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Transcript: Laura Bush on 'FNS'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published May 17, 2010 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a rush transcript of the May 16, 2010, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: We went to Dallas Friday to interview former first lady Laura Bush about her new book, called "Spoken From the Heart." It takes you inside the White House, as Mrs. Bush describes the most dramatic moments of the Bush presidency. And it has begun to top bestseller lists.
We talked with Mrs. Bush in the first interview she's done in her new home with the president.
WALLACE: So what is the difference between living in this house and living in the White House?
FORMER FIRST LADY LAURA BUSH: Well, there are many, many differences, of course. A big yard that is private. George loves to come play soccer with Barney and Beasley out here.
WALLACE: Now, I see the satellite up on the roof. Is the...
BUSH: We have...
WALLACE: Is the president watching a lot of sports?
BUSH: We have the huge screen TV. That was one of the first things we bought and put upstairs in George's man cave, that we call it, the one big room that's upstairs, and where his desk is and his computer. And that's where he likes to watch the Texas Rangers every night.
WALLACE: Mrs. Bush, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday" and thank you so much...
WALLACE: ... for inviting us to your home.
BUSH: Thanks. Glad you're here in my library.
WALLACE: I want to begin with your account of 9/11 and the days after, which I think is one of the most powerful parts of your book. You say of that day, "The world as I knew it irrevocably changed." And you talk about the constant anxiety. How was it living in the White House after 9/11?
BUSH: There were those long days of anxiety and, really, grief, the grief of the whole idea of America being attacked like it was. And all of that — really, every part of that, including the threat assessments that George read every morning after September 11th, gave us all this feeling of vulnerability and a fear, really, and, for us at the White House, high anxiety.
WALLACE: Now, you talk about the high anxiety. I mean, let's face it. You had a bull's eye in the house in which you were living. And you say you questioned every noise, every plane that flew over.
BUSH: And we had that military CAP that started flying those jets that started flying around, cover around Washington. And those, really — when I would hear those at night, I would get a certain sense of security about those and think about the pilots that were in the military that were flying those planes.
But we did get — the very first night we — of September 11th, they wanted us to sleep down in the bunker, and George just said, "No, I've got to sleep in my own bed. I mean, we've got to get some rest." And — but he said, "Come get us if you think you need to."
And so in the middle of the night we heard the footsteps in the hall outside, and then of the Secret Service agent rushing into the bedroom, saying, "You've got to go downstairs," another plane was on its way. And so we rushed down this marble staircase to the bunker.
And then just as we got there, they knew that the plane they had spotted was one of our own, one of the military CAP that was flying.
WALLACE: You also talk and very much evoke the fact of your husband becoming a war-time president, and you write this, "I could see the lines cut deeper in his face and could hear him next to me lying awake at night, his mind still working."
On a — on a human level, how tough was it? And how much of a burden was it for him and indirectly for you to bear that responsibility?
BUSH: Well, it was very stressful. There were — there's no doubt about it.
WALLACE: What would have him...
BUSH: We were worrying about our troops and worrying about the decisions he was making. You know, is — was it the right decision to go into Afghanistan, for instance, or to pressure Saddam Hussein and finally, then, to go into Iraq?
WALLACE: And when you say you could hear him lying awake...
BUSH: Well, I just knew he was there and I knew he was worried. And I knew — and of course, there were times when the worry was more, when the chatter was more. And he didn't always tell me when there was — when there were specific threats that they were particularly worried about. He didn't try to add to my worry by telling me that, because there obviously was nothing I could do about it. But I did know and I could tell.
WALLACE: At night, when he's lying awake and stewing, worrying, how would you comfort him? What would you say?
BUSH: Well, we really had mainly this feeling of comfort in each other's presence. Just the comfort of being with each other was what propped us both up emotionally. We knew we already and always had each other, the emotional support of each other.
WALLACE: You talk at length in the book about the run-up to the war in Iraq and the fact that intelligence services around the world believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. How did you feel when you learned, despite our government's best efforts, that he didn't?
BUSH: Well, of course, we were shocked, really, and then also disappointed that that was — you know, that that was wrong, that the intelligence services were wrong.
WALLACE: You know to this day there are some people who believe that the president lied us into war.
BUSH: Well, I mean, that's just so false, and everyone knows that. I mean, I think the — you know, there's a certain group of people that say that. But if they look at the statements of everyone, the former presidents, the people on Capitol Hill, both sides of the aisle, that was what everyone believed.
WALLACE: Does it bother you that some people will think the worst, the unthinkable, the idea that a president would take us into war under false pretenses? Does that...
BUSH: Sure, of course that bothers me. But on the other hand, it's just, you know, a fact of life. I mean, it's what happens in American politics. And there's always, for whoever is president, the opponents, the people on the other side who cast aspersions that they may not even believe themselves, or they're the conspiracy theorists.
And that's something that we just live with in the United States and know about that, and certainly the people that live in the White House know that.
WALLACE: You write that when you became first lady you were, in a sense, typecast. Katie Couric said you appear to be a very traditional woman. And this is one of my favorites. A British tabloid wrote, "Laura is a cookie-baking homemaker, dull, mumsy and old-fashioned." Why do you think that happened?
BUSH: Well, I think there are a lot of reasons. I think because I had had traditional jobs, I'd been a — women's traditional jobs, I'd been a teacher and a librarian, and then also because I was married to a conservative president. And so because of that, you know, that was just the view that people had of me. And it's sad, really, and sort of frustrating that our — that the press in general typecasts every woman that lives in the White House, the other first ladies, because always our first ladies have been a lot more interesting, a lot more complicated, than their box that they're sort of put in.
WALLACE: Do you think Michelle Obama has been typecast the same way you were?
BUSH: I don't think so, really. I think that she's — and maybe this is just her age, that she's younger. But I think she's been given the benefit of doubt more by the press than former first ladies.
Certainly, look at the way Barbara Bush — mother, grandmother — was typed as a grandmotherly, you know, type woman, when, in fact, Barbara Bush is as strong as horseradish and people really know that.
WALLACE: You became deeply involved in advocating for Afghan women, for their rights, for their role in the life of their country. And you write, "It was not that I found my voice. Instead, it was as if my voice had found me." Explain.
BUSH: Well, what happened was I made the president's radio address after September 11th and talked about the treatment of women and children by the Taliban. And right after that I went to a department store with Jenna. And the woman who sold cosmetics came up to me and said, "Thank you so much for speaking for the women of Afghanistan."
And that was when it really occurred to me in a really emotional sort of way that people listen to me, that I did have a podium, and that women all over the United States felt this sense of sisterhood with the women of Afghanistan and wanted to be able to do something.
WALLACE: I want to go back to this question that you touched on earlier about media bias, because in the book it almost seems as if you wanted to get something off your chest.
You write, "Some in the media came with preconceived notions and an adversarial point of view. Some of it was biased where journalists, rather than being objective, could not put their own emotions and assumptions aside." Question: Was it liberal bias against a conservative Republican president?
BUSH: Yes, that's what I think it was. Absolutely. I think that's what it was. And it was not always. It was just — it was the same thing that we were just talking about, about this sort of flat view of who the first lady is. That wasn't just about me, but about other women.
And maybe part of that was a bias against women or a way to put women in a — in a special category or to be seen as the little women who are home baking the cookies, like the British tabloid said.
WALLACE: Yes. Mumsy. Howard Feinman has a column in Newsweek this week, not necessarily always the most pro-Bush magazine, in which he lays out the facts of the current gulf oil spill.
The administration approves oil well, oil company, big donors to president's campaign, initial administration reaction to downplay the accident, it takes president 11 days to get to the scene. He says if that had been George W. Bush instead of Barack Obama, it would have been national scandal.
BUSH: Well, I think that's right, probably. But you know, it's just — that's just how it is. I mean, that — we knew that. And my real reluctance when George decided to run for president, when he was thinking about running for president, was that we knew from having watched the way Mr. Bush was characterized in 1992 that...
WALLACE: Your father-in-law.
BUSH: ... that's the risk you run. And the — it's not all that, though. I mean, that's what I also want people to see. There's a lot of criticism, but there's also a lot of support from the American people.
People said to us on every single rope line, every place we went, that they were praying for us.
WALLACE: Does it bother you 16 months into the presidency that the Obama administration still talks about the bad economy they inherited from your husband?
BUSH: Well, sure, you know, that bothers me. But on the other hand, the economy was bad that September. I think that, you know, one of the things that happened when George was president was that everything, including the weather, became his fault. And it's just an unrealistic, really, expectation of our president.
But I also know that that's what people expect and that the president better be really tough. And you know, thank heavens George was under the circumstances with having that September 11th attack.
WALLACE: I'd like to do a lightning round — quick questions, quick answers — on a variety of subjects.
How do you feel about President Obama naming Elena Kagan to be the — if she's confirmed, the third woman justice serving on the Supreme Court at the same time?
BUSH: I think it's great. I'm really glad that there will be three if she's confirmed. I like to have women on the Supreme Court.
WALLACE: Do you think it makes a difference?
BUSH: I think it does make a difference. And you know, I just like women to be represented in all parts of American political and civic life.
WALLACE: In his memoir, Karl Rove writes — and I don't know if you know this. He writes that he never knew where he stood with you.
BUSH: I kept him that way.
WALLACE: Well, I was going to say, he says he believes that you purposely kept him off balance as a way to keep him in check and to manage him.
BUSH: Well, I didn't — no, that's — that part is really not true. I didn't purposely keep him that way, but I loved Karl Rove for many years.
WALLACE: But why would he say that you — that he never knew where he stood with you?
BUSH: I think it was because he — I don't know why he would say that, really. I mean, I think there was a certain tension that he felt when I was around because I think he thought I would say whatever I thought to George.
WALLACE: In 2004, and you talk in the book, you talked to your husband about not making gay marriage a big issue in the reelection campaign. Why not?
BUSH: Well, because I think what happens on big social issues on that is the debate ends up denigrating a certain group of people. And I think that's also what's happening on the immigration debate, another hot-button issue, where instead of having it be a debate of what the laws are, it ends up making a group of people feel like they're the target of the debate.
WALLACE: Well, I have to ask you, since you brought it up, are you unhappy with the Arizona law?
BUSH: Well, not necessarily. I mean, I think we have to have the immigration laws. And you know, that's a really important part of it. It's just that the debate about the immigration laws, about Arizona's law, end up targeting someone — a group of people.
WALLACE: Do you worry that it...
BUSH: And it's — this is not new in American history. There have been many groups of immigrants who've been targeted over all of our history — the Irish, for instance, when a lot of Irish immigrants, including my family, came to the United States — other times — and it's just that it's a trait of nativism that shows up in American — in American history in a lot of different ways.
WALLACE: Should gays be allowed to marry?
BUSH: Well, I think what I really believe is that it's something that is so difficult. It's a very, very difficult issue for very many people, because the marriage between a man and a woman is so fundamental to our civic life, for all of our history, for the history of humans.
And it's a debate that I think people want to have. But I hope they have it in a way that protects people. And in many ways, I think it's generational and that gay marriage will come. WALLACE: Gay marriage will come?
WALLACE: And are you OK with that?
BUSH: I'm okay with that.
WALLACE: Do you think gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military without "don't ask, don't tell?"
BUSH: Well, I think that's just something else that the military and the, you know, legislators are going to have to talk about and figure out what is really best for the United States military.
WALLACE: Do you have an opinion on that?
BUSH: Not really.
WALLACE: OK. Finally, I want to talk to you briefly about life after the White House. How difficult was it for your husband to have all the world's problems on his desk one day and then the next day nothing?
BUSH: Have nothing? I'm sure it was really difficult. He didn't act like it so much. We stopped in Midland on our way home on January 20th and were met by 30,000 of our closest Midland friends, which was really fun.
And it's — when it's over, it's over. George was — when we drove up to the ranch, he was the one that was out unloading the bags, and putting the bicycles in the garage and, you know, doing everything that everyone — someone else would have done for us before, and then getting the coffee for me the next morning. And I've been kidding him that he kind of didn't remember how to run the coffee machine after eight years of not making coffee.
WALLACE: But no feeling of...
BUSH: I'm sure there was a big transition. There's no doubt about it. But we were there, and he could ride his mountain bike every single day, and I think that kind of exercise has always helped him, you know, get it together.
And we both had book contracts, and we both started working on the books — our books, and there was something great about that as well. It gave us this chance to reflect on the eight years before and to sort of sit back and look at the eight years. And I think all of those were helpful in the transition.
WALLACE: And finally, at the very end of your book, you say, "I could at last..."
WALLACE: "... exhale." Really, after eight years? BUSH: Well, I didn't realize that. I didn't know that while I was there. It was only when I was home. And you know, even at night going to bed and thinking, "Now, what do I have to do tomorrow," and trying to go over my schedule and prepare for it, and then realize I didn't really have any obligations the next day, and that's when I could exhale and see it.
There was a — really, it's sort of a buoyancy of freedom that I felt — this hyper vigilance, this worry about our troops all the time — who we still worry about. I mean, that didn't stop.
BUSH: But the worry about them, the worry about another tragedy, the worry about a hurricane, I mean, the worry about all the millions of worries that the president of the United States worries about.
WALLACE: Mrs. Bush, we want to thank you so much for talking with us.
WALLACE: And we want to thank you for your service to the country.
BUSH: Thank you very much, Chris. Appreciate it a lot.
WALLACE: Mrs. Bush also talks about how she conquered her fear of public speaking. You can find out at our Web site, foxnewssunday.com. And Later in this show, Mrs. Bush shows us more of her new house, including her hallway of private family photos.
WALLACE: One thing that surprised us when we got the first look at the new Bush home in Dallas was how few signs there were that a former president lives there. But after we finished our interview, Mrs. Bush showed us one of her favorite places, what amounts to a first family photo gallery.
WALLACE: I have to — I have to just look at this one.
BUSH: It's after George's inauguration, when he's hugging his mother and dad.
WALLACE: And there's just that sense, "My son the president."
BUSH: Yeah, exactly. It's so sweet.
WALLACE: And I love this one, because this is your new family.
BUSH: This is the new family, and that's Henry, Henry Hager. That was a Christmas photo in 2008, the last year — last Christmas we were at the White House.
This is when George and I hosted my graduating class of 1964 from Robert E. Lee, from Midland High School, and from George Washington Carver, because the schools were segregated...
WALLACE: Oh, boy. Wow.
BUSH: ... then when I was in — in 1964. He loves to tell the story about his friends would come visit him in the Oval Office and they'd say, "Gaw, I can't believe I'm here." And then they'd look at him.
BUSH: Couldn't believe he was, either.
WALLACE: Yes, exactly. Finally, this...
BUSH: It was really fun.
WALLACE: ... this one of you, because it's such an interesting picture.
BUSH: That was a photo early on. That was shortly after September 11th and it was for the cover of Psychology Today. And it was an interview, really, about what we could do to reassure our children and our families and what we could do to reassure ourselves to live with the kind of stress that everyone in the U.S. was suffering right after that attack.
WALLACE: Well, you look very reassuring.
BUSH: Well, thanks.
WALLACE: Our thanks to the first lady and her crack staff for all their help.
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