply

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