You often talked about how you didn't need to seek your father's advice as president, that you appealed to a "higher father." Why not call your dad every now and then?
Let me tell you something about my dad. When I was seven, my three-year-old sister, Robin, died of leukemia. You know how he told me? It was five days later. Robin's seat at the dinner table was empty. I'm like, "Daddy, where's Robin?" And he's like, "She's dead. Finish your peas."
Let's go back to the 2004 election. How confident did you feel about your re-election once you saw that John Kerry was the Democratic nominee?
We all felt pretty good. Karl especially.
I remember one scene in particular. It was the night Kerry won all those states on Super Tuesday and locked up the nomination. He's giving his acceptance speech right down the street in the Old Post Office building here in D.C., giving me all kinds of shit as usual, calling me arrogant, reckless, inept, all that shit. And as he's saying this stuff about me, the crowd is cheering like it's a World Series win, which is never something a politician likes to see. And I say to Karl, "Hey, Karl, what the hell? Are we vulnerable here?" And Karl says to me, calm as day, "Mr. President, this guy Kerry, every time he opens his mouth, it looks like it just had a cock in it. Don't worry, it's gonna be a walk."
You called Kerry that night, if I remember correctly.
Yeah. Karl was also on the line on another phone in the room, he had his hand over the mouthpiece. It was hilarious. My girl tells Kerry to hold for the president of the United States, and he's, like, trembling on the phone, you could almost hear it. So I come on and I'm like, "I'll have a large pie with ham and pineapple. And don't skimp on the pineapple."
Kerry, the tool, he doesn't know what to say, so he's like, "Uh, um, Mr. President, I look forward to a clean, honest campaign. I, uh, hope we have a spirited debate, blah blah blah." I look over at Karl, and Karl's nodding at me, like, Go for it. So I'm like, "And get me two Dr Peppers and a bag of those fucking garlic twists." And Kerry's like, "Mr. President. . . ." And I cut him off, and I'm like, "No, make it two bags. And don't forget the salt!" Karl's giggling like crazy. Then we hang up and tell the press that we just congratulated Senator Kerry on an "important victory." It was like that all year. We were two steps ahead of that clown the whole way.
Was the Swift-boat thing your idea?
No, that was Karl too. You have to remember, the thing about Karl — what he always told me is that you don't hit a guy where he's weak, you hit him where he thinks he's strong. He said the thing about Kerry is that everywhere he goes, he's, like, pulling his medals out and showing them off, like a guy trying to get laid in a bar at three in the morning. So we figured we'd put it out there like he didn't really earn them or whatever. And, hey, maybe that was a low blow, but the reason it worked is that he was so freaking touchy about it. Every time he squawked about it, I'd just pick up the phone and order up a whole new round of 527 ads giving Kerry shit about his medals. I was like, "Waitress, double that order!" That guy . . . he just wasn't serious.
Let's talk about some of the low points of your second term. Why did you make such a big deal out of intervening in the whole Terri Schiavo thing?
Well, Jeb calls me up one day and says, "A bunch of Jew lawyers are trying to pull the plug on some broad down here. I think we can spin it that they're doing it because she's Christian." I ask him what he means, and he tells me the story. I tell Karl, and Karl says to me, "Mr. President, I am fully erect. This is a winner all the way." He says we can jam up Bill Nelson down there for his Senate race by forcing him to take sides with the husband in the story, wholl get us 10,000 votes an hour."
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