TIME What's the most important thing you've learned from the past four years?
BUSH I've learned I really enjoy the job. It's a fantastic moment in my life, obviously. There's a lot of ups and downs. There's a lot of high drama and not much calm so far. But I've enjoyed doing it, to the point where I'd like to do it again. I've learned that Washington is a much more bitter, ugly place, dominated by special interests, than I ever envisioned. I was surprised. When I was the Governor of Texas, I had a good working relationship with the leaders from both parties. We would say, "Let's get things done for Texas" and get things done.
TIME You talk a lot about your leadership style, setting the goal and following through. Is there something about that style that is naturally dividing people?
BUSH I guess we'll find out, won't we, in November? But I don't think it's an issue of style. I think it's an issue of the culture in Washington. It's a kind of place where if you are seen trying to reach an agreement with a Democrat, or vice versa, you've betrayed your party or betrayed the cause. Hopefully, it'll change in the second term.
TIME Is there anything you can do in a second term to try to break that stranglehold of special interests?
BUSH I think that I will be less threatening a person from a political perspective in the second term. I mean, I won't be running again.
TIME Is there anything else you have learned as President?
BUSH I learned it's real hard to put people into combat. The consequences of war are death. That's hard. I realize that the decisions I have made have put people in harm's way. It's just a hard part of the job, even when you know you're right. It hits you all the time.
TIME Do you think it was a failure of imagination that everybody thought Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction [WMD]?
BUSH No, I don't think so. I don't know if you've traveled with me recently, but I have made it very clear that we thought we would find stockpiles. I remind the people that he had the capability of making those weapons. And therefore that was not a failure of imagination to think that. As a matter of fact, I can't imagine not having taken Saddam Hussein seriously as a threat, given his history and his capabilities and his intent.
TIME Would you do the same thing again?
TIME When it turned out that there were no WMD stockpiles, did you think, We've got to do this differently going forward?
BUSH As you go forward, how do you deal with the threats that face the country? Yes, it's to make sure that [you have] the ability to analyze information in a way that can look at all sides, to make sure that all opinions end up in the end product [presented] to the decision makers. That's really what we're talking about when it comes to intelligence reform.
TIME Do you find yourself now asking a second set of questions on the intelligence that you might not have asked before?