George Bush speaking to US soldiers in Texas in 2003: he says as president he had to make quick and difficult decisions, something he thinks Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg has also had to do Photograph: Jeff Mitchell/Reuters
The former US leader and the Facebook boss compared notes in an hour-long talk and decided they had much in common
by Ed Pilkington
What does Mark Zuckerberg, the creator and president of Facebook, have in common with that other president, George Bush?
Quite a lot, apparently.
At least, Bush seems to thinks so. He spent an hour in discussion with Zuckerberg in a Facebook interview streamed live from Palo Alto on Monday night, comparing his time in the White House with Zuckerberg’s leadership of the social networking site.
They both, Bush said, had had to make quick and difficult decisions based on common sense. They both shared a passion for education, which Zuckerberg has recently embraced, donating $100m (£64m) to state schools in Newark, New Jersey.
And they had both faced harsh criticism. “There’s a lot of criticism about. You know what I’m talking about?” Bush said, looking Zuckerberg straight in the face.
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The Facebook chief executive has been attacked for his policies on privacy and received a less than flattering portrayal in the film Social Networking. “We haven’t had criticism on the scale of a president, but we’ve had some,” Zuckerberg said.
Bush, dressed in a casual shirt and jacket and minus a tie, got brownie points among the techy audience for saying, after he left the White House, “I became a Blackberry person, and now I’m an iPad person.”
He also endeared himself by saying that he used Facebook to keep in touch with former administration colleagues, though he rather ruined the effect by calling it “the Facebook”, seemingly unaware that Zuckerberg dropped the “the” in 2005.
Bush needled Zuckerberg over his failure to complete his computer science course at Harvard. For his part, Zuckerberg heaped praise on his fellow president. “It’s one of the things I’ve always admired about you,” he said to Bush. “You’ve always stuck by your principles and pushed through.”
Bush also gave an impassioned statement against official leaks during the interview. He said leaks were “very damaging and people who leaked ought to be prosecuted”.
He added that the latest Wikileaks action would make it hard for the US to keep the trust of foreign leaders. “When you have a conversation with a foreign leader and it ends up in a newspaper they don’t like it, and I didn’t like it. A lot of these relationships depend on trust.”