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Laura Bush on U.S. Political Divide

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," August 3, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Thanks for staying with us. I'm Bill O'Reilly. In the personal story segment tonight, first lady Laura Bush has hit the campaign trail, and so have her daughters. One of the first lady's first stops was The Factor. We begin with the state of the union.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'REILLY: Why do you think the country is so divided? All the polls show that.

FIRST LADY, LAURA BUSH: Well, I think the country has been divided. I mean, obviously, look at the last election. It was very, very close. And I don't know why it is, but I just think that's sort of what our times are. But you know, we just see it every day. We see it in every sort of poll.

I will say, on the other hand, that the country was very united after September 11th. And I think we've stayed united in those ways, united in our pride of our country, and united in patriotism, I really do think so. I think what September 11th taught us, the lessons of September 11th were
how fortunate we are and how many freedoms we have, and we can't take them for granted.

O'REILLY: Your husband ran on a platform of "I'm a uniter, not a divider."

BUSH: And I do think he has really tried to unite.

O'REILLY: But why... this is a very interesting question. I do too. You know, I don't think he went out to polarize the nation. I mean, that's just left wing bomb throwing and it's irresponsible, in my opinion. But it is a fact that the debate now is more intense than I've ever seen in my 30 years in journalism.

BUSH: Well, you don't think it was equally intense at the last?

O'REILLY: No, I think it's more intense now. I think the partisanship and the divisiveness in the United States is more intense now than when your husband took office.

BUSH: And maybe that's also because the Congress is so evenly divided.

O'REILLY: There is political fighting, but I think a lot of it's social. I mean, you've got these issues like gay marriage and pledge of allegiance under god, which split the country, even though the polls say that most Americans come down on the traditional side on all of these issues. The media portrays it as that's not the way it is.

BUSH: You gave me a really great idea. Maybe it is the media that has us divided.

O'REILLY: I don't think that's far out. I mean, I think the media is very polarized itself. Look at the attacks on this network, and you know, we strike back. But the European press is brutal on your husband and it's brutal on America. France is not our friend anymore, I mean, as far as what their actions are. They may say they are. And I'm not sure why that is happening. Is it all about Iraq?

BUSH: Well, no, I don't think it's all about Iraq. I think part of it is envy. I think it's also partly because we are the only superpower left. You know, it's no longer the Russians and us. You know, we have such a preeminent role in the world. And you know, we're affluent. I think they look at that — no, Europe isn't. Europe certainly is too. But I don't think it's Iraq.

O'REILLY: Do you talk policy with your husband?

BUSH: Sure.

O'REILLY: You do.

BUSH: Sure.

O'REILLY: So you get in there and you say — because I know you disagree on issues with him...

BUSH: No, I mean, we don't have debates. I don't really feel like I have to have a debate with my husband over issues. But we talk about issues, we talk about people, we talk about personalities. George is a very good reader of people, and he's very perceptive about people, and you know, that's fine.

I mean, it's fun for us to talk about issues. You know, there's no one issue we spend a lot of time on probably, because he gets to do that all day with somebody else who's a lot more expert at issues than I am.

O'REILLY: Does he ask your opinion on issues?

BUSH: Sure.

O'REILLY: You know, so he says... and so you're like a consigliore.

BUSH: No, I don't think so.

O'REILLY: What do you think about gay marriage, or what do you think about this, or what do you think about that... does he ask you...

BUSH: More of a sounding board, is that what you mean?

O'REILLY: Yeah.

BUSH: Yeah, possibly, sure.

O'REILLY: But you can't ever say, can you?

BUSH: Say publicly if it's different from him?

O'REILLY: Right.

BUSH: You know, sure, I could. You know, I could say it if I wanted what I thought to be the debate, publicly. But that, you know, he's the one whose name is on the ballot. He's the one who's sitting in the Oval Office, and I'm not. So, you know, I don't really feel like I have to say
what I think about every issue that is different from what he thinks.

O'REILLY: For the first time, your daughters are in the public eye, you know. And I mean, they're stars in the sense of the tabloid press because they're very pretty and people are interested in them. Two-edge sword here, right?

BUSH: It is. And we're actually thrilled. We're thrilled that they want to be involved in this campaign. It's fun for us to have them when we travel, have them with us. Jenna's traveled with me; they've both traveled with their dad. This is the only time they've been old enough in all of
their dad's campaigns to really be involved in.

I think they're actually having a good time. They've traveled with us. They've traveled separately. They've done separate events, separate campaign events in Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and Florida, and then they go to the headquarters. I think they're doing a weekly blog on the Web site about what their events are that week and what they've done. And they've written letters. They've written e-mails to supporters.

O'REILLY: So they're going to be busy in the next three months.

BUSH: So they're busy. They're very busy, and they're having a really good time. And it's been very fun and, actually, relaxing for us to have them on the trail.

O'REILLY: But you've had to sit them down and say, "You'd better behave, because if you do anything..." and they'll make it up even if you don't do it, you know.

BUSH: Well, I mean, if they do anything, like one of them has already done, the sticking out the tongue that Jenna did, you know, that makes the newspaper.

O'REILLY: Sure.

BUSH: And she turned around to her dad and said, "I just stuck my tongue out." And he said, "Well, Jenna, it will be in the paper tomorrow."

O'REILLY: Right.

BUSH: So they're learning. You know, they know. But there's a lot of scrutiny, and there is a lot of interest. People are interested. They want to know what family members are like.

O'REILLY: Have you given them any advice?

BUSH: Yes, I laughingly said — I told them to keep their hair out of their eyes and stand up straight, which is making me sit up straight.

O'REILLY: That's what you told them, "Keep your hair out of your eyes and sit up straight?"

BUSH: I didn't think to tell them, "Don't' stick your tongue out at the press."

O'REILLY: How about dating and things like that? Have you given them advice there?

BUSH: Not really, not that much. They're great girls. They're very funny, they're very smart, they're fun to be with. They're very lively, as I think people can tell. And you know, they're very confident girls.

O'REILLY: Did you see the Kerry girls at the Democratic Convention?

BUSH: I didn't, but I heard they were great.

O'REILLY: There was a hamster story...

BUSH: I have read the hamster story.

O'REILLY: Did the president ever save a hamster?

BUSH: Did he ever give a hamster mouth to mouth? I don't think so.

O'REILLY: I think people would be very interested in your day, what you do at the White House when you're there. Just go through your day for us if you would.

BUSH: Well, we wake up early. We always get up about 5:30, and George gets up and goes in and gets the coffee and brings it to me, and that's been our ritual since we got married. And we read the newspapers in bed and drink coffee for about an hour probably, read our briefing papers.

And then, we eat breakfast, and he goes to work at seven. And I workout, if I have a chance, if I'm at home at the White House, in the morning. When he leaves, I'll go to the gym upstairs. We have a little gym. And then, I go to work. If I'm just at the White House, I have meetings in my office, I sign letters, I plan different things. Late in the afternoon, I'll quit working and wait for my husband to get home.

O'REILLY: Did you watch Teresa Heinz Kerry's speech at the Democratic Convention?

BUSH: No.

O'REILLY: You didn't. It was an interesting speech. I don't quite know what she said, but she's a very flamboyant woman. Last night, she was confronted with some hecklers, some pro-Bush hecklers that were going, "Four more years," and she said, "Four more years of hell. Do you want four more years of hell?" How would you react to that?

BUSH: Well, of course, I don't like that. But you know, it's not easy when your husband runs for president. I mean, it's not easy for me. I'm sure it's not easy for her. There's a lot of scrutiny on families that isn't always wanted. And I think those sort of reactions, it's not easy to be heckled — you know, no one likes that.

O'REILLY: Right.

BUSH: And so, I can understand how her reactions would be like they are.

O'REILLY: You don't really like this, do you?

BUSH: I do actually really like it.

O'REILLY: Do you really?

BUSH: I like politics. I like traveling in the United States. Politics is a people business. I like people. I love to hear the stories of different Americans, which I have the opportunity to do if I travel.

O'REILLY: Did you grow into the job, because you're on record as saying, "You know, I really didn't..."

BUSH: Well, you know, what I know about...

O'REILLY: It's pretty dirty.

BUSH: ... I mean, the part you don't like, I mean, that's the only part. That's the part no one likes, and that is the criticisms, and the unfair criticisms, I might add, of my husband. But that's also just a fact of life in politics.

O'REILLY: Now, your mother in law, Barbara Bush, she took that personally, remember? Do you take it personally too when they...

BUSH: Sure, sometimes, absolutely.

O'REILLY: What do you do?

BUSH: Nothing.

O'REILLY: Do you call them up and yell?

BUSH: No.

O'REILLY: No, you just go...

BUSH: Of course not.

O'REILLY: Yeah.

BUSH: You know, I mean, it's just, you really do become — maybe I should say not inured to it, but almost.

O'REILLY: Numb.

BUSH: Because there's so much of it. You know, it's not easy. It's not easy to have the job of president. It's not easy to run for it. And it's not a job for the feint of heart.

O'REILLY: What do you think of the media in America?

BUSH: I mean, I think there are a lot of reasons to be critical of the media in America. I think a lot of times, the media sensationalizes or magnifies things that really shouldn't be, different issues maybe or different opinions more than reporting. I do think there's a big move away
from actual reporting, trying to report facts. And you know, it's in newspapers and everything you read that a lot more is opinion.

And a lot of words... it's very, you know, I'm interested in words, I'm interested in language. I'm a librarian. I'm a big reader and I see words that are actually subjective in a lot of news accounts.

O'REILLY: What do you think of Hollywood? They're taking a great delight in bashing the Bush family.

BUSH: Not every one of them. There are a few...

O'REILLY: About 80 percent of them.

BUSH: Exactly. You know, I don't know. I mean, I'm sorry about that. I don't like that, because there are a lot of people whose works I admire as actors or actresses, or musicians. And you know, I've been a big fan of different musicians or actors.

O'REILLY: When you go out on the campaign trail, you're going to be treated with dignity. I mean, we were talking before the interview and I said, you know, I can't give you a hard time. I mean, it'd cut my own throat. That's ridiculous. You're the first lady. You're entitled to
respect. You're entitled to be treated in a certain way. But they're also going to, you know, criticize...

BUSH: Criticized...

O'REILLY: ... behind your back, never to your face — behind your back. How do you process that?

BUSH: No one likes to be criticized. And, of course, one thing we criticize women about more, I think, or the wives of candidates or the wives of presidents, is the way they look.

O'REILLY: Right.

BUSH: And that's not really very fair. And, of course, no one likes that.

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