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Encore Presentation: Laura Bush Discusses Her New Role as First Lady

Aired April 29, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: on her husband's 100th day as president, a very special hour with first lady Laura Bush, next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thank for joining us. Earlier this month I had the privilege of sitting down with Laura Bush for an hour-long interview. The venue: the diplomatic reception room at the White House. As we began, President George W. Bush was choppering off to an education event in Connecticut.


Do you get used to that helicopter sound?

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I do get used to it, but it's such a thrill to be upstairs...

KING: To see it come in.

BUSH: ... and see the helicopter come in and land on the lawn.

KING: Did you and the president watch it come in and then you run downstairs and he takes off?

BUSH: No. He's over in the Oval Office, so he didn't watch it. But a lot of times I'm here -- upstairs here and see it come in. I've even been up on the third floor on the parapet that goes around the top of the White House where you can stand outside and you're on a level with the helicopter before it starts to land and that's exciting.

KING: Does he call to say goodbye before he goes?

BUSH: He said goodbye this morning when he went over to the office.

KING: Well, you knew a lot about this building where your...

BUSH: Well, I did.

KING: ... father-in-law lived here.

BUSH: That's right. We stayed here some, not a lot, but we lived in Dallas when they were here. But I did know a lot, and it was huge advantage to know...

KING: Obviously.

BUSH: ... to at least know my way around upstairs. I noticed the first few weeks my assistants, who would come upstairs to work on various issues, would walk by the elevators, miss the elevators. And my mother's staying with me right now, and I'll see she turns the wrong direction when she goes out of her bedroom, because it is big. It's beautiful and awesome. But it was a huge advantage to at least know my way around upstairs.

KING: And tonight while we're on, you're at the Holocaust Museum, right?

BUSH: That's right.

KING: Visiting with friends?

BUSH: That's right. We've invited some friends of ours in from around the country to go to the Holocaust Museum with us tonight.

KING: Where you've been.

BUSH: And then for the Day of Remembrance Ceremony tomorrow.

KING: You've been there. Your husband hasn't?

BUSH: I've been there, he has not. I visited a few years ago when we were in town for the national governors.

KING: He's in for an experience.

BUSH: I know it. It's a very, very affecting museum.

KING: Very.

BUSH: Yes.

KING: Before we talk all about the first 100 days in your life here, the one thing that immediately comes to mind is -- and everyone's talking about it, there are wags saying if it were Reagan or Clinton, they'd have gone to Washington to greet those Navy men. The Bushes went to Texas. How did you feel about that decision?

BUSH: Well, I think George felt like that was a time for them to be with their own families, that it was a time for them to come back to the country and greet their families with a little bit more privacy than they would have been allowed if the president had also been there.

KING: Did you agree?

BUSH: I do agree. I think that's the right thing. George met with one of the families before they got home on his last trip to North Carolina. I think there... KING: Is that typical of him, because usually politicians like the spotlight and there's no better spotlight than returning service men?

BUSH: Well, that's right. And, of course, George likes the spotlight, but, at the same time, I think he thinks there are certain times that families ought to be afforded privacy and the opportunity to hug each other in privacy.

KING: Are they going to be invited to the White House?

BUSH: I'm sure we'll invite them here to the White House and, of course, he's talked to them on the phone. I think he said to the pilot -- George knows a little bit about being a pilot since he was a jet fighter pilot -- that he wanted to congratulate him on such a safe landing in such a very, very difficult situation.

KING: During those days, those two weeks, what was it like for you?

BUSH: Well, we were nervous about it, of course. But also my husband is very focused. And he was focused on the outcome that he wanted, which, of course, was what we all wanted, and that was for our service men and women to get home safely. He also was patient. He knew that because of the leadership in China, it would take a while, that it was slow. We were at a 12-hour time difference.

KING: We're a country used to...

BUSH: But I think he also knew that it would come out like we wanted it to, with our people home.

KING: We're used to rushing things, though, aren't we, Laura? We want it yesterday.

BUSH: That's right. We're very impatient.

BUSH: You know, as a whole, our whole country is an impatient country.

KING: Is he patient?

BUSH: He has to work on his patience. That's one of the...

KING: Because if you're a baseball fan, it's hard to be patient.

BUSH: That's right. Well, of course, baseball has a very long season.


BUSH: You know, you learn patience.

KING: I know.

OK. What about this job, since you know the place, or knew the place, what about being first lady has surprised you?

BUSH: Well, I think I've had a lot of surprises. One is just I'm surprised and overwhelmed with the support that we get from around the country; the letters we get from people.

I'm also, and I don't know why this surprises me, I should have known this, but I'm also thrilled with the forum that I have to talk about issues that are important to me. I'm a former school teacher and school librarian. And I'm just amazed, really, that I have this opportunity, because my husband is president. I guess I knew it, but I guess I didn't really realize the full impact of it.

For instance, when I was in California a couple of weeks ago at the San Diego Naval Yard, talking about the Troops to Teachers program, which is a program that tries to encourage retired military, who retire at a very young age to become teachers. It's a federally funded program.

Now you can hear the helicopter.

KING: There it goes. Listen to that, folks. And we're pretty far removed. I mean, it's out on the lawn.

BUSH: Yes. It's exciting.

KING: Is it up now?

BUSH: It's up now.

KING: Have you been on it?

BUSH: I've been on it, sure.

KING: Oh, yes, you go to Camp David.

BUSH: Go to Camp David.

KING: What's Camp David like?


KING: Because we're not allowed to go there.

BUSH: Camp David is a camp. It really is. It's rustic cabins that are very nice. It's beautiful. And beautiful walks that the president and I get to have together.

KING: Nice now, too. It's spring time.

BUSH: Nice now with spring. It's a little bit behind Washington, so probably the next time we go the daffodils will be in full bloom there. It's just enough up in the Maryland mountains, be cooler and colder, actually. It's covered with snow this week.

KING: It's a little cold today.

We'll be right back with Laura Bush, first lady of the United States, from the White House.

Don't go away. Stay right there.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And will to the best of my ability.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

BUSH: Preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.


BUSH: So help me God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.




KING: We're back with Laura Bush.

OK, you like having the forum?

BUSH: That's right.

KING: What don't you like? Everything can't be perfect.

BUSH: Well, actually, it's very nice.

KING: There's nothing you don't like?

BUSH: Not getting quite enough Tex-Mex food, although I think the White House chefs are working on that.

KING: You've got to train them.

BUSH: And then, of course, I can't really just walk out the front door and go for a walk, although I still can get to walk at Camp David and at our ranch when we go back home.

KING: The first lady of Texas could do that, right?

BUSH: The first lady of Texas. I could walk straight out of the governor's mansion door, right down to the river, the Colorado River, often, and it was a beautiful walk along Town Lake.

KING: So that's something you can't do, you'd like to do?

BUSH: That's right. KING: You can't go to a...

BUSH: But I can do that.

KING: ... shopping mall, can you?

BUSH: I can go to a shopping mall. I can go to a shopping mall. I haven't yet.

KING: But people trail you everywhere you...

BUSH: No, they don't, really. They don't really trail me. I took my garden club -- my Austin garden club came up for a tour. It gave me a great excuse to visit beautiful gardens all over Washington, including Mt. Vernon. And...

KING: Nobody bugged you?

BUSH: No, they didn't, really. They made me feel great, in fact. They waved and yelled out, "Hello, Mrs. Bush.

KING: What's your...

BUSH: I like that.

KING: What's your perspective of the role? It's not paid. You're not paid. You have no official duty, right, official duty?

BUSH: Well, no official duty.

KING: Where do you see the...

BUSH: I'm not elected.

KING: What do you think the role is?

BUSH: Well, I think, really, Americans think the first lady of our country can do whatever she wants to do and...

KING: I'll bet.

BUSH: ... which I think is great. I think it's really good. I think, in fact, we've always benefited from our first ladies, from whatever they're interested in. Certainly Lady Bird Johnson, who's one of my favorites, another Texas first lady...

KING: What a lady.

BUSH: ... and her interest in the use of native plants on the roadside and in landscape really changed our country.

KING: No billboards here.

BUSH: Well, there are only three states, I think, actually, were able to not do...

KING: But here in this area, you don't see one.

BUSH: ... I know it. I like that.

KING: Who else did you admire? Did you admire Jackie?

BUSH: Sure, absolutely. And one of the things that I've been able to do, that's been really fun for me, that I've loved doing is move in furniture that's been in storage that belonged to other presidents. And one thing I brought upstairs to the long hall that's upstairs in the living quarters is a beautiful French desk that Jackie Kennedy brought into the White House in 1962. And for the president's Treaty Room, which is the office upstairs in the residence, I brought in Grant's furniture, which George really likes.

KING: Where do they keep that?

BUSH: Well, they keep it -- it's in storage, but it's in museum storage, really. It's taken care of -- all these pieces that aren't currently being used are taken care of like museum pieces, which they are, really.

KING: Was the transition with Hillary easy? Did that...

BUSH: Very.

KING: ... meeting go well?

BUSH: Mrs. Clinton was very generous with her time and her advice as well. We toured the whole White House. We talked about everything, from closets to ways to raise children in the White House and I really appreciate that.

KING: What about your mother-in-law?

BUSH: Of course my mother-in-law was great. I did call her when we were getting ready to move here. And she's the kind of person I can say, "What should I bring?" and she'll tell me.

KING: When we first interviewed you and your husband together, there in Austin, you said how much you admired the way the Clintons handled Chelsea, that whole raising of a...

BUSH: Yes.

KING: ... child. Do you understand the difficulty of it, and how has it been for you with the two girls?

BUSH: Well, I knew the difficulty already because, of course, George and I had already been the children of a president, ourselves.

KING: But older children.

BUSH: Even though we were much older -- that's right -- and we didn't live in the same town.

But one thing that I really -- one reason we were reassured when George decided to run was because we felt like the press had given Chelsea the opportunity to have a private life, and we hoped and feel, really, fairly assured that the press will do that for our girls.

KING: And they have, haven't they?

BUSH: And they have.

KING: Except for the tabloids.

BUSH: That's right, the tabloids haven't.

KING: And how do you deal with something like that? What do you do?

BUSH: Well, it's difficult, but also, I think people know that half of what's in the tabloids is not true. I hope people read that with a grain of salt.

And of course, I wish they'd give -- they as well as the mainstream press -- would give Barbara and Jenna privacy.

KING: Does it bother you when the tabloids do it?

BUSH: Well, it bothers me...

KING: Or are you able to shrug it off?

BUSH: ... I shrug it off...

KING: How do they handle it?

BUSH: They shrug it off. They also shrug it off.

KING: They do?

BUSH: They know, they hear from their peers at their schools when some member of the tabloid press is around their campus, offering money for pictures or whatever...

KING: Really?

BUSH: ... and I think that's too bad.

KING: The biggest concern you had early on had to be the health of Dick Cheney.

BUSH: Well, that's of concern, but I think I also feel very reassured about that.

I love Lynne and Dick Cheney. Lynne gave me a new book yesterday. She and I love to share books with each other.

KING: She writes books.

BUSH: She writes books as well, but she loves to read like I do, and we share books. KING: What book did she give you?

BUSH: Yesterday, she gave me a new book by Thomas Mallon. It's a brand new book. In fact, I just recently read the review of it. And I haven't started it, but...

KING: A novel?

BUSH: It's a novel.

KING: Are you going to write a book?

BUSH: I doubt if I'll write a book. I might write a book about Barney at the White House. Wonder where I got that idea?

KING: Barney at the White House?


BUSH: Barney is our new puppy.

KING: And we're going to meet him later.

BUSH: I think you're going to get to meet him.

KING: We'll be right back with Laura Bush from the White House. Don't go away.




KING: We're touching on a wide range of issues with Laura Bush. How do you like all -- or don't you like the comedy treatment of you: the "Saturday Night Lives," the new show that deals just with you and your husband?

BUSH: Fortunately, I haven't seen any of those.

KING: You don't watch them?

BUSH: Are you kidding?

KING: You know what's going on, though, right?

BUSH: I know what's going on.

KING: Because you have a good sense of humor.

BUSH: I have a great sense of humor, but...

KING: Don't like that?

BUSH: No. I mean, I don't really want to watch those. I don't really watch that much television of any kind. We watch a lot of baseball.

KING: I know that. And you don't have a satellite dish here.

BUSH: We don't. We just have cable here.


BUSH: We may have to get a dish so we can watch the Rangers.

KING: The Rangers go out to the West Coast and he can't watch the Texas Rangers?


BUSH: Yes. That's too bad.

KING: Do you think the humor is in poor taste, from what you hear of it? Do you think -- or you don't like political humor?

BUSH: It sounds like it, from what I hear of it, but I have no idea really.

KING: What was it like during those days -- we didn't get to talk to you during those days -- of waiting on Florida?

BUSH: Well, now that seems like a long time ago. But, you know, the campaign was over. And then it really wasn't over. I mean, we were shocked, like everyone in America, that it didn't end on Election Day. But at the same time, the campaign was over. We weren't campaigning any longer.

We were at the home. We were waiting to see what happens. And I think we were just like everyone in America, we were on pins and needles waiting to hear what happened. But also, it was totally out of our hands at that point.

George had run a wonderful campaign. He'd given it 100 percent. And we were very proud, both of us, of the campaign. And we just waited to see. And he just keep winning each recount.

KING: Were you ready to accept the possibility of losing this?

BUSH: Sure.

KING: Had you settled that in your mind?

BUSH: I think we -- I actually think we thought all along he would win. You know, every time there was a new count, he was winning. But we also knew there was a possibility he wouldn't.

KING: Had to be difficult for your brother-in-law, Jeb. I saw him last week in New York. He's still getting over it.

BUSH: He is, I think. Jeb's a great guy. He's been a really wonderful governor for Florida. And he's a wonderful brother, as well. KING: But it had to be tough that night.

BUSH: Yes, I think it was tough.

KING: His state.

BUSH: Yes.

KING: When you were finally -- it was finally done, was it more relief than anything else?

BUSH: It was relief, but it was also -- we never really had a vacation. We never stopped, because then we had to hurry at that point to set up the transition, to arrange the inauguration, all of those things. We were behind, really, in getting started. And I think, one credit to my husband is that he was able to get the transition going and bring in what I think is a really wonderful team. He's got a great team.

I'm proud that a lot of women are at the table over there. More -- he has a big number of senior advisers who are women.

KING: Were you consulted?

BUSH: About the team?

KING: Yes.

BUSH: To some extent. A lot of the team I already knew. Margaret La Montagne, who's the domestic policy adviser with us on the staff in Austin. She's an expert in education.

KING: Condoleezza, you knew.

BUSH: Dr. Condoleezza Rice, I knew her. She's not only a great adviser, but she's also a wonderful friend. And we had the opportunity to be with her a lot. She, a lot of times, travels with us, because somebody from the national security team always travels with the president. And I love having her along.

KING: First ladies all have different roles: Eleanor Roosevelt to Hillary, very activist; Barbara, kind of activist; Lady Bird, in a different way; Jackie, in a different way.

Do you like being involved in the politics of this?

BUSH: Well, I do to some extent. I love to talk about education. I love to talk about the policy of education.

KING: I know that, but, I mean, do you like to talk about...

BUSH: I like to talk about personalities.

KING: You do?

BUSH: I do, privately, with my husband. But just like every couple, I mean, George and I mainly talk about what we're going to do over the weekend or funny things our animals did. And we talk about our girls a lot, even though we don't get to see them enough. And we don't sit around and talk politics...

KING: You don't?

BUSH: ... all the time. No.

KING: So you can leave that and put it aside?

BUSH: Sure.

KING: How about when times when days are tough?

BUSH: We do then. But I also think we get a lot of solace with being with each other and maybe not talking about the tough issues at those moments. It gives us a little bit of relief.

KING: You like politics?

BUSH: I do like politics.

KING: You didn't at first, right?

BUSH: I didn't think I really wanted to meet George when our friends were going to introduce me, because I didn't think I liked politics, but come to find out...


BUSH: ... I did.

KING: He was a little concerned about how you'd like running for this office.

BUSH: He was, I think.

KING: But you sure liked that. You liked campaigning.

BUSH: I liked it. I like campaigning. I like meeting people. Politics is all about people. You have an opportunity to meet people everywhere.

KING: Back with more of Laura Bush. We're in the Diplomatic -- what is it? -- Diplomatic...

BUSH: Reception Room.

KING: Reception Room. This is when a new ambassador comes to the United States and meets the president, it happens in this room. That's where we're happening right now.

We'll be right back.



KING: I mentioned the room we're in, the Diplomatic Room. And Laura knows a lot about this place, especially this room. Jackie Kennedy had an effect on this room, right?

BUSH: That's right. She brought in this beautiful old wallpaper which I think was found in a house in Virginia or in Georgetown, a Zuber wallpaper. It's called the Seven Scenes of America. And, of course, they're all scenes on the East Coast.

KING: There was no West Coast.

BUSH: Like Boston Harbor and the Niagara Falls and the Natural Bridge in Virginia.

This week, on Tuesday night, this coming week, there's going to be a new show at the Metropolitan Museum in New York about Jackie Kennedy. It's celebrating the 40th anniversary of her emergence as first lady. It's part fashions, part of her beautiful clothes. She had such beautiful style.

KING: Are you going?

BUSH: I'm going to the opening on Tuesday night. But it's also about her renovation of the White House. And I think she really brought so much style to the White House. And, certainly, this room is an example of that.

KING: Are other first ladies going?

BUSH: I think all the other first ladies are on the Honorary Committee. I don't know if any others are going.

KING: Is there a club of first ladies?

BUSH: I think there is sort of a club of first ladies.

KING: You're unique.

BUSH: I loved being with Nancy Reagan when the president and I were with her a few weeks ago at the christening of the Ronald Reagan, the ship.

KING: She told me about hitting that


BUSH: She was so worried about breaking a champaign bottle. But, of course, she was a lot stronger than she thought.

KING: But there is a group. I mean, you're...

BUSH: There is a group. There are a lot of living first ladies. I know -- I've met all of them over the years. I didn't ever get to meet Jackie Kennedy, which I'm sorry. But, of course, Lady Bird Johnson and Barbara Bush...

KING: You have the family here for...

BUSH: ... I know well. And Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter, I've met them. And...

KING: You had the Kennedys here for the showing of "Thirteen Days," right?

BUSH: That's right, "Thirteen Days," which was a very, very moving time. It was moving to sit by the brother of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy during that movie. At the end, at the very end of the movie when there's just the shadow of Jack Kennedy and the voice that sounds so much like his, it was very moving to be with Senator Ted Kennedy for that.

I think, when you live here -- I mean, like when I was talking about bringing in the furniture of Grant and the big desk that Jackie Kennedy brought into the White House, you're so aware of all the people who lived here before you. And you...

KING: You are?

BUSH: ... really get a true sense of history and you know you're just a temporary occupant of this house, and that this White House is so beloved, I think, by the American people. It's a symbol of our country.

KING: So it doesn't get heady?

BUSH: It doesn't really get heady because you're so aware. And, certainly, I think the president that you're the most aware of is Abraham Lincoln, the larger-than-life president and the president who served at a time, I think, we all hope the most difficult time our country will face. And that was our own Civil War -- but because of the Lincoln Bedroom and the fabulous paintings and portraits there are of Lincoln at the...


KING: His imprint here is the largest.

BUSH: That's right. Yes.

KING: How -- were you bothered with the pardon issue?

BUSH: The pardon issue.

KING: You know, the Clinton pardon.

BUSH: Well, not really. I mean, I think that we were looking ahead at that point.

KING: So you didn't talk it about it a lot or conjecture about it a lot?


KING: You tend to go forward?

BUSH: I think we really go forward. I mean, we've had to. We had a very short time for -- like I was saying before, for the transition and to assemble the team. And we're looking ahead. I think you have to, I think, when you're a president. We certainly are aware of the past here because we're living in a house that all the presidents have lived in since Adams. But I think you also look ahead.

KING: Do you ever hear any weird sounds?


BUSH: No, but I understand that some other families have.

KING: Have reported -- what, Lincoln, right...

BUSH: Yes.

KING: ... supposedly walks the rooms?

BUSH: That's right. I think, maybe Nancy Reagan -- has she ever told you about that?


BUSH: I think she heard...

KING: We'll be right back with Laura Bush. Lots to talk about, including specifically what she wants to do in education. Don't go away.




KING: We're at the White House with Laura Bush, discussing the first 100 days. It hasn't reached 100 days. Why is that a magic figure, 100 days?

BUSH: I don't know exactly.

KING: Why not 106 days?


Who picked out this 100 days?

BUSH: I'm still remembering January 20. KING: The one flak you had -- and we have to ask about it -- is you were on, I guess, a show somewhere, where you were asked about abortion. And you said you never thought it would be made illegal again in this country. Would you elaborate on that?



KING: You don't want to elaborate?

BUSH: No, I don't want to elaborate on that.

KING: But you stand on...

BUSH: I'd rather talk about the issues that I'm most interested in, which have to do with education and...

KING: But you haven't changed your statement about it?

BUSH: I'd like to talk about the issues -- no, I haven't, of course. But I want to talk about other issues, Larry.

KING: Now, what specifically -- all right, let's take an example: We hear about shootings in schools.

BUSH: That's right.

KING: We hear about violence in schools. We also hear statistics that one of the safest places you could be in America is a school...

BUSH: Well, I mean, I think...

KING: ... and that violence is down in schools.

BUSH: I think that's probably really the case.

KING: Murder is up. Violence is down. Explain that.

BUSH: But I also think we have these, you know, terrible tragedies that we all hear about. And we hear about it a lot. And I think that scares people. And people know about them.

I do think violence is down in schools. But I also think we -- you know, we hear about things constantly -- because of the media -- that we hope never happens.

And I really think about teachers. I think about teachers now in schools, since I'm a teacher myself. And we all worry about students. We all think about the parents of students and whether or not they're worried about their children. But I also worry about teachers. And I hope that people will still consider teaching as a profession.

Now we have so many options, options of other jobs that pay a lot more than teaching. But, still, I think, teaching is one of the most important professions. Teachers have a more profound impact on our society than almost any other.

KING: Someone once said: Maybe, your first- and second-grade teacher is the most important teacher in your life.

BUSH: Yes, that's right.

KING: But can a teacher -- we hear a lot about troubled kids and that maybe some of these kids at Columbine and other places could have been spotted, should have been spotted. Is that a teacher's role?


BUSH: Well, I think it's a teacher's role. I think it's a student's role. I think it's the community's role. I think it's the parents' role. All of us need to be watching and looking at our children and making sure our children are safe and that our children get the help they need.

Yesterday, I happened to have lunch with some Washington friends and my children's kindergarten teacher. It was a group of mothers of children my children's age. When we lived here 12 years ago, we lived in -- it was the public school in Washington that my children went to and their kindergarten teacher.

And we talked about these very issues. And every mother there had volunteered a lot. Some are teachers themselves. And we talked about how we can help children when we know they need help. Parents really don't know what to do. And it's very important for our whole communities to work together so we can figure out ways to help children that need help.

KING: To spot that troubled...

BUSH: Everyone knows who the troubled children are.

KING: The distant child.

BUSH: You know, you know that if you're in a school.

KING: So what do you do, though? What can you do?

BUSH: Well, I think we need to just intervene.

KING: Take action?

BUSH: We need to intervene before it's too late. We need to talk to parents. We need for parents to seek help for their children. We need teachers and principals and community leaders to get together and figure out strategies in each of our communities of ways we can help children that need help.

KING: So you're saying teachers should be active. In other words, if you see a kid like that, call home, call an agency. Don't just...

BUSH: That's right. That's right. And you know what? School rooms and teachers are the last people in America to have telephones. If you think about it, in many schools, still, to this day, you had to go down to the office to use the phone to call a parent...

KING: Yes, that's right.

BUSH: ... and you had to leave your class to go call a parent. And in fact, I think if we had telephones where teachers could call all the time...

KING: Never thought of that. A phone in every room.

BUSH: Sure. And you know, let parents know your son didn't bring his homework today or whatever. I think if we really had really great communication and parents really supported their children's teachers, it'd make a big difference.

KING: Why don't we feel toward teachers the way countries in Europe do, where they're called doctor? They're held in the same esteem, if not higher, than physicians.

BUSH: Probably because we don't pay that much to teachers...

KING: Get what you pay for.

BUSH: ... and in our country, a lot of things are based on how much money people make. And I think people value teachers. I know that. I think people -- most parents really like their child's teacher and really esteem their child's teacher.

KING: Why don't we pay them more?

BUSH: Well, I think because we pay with public money. We do need to pay more. We need to let teaches know how valuable they are, and they're very, very valuable. Every one of us remember a teacher who changed our life in some way.

KING: But you would think, why would someone want to be a teacher? You don't get paid a lot...

BUSH: It's very...

KING: ... you get a lot of abuse.

BUSH: It's a very rewarding profession. I think there are a few...

KING: The rewards are...

BUSH: Well, the rewards are working with children and seeing that you can help children. I think there are very few professions that are as rewarding as teaching. And I think teachers, really good teachers, are called to teach. I think you see it...

KING: You miss teaching?

BUSH: I miss teaching. I love teaching. And I have the opportunity because I visit schools all the time, to still read with children and work with children. But the relationship that teachers have with their students is so important. And I think that's why teachers teach.

KING: What grades did you teach?

BUSH: I taught second, third and fourth and then I was a school librarian.

KING: Oh, second, third and fourth.

BUSH: Oh, that was so fun, though.

KING: Little rascals, though, huh?

BUSH: Oh, they're pretty great. Pretty terrific.

KING: They're finding their oats, though, aren't they?

BUSH: Well, not really. I think they still want to please. Second, third and fourth graders want to please their teachers...

KING: Did anyone bring you an apple?

BUSH: ... and please their parent. I probably got an apple a couple of times.

KING: We'll be right back with Laura Bush. Don't go away.


L. BUSH: "And the voice of the horn calls out as loud as it plays, wake up! For today is your day of days!"





BUSH: ... letters and singing about letters and the sounds letters make.

KING: In the school?

BUSH: In preschool and in Head Start, so that children who maybe don't have a parent who reads to them all the time can still have that same advantage of having been read to and knowing a lot about letters and sounds when they start school, so they're ready to learn to read.

KING: Now, those who go to religious-education schools -- I know the voucher system, we talked about back and forth. Do you think the public should pay for religious school education? BUSH: Well, I mean, I don't have a problem with that. I think that poor people who cannot afford a private education for their children and maybe want one, because they think their local public school is not that good, I think they ought to have the same opportunity that you and I would have if we wanted to choose a private school for our children.

But I understand that vouchers are a local issue. That's an issue for states and for cities and for school districts to determine themselves. It's not a federal issue.

KING: How does a parent know if their school is good?

BUSH: Well, I think there are a lot of ways. Certainly, in our state, in Texas, there's a TAAS test. There's a standardized test that's given to every student, and parents can look and see how their children do at that.

I also think parents need to visit their child's school. They should go up there. They should bring cupcakes to the Valentine party or go up and ask their teacher -- their child's teacher how they can help.


BUSH: PTA is very important.

KING: There's still a PTA?

BUSH: Sure. Sure, absolutely.

KING: My mother was always in the PTA.

BUSH: And I think it's really important for parents to go up and see what's happening at their child's school.

KING: Do you think standardized test are a good way?

BUSH: Well, I think it's important for states to devise their own test. States devise their curriculum. Their state departments of education devise the curriculum they want their students in their state to know, and so I think they should also devise the test to make sure their children are learning what they want them to learn.

KING: More teaching of the arts?

BUSH: More teaching of the arts, I think music and art are very important.

KING: Lot of schools have cut it out due to finance.

BUSH: Exactly, because of financing, but I think it's very important for...

KING: For a well-rounded education. BUSH: ... music and arts be taught in schools. I think it's important for our children to learn discipline. I think they learn discipline from the study of music and art.

KING: Back with more of Laura Bush, first lady of the United States, right after this.





G.W. BUSH: ...said this in New Hampshire. I appreciate preservation. It's what you do when you run for president; you've got to preserve! Oh, I don't have the slightest idea of what I was saying...



KING: What was the inaugural like?

BUSH: the inaugural was so much fun; the whole...

KING: For you?

BUSH: It was just very, very moving and awesome. First, we had our entire family staying with us. My mother and our girls, and then all of George's brothers and sisters and his parents.

KING: Your father-in-law crying.

BUSH: That was so sweet. But for me, when I look back, when we talk about the first 100 days, I think about the very first day of it. January 20, when we stood up there on that platform and George put his hand on the Bible. It was such a moving experience for me.

And, I thought his inaugural address was particularly wonderful. I like the characteristics that he talked about, those characteristics of courage and civility and those characteristics that we want our children to have, and I know Americans want their children to have as well.

KING: Had he read it to you?

BUSH: He had to read it to me, and that was a very moving time. And then, of course, it was wonderful and awesome actually to go to the luncheon afterwards in Statuary Hall.

We'd been to that luncheon three times before, because we were there for the two Reagan inaugurals and then for President Bush's -- number 41, as we now call him -- his inauguration. And, it was great to be there with all the leaders of the Senate and the House.

KING: Did it annoy you at all that some people say, Bill Clinton got a lot of attention that day? The way he left the office?

BUSH: Not really.

KING: It...

BUSH: I mean, I feel same way, like I said earlier when you asked me about the pardons and I couldn't even remember exactly what you were talking about.


BUSH: I think George and I are very focused on what lies ahead of us. It's important for all of us to remember what is behind us, because we need to learn from that. And certainly in our country we learn, I hope, learn from our history.

But we're also very focused on what's ahead of us and what we can do, now that George is president, what he can do as president and what I can do to help him further our goals, which have to do mainly with education. That's certainly what he's also interested in.

KING: That's his number one thing.

Does the president ever get angry, really angry?

BUSH: Not really. He doesn't. I mean, I told you earlier he needs to work a little bit on patience; he's a little bit impatient.

KING: But he doesn't pound the desk or scream?

BUSH: He doesn't, and he doesn't hold a grudge at all.

KING: Always that way?

BUSH: One of the characteristics I like best about him is that he likes to laugh, and he's funny. And when he's the father of your children, I really like that characteristic. When we had tense moments at home with teenagers, he could usually be funny in a way that would defuse the nervousness and the tension and make everyone laugh.

And he still can do that. I think that's why he gets along well with people, I think that's one of the reasons he can work well with people on both sides of the aisle, because he doesn't take himself seriously. And he loves to needle people, but his needle isn't that mean to people.

KING: He's not awed by the job either, right?

BUSH: Well, I think he is. I mean, I think anyone...

KING: Respects it, but not awed by it. BUSH: He respects it. I wouldn't say awed. But he does certainly respect it. We both do. I mean, we respect this beautiful house we live in. I know Americans respect it. And we respect our government. And we're all lucky to be Americans and to live in this beautiful and majestic country. And I think we see that every day as we travel around our country.

KING: Has President Bush the earlier stayed over yet?

BUSH: Has he stayed here? He has. He stayed here with all of us, with the whole family, the night after the inauguration, that night after the inaugural balls. And he's been back one other time to stay when they came in for a big Washington event. And then he'll be here next week to stay with us.

KING: Does your husband call him much? They're a close family.

BUSH: He calls him pretty much. They're very close. They probably talk on the phone once every couple of weeks.

KING: Of course, he was such an expert on China, I wonder if they had discussions during that period.

BUSH: I think they talked during that time and talked about it. But, you know, his dad is very aware that he is not the president, that George is, and he's a very supportive and loving father. George and I are both very, very lucky to have parents who were stable and loving, and I think that's a huge advantage.

KING: It is luck. It's all roll of the dice, isn't it?

BUSH: That's right, fortunate.

KING: Do you think Barney's a dinosaur? You wait. We'll be right back.




KING: We're back. We have a television first. The first interview, the first live appearance -- well, taped earlier today -- of Barney.

BUSH: Barney will probably say "no comment." He's a very quiet dog. But isn't he cute?

KING: This is a Scottish terrier.

BUSH: This is our new puppy. He's just seven months old. I got him for my birthday, George gave him to me for my birthday. We were actually on my birthday, November 4, campaigning with Governor Christie Todd Whitman in New Jersey, and she mentioned that her dog had these pups. And I said, "Oh, I've always wanted a Scottish terrier." So George said, "OK, great, you can have one for your birthday."

KING: And who named him?

BUSH: The girls named him Barney.

KING: He looks like a Barney.

BUSH: He does have a little bit of a dinosaur head, but actually the girls were too old to have watched the real Barney, the purple Barney on TV. I guess your little boys maybe watch Barney.

KING: Watch him? They're agape. Why is that? He's just a dinosaur.

BUSH: Exactly. He was here for the Easter egg roll, Barney.

KING: Oh yes?

BUSH: The big Barney.

KING: This is beautiful.

BUSH: He's a beautiful...

KING: This is obviously a quality breed, right?

BUSH: He's a very sweet dog, too. He's a quiet little pup. And he's been a great dog, he hasn't chewed up any antique furniture.

KING: Now, who's the other dog?

BUSH: Now, that is Spot, who was born at the White House, Millie's pup. She's 12 years old.

KING: Oh, yes. Well...


BUSH: She was born in 1999 here at the White House. And she's our old dog. So we have our old Spot and her new baby puppy Barney.

KING: So, she didn't go on with the elder Bushes?

BUSH: No, she was ours. She was our puppy.

KING: She was yours -- oh, given to you.

BUSH: She moved to Dallas right after she was born.

KING: How do the two get along?

BUSH: She's lived in the governor's mansion. They get along pretty well. I think Spot might find Barney just a little annoying. But other than that.

KING: A little jealous of Barney? BUSH: That's right.

KING: Trying to get a little more attention.

BUSH: What about the California story of Ernie, our cat, who was -- did you hear that story about Ernie, who, our friend, Brad Freeman took, because we didn't want to move him to the White House because of his six toes, his claws. And we thought he would...

KING: Bother the furniture?

BUSH: ... scratch all the furniture.

KING: So he's keeping him?

BUSH: So he disappeared. And, finally, it was in the newspaper. And a night watchman found him walking along the Avenue of the Stars.


KING: He knows where he comes from, right? So where is he, back home, then?

BUSH: So he's back home with Brad.

KING: He really -- he had six?

BUSH: He had six toes.

KING: So you would worry that he'd damage the furniture?

BUSH: No, it wasn't because there were six; it was just because he would scratch the furniture.

KING: Is Barney always this good?

BUSH: Barney is always this good.

KING: Now, where does Barney sleep?

BUSH: Barney sleeps on the floor of our bedroom. Now I think he wants down so he can run over and smell things.

KING: They don't make a lot of noise?

BUSH: No, he's a very quiet dog. He doesn't bark all the time. He's a really good dog.

KING: Don't they have great faces?

BUSH: They have very funny faces. They have eyebrows and beards and...

KING: How big does he get?

BUSH: He's going to get a little bit bigger. He's pretty big right now, I think -- short legs. He can't jump on the furniture.

KING: Do the girls have dogs?

BUSH: The girls don't have a dog with them. We have one other cat who lives here as well, but she's shy and didn't want to make an appearance.

KING: Is the president a dog lover, too?

BUSH: He's a dog lover. And he really likes cats.

KING: Does his baseball love carry off to you, because he's a baseball...

BUSH: It does. I love baseball. You know, I witnessed 60 baseball games at summer for all those years that we had the Texas Rangers.

KING: I know. Did two baseball dinners here.

BUSH: We had the baseball Hall of Fame, the Hall of Famers here, which was a huge thrill.

KING: I was supposed to come. I didn't find out until late. Broke my heart.


BUSH: And then the president viewed the new movie.

KING: "61."

BUSH: Billy Crystal's new movie, "61," about Roger Maris and the Maris-Mantle race.

KING: Did you see it?

BUSH: I didn't see it.

KING: I hear it's great.

BUSH: I think that it will be great. I'm looking forward to seeing it when it's on.

KING: Now, one other quick thing: your sense of style. Do you sense that what you wear will affect American women?

BUSH: I doubt it.


KING: You don't think about it?

BUSH: Not really.

KING: Do you have a personal designer? BUSH: I have some designers. I have a Dallas designer that I use. And then I have also been wearing other American designers. But I'm not that -- I like pretty clothes, of course, like everybody, but I'm not really that interested in shopping myself, so...

KING: You're not a shop-aholic?

BUSH: No. I like to shop for antique furniture.


KING: It's more expensive.

BUSH: That's right.

KING: Thanks, Laura.

BUSH: Thank you so much, Larry. Thanks a lot. Thanks for being here.

KING: Thanks for a private look.

BUSH: And welcome to the White House.


KING: That's it for this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND; thanks for watching. Good night.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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