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Encore Presentation: Interview with Laura Bush

Aired December 23, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: an encore presentation; a White House one-on-one with first lady Laura Bush. Holiday warmth with the country's comforter in chief next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, December 18, 2001)

KING: We're in the grand foyer of the White House, one week before Christmas, with the first -- do you like being called comforter in chief? I like that.

L. BUSH: Well, thanks. I don't know if I like that or not, but I mean, -- I don't -- it's fine.

KING: You don't? What is your role as you see it?

L. BUSH: Well, I actually don't think I have a role. I think the first lady can do whatever they want. I'm not wild about that word "role." I have an opportunity, I have the chance to work on things that interest me. That's what I've actually already done, working on education.

And since September 11 I've had the opportunity, or maybe I should say the responsibility, to be steady for our country, and for my husband certainly, to still talk about what I was talking about before, which is how we should nurture our children and take care of our children and especially in light of what so many of them saw on television and what they know. We want them to be able to get through this and get through safely and certainly get through with a way that they don't feel vulnerable and afraid.

KING: This house looks so lovely and you've done such a great job. Is this Christmas tempered, you think, by September 11?

L. BUSH: Sure. I mean, I think all of us -- certainly when we decorated this house and the decorators all came -- by the way, they come from around the country, florists and people who want to help decorate -- when they came to decorate these trees, I know all of us thought about the single mother or the single dad who are trying to decorate a tree right now and trying to make their child or their children have a very, very happy holiday, even though they're now missing their spouse.

I know we all think about that, and we want to reach out at this holiday certainly to them, to all the people who lost somebody on September 11; but also to the members of our families of United States military whose families are going to be overseas, and just our neighbors and our friends and our loved ones. It's a really good time during this holiday season to tell everyone again how much we love them, all of our friends and family members.

KING: Were you disappointed that the house, this great house was not open to the public?

L. BUSH: That's right. I am disappointed. It's so beautiful this time of year. And one thing that the White House has are candlelight tours between Christmas and New Year's, such a beautiful time in the evening to see the lights on all these trees. But, you know, that's just what happens.

KING: Did you fight it at all? Did you argue?

L. BUSH: Not really. Not really. I mean, it's our responsibility to make sure that everybody who works here is safe and certainly that any tourists who come here and come through are safe.

I want to thank you for doing a show from here, because now people will get to see what it's like...

KING: And we'll do the walk-through later and show them that magnificent tree. That's incredible what you did with that.

You have spent -- one would guess, your father-in-law was president.

L. BUSH: That's right.

KING: Did you spend other Christmases here with them?

L. BUSH: That's right. We usually came for one Christmas party for those four years that he was president, and then we spent Christmas at Camp David with him and with our whole family.

KING: So this is old hat?

L. BUSH: Well, I wouldn't say it's old hat, but it's always wonderful to get to be here at Christmas, it's such a beautiful, beautiful house to decorate. And certainly the trees -- the reflection of the lights of these trees in the marble floors makes this room look so magical. But I have been here other years.

KING: Do you always feel it's the public's house?

L. BUSH: I always feel it's the public's house. And, you know, before the tours stopped I could hear the tours. There's a screen downstairs, when I walk the dogs out there's a screen that goes right by the door so that we can walk the animals out without seeing the tours, but you always hear them on the other side. Barney usually hears them and rushes through that screen. You can tell people are thrilled to get to see the president's dog.

KING: What was Christmas like growing up for you? L. BUSH: Well, I had a wonderful Christmas. I was an only child -- or am an only child. But I had very loving and stable parents, which I think is a huge advantage. I think any of us who are parents, if we can be loving and stable for our children, we let them start life with a big advantage. But we had all the traditional habits, we did all the certain things. The great Christmas Eve dinner. We happened to open our presents on Christmas Eve.

KING: I was going to ask, that custom...

L. BUSH: And then Santa Claus came on Christmas morning and there were more things under the tree from Santa.

KING: Ah, so you got double dose.

L. BUSH: That's right.

KING: And how were your girls raised? Did they get the same things?

L. BUSH: The very same way, although the Bush family opened their presents on Christmas morning, so we started opening our presents on Christmas morning.

KING: Have you gotten the president's presents yet?

L. BUSH: I have a few presents for him. It's very difficult, I had to admit, to think of something to get the president of the United States.

KING: And what do you get him?

L. BUSH: Well, don't tell him. No, he might watch.


KING: Can you shop normally?

L. BUSH: I shop. I shop...


KING: You just went to a store.

L. BUSH: I've been shopping here in Washington and I shopped in Austin before Thanksgiving when I was there.

KING: We're a week away from Christmas, we're in the Grand Foyer of the White House with Laura Bush. We'll be right back.


L. BUSH: If you take a mouse to the movies, can you see him here with his little tiny clothes? If you take a mouse to the movies -- and if you will look you can see he is sitting on the hood of the little sweatshirt -- do you see him back there? What's he going to want? He will ask you for some popcorn. And when you give him the popcorn, what will he think about? Because it is Christmas. Can anybody guess? What?

He will think about stringing the popcorn to put it on his Christmas tree. He will want to string it together. Then, he will want to hang it on the Christmas tree. So what will you have go do? Get a Christmas tree. Of course. So then you will have go buy him one and on the way home, he will see a snowman in your neighbor's yard and so then he will want to do what? Build a snowman. Then what will he need for a snowman? A carrot for his nose.

When he is all finished he will decide to build a fort. Have you ever built a snow fort? What's he going to do after he builds the snow fort? Can you guess? Throw what?

Then he will want to make some snowballs and have a snowball fight. Can you see him way up here at the top of the snow fort? He made a lot of snowballs, didn't he?




(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, December 18, 2001)


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I might not be able to read without my glasses. Are you ready?

T'was the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. And momma and her kerchief and I in my cap had just settled down for a long winter's nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, to open the shutters and threw up the sash -- looking at out the window, wasn't he?

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow gave the luster of midday to objects below. When what to my wondering eyes should appear but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. With a little old driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be -- Saint Nick. That is different name for -- Santa.

Those are reindeer. That is Saint Nick or -- Santa Claus. That is exactly right. So here he is looking out the window, right? More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came and he whistled and shouted and called them by name, now Dasher, now Dancer now Prancer, and Vixen, on Comet on Cupid on Donder and Blitzen, to the top of the porch, to the top of the wall, now dash away, dash away, dash away, dash away all.

KING: You know, it's funny, Laura Bush, last year at Christmas, I guess you just knew you were going to be first lady, right?

L. BUSH: That's right. We had just found out, just, maybe a week before. I've kept a book, a little journal, every year since my husband and I married, since 1977. And I recorded in that book all the gifts that we gave to our family members, so I could remember from year to year what I'd given people. And when I opened it up and started filling it in this year, I noticed last year was totally blank. Not only did I not record what we gave each other for Christmas, I can't even remember what we gave each other for Christmas.

That holiday was slightly lost in the -- not only that, but our daughter had appendicitis on Christmas Day. So we spent...

KING: I remember that. That's right.

L. BUSH: ... that night in the hospital with our...

KING: That was where?

L. BUSH: In Austin.

KING: What's your most memorable Christmas? Is there a most memorable Christmas?

L. BUSH: Well, I guess, every Christmas seems so memorable. Certainly, the first year we had the girls. They were a month old on December 25, 1981. These two tiny little babies.

KING: Their birthday?

L. BUSH: Their month birthday.

KING: November?

L. BUSH: They were born November 25, and that was a very, sweet time. Of course, we sat around the tree and held babies. Since there were two of them, there was one for each of us to hold.

KING: What were twins like to raise?

L. BUSH: Well, it was hard at the very first. But then I think in a lot of ways it becomes easier, because they're very dependent on each other emotionally and for entertainment, and that's how it's easier.

KING: You're the first lady and you guard this house for four and maybe eight years. But you're first a wife, right, and mother, right? So what -- and relationships have really been impacted since 9/11.

L. BUSH: That's right.

KING: What has been the impact on the Bushes, relating to each other? L. BUSH: Fortunately -- this is very fortunate for us -- we already had a very strong relationship. We already -- and really all through our marriage -- relied on our each other for a lot of things -- for steadiness, for laughter. He always made me laugh; that was one of the reason I liked him when we first met. And that's very important now, I think, for us to be able to laugh with each other is a way for us to reduce the anxiety that we might feel.

Our relationship is just very important. And I think what we all learned, what every American learned on September 11, is how important our relationships are and how we shouldn't let our loved ones leave the house without telling them we love them.

KING: What about the affect now -- they're always children, no matter how old they are -- the affect on the girls of September 11?

L. BUSH: They're doing great. You know, in the first few weeks after September 11, they called a lot more often, they have a little bit of something in their voice that sounded, maybe, a little bit more childish than they had as big 20-year-old girls before that.

And I think that's probably true for everywhere; I'm sure a lot of people heard from their college-aged children or their grown children. I called my mother, I think I told you that before...

KING: Yes.

L. BUSH: ... that morning, September 11, really, because I wanted to hear her voice.

KING: What do you think the effect is -- when you dealt with this a lot as a teacher -- on young children?

L. BUSH: Well, I think it can have a very profound impact on young children if we let them watch -- if we did let them watch television over and over and see those planes crash...

KING: Could have watched it just by accident.

L. BUSH: That's right.

KING: Just walking through the room.

L. BUSH: That's right.

KING: What do you think the effect is? You think it's...

L. BUSH: Well, I hope that people will continue to nurture their children and tell their children that they're safe.

One thing that I think is very important is to read stories at night to your children before they go to bed. And try to put them to bed so they feel secure and loved when they go to bed, and they're less likely to have nightmares, or be afraid during the night.

KING: Because they could sense tension in the house, can't they? L. BUSH: They can. And I also think it's also very important to be honest with them; and for parents to say they're sad, and that they are -- you don't have to burden them with every single feeling you have as a result, but certainly to let them know that it's all right to be sad; that we'll all make it through this together.

KING: The impact on Laura Bush -- all right, we don't like the word "role"; certainly your job, if it could be called that, took on a different responsibility.

L. BUSH: Well, it did. It really -- you know, everyone's job, certainly my husband's job took on a...


L. BUSH: Something that neither of us ever expected or anyone. None of our staff members expected it. When they signed on for jobs in the White House, and they expected that to be a very glamorous job, they never thought that there'd be a day when they would be told to run from the White House and have to evacuate it.

So I think all of us see our jobs in a different way. I think we're much more serious.

But I don't think that's just us that work here in the White House, but I also think that's Americans in general. I think people are looking at what they do for a job, and is that the job they want to have for the rest of their lives? Would they rather do something like teach people? I hope people would choose to do that.

KING: So changes are occurring?

L. BUSH: That's right.

KING: When was it time for you to laugh again? In other words, comics to tell jokes? When did the nighttime comics become funny?

L. BUSH: Well, I don't know when exactly. I mean, I don't -- when I look back I can't say if it was a week or a month, or...

KING: It took a while though, didn't it?

L. BUSH: It took a while. But at some point...

KING: It was your husband's sense of humor.

L. BUSH: That's right. And all I have to say, we didn't laugh a lot, or any, really. I can't remember any jokes or funny things. But slowly that came back, and I think that's important, and I think it's important for all of us to be able to laugh.

KING: You comfort a lot of people. Who comforts you?

L. BUSH: Well, my husband comforts me. He thinks I comfort him, but the fact is he comforts me. He is very steady. He has always been like that. He's always comforted me in that... KING: So nothing in the way he's acted in all of this has surprised you?

L. BUSH: Not really. He's...

KING: Because people who didn't know him were surprised at how strong...

L. BUSH: That's right. Because I know how strong he is; I know how disciplined he is. He's very, very disciplined.

And the other thing that I see that I think Americans are also seeing -- for instance, when he went to ground zero on that Friday after September 11 and when they yelled -- the firemen yelled, "We can't hear you," and yelled back, "Well, I can hear you and America can hear you."

KING: That was very moving.

L. BUSH: That really is the way my husband relates to people. He really likes people. He's very quick to empathize on the way people feel. And that impresses me, it really impresses me.

KING: We'll be right back with Laura Bush. And later we'll give you a little mini-tour of what unfortunately you can't get to visit yourself. We'll be right back with the first lady, don't go away.


G. BUSH: Thank you all. I want you all to know -- it can't go any louder -- I want you all to know that America today is on bended knee in prayer for the people whose lives were lost here, for the workers who work here, for the families who mourn, this nation stands with the good people of New York City and New Jersey and Connecticut as we mourn the loss of thousands of our citizens -- I can hear you!


I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people...


And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.






(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, December 18, 2001)


G. BUSH: Tonight for the first time in American history, a Chanuka Menorah will be lit at the White House residence. It is a symbol that this house may be a temporary home for Laura and me, but it is the people's house, and it belongs to people of all faiths. Laura and I wish all the people of Jewish faith in America and Israel and around the world many joyous Chanukas in the years ahead. And all right, now we call on young Talia to help us light the candles.

Thank you so much for being here.



KING: Christmas is first and foremost a time of faith. It has become other things, too and, I guess, excepted world-around as -- whatever your faith is, there's a certain feeling at Christmas.

How important is faith?

L. BUSH: It's been important to me and to my husband really our whole lives.

KING: Well, your husband was a born-again, though, right?

L. BUSH: I don't know if he would say that. But certainly he was an acolyte in the Episcopal Church as a young man, as a child -- I mean, as a -- still in high school. So, you know, church has always been important to him, and he went with his family to church every single Sunday just like I did, you know, from childhood on. So it's really a lifelong -- faith has a lifelong importance to both of us.

But now, I think, it has even more of an importance, because we are comforted by our faith, we are strengthened by it. And also I think we're all so much aware, all Americans are so much more aware of our precious freedoms, and one of those is the freedom to worship however we want to.

KING: Or not want to.

L. BUSH: Or not worship, if we don't want to.

And we're a country of many, many faiths. And we're a very diverse country. And now, since September 11, I think people realize that more than maybe they did before that. And that's certainly one of the most precious things about our country.

KING: Why didn't September 11 cause you to doubt the faith?

L. BUSH: Well, I don't know. You know, that's a good question, and that's certainly the age-old question that everyone thinks about.

KING: "Why, oh Lord," right? L. BUSH: And certainly there are times in my life when I did doubt because of things that happened to me. But at this point I find a lot of comfort in my faith. And I also just think that life is such a gift to all of us, and the lives that we lost on September 11 were gifts to us and certainly to all the people that loved them.

So I think in a lot of ways I guess my faith is even stronger than it was before September 11.

KING: What do you say to the -- you discussed it earlier -- those people who are decorating a tree tonight who don't have a loved one? And we've talked to some of them.

L. BUSH: That's certainly one of the saddest thoughts. And every...

KING: Christmas can be very sad.

L. BUSH: That's right. Every holiday is like that, and not just for people who lost someone on September 11, but every holiday all of us remember the people who were with us at another time that aren't with us now, our grandparents or our parents. Certainly, I always think of my father at Christmas. And it's a time for us to be thankful that we had those people in our lives, but there's always something slightly bittersweet about facing a holiday without a loved one. And for so many families, and so many young families, this will make this Christmas I'm sure the hardest Christmas they've ever had.

KING: Have you seen the tree they've opened down at the site, at ground zero?

L. BUSH: No, I haven't.

KING: It's a beautiful idea and a great idea.

What do you think they ought to do there, by the way?

L. BUSH: I don't know. I do think there ought to be some sort of memorial there. I just went last weekend, last Friday, a week ago, for the first time. I've been in New York, of course, but I really had not had the nerve, to be perfectly frank, to go to ground zero. But I was there just on a private trip with some friends of mine, mainly Texas friends...

KING: No photographers following you around?

L. BUSH: No.

KING: What was it like for you?

L. BUSH: You know, it was like we expected it to be in so many...

KING: It was the hardest day of my life...

L. BUSH: I mean, all of us know without having been there, because we've seen it so much on television. But the devastation of it is so overwhelming that in person you're, you know, you're stunned by it. I mean, it's stunning. That's what happened. We were stunned by what happened on September 11.

KING: How do you react to the way people -- the Giulianis, the firemen, the police -- have reacted to this?

L. BUSH: Well, that's what's so great about our country, and that's what we see. That's another one of the good thing that came out of the horrible, horrible happening on September 11, and that is that we really got to see once again the character of our country. We got to see how precious our freedoms are. We started not taking for granted the loves ones that we had. But also, we got to see how terrific Americans are. And it was just so important and so overwhelming, I think, for us to see. So many people sacrificed, you know, not only sacrificed by giving their blood, but literally sacrificed their lives to help people.

KING: So that's, kind of, a silver lining in a sense to see.

L. BUSH: It is. It is.

KING: There can be good out of bad.

L. BUSH: That's right. That's what I put, the Bible verse, Psalm 27, that I put in our Christmas card. The Christmas card was already well into the works by September 11. We had the artist do the artwork way last summer and it was actually at the printer. But I changed the verse to Psalm 27, the part that read, "I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."

Because that's what I think happened. We saw a handful of people commit a horrible crime, but at the same time we saw hundreds and thousands of people do good things. And that's what I really think happened on September 11.

KING: You mentioned going to New York with friends. Can you have any kind of a personal life?

L. BUSH: I can. And I went that day with a group of friends, a couple of New Yorkers and then some Texas friends that were here. And one of my friends, in fact, had never been to New York before. She said, "I'm not going to believe this," she not only went to New York for the first time, but she went with the first lady.

KING: What did she think of it?

L. BUSH: She loved it.

KING: Do you love New York?

L. BUSH: I love New York.

KING: We'll be back with some more moments with Laura Bush at this table, and then we'll do a little walk.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Right back. Don't go away.


L. BUSH: And now for the very (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fabulous ginger bread house, this year the ginger bread house is the White House as it looked and as the plans were for it when John Adams, the first resident lived here. This was before we had the portico share on the front, well before the Truman balcony, this is the way it looked then.

This White House was built, the mortar is chocolate. It weighs 130 pounds and our chef, our pastry chef, Rowland, that I know all of you know, who is right here behind me, once again has made a really fabulous creation. He does this every year and this is a really wonderful one, so congratulations on it. Barney is here, and Spotty is here and Barney's favorite thing to chase at the ranch in Armadillo came in from Texas to be here at the White House.




(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, December 18, 2001)

G. BUSH: It is now my honor to invite Leon Patterson and Faith Elsath and Laura to join me up here as we light the national Christmas tree.


Leon and Faith's fathers, Major Clifford Patterson and Lt. Commander Robert Elsath, served in the United States military. Both of these good men were lost in the attack on the Pentagon. Leon and Faith, we thank you for helping us celebrate Christmas. You remind us of the comfort of Christmas, that hope never fails, and love never ends. And now you would please help Laura light up our beautiful tree.

L. BUSH: Ready? Leon, you want to help me? Got to push, ready?





(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, December 18, 2001)

KING: We're back with Laura Bush.

This is the Grand Foyer. I like that. L. BUSH: That's right. This is the beautiful Grand Foyer. The stairs that are in here are the stairs we come down before a state dinner, or the president comes down before a state dinner.

Actually, before the West Wing was built, citizens would come in here and mill around. And then they would go upstairs to where the president's office is and mill around upstairs in that great hall.

KING: They used to eat lunch on the lawn, right?

L. BUSH: That's right.

KING: Citizens?

L. BUSH: Yes.

KING: Different times.

L. BUSH: Sadly.

KING: Former presidential speech writer Peggy Noonan says, "Tragedy cracks people open and makes their real selves come out, and what comes out of Laura Bush is a pioneer women." Do you see yourself that way, heading west in the wagon?

L. BUSH: No, not really. Although, I will have to say that a lot of Texas women see themselves as pioneer women, probably.

KING: You don't?

L. BUSH: Just because we -- not that we had to be pioneers, but we certainly know what it might have been like, even from my grandmother, who lived in Lubbock, Texas, in 1927 in the -- you know, lived there and lived through the Dust Bowl, while my other grandmother, who moved to El Paso, Texas, through those same years.

KING: But you don't see yourself...

L. BUSH: I wouldn't say that.

KING: ... forging that way?

Are you hoping for any special gift?

L. BUSH: Not really. I have everything. Just like buying a gift for the president of the United States, it's pretty hard to buy a gift for the first lady.

KING: Have you hinted at anything?

L. BUSH: I haven't hinted at anything. I told him that I really don't -- I can't think of anything I need or want.

KING: What do you get the girls?

L. BUSH: I actually have over-bought for the girls, by mistake. KING: Don't we all.

L. BUSH: By mistake. Started shopping and then...

KING: Not a mistake.

L. BUSH: Before I knew it, I had too much for them, but it was fun.

KING: The solicitor general of the United States, Ted Olson, lost his wife on American Airlines 77. She was a frequent guest on this show. What do you think of that? Did you know Barbara?

L. BUSH: I think it's very, very sad. I didn't really know Barbara. I know him, of course; I've met him. I didn't really know her. She and I corresponded a couple of times.

KING: He's held up very well.

L. BUSH: He has, I think. I understand that he has.

KING: All right, you see an increase in good works, Americans wanting to be more of service. Some people have said, "Why don't you talk more about sacrifice?" Apparently, except for delays at airports, we haven't sacrificed very much in this war.

L. BUSH: Well, that's how lucky we are, I guess, as Americans that we haven't. But certainly, the people who were lost on September 11, those families have sacrificed a terrible, terrible sacrifice -- totally unexpected and horrible. And all of us, as we grieve for them or thought about them, have, you know, realized what sort of sacrifice they made.

We invited the first grade from a school that's very close to the Pentagon here for the traditional reading of "The Night Before Christmas." And we invited the school because it was the closest school to the Pentagon and, in fact, some of the children actually were on the playground and saw the plane fly into the Pentagon. But the principal's husband was in the Pentagon, and he was killed.

So we see the sad stories over and over in our country, and that's what we don't want to forget. We don't want to forget those people that were lost.

KING: Never going to go away, is it?

L. BUSH: No.

KING: 9/11...

L. BUSH: No. I think about it when I read the New York Times, we see obituaries every day and it goes on and on and on and on, and so sad. As my husband said at the memorial here, the third month memorial, every single one of those people was the most important person in the world to someone. Those people are lonely now without them. KING: It's a great thing, through, the Times is doing, don't you think? They're going to do it until every person...

L. BUSH: Oh, yes. It's really great.

KING: Did you tell Good Housekeeping that your New Year's resolution is to stick to a diet?


L. BUSH: That's always my New Year's resolution.

KING: Do you have a weight problem? Have you every had a weight problem?

L. BUSH: Well, not really. Well, I have, of course. Not really.


KING: Do you worry...

L. BUSH: Doesn't everyone has a weight problem?

KING: Do you worry about what you eat?

L. BUSH: Sure, I watch what I eat. I'm pretty careful about it, but not careful enough.

KING: And the other resolution?

L. BUSH: Let me see what my other resolutions are. I always have the same ones.

KING: That means you don't stick to them.

L. BUSH: And I was kidding with the Good Housekeeping staff. I mean, I wasn't really kidding, of course, I was going to lose five pounds, but never -- maybe 10 pounds.


KING: Are you into designers and all that? We always hear about the first ladies and favorite -- who designs your clothes? Do you have a designer?

L. BUSH: No. When I was going to New York a couple of weeks ago, I visited two different designers.

KING: Did you buy stuff?

L. BUSH: I did buy some things.

KING: Have we seen them yet?

L. BUSH: Not yet. Not yet. I think they're for spring wardrobe.

KING: Christmas Day, now what's the plan? You going to be in the White House?

L. BUSH: No. We're going to be at Camp David.

KING: Do you stay in the White House until, when, Christmas Eve?

L. BUSH: We'll stay in the White House until the Saturday before.

KING: The 22nd?

L. BUSH: Yes.

KING: Then you go to Camp David.

L. BUSH: Then we go to Camp David with all of our family.

KING: And that's where gifts will be opened and Christmas celebrated.

L. BUSH: That's right. That's where gifts will be opened.

KING: What do you eat, turkey?

L. BUSH: Well, that's actually a good question, because I've been thinking about that. I can't decide whether to have the traditional turkey and dressing, or to maybe do something like beef tenderloin. We might do that this year, have a dinner instead of a...

KING: Beef tenderloin? Mashed potatoes?

L. BUSH: That's right. Potatoes and/or something.

KING: Lemon meringue pie?


L. BUSH: Well, we might have to have the pumpkin and the pecan pie.

KING: And then go where?

L. BUSH: And then we'll go to the ranch.

KING: Out there in now-famous Crawford, Texas.

L. BUSH: That's right.

KING: Vladimir Putin's favorite extra vacation spot, right? And spend how long there: through New Year's?

L. BUSH: Yes. Stay through New Year's Day, which will be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to that. And that'll be a great rest for us. A lot of friends will come from the Austin and the Dallas area. A lot of our friends will come spend New Year's with us.

KING: And the girls will stay right through before going back to school.

L. BUSH: That's right.

KING: One other thing, they've really had their privacy, haven't they?

L. BUSH: They have. And I really, really appreciate that, except for one little...

KING: Incident.

L. BUSH: Incident, the press has left them alone. And I appreciate that very much, and especially since September 11. I really appreciate that the press has let them be by themselves.

KING: They did the same with Chelsea, too.

L. BUSH: They did.

KING: Which is unusual for us.

L. BUSH: Yes.

KING: When we come back Laura Bush and I are going to show you a little bit of this magnificent house, at this wonderful time of the year. Don't go away.


G. BUSH: A great writer has said that the struggle of humanity against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting. When we fight terror we fight tyranny. And so we remember. We remember the perfect blueness of the sky that Tuesday morning. We remember the children traveling without their mothers when the planes were hijacked. We remember the cruelty of murderers, and the pain and anguish of murdered.

Every one of the innocents who died on September the 11th. Was the most important person on earth to somebody. Every death extinguished a world. We remember the courage of the rescue workers, and the outpouring of friendship, and sympathy, from nations around the world. We remember how we felt that day, our sadness. The surge of love for our country, our anger, and our determination to right this huge wrong.




(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, December 18, 2001)


L. BUSH: Well, we are so excited today to accept the White House Christmas tree coming from the Bowersocks (ph) from Middleburg, Pennsylvania. This is also a part of the National Christmas Tree Association and this accepting the tree from National Christmas Tree Association, from an American Christmas tree grower is a tradition that started during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. This is the very first step in a very exciting Christmas season, and so we are thrilled to have this big beautiful tree that will go in the Blue Room.

We want to thank you all very, very much, as well for being a part of it. Thanks so much for being with us today. This season, especially, this Christmas season, when we will be dealing with issues that none of us expected to be dealing with. Being with our families around the Christmas tree, all the different traditions, and rituals that families have for around the holiday season are more important than ever. So we are thrilled and excited to accept this tree on behalf of all Americans, for our beautiful White House.

KING: We think it appropriate to end this program, tonight, one week before Christmas with the first lady by showing you a little bit of the cross hall, here, right next to the grand foyer. We start with this -- all these trees are decorated with the white flavor, right? The snow.

BUSH: That's right with the snow and the white lights, and the tinsel and I think they are so pretty and so fresh. And they're all real, so --

KING: Was this you personal touch? Was this the way you wanted it?

BUSH: We discussed early on, months ago what we wanted the Christmas to be like, and I thought this would be a really pretty hallway.

KING: Now over here we have --

L. BUSH: That is right our theme was home for the holidays, and we had -- we wrote off to each of these former presidents's homes, which are all museums now, or places that people can visit. And got the plans from them and then our carpenter, the White House carpenter and plumbers and electricians built them. This is Monticello, obviously here in Charlottesville.

KING: The Jefferson house.

L. BUSH: The most beautiful house to visit. And when you visit it you are so aware of how brilliant Jefferson was.

KING: He designed it.

L. BUSH: That is right, and all of the things in it is different inventions, and show what a really brilliant man he was.

KING: Now, the picture above is kind of interesting too.

L. BUSH: That's right, there's old former President Bush. Our President Bush number 41, as we call him. We will be with him Christmas.

KING: He's coming to --

L. BUSH: He's coming to Camp David, as well and we are really looking forward to it.

KING: That's a great portrait, good place to put it.

L. BUSH: It will be fun to be with him. And Barb.

KING: He's eternally young, isn't he?

L. BUSH: He is, he's in great shape.

KING: And we will continue down, through here. Another magnificent tree, how did they get all these trees in here?

L. BUSH: They brought them all in. It was hard to have this many of them. And then say that if you -- with this -- decorate with snow is very easy if you just put tons of it on, which is what they did. Actually 800 pounds, which is a lot.

KING: I think it's beautiful -- the idea not to drop ornaments, the idea being --

L. BUSH: It looks really like a forest in here and very natural, and pretty. Now, this of course is our major Christmas tree, the big one in the Blue Room.

KING: The famous Blue Room.

L. BUSH: The famous Blue Room.

And this tree, also, we did with the tinsel and the snow, but we asked -- we wrote out to the states and asked the states to recommend artists who will do important houses from each of the states. And so here you'll see for instance in Arizona a boot maker -- did the boots, but on it is one of the missions from Nogales (ph). Here is one of the sweetest ornaments, this just came from -- it wasn't here for first day, and this was a teacher who teaches in Arizona. Her name is May Qanchan (ph), and she does the folded paper ornaments, and so she did the Twin Towers, and it was something she had actually done with her students. They did folded paper and they all made the twin towers.

KING: How did you learn of something like that? What, did they call?

L. BUSH: We -- the states, the governors, actually recommended the different artists and that is how we got it.

KING: So all of these come from different states? L. Bush: They come from different states.

KING: As examples of homes in their states.

L. BUSH: That's right. Here is the Hermitage, of course, which was Andrew Jackson's home in Tennessee. And then some people just did their own home.

KING: A little cabin

L. BUSH: That is right. Her's one that just says home sweet home with a little gingerbread house.

KING: Was this your idea?

L. BUSH: It was our idea.

KING: The reasoning being?

L. BUSH: I actually thought of home for the holidays for the theme, I like houses a lot. I like doll houses, I like the idea that these miniature houses look like doll houses. My husband and I, as you know, just built a house. And my dad was a house builder so I really do like houses, and I thought it was a fun theme. Not knowing of course that -- when we chose home for holidays for the theme that we would have people who wouldn't be home for the holidays or be overseas defending our country.

KING: When this was going up and they were decorating, September 11 had already happened.

L. BUSH: That's right.

KING: You were supervising this? Were you here?

L. BUSH: No, I didn't really. This is -- that is one of the great things about being First Lady...

KING: Did it surprise you?

L. BUSH: I went to Camp David for Thanksgiving and when I came back, the decorators were all in town. They built a lot of these things away from the White House and then moved them all in on the Thursday of that week after Thanksgiving. Feels pretty nice to have somebody decorate your tree.

KING: Not bad. Now, how did it get this -- I'm trying to figure out the...

L. BUSH: They do take down the chandeliers. You can tell, obviously.

KING: Yes. And getting all this in here. I mean, that must have been a scene. What did they bring, trucks?

L. BUSH: I think it must have been a scene. I think they had trucks that drove up with all these trees.

KING: This is a gorgeous tree.

L. BUSH: Isn't it beautiful? It's a beautiful tree. It's always beautiful. This is the perfect room, of course, for a tree, the beautiful oval shape. And every year, we have seen the tree a lot, of course, over the years.

KING: I know we are not up there, but what is the family quarters like? Christmas -- do you have a tree like this up there?

L. BUSH: At Camp David, that is right. It will be much simpler, of course. And we are decorating it with cookies, which hopefully that day, on Christmas Day, all the little children, our little nieces and nephews, will be able to eat those cookies. And the president, of course.

KING: How many are there?

L. BUSH: We are going to have 27. My mother and my husband's parents and then all of his brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews.

KING: You said little nephews. Our little -- 14 I guess he is 14.

L. BUSH: Yes, Pierce, he'll be there.

KING: Pierce. Tell us how Pierce is doing since we make Pierce famous around the world.

L. BUSH: He is doing great. I think I talked to his mother this morning, actually, and he is in the midst of finals at his school in Houston.

KING: There is a kid who is going to be a hit.

L. BUSH: That is right.

KING: Right, at whatever it is he chooses, he will be a hit.

L. BUSH: That is right. He is a great kid. Everyone of them are, all of our nieces and nephews. We are lucky to have such a good family.

KING: Happy holidays.

L. BUSH: Thank you. Thank you so much, Larry. Thank you for being here.

KING: Laura Bush at the White House. Merry Christmas.

L. BUSH: Merry Christmas.

KING: We close tonight's show -- each night we close it on a musical note to lift things up a little -- tonight, a song that's very appropriate. Andy Williams will provide it for us back at our studios. It's going to be "White Christmas". It's one of the songs showcased on Andy's latest album "Christmas Treasures". Also has a new video featuring the best of his famous television Christmas shows. Good friend, great entertainer -- we close it out tonight with Andy Williams and "White Christmas." God bless.









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