This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," May 5, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: It's been more than 15 months since first lady Laura Bush walked out of the White House at her husband's side, and now she's taking Americans behind-the-scenes of not just her life in politics, but her private life as well.
Her brand-new memoir hit bookstores this week. It's called "Spoken From the Heart." And earlier today I sat down for an exclusive interview with the former first lady.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Welcome to the "Hannity" program, good to see you.
LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: Thank you very much. Good to see you.
HANNITY: Appreciate you being here.
BUSH: Thanks a lot, Sean.
HANNITY: You know, I last saw your husband just days before he left the White House. And I walked away with the observation he was really, really ready to go and at peace with all he had accomplished as president.
How was it for you?
BUSH: Well, I felt the same way, really. I think because you know January 20 — the day you're sworn in — that four years later you're going to move out, that there's sort of an acceptance to it and really an anticipation of the next part of your life. Certainly for me when I started shopping for houses in Dallas, started looking forward to going back to Texas that — that's really how we both felt.
HANNITY: And you look at a lot of athletes so, I mean, the transition. You know you're in this world where it's second by second, hour by hour, day by day, and a lot of excitement. And all of a sudden —
HANNITY: — it's sort of like this faucet gets turned off.
HANNITY: It's tough for a lot of people. You had no — no difficulty —
BUSH: I didn't really have any trouble with that at all. But I'm sure George did. I worried about what his transition would be although he didn't seem like it. But you're right, you go from every problem in the world on your desk to nothing.
BUSH: To nothing.
HANNITY: The weight of the world was on your shoulders.
BUSH: Yes, exactly.
HANNITY: And now it's off.
BUSH: That's right.
HANNITY: Look, you still watch news events, we were talking about it a little in the green room. And your husband's name comes up a lot. It's almost used as a pejorative especially by the left in the country. You find that frustrating?
BUSH: Of course, I mean, anyone would if it was their husband who was talked about in that way. But I don't — I really don't notice that so much now. It's not so much now. Year and a few months after we left.
HANNITY: Yes. Now I did notice that it seems that both of you made a conscious decision and the president has said so publicly, although he's giving speeches with Bill Clinton which I find pretty interesting.
But you made a conscious decision, both of you, that you were not going to comment publicly on the current administration. Why did you make that decision?
BUSH: Well, George really thinks that's the obligation of a former president — of all former presidents. And that's not to second guess the current president. That it's undermining — it's undermining in front of our allies and people who might not be our allies around the world, foreign — other foreign leaders. And that when we speak in the United States, it's really best for us to speak in one voice.
So he decided not to do that and he's not in politics any more. He says he's finished with politics. He's still interested in working on policy from the Bush Institute that's going to be part of the Bush library. But politics is over.
HANNITY: Look, it's the world's toughest job.
BUSH: It is the world's toughest job.
HANNITY: In the United States of America, I believe in American exceptionalism. I think the weight of the world is on your shoulder in that position.
BUSH: That's right.
HANNITY: As you think back over the years and you write about it in the book, what was some of the tougher times you describe 9/11 as one of those tough times. What were some of your tougher moments, tougher times in the White House, for you?
BUSH: Well, the ones that I wrote about in the book, obviously, are September 11th and all the days and months that followed. But especially in those first few days and few weeks when — after September 11th, when I went to the memorial and — for Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania — with all of these families who had lost the person they loved best.
And then of course George and I met with other people after we started going to New York, different people from New York who had lost people. We visited people who were injured in the Pentagon, Colonel Birdwell, remember the one who saluted with his hands all wrapped with the bandage and saluted George. That was such a really sweet and meaningful moment for both of us.
Those were all difficult days. The worry that we had — both of us had — after that about another attack. And when George was listening to the chatter, you know, reading the threat reports and I knew what it was.
And he didn't come home and tell me. I mean he didn't try to make me worry. He knew I was worried enough. But I could tell a lot of times from his face when he was especially worried.
HANNITY: You could you tell when he was worried. There's a particularly tough day during the Iraq War where he was supposed to have dinner with you and the girls and?
BUSH: When he was having dinner with Barbara and Jenna and I, we're laughing and teasing, even trying to get him to joke with them and have fun with him. And he just got up and excused himself. And so then I told them that a helicopter had been gone down that day — been shot down that day in Iraq.
HANNITY: He took that —
BUSH: And we lost a lot.
HANNITY: He took a lot of this hard. I was with him on the campaign trail in 2004 in Florida. And I know that he went into a backroom, I watched him go in. And I saw what he — it seemed to me when he came out very emotional, I know Todd Beamer's dad was there.
Todd Beamer, of course known for —
HANNITY: … let's roll in the flight that went down in Pennsylvania. He took a lot of this hard.
BUSH: Sure, of course you do. I mean you can't help it. And that's the most difficult thing is to know that you are the one who gave the orders for our troops to go into harm's way. And it was not something we expected. I mean you know that we expect that if you're going to run for president that that's possible. But we really, when George ran for office he ran on all — nearly all domestic issues, on tax cuts and on education reform and — those were the issues that we thought we'd be dealing with the most.
And then after September 11th, everything changed for us and everything changed for our country.
HANNITY: And really, his presidency — I just think through the prism of history especially will be defined — he was a war president.
BUSH: That's right.
HANNITY: And the eight years that he was there. You describe many instances in the book where you, your family, were brought to bunkers. One instance in particular you described where you were being brought to a bunker. You had your staff with you and they said — the Secret Service said not the staff, and you said no, the staff is coming as well. So that was — that became a way of life for you?
BUSH: It did. But it was not — I mean I write about it in the book but I write about every time. It was just a handful of times so it wasn't always that we went to the bunker. And every time we did it was either just a plane that had strayed into the protected air space by mistake like when Nancy Reagan was with me at the White House. Or —
HANNITY: And you decided to take the elevator because you didn't want her walking three —
BUSH: Yes, I didn't —
HANNITY: — marble stairs.
BUSH: — to walk all the way down the flights. Or it was one of our planes. And that first night of September 11th when the Secret Service woke us up in the middle of the night and said a plane is coming. We ran down to the bunker. And when we got to the bottom they said it's one of ours.
And there was something really comforting about that because we had that military cap, those jet planes that flew over Washington for a long time after September 11th. I think you had them in New York as well.
HANNITY: Yes. You describe something in the book. And I don't remember if it was talked about at the time. I was trying to jog my memory a little bit here. But when Saddam's sons Udai and Qusay were finally captured and that they went — U.S. troops captured the Baghdad mansion of theirs — there were pictures of your daughters apparently all over the rooms of one of the sons, and you know that really — that really got to you.
BUSH: That did.
HANNITY: But you didn't tell your daughters either about it.
BUSH: An agent told me, a Secret Service agent told me. I was in Austin to visit Jenna.
BUSH: And he just pulled me aside and said that this was the report that was just coming out. And that the American troops had pulled them down — pulled the girls' pictures.
HANNITY: Why did you decide not to tell your daughters?
BUSH: Well, I just didn't want to worry them. I mean, in the same way that I know George didn't tell me every time he was worried. I didn't want to worry them.
HANNITY: And coming up, more of my exclusive interview with Laura Bush when she also confronts the president about a personal issue earlier in their marriage and also discusses her work on behalf of Afghan women.
HANNITY: And we continue now with the author of "Spoken From the Heart," former first lady Laura Bush.
HANNITY: You were tough on him. You talk about the time when he's 40. And I think he had, what, one bourbon, one beer and then one after-dinner drink.
BUSH: I don't know it was just one beer.
HANNITY: You didn't know it was one. So he would have bourbon, beer and then an after-dinner drink — after-dinner drink or drinks. And you confronted him in a pretty tough way. And you said, you know, "You're not being the man you could be."
BUSH: Well, we talked about it a lot. It wasn't just one time. But we had talked about it for a while. And then we went to the Broadmore (ph) for our 40th birthday party. It was our birthday as well as a lot of friends who were with us. All of us were turning 40 that year.
And I said that he got the bar bill and decided to quit drinking. But in fact, a lot of things led up to it. He'd met with Billy Graham the...
HANNITY: The year before.
BUSH: ... the summer before, when were in Maine, when Billy Graham was visiting the Bushes. He had started in a Bible study class with Don Evans and a lot of other men that are friends of ours in Midland.
And then our girls were four. And, you know, his dad was thinking about running for president. I mean, there were a lot of things that made it easier, I think, for him to stop all at once than it is for a lot of people.
HANNITY: You were pretty hard on him.
BUSH: I was hard on him, but I wasn't going to leave him. And I didn't — I certainly wasn't going to let him leave me, with twins.
HANNITY: That's not going to happen. Did you ever find — at any point, did he say he often didn't bring home a lot of the problems of the presidency? But were there moments, were there times where he would reach out to you? I would think that would be a natural thing, and say, "What do you think?"
BUSH: We talked about issues. But I mean, he had been talking about those same issues with experts all day. So it wasn't like my —
HANNITY: Home was a refuge.
BUSH: Yes, home was a place probably not to talk about as much and to relax with each other, which we did. And just to have the comfort of each other's presence. And just to try to have some normalcy and some time to breathe in those kinds of days that were so high pressure and so tense and so worrisome for both of us. Both worried about another attack, as well as then, of course, worrying about our troops every single day.
HANNITY: You talk about the Sharia Law. You talk about the plight of Afghani women, in particular, in the book. One thing I've never understood, and maybe you have some thoughts on it, is you know, the left in this country, Democrats in this country, often proclaim the mantle or grab the mantle that they stand for women's rights. And here was the liberation of a lot of women in Iraq and Afghanistan. And your husband never got any credit for that. Did he...
BUSH: Well, I don't know that he didn't get credit. I think he did.
HANNITY: Not from the left.
BUSH: And I think there are a lot of people who — but I know from speaking to American women everywhere, I think after September 11, when everyone's eyes turned to Afghanistan, women were shocked. American women were shocked. We couldn't imagine the contrast — it was so stark — between our lives and the lives of the women of Afghanistan.
The very idea that a government would forbid women and girls from being educated is really shocking to us. And I knew and saw, all over the country, American women who wanted to do something, who wanted to help in some way. And I still see it.
And when I talk — just hosted the U.S.-Afghan women's conference at the Bush Institute in Dallas at SMU — tons of people, many, many women from across the country wanted to be part of it.
BUSH: And they want the women there to be successful. One of the things that I know about Americans that I think is different from a lot of other countries, and that is, we want other countries to succeed. You know, we want to see women succeed in Afghanistan.
HANNITY: It's in our best interests.
BUSH: That's right. And we don't see it as a zero sum…
HANNITY: I agree with you, that's a good way to put it.
BUSH: … that only our success. We want other countries to succeed. And I think we'll have a more peaceful world when we see that.
HANNITY: If there's more liberty, more freedom, in my mind, I think it's in our best interests.
BUSH: That's right.
HANNITY: As they're successful in not looking — or not as inclined or susceptible to the appeals of extremists, because they're pursuing their dreams and their hopes and their desires.
You get very personal in the book. You tell a story about this — this car accident that you had a pretty young age, in which the — the driver of the other car was killed. Tell us about that.
BUSH: Well, this was when I was 17 years old. It was two days after my 17th birthday. And I had picked up a friend to go to the drive-in movie. But like a lot of 17-year-olds, I hadn't looked in the paper to see what was playing, so we just started to drive around on the loop to drive by one theater and see what was there.
And we were on a very dark two-lane highway that ends in the highway to Lubbock with just a stop sign. And I just got to the corner before I...
HANNITY: Didn't see it.
BUSH: ... saw the stop sign. I didn't see it. My friend who was in the car said there is a stop sign, but by then it was too late. And you know, even the chances that there would be another car in the intersection were small, because it's, you know, Midland is not a big town. Neither road was really highly trafficked. And then the chance that the person in the other car was one of my best friends who I'd known for years and who I talked to...
HANNITY: A very good friend. You talked to her on the phone all the time for hours. And you — you talk about some regret; your parents made a decision for you that you wouldn't go to the funeral. You had never spoken to the family before.
BUSH: I never did. And I — you know, no one ever suggested it, really, even Mother and Daddy. And they did go to the Douglas' house the next morning after the car accident. And — and I don't know if that's why they didn't — if they just knew the Douglas' grief was just so profound they thought it would be too hard on me. Because I know that's how profound their grief was. It would be for anyone. But it ruined their life.
HANNITY: Yes. You talk about at one point — you lost your faith.
BUSH: I did. The whole time, you know, I was in my mind, "Please God, please God, please God."
HANNITY: Was this cathartic? Was this something that had been on your mind?
BUSH: To be able to write about it?
HANNITY: To be able to write about it? And...
BUSH: Not really.
HANNITY: … as a way to help other people?
BUSH: I don't know there's a way to be cathartic. But I mean, I guess...
HANNITY: Because you seem to have kept it in a little bit.
BUSH: I did. I mean, I think that's just what people did in 1963 in West Texas. I mean, no one ever suggested that I talk to anyone, a pastor or a counselor or anyone. And really, I didn't want to talk about it. I wanted to just not think about it and put it out of my mind. I mean, that was how I...
HANNITY: But it never really went out of your mind.
BUSH: No. Of course not.
HANNITY: Yes, it's interesting, because you describe things very similar to my background. It's like when your father would talk about World War II or the pictures, the images that he had of the Holocaust, he never talked about it. My father never talked about World War II.
You know, something would happen. My parents lost a daughter to SIDS. They didn't talk about it. I didn't find out until I was way older in my life that that had ever happened. They just let it go and didn't talk very much about it.
BUSH: I mean, I think that was just sort of the characteristics of the time, that you know, you just didn't complain, stiff upper lip. You know, just went on.
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