First Lady Laura Bush's 'On the Record' Exit Interview, Part 1

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," December 18, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now you go to the White House.

First lady Laura Bush met with women in Kabul, Afghanistan, today, all done by the magic of video teleconferencing. It is all part of her Afghan- American's women's council.

After the conference, the first lady went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Mrs. Bush, it's nice to see you.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Thank you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think I would be remiss if on behalf of our audience I did not thank you for the last eight years. I have tracked you across the world on breast cancer for women, and now this morning, with what you are doing for Afghan women. I think a lot of people really appreciate what you have been doing.

LAURA BUSH: Thank you very much.

VAN SUSTEREN: This morning, what was -- tell me about this Afghan women's council?

LAURA BUSH: Well, this was just a very sweet morning for me. President Bush and President Karzai founded the Afghan-American Women's Council in 2002. And today we celebrated the partnership going to Georgetown University. So it will continue after we leave here. It is a partnership of women in the private sector, American women in the private sector, who support women in Afghanistan. Today this was all on entrepreneurialship. These are women who got to come to Thunderbird University and study to be entrepreneurs.

It's really a way to make sure that women in Afghanistan, who had no opportunity to be in business at all, or really to support their families and even work outside the home before the United States liberated Afghanistan.

Now this gives them a chance to be able to make money for themselves and support their families. And we heard a lot of great examples.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is interesting, because I do not think that the American people really realize what the job of the first lady is. It's sort of unique. Each first lady gets to define it. But you have actually reached out to so many women around the world on these issues. Afghan women did not have much of a chance or do not have much of a chance. And the breast cancer, the breast cancer awareness.

When you leave, we are going to see you again, aren't we, on these issues?

LAURA BUSH: That's right. I will continue to work on these issues. And now, I will be on the private side of U.S.-Afghan Women's Council, when I have been on the public side before.

And I think that will be a way for me to continue to work on all of the issues that I have worked on for the last eight years that have to do with women, both the breast cancer -- you know the Komen Foundation is headquartered in Dallas.

So when I go home, I will be able to continue to do the work that I've done there with the countries in the Middle East that I did as first lady before, but now will be able to do as a private citizen.

So I look forward to that.

I admit I will be sort of feeling my way around. I am not really sure how all of that is going to work. But I think the Policy Institute that President Bush will be building with his presidential library will be a great vehicle for me to be able to continue to work on these international issues.

And then to, obviously, still work on education in the United States and all of the things that have been my career my whole life.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's been a real eye-opener when you look at, especially -- let's talk about the breast cancer awareness. When we followed you to the Middle East, the women over there have a very different opportunity. In fact, they have less of an opportunity than we have.

LAURA BUSH: Well, they are sort of, on breast cancer, about where we were when the Komen Foundation was founded and when Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan made their battles with breast cancer public. And that is you were embarrassed to mention breast cancer or even say the word "breast."

And so women in the Middle East did not go for mammograms. They didn't know to be screened. And so when they were diagnosed with breast cancer, it was in stage four, and so they had very little hope, or very little chance for treatment.

And because we were able -- and this of course is also in partnership with the governments of the countries we visited, to be able talk about this, it gave us a chance to bring it out into the open. And then our sisters over there in Saudi Arabia and Jordan and these other countries are now continuing the work.

And we are getting great reports that many more women are now going with their sisters and their mothers and having a mammogram and making sure they get the screening, so that if they are diagnosed, they have a good chance of being treated and surviving.

VAN SUSTEREN: Take Saudi Arabia, I mean, I was - I guess I was scandalized. You have to get permission from your husband to have a mammogram. That doesn't seem like a very good start, or from your father or brother. It is profoundly different. And when you travel these parts of the world, you see how different it is.

LAURA BUSH: You do see how different it is.

And I think you probably remember this -- the women were very, very covered, in many cases even their mouths were covered, that we met in Saudi Arabia. And I realized that I had gone in with sort of a stereotype where I thought they were closed to me. And then when we started having the discussion of breast cancer, which is really sort of an intimate discussion, I realized that they are in so many ways like us, and that women around the world are similar in a lot of way. We want to be educated. We want to live in peace. We want our children to be safe and healthy. We want to be healthy ourselves.

And that is what I saw, that even under the robes, we, all of us, have a lot of the same dreams.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you going to miss the White House?

LAURA BUSH: I am going to miss the White House. I am going to miss all the people here. I am going to miss the opportunities that I have every day to talk to my staff and solve problems and talk about things and laugh.

And I am going to miss all that camaraderie. And of course I am going to miss the butlers and the ushers and the chef and everyone that is here that has made our lives so really wonderful for the last eight years.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you mentioned the word "chef," and the first thing that goes through my mind is I suspect the president better know how to cook, because he made a crack about somebody else's cooking. What's with that?

LAURA BUSH: I think actually, he will have to learn how to grill. He did know how to do that before we moved here. But we're going to see. It is going to be interesting to see what it is like. We're going to.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you hear what he said about your cooking?

LAURA BUSH: That he might get skinny?

VAN SUSTEREN: That was a good comeback. But he said that - he said something to the fact that he was not looking forward to your cooking.

LAURA BUSH: That is because I have not cooked in 14 years, and he can't even remember what it was like, and neither can I. So this will be interesting.


VAN SUSTEREN: Up next, more with first lady Laura Bush. Did President Bush have any say in selecting their brand new house?

Now he may be the President of United States, but it sounds like some decisions are not made by him. More with the first lady. She joins us. We'll be right back. Do not go away.


VAN SUSTEREN: We continue now with first lady Laura Bush.


VAN SUSTEREN: I imagine, and I am looking through my own eyes, is I would think with all the wonderful things you have done here for Afghan women and women all over the world on breast cancer, I would think it would be so nice to get out of here and reclaim my life.

LAURA BUSH: I think it will in some ways. I am looking forward to that part of it.

I like houses. I like home. I am somebody who really likes to do things like decorate homes. So I am looking forward to that again, having my own house, and the things that are there, to running a home again, if I can remember how to do. And I think that will be fun, just the whole opportunity to have a private life for George and me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you pick out this new house?

LAURA BUSH: I picked it out totally.

VAN SUSTEREN: You saw it? You actually visited it?

LAURA BUSH: Sure, I've been to it. I've looked at it. He had not seen it. I showed him the pictures.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does he have any say on this?

LAURA BUSH: Not really.


VAN SUSTEREN: It's your turn, I guess, right?

LAURA BUSH: No. He is really like that. He trusts me to pick out something that he will like and that will be perfect for us, and it will be.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is interesting -- eight years, especially for your daughters -- we saw them as basically teenagers. And now they are women, they are grown up.

LAURA BUSH: That's right. They have grown up, and I'm very proud of them. They are terrific girls. It was fun for them to give advice to Malia and Sasha when the little girls came for Barbara and Jenna to show them around, because they were seven, Sasha's age, when they first came to the White House in 1989 when their grandfather was elected.

And so I can remember what that was like. I can remember looking at the White House through their eyes and how they would want to run through the big, long, cross halls that have such a long spread for children to run in, and slide down the ramp on their bottoms from the solarium.

And so, they showed Malia and Sasha those things. And, really, it was a very nostalgic tour for me to have all of those memories of other times that we've been at the White House.

VAN SUSTEREN: There is that famous quotation of yours, and I don't want to get it wrong, but something to the effect that when President Bush was thinking of running for Congress, that the deal was you would not have to give a speech. It didn't turn out that way.

LAURA BUSH: It did not turn out that way. That was our pre-nup, that I would jog with him and he would never make me give a speech. Of course, I never jogged with him, ever, and I ended up giving speeches.

But that is one of the really wonderful things for me about being married to George, is that he has such energy. He has given me energy, and he has given me a really wonderful life and a chance to grow in ways I would have never expected that I would have, a librarian from Midland, Texas.

VAN SUSTEREN: There are other times in the eight years besides the fun ones we see, the Barney and the family thing, those sort of memorable times, like when 9/11, for instance, the personal times when it's just you and the president. What was it like?

LAURA BUSH: It was very, very difficult, obviously, for everyone in our country, but also very consequential to be married to the man who is the President of the United States.

For him, and then for me to deal with those tragedies, and to meet the families that lost someone. And then since then, obviously, to meet with the families of the fallen, the people who -- the families left behind by those our soldiers who we have lost in Iraq or in Afghanistan.

These are the moments that I remember and think of that are the most powerful moments of living here, the ones that affect me the most and the president the most emotionally and in every other way.

But I think these are the moments that show me how really unbelievably strong the people of the United States are, and what a privilege it is for me and for him to be able to serve the people of the United States. That's what we've seen.

VAN SUSTEREN: I would think it would be sort of fun to have a webcam when the first family first moves in, with all the sort of expectations and the excitement that first day. And then also have the webcam when you leave, so you can sort of reflect back, you know, how much has just happened in eight years.

LAURA BUSH: There is a lot of reflection. There's no doubt about that, at this time, after eight years.

When you come into the job knowing that you are going to have four years, and it's something that you just know. You are going to be there for four years, and if you are reelected, you will be there for eight years.

And I think you, at very first especially, you have no idea of how powerful the images are that you are going to leave with.

And as I reflect on them and remember individual faces and moments all through the eight years, from being with people in Africa who have had what is called the Lazarus effect because they are on anti-retrovirals because of the generosity of the people of the United States, and to hold hands with people like I did in Nigeria, who were praying at Catholic charities, people who all had AIDS, who were surprised that I would touch them, that I would hold their hand.

I mean, those are the images that I will never forget, and that all those different images make up what has happened in the last eight years for me.


VAN SUSTEREN: We have much more with the first lady tomorrow night. You'll get a personal tour of a part of the White House you have never seen before. And the first lady shows us some of the incredible holiday decorations. Trust us, you do not want to miss part two of our interview with Mrs. Bush.

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