Inside George W. Bush's Final Oprah Show Interview
This isn't the first time George W. Bush has appeared on the show. While running for president in 2000, he sat down for an interview with Oprah—a conversation many critics say got him elected. "The person who made the biggest impression, who was the most comfortable in his own skin, who seemed the most likeable and the most connected was George Bush. And that's why people say, 'You got George Bush elected,'" Oprah says. "No, what happened was he was so comfortable being himself that it was easier for me to be myself and so the rapport was just an easier rapport."
Oprah is looking forward to sitting down once more with President Bush—especially after lending her support to Barack Obama's 2008 campaign. "Good journalism is supposed to be fair. I don't often think of myself as a journalist. What I do think of myself is a communicator and somebody who wants to do that in a fair manner. So once I came out for Barack Obama, I think a lot of people thought I was just a dye-in-the-wool Democrat, which I really am not. I have always voted based upon who I thought was the best candidate," Oprah says. "Having George Bush on Season 25 was a way of saying I am obviously a supporter of Barack Obama, but I think that his position also needs to be heard."
During the pre-show meeting, the conversation turns to President Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina. "The most hurtful thing about Katrina was him being framed as a racist," executive producer Sheri says. "Said it was the worst day of his presidency."
During a live telethon for Katrina victims, rap artist Kanye West said, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Oprah says she didn't come to that conclusion. "But I thought, 'Gee, he could have done more, they didn't react soon enough,'" Oprah says. "People who are disenfranchised have more trouble getting things done than people who are not. That's just a fact. I don't know if you call that racist."
Still, Oprah says she will keep an open mind. "I'm going to read the book and approach George Bush not with my opinions about what he had done or had not done in office," she says. "I approached it with an open mind."
For Brian, this opportunity is a dream come true. "In a couple of days I'm going to be standing in a room with two living presidents and a former first lady," he says. "I don't care who they are, what your politics are—that's a pretty incredible experience."
Jenna says she's nervous. "I'm the one sitting down to ask the questions," she says. "Usually on something like this, I'm with Oprah and she's the best interviewer in the world."
During a tour of the property, the team rounds a corner and stumbles upon President Bush and his father sitting on the patio. "There is President Bush 41 and President Bush 43 just sort of sitting there talking," Brian says. "I think they were reading the paper maybe."
See what happened next
Later, Brian is moved to tears. "The reason I chose this career was for a day like today when I round the corner and I'm standing on the deck with two presidents," he says. "We work so hard. A day like today makes it all worth it."
Watch how Jenna, Brian and Erin from booking prepare the morning of the interview
Still, she's ready in time for her pre-show chat with Oprah. "It's part of my duty to go in and kind of set the agenda for how the show is going to work," Jenna says.
Oprah tells Jenna she has a new view of the Hurricane Katrina response now after reading the president's book. "When you read the facts and you get to see the process of what actually was done and looking at the whole picture, you come away with a different point of view," she says. "He didn't take the leadership role soon enough—that's the mistake he made. And that is perceived as racist because those were black people. The perception is you just let those people sit down there and do nothing when really their state government is what failed them."
Once on stage, Oprah tells Jenna she's going to let the interview flow the way it needs to. "I'm just going to feel it out and whatever feels most comfortable is what I'm going to do," Oprah says. "I think he has a real clear opportunity here to make some headway on the Katrina issue."
Oprah also pays a visit to the president before the show. "As an interviewer—really, as the person who this is my home—you're stepping into that chair with me," she says. "It's my job to make you feel as comfortable as possible."
Watch Oprah's before-the-show conversation with President Bush
As the tape of the president's interview with his parents runs, President Bush tears up. "We've created an interview that he will remember forever and has really touched him clearly," Brian says. "That's amazing. Who gets to do that? It meant a lot to all of us."
Watch that interview
The conversation eventually turns to Katrina, and President Bush addresses his response and discusses what it was like to be called a racist. "Nothing feels worse than someone saying something about you that is absolutely untrue," Oprah says. "I saw him as a human being, not just a man carrying the role of the most powerful man in the world."
What President Bush had to say about Hurricane Katrina, September 11 and more
Oprah thanks the president for coming and says she really enjoyed the interview."I thought he did a good job," she says. "He's really delightful. You want to hang out with him. At the end of the day you want to go, 'Can I come down to Texas and hang out with y'all?'"
Why Oprah called President Bush personally a week after the interview.