In the below exchange, excerpted from a 1980 interview between George H.W. Bush and then-L.A. Times reporter Robert Scheer, Bush revealed his belief in a winnable nuclear war–which many observers think lost him the Republican nomination to Ronald Reagan. Check out this interview and many more in Scheer’s new book “Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan, and Clinton–and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush.”

“Bush Assails Carter Defense Strategy”

(Originally published on the front page of The Los Angeles Times on January 24, 1980.)

… Scheer: Don?t we reach a point with these strategic weapons where we can wipe each other out so many times and no one wants to use them or is willing to use them, that it really doesn?t matter whether we?re ten percent or two percent lower or higher?

Bush: Yes, if you believe there is no such thing as a winner in a nuclear exchange, that argument makes little sense. I don?t believe that.

Scheer: How do you win a nuclear exchange?

Bush: You have a survivability of command in control, survivability of industrial potential, protection of a percentage of your citizens, and you have a capability that inflicts more damage on the opposition than it can inflict upon you. That?s the way you can have a winner, and that Soviets? planning is based on the ugly concept of a winner in a nuclear exchange.

Scheer: Do you mean like five percent would survive? Two percent?

Bush: More than that?if everybody fired everything they had, you?d have more than that survive.

Want to read the whole thing? Pick up an autographed copy of “Playing President” in the Truthdig bazaar.


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