In 2012, on the anniversary of No Child Left Behind, I reached out to President George W. Bush asking for an interview to discuss the landmark education law and the politics then surrounding it. His aides thought it was a lousy idea for him to say anything, since it would inject him into an ongoing debate and possibly put him in the position of criticizing his successor. They offered a condition: questions in advance so they could vet them. I said no. Because the interview was going to be for Time, it would have violated the magazine’s policy. Even more, it’s lame. I won’t moderate panels or do interviews where the questions have to be preapproved. I’m not an idealist; it just seems like common sense that if you’re going to put yourself forward as an expert or a leader on an issue, you should at least be able to answer some questions about it that you haven’t seen in advance.
As it turned out, President Bush agreed. One morning my cell phone rang, and he was on the other end, calling from his car and ready to talk about No Child Left Behind and education politics. He had a lot to say and criticized his own party as well as President Obama. It was the only interview he did to mark his signature education law’s 10th birthday.
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