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Interview With Laura Bush

Aired November 6, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, on the eve of the final presidential debate, Laura Bush, first lady of the United States, next, on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. From Phoenix, Arizona, this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. It's the eve of the final presidential debate as we close in on November 2. We're at the Royal Palms Hotel in Phoenix, and our special guest is the first lady of the United States, Laura Bush. It's always great to see you.


KING: Do you get nervous at things like this?

BUSH: Sure. Absolutely. Much more nervous than George does, I'm sure.

KING: Did you help him with the debate at all?

BUSH: No, not really. I mean, you know, we've had debate prep at the ranch, so we had a lot of friends and staff members come there, which was fun. A couple of weekends ago we did that, and that was a lot of fun. But no, I don't really work on the debate.

KING: Do you go to the site?

BUSH: I haven't this time. I did the last two, but in both of the two -- last year, four years ago. But this time, we -- I didn't get to either site until after he had already done the run-through.

KING: Is it nervous while they're debating? In other words...

BUSH: Actually, once you get really started...

KING: ... what if he says...

BUSH: ... it's not nervous, it's just the anxiety for me of -- before, and getting to it.

KING: Once it starts, it's on?

BUSH: Once it starts it's on. And you know, I'm pretty comfortable.

KING: What's it like emotionally when the senator says, he failed, he did wrong? BUSH: Of course I don't like that, obviously. But talking about being nervous back in 1988, when President Bush was running, number 41, as we call him. For his first debate, George and his brother, Marvin, went to the movie. They were so nervous, they couldn't go -- couldn't watch it on television. We weren't there at the event, but then they would call me from the lobby of the movie about every 10 minutes to see how well he was doing.

KING: I was with George and Marvin at that convention in New Orleans.

BUSH: That's right. That's right. Exactly.

KING: That great -- it was a great convention.

BUSH: It was.

KING: Let's move to some things in the news and cover a lot of bases. What do you make of this big argument today about Sinclair Broadcasting? They're going to play apparently a 90-minute tape, anti-Kerry, and they've ordered all their stations not (sic) to carry it. There is a great hullabaloo. Your thought.

BUSH: I don't really know anything about it. Actually, I just saw that headline in one of the pages of the newspaper, but I didn't actually read the article. So I don't know that much about what it is. But you know, I also know there are plenty of things that a lot of channels run that are anti-Bush. I think that's just what happens in a campaign.

KING: You think it's part of the process?

BUSH: I think it's part of the process, sure.

KING: Because they're saying that maybe it's an illegal use of the time, or considered a campaign contribution?

BUSH: Oh, really? Well, I didn't -- I haven't read all that, so I didn't know.

KING: Did you talk to your husband about it?

BUSH: No. I just got here. I barely had a chance to talk to him.

KING: You didn't come in together?

BUSH: We didn't come in together.

KING: He was in Colorado, right?

BUSH: He was in New Mexico and Colorado, and then I was in New Mexico today, Las Cruces, stopped in Las Cruces.

KING: You like all that traveling? BUSH: I do like it. And I love New Mexico. My mother grew up right down the road from Las Cruces, in Anthony, New Mexico, right outside El Paso. And so that was fun, to be able to go to a part of the country that I have very fond memories of.

KING: Because there was a time you didn't like it?

BUSH: Well, I never...

KING: When we first met, you told me you were not crazy about it?

BUSH: Yeah. It's not the campaigning, you know, I like the campaigning a lot. It's just what happens in a political campaign, which we all know, the part where someone you love is criticized a lot. That's the hard part.

KING: Your mother-in-law especially has a tough time of it, right?

BUSH: She has a very tough time with it.

KING: She told me, say anything you want about me but not about relatives.

BUSH: That's right. She's pretty terrific.

KING: There's a big ad today that many Catholic bishops are taking, urging people -- they are not saying to vote for Bush, they are saying don't vote for Kerry because of his stand on abortion and the like. What do you think of that?

BUSH: Well, you know, I mean, I think that's just -- people have the right to buy ads, and they do. And I read a lot of ads that are pro- my husband and a lot that are against him. And you know, every one of those is just a chance for people in the United States to state their views. And that's what happens, and they're stated on every side.

KING: Religious people can state it as well?

BUSH: Sure. Absolutely.

KING: Do you see it as all an interference in church and state?

BUSH: No, not really. Of course not. I don't see that. I mean, they're stating their opinion. And that's what it is, their opinion. And we get to hear a lot of other people's opinions, too.

KING: How about one issue, though, would you vote against or for someone based on one issue?

BUSH: No, I probably wouldn't, but there are a lot of people who have one specific issue, you know, a lot of different issues, but have one issue that they are most concerned with, and those people probably do vote on one issue. KING: Does it annoy you, Laura, that 50 percent will probably not vote?

BUSH: Yeah, sure. I think that's really terrible, especially when we look at countries like Afghanistan, who have just had their first free presidential election in their entire history, and, you know, I hope Americans don't take our right to vote for granted, so much that they don't bother to make it to the polls. I think it's very, very important to vote.

KING: They seem to always have, though. We've never had a 70 percent turnout in a presidential election, I don't think.

BUSH: Yeah, probably not.

KING: Take freedom for granted?

BUSH: I think we take it for granted. And I think in some ways, also I think people -- you know, they think their vote doesn't matter, and that it doesn't really matter. And they don't pay attention. I'm sure there are some people who are not paying attention to the race. But it's such a good example for your children to vote, and to be involved in your -- the political life of your country and the civic life of your country. So I hope parents will show their children that voting is important.

KING: Your differences on stem cell research, embryonic aside, what are your thoughts on the passing of Chris Reeve?

BUSH: Well, I am so sad about that. I mean, it's a heartbreaker. He was such a huge inspiration to people, and his will was so strong, and his determination was so strong. And he raised millions of dollars for paralysis research, spinal cord injury research. And I think that's really, really important.

KING: Your husband said in the last debate that it's a worthy debate on the stem cells, that he can see both sides. Do you?

BUSH: Sure, absolutely. I mean, we've talked about this with you when we were on earlier...

KING: Together, yes.

BUSH: ... with you this year, that he's the only president who's authorized federal funding for embryonic stem sell research. About $25 million, a little over $25 million have been spent, of federal funding, for embryonic stem cell research, and then over $190 million of federal funding for other stem cell, adult stem cell research has been spent. And there's a huge increase in the budget of the National Institute of Health for research. There's been a very huge increase since...

KING: But the moral question is worthy, too? And it's debatable.

BUSH: Well, that's the question that people have -- and people -- that's the question that people debate. And that is, is it moral or ethical to create life and then destroy it, you know, to create an embryo and destroy it for research?

KING: We'll be right back -- oh, I'm sorry, you wanted to add something? Of course, he did approve some of it, stem cell...

BUSH: Yes, sure, absolutely.


BUSH: No, I think the ones that -- the lines that are approved for federal funding were already not alive.

KING: We'll be right back with Laura Bush, the first lady of the United States. We're in Phoenix. The last debate is tomorrow night. Don't go away.


BUSH: As a retired schoolteacher myself, I love to visit schools. I love to see how eager American students are to learn and how eager American teachers are to teach. I know how difficult it is to teach. I know how challenging it is, but I also know how rewarding it is. And so I am really so happy with the good results that we've had from the No Child Left Behind Act, we are really seeing the achievement gap close, which I think is terrific. And I am especially proud of my husband for taking his obligations so seriously, to make sure every child in every neighborhood in the United States of America gets a great education.

My husband, George.




GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We knew Saddam Hussein's record of aggression and his support for terror. We knew he hated our country. We knew he'd invaded another country. We knew he was shooting missiles at America's pilots who were enforcing the sanctions of the world. We knew he had a long history of pursuing, and even using weapons of mass destruction. And we knew that after September the 11th, we must take threats seriously before they fully materialize. That's one of the key lessons that we must never forget in order to protect the American people.


KING: We're back on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE in Phoenix, Arizona, with the first lady of the United States. We've spent so much time together I almost feel we can go out on the road with this. You did add during the break that private...

BUSH: That's right. It's the federal funding that goes to those specific lines that were already developed when the president made his determination to even spend any money on embryonic stem cell research federal funding. But private funding, there's no limit on any private funding, anybody that wants to get private funding. And there have been millions of dollars of private funding spent on embryonic stem cell research as well.

KING: Laura, a lot of the pundits have been writing, I haven't heard you comment, on the fact that your husband appears never to say he made a mistake. When asked the other night to say three mistakes, the only mistake he thought of was some appointments he made and he didn't want to mention them not to hurt them. Isn't that strange?

BUSH: Well, no, I mean, he said, of course, he made mistakes. And that's what he said. He said, I'm human and I've made a lot of mistakes, there's no doubt about it and history will judge what they are.

KING: But he wouldn't name them.

BUSH: Well, I think that's a trick question really for the politician because once you name the mistakes, then the other side or the person who asked for that matter, uses those against you for the rest of the time. He said that he is willing to accept the responsibility of the job he has, which is, you know, all the mistakes are assigned to him.

KING: So he hasn't been someone that you as a wife couldn't criticize?

BUSH: No, no.

KING: Or would not say to you, I'm sorry?

BUSH: No. Of course he would do that.

KING: So you've heard those words, I'm sorry?

BUSH: Sure. Absolutely.

KING: Has this been a very negative campaign? Now you've had campaigns in Texas...

BUSH: I think we think every campaign is very negative. You know, I think that's just a fact of life in politics. You know it is when you throw your hat in the ring. That that's what it's going to be like, especially for this big job, for the president of the United States. But really, for any political race, ask anybody who runs for school board or, you know, there's a part of a political race, the competitive part that is always a little bit nasty, and that's just the way it is. That's just competition.

KING: The nature?

BUSH: It's the nature of it. And you have to know it's going to be like that because it is. You have to accept that it's going to be like that and accept that you are going to be criticized and people you love are going to be criticized. You're criticized for everything, for things you did, for things you didn't do, for things that were totally made up. That's just how it is.

KING: How do you balance your faith, your Christian faith, which says to love everyone -- is it hard when you're being slammed by someone? The last time you two were on together I asked if there was some hatred for Senator Kerry. You absolutely said no.

BUSH: No, of course not. Absolutely not. And I hear that, I hear the word "hate" used a lot in the press. You know, I don't think Americans are filled with hate. When I travel around the country I don't see people who are filled with hate, who hate either my husband or somebody on the other side. I just don't see it that way. I think that's, you know, just a way to express it to make it sound even worse than it is.

KING: These are just disagreements?

BUSH: Sure. Absolutely. It's just a political race, that's what it is, it's a political race for a very, very important job, where you really -- everyone wants the person they think will do the best job. And of course, you know who I think that is.

KING: When he was governor of Texas, he was famous as a uniter, in fact, the Democratic legislature in Texas often supported him on many bills. And then he ran as a uniter, not a divider, yet we apparently have one of the most divided countries ever.

BUSH: Well, I think we were -- look how divided we were before he even took office. The last race was so close it wasn't even determined on election night. So I think that's also just what's happened in the United States. I don't think that has anything to do with him. But I do know that he's disappointed. That's one of the most disappointing things about the presidency for him, is that there doesn't seem to be a lot of bipartisan work. And you can blame either side or you can blame both sides.

KING: Failure on everybody?

BUSH: I think it's failure on everybody. I think that no side wants to give the other side any credit for doing something right.

And so there -- he certainly has had some bipartisan successes. The No Child Left Behind Act was very -- supported very heavily by both Republicans and Democrats.

The Medicare bill was, too. The extension on the tax credit that he just signed was also. So you know, there are a lot of bipartisan successes. It's just that in Texas we were actually very close to and really good friends with...

KING: Democrats?

BUSH: With people on both sides: the lieutenant governor, the speaker who were both Democrats, who were also very close friends of ours. And -- and I think there's something to be said about the way they worked together, where they -- we all -- everybody was in the capital. The governor's office was in the capital, housed in the capital and the Senate. And so there was more of an opportunity to be with other people.

And I've actually read an article about it. I think it was by Cokie Roberts who said that -- she of course grew up in Washington -- that people used to move here. Senators and congressmen would move to Washington because it was so difficult to fly back home because -- before airlines.

But now, it's so easy to get home a lot of families don't move to Washington. So you don't go to the, you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Little League game, the children totally gang together and there's less social mixing. And because of that, there's less empathy, I think, for members of the other side.

KING: Well put. And because of that, do you fear another...

BUSH: Close election?

KING: ... another November night like four years ago? It's something we all think about.

BUSH: I certainly hope not. I certainly hope not. But you know, who knows? This is going to be a very, very close race.

KING: Why is it so close, do you think?

BUSH: Well, I think...

KING: Iraq?

BUSH: Sure. I mean, I think that's certainly one part of it. But just like the last race, it's just very close because it seems that the United States is fairly evenly divided, Republican and Democrat. And because of it is a pretty even division, and it's a pretty even vote when it comes out.

KING: There's a great story told to me by your family that when your father-in-law lost the reelection, Barbara walked into the hotel suite in Houston and said, "How do I get a driver's license?"

BUSH: She did start driving.

KING: Have you thought about what you might do if...?

BUSH: Sure. I mean, you know, this is like a...

KING: You're a realist.

BUSH: Yes. You know, I mean, who knows -- I think George will win. I fully believe he will win. But if he doesn't, we'll be perfectly all right. But we'll be devastated. I'll be devastated, of course. But -- you know, but we'll be fine. KING: Because he once told me that the job isn't his life. He does have a life.

BUSH: Well, that is true. I mean, the job isn't, you know -- no one's job is their life, really. You know, you have another life. You have a family life. You have people that you love. You have people that you want to be with. You have friends that are important to you. And -- and you know, we're very, very lucky to have that.

But having said that, we're also unbelievably privileged to be able to serve the people of the United States. And especially at this time, which is such a time of uncertainty and anxiety.

But also, really, a time of pride, I think, as we look around our country and see how well people responded to the many, many difficulties that we have faced, starting with September 11.

KING: And we get into that with Laura Bush right after this.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Secretary- general of the United Nations said they don't have enough people in there to be able to have the elections, and they don't have the security for the people they need to have them.

We need a president who knows how to get those people in there. I will do that. That's my four-point plan, and I ask you to compare it to George Bush's four-word plan: more of the same.

We need a president who leads America forward and gets us out of this mess, and gets our troops home where they belong.




KERRY: I'm going to make people feel good about being safe in our military and not overextended, because I'm going to run a foreign policy that actually does what President Reagan did and President Eisenhower did and others. We're going to build alliances. We're not going to go unilaterally. We're not going to go alone like this president did.

JIM LEHRER, MODERATOR: Mr. President, let's extend for a minute.

G.W. BUSH: Let me just add one point. I've got to answer this.

LEHRER: Exactly. And with reservists being held on duty...

G.W. BUSH: Let me answer what he just said, about...

LEHRER: Well, I wanted to get to the issue of... G.W. BUSH: You tell Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell Silvio Berlusconi we're going alone. Tell Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland we're going alone. We've got 30 countries there. It denigrates an alliance to say we're going alone, to discount their sacrifices.


KING: We're back with the first lady of the United States, Laura Bush. The debate is tomorrow night. By the way, tomorrow night, LARRY KING LIVE is on at 11:00 Eastern, 8:00 Pacific, with a full hour following the debate, which airs at 6:00 p.m. Pacific, 9:00 Eastern.

And then into the final days of the campaign. Will they be hustle and bustle for you? Are you going to be out and around everywhere?

BUSH: Sure. Absolutely. I've been out and about everywhere. I have had a very busy schedule, separately from the president. And then toward the end, the last couple of weeks, I'll start traveling with him, because I really like to be with him at the end of the campaign.

KING: Is that the plan, then?

BUSH: That's the plan.

KING: The last two weeks you'll appear together?

BUSH: That's right.

KING: And will you...

BUSH: So we'll be together, and our girls will be with us. And then they also will campaign separately. They're going to travel with their cousin, George P. Bush, and his precious new bride. And their aunt, George's sister, Dorothy Cook. So that will be fun.

KING: George P. will be with us tomorrow night.

BUSH: Oh, good.

KING: He left many, many hearts broken.

BUSH: That's right, when he married that really cute bride.

KING: In those last weeks, are you hopscotching through states that are in question? Is that it?

BUSH: Sure. That's what it will be. It will be rallies in all the battleground states. And the interesting thing about campaigns now is they have gotten so localized to these few battleground states.

So that's what it will be. And then we'll end up on the Monday night before the election in Crawford, spend the night at the ranch, and vote Tuesday morning in the election, and then go to Washington and be in Washington for election night.

KING: You will be in Washington election night?

BUSH: Yes.

KING: Why? When...

BUSH: That's where the campaign is now. We were in Austin, as you know. That campaign was run out of Austin four years ago. But now it's run out of Washington. And that's where we'll be.

KING: So you'll vote in Crawford.

BUSH: Vote in Crawford, then fly to Washington.

KING: Fly that day to Washington and get the results at the White House.

BUSH: That's right. It is a little nerve wracking, I'll admit.

KING: You ever think of what if we have again a different popular than electoral?

BUSH: You know, I don't know. That would be a totally different election. And the reason, you know -- the reason we had the electoral vote rather than the popular vote is because of exactly the opposite, where you spend all your time in the four or five most populous states and never went to any of the other ones.

So I can -- I can -- it was to give each state the opportunity to have the same amount of influence.

KING: So you would keep that system?

BUSH: Yes, for sure.

KING: Iraq. The president mentioned that he met with many families, doesn't do it publicly. Are you there for some of those meetings?

BUSH: Some of them, a lot of them. And then I've had a few family members come to my events. Family members whose husbands or wives are in Iraq, and then several family members, including a mother and two precious little boys whose dad died in Iraq.

KING: What do you say?

BUSH: Well, you just give them a hug and talk about how much respect you have for them. And you know, it's just unbelievably difficult, but think how difficult it is for them, for the family. I mean, it's just unbelievable.

KING: Does it cause you ever to question, are we doing the right thing?

BUSH: Well, the reason I really think we're doing the right thing is because what will happen is we'll change the world, we will change the Middle East.

And if Iraq -- we've already seen Afghanistan on the way to trying to build a democracy. And if Iraq can do that, which I think they can -- I truly believe they can -- then it makes a totally different landscape.

And what it leads to, I hope and I fervently believe, is to peace. And to a -- societies that are democracies, that are stable, that are -- where human rights are, you know, always watched and people really do have justice, those are societies that don't export terror. And that's the whole point. You know, we don't want to live in a society where there are terrorists. And we want these countries to be able to join the whole community of countries that -- where human rights is really important and where justice is important.

KING: And then you see the divisiveness over it, right?

BUSH: I do see the divisiveness, of course.

KING: No weapons and...

BUSH: Absolutely. You know, I understand that. But everyone looked at the same intelligence the president looked at, that everyone looked at. Everyone in the Senate looked at it. Everyone knew the history of Saddam Hussein, and they knew what he had done before.

And because we're there, we really have an opportunity, and because he's gone, to help the Iraqi people build a democracy.

I mean, when you look around the world, look at all the Central European countries that were under the Soviets, that have just built a democracy in the last 12 to 14 years. And we know it's possible. And it could just be an unbelievable change for our world if those two countries can build stable democracies.

KING: Do you fear in the terror area another Madrid?

BUSH: Sure. I mean...


KING: ... before an election?

BUSH: You know, I mean, God forbid, I hope not. But, you know, you just worry, of course you worry.

KING: Are you briefed on these...


KING: Your husband doesn't come home and say, we got this threat today.

BUSH: No. I mean, every once in a while he might say something to me as an aside, but I'm certainly not briefed.

KING: Do you -- is it hard for you on those times -- there have to be times -- when you don't agree?

BUSH: Well, not really. I mean, we've been married a long time. We grew up in the very same town. We had the same values. I really understand his values. And if we have disagreements, which of course we do, like any couple, you know, they're minor compared to our many agreements, compared to how many values we share.

KING: So, you've never had a major political disagreement where...

BUSH: Not really.

KING: ... you think he is absolutely dead out wrong?

BUSH: No, not really.

KING: That's supportive. Are you a good arguer?

BUSH: Sure. I mean, I'll argue with him some. He's good, he's a good arguer.

KING: Because he's a baseball fan, all baseball fans know how to argue. They bring up statistics, right?

BUSH: Exactly.

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


G. W. BUSH: My opponent thought there was weapons there, that's why he called him a grave threat. I wasn't happy when we found out there wasn't weapons and we've got an intelligence group together to figure out why. But Saddam Hussein was a unique threat and the world is better of without him in power. And my opponent's plans lead me to conclude that Saddam Hussein would still be in power and the world would be more dangerous.

KERRY: He's trying to attack me. He wants you to believe that I can't be president and he's trying to make you believe it because he wants you to think I've changed my mind. Well, let me tell you straight up, I've never changed my mind about Iraq, I did believe Saddam Hussein was a threat. I always believed he was a threat. I believed it in 1998 when Clinton was president. I wanted to give Clinton the power to use force if necessary. But I would have used that force wisely. I would have used that authority wisely, not rushed to war without a plan to win the peace.



KING: We're with Laura Bush on the eve of the debate. People sometimes say, what do you talk about during a break? We just talked about Washington getting baseball back, which I know your husband is happy about. BUSH: That's right.

KING: A team returns. And we both agree it shouldn't be the Senators.

BUSH: That's right. I think it shouldn't be the Senators. You know, the Texas Rangers became the Washington Senators. There are actually two incarnations of the Washington Senators.

KING: The Minnesota Twins and the Texas Rangers.

BUSH: But I hope they're...

KING: What would you name them?

BUSH: I don't know what I would name them. I think there is a lot of speculation in the newspapers (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I haven't thought of one.

KING: You would leave it up to whoever gets to be the owner.

BUSH: I guess so.

KING: And you hope to be there as first lady to help throw out the first ball next April.

BUSH: Absolutely, absolutely.

KING: Knowing your husband, even if he lost, he'd be there. He's that big...

BUSH: He'll be really glad that Washington has a team.

KING: ... a fan. Do you ever look at yourself as a secret weapon in this campaign?


KING: You've been called that. You're the -- everybody likes you. You even won the cooking contest against Mrs. Kerry, right?

BUSH: I did. I heard that today that the cookie recipe won.

KING: What was your cookie?

BUSH: Mine had chocolate in it so it was obviously going to be the favorite.

KING: Someone said that maybe this job for the next four years is going to be terrible.

BUSH: It will be tough. I mean, there's no doubt about it it's a very tough job.

KING: Why want it? BUSH: Well, you know, I think there are a lot of things that my husband wants to do and continue to do. And actually I'm really interested in working on a lot of other issues that I haven't worked on, like interceding with middle school and high school aged children who have gotten that far through school and haven't learned to read.

There's a lot of new research on how you can teach middle school and high school aged children to read really fairly quickly. And it would be great if school districts could incorporate that so that kids who have made it that far could read their science textbooks and read their history textbooks.

KING: How do you get to high school without reading?

BUSH: Lots of kids do.

KING: How?

BUSH: And they're the ones who drop out a lot of times. You know, they just compensate some other way. Probably make really bad grades. But also one of the great things about the No Child Left Behind Act is that now because of the diagnostic part of it, because of the accountability part, it's less likely that a child would make it all the way through and teachers wouldn't realize that haven't learned to read.

KING: Consider reading on that terrible day your husband was reading a book to children in Florida. When we asked about it on the show he said he collected his thoughts. How do you feel about that?

BUSH: About that he stayed there reading to them? I think he should have done that. I think that was the appropriate thing to do, stay and read. He knew that his -- all of his staff who were out in the hall were finding out the rest of the information, finding out what had happened.

You know, as we all knew -- we were all wondering that morning as we watched. I think that was the appropriate response in front of children and in front of the press who were are there filming him.

KING: How soon after that did you talk to him?

BUSH: Right away after that, I think. I was in, as you know, in Senator Kennedy's office. I was going...

KING: Strange irony.

BUSH: Exactly, very strange irony. On the summit I had had on early childhood education.

KING: So you were with Senator Kennedy.

BUSH: I was with him and then Senator Judd Gregg came in who was the minority chairman of the committee at the time and one of our really good friends. Then when the Secret Service realized they weren't going to take me back to the White House, then they had to figure out where they were going to take me.

So we sort of stayed with those two senators for a while before I was moved. And I don't think I -- I'm trying to think if I talked to George there. I should have made note, but of course, I didn't.

KING: Were all three of you told at the same time?

BUSH: No, we already knew. When I got in the car to drive to the Capitol, my agent said, a plane has just hit one of the towers.

KING: So you and Senator Kennedy...

BUSH: And of course, we thought it was an accident.

KING: ... and Senator Gregg.

BUSH: Yes.

KING: When you learned it wasn't, were you all three together?

BUSH: I think the second plane had just hit by the time we got to the Capitol. So I think we all knew it was terrorist attack by the time I got there.

KING: What a scene it must have been among the three of you.

BUSH: It was amazing really, to be there and be in the Capitol. And then in hindsight it's possible Flight 93 was headed for the Capitol and another one...

KING: You might not be here.

BUSH: No one knows where it was headed.

KING: What are other things you haven't done you'd like to do in the next term?

BUSH: Well, I'd love to work on that. I'd really like work with children, still about education. But I also would like -- I've been reading a lot about -- recently about drugs and alcohol abuse among young juvenile delinquents and how a lot of young people who are adjudicated to have mental problems, are drug or alcohol abuse.

And I just would be interested to see if there is something we could do for those young people who get in trouble. Some sort of recovery method for young people to get in trouble that would let them have a more normal life after that.

KING: How young?

BUSH: Well, I'm talking about teenagers.

KING: Young teenagers.

BUSH: Yes, or...

KING: Thirteen-year-old alcoholics?

BUSH: No, not so much that, but the ones who have gotten -- who have been arrested because it's committing who are probably 17 or 18 or younger than that.

KING: This is always the teacher in you, right?

BUSH: I think so. And plus I just like kids. You know, I really like children. I mean, that's what I wanted to do, spend my life working with them as a teacher. And I want American children to have the chance to really be able to achieve their dreams.

I want parents to know how important it is for them to nurture their children and to have a stable life. And what a huge advantage it is for children like me who happen to grow up with stable parents who loved each other and loved me.

KING: Would you teach again?

BUSH: I'd love to teach again, but all the teachers I've taught with are now retired.

KING: Yes, but you're young enough.

BUSH: I mean, I could teach again.

KING: You could have another four years in office. You're not going to be a homebody, are you?

BUSH: I might.

KING: Really?

BUSH: No, not really.

KING: No, you would never do that, right?

BUSH: Sounds pretty alluring, not really.


BUSH: Yes, I'd love to teach. I'll definitely work with schools forever.

KING: No matter where you are.

BUSH: That's right.

KING: We'll be back with Laura Bush. Tomorrow night is the big, final debate, don't go away.


BUSH: These are times of change for our nation, and they're also years of promise. George and I grew up in west Texas, where the sky seems endless and so did the possibilities. My husband brings that optimism, that sense of purpose, that certainty that a better day is before us, to his job every day. And with your help he'll do it for four more years.

Thank you all so much. Thank you. Thanks and may God bless America.



KING: Tomorrow night is the third debate. Did you think the president fared poorly in the first one?

BUSH: No, I thought he did great in the first one. I really do think he did great.

KING: Why all the talk?

BUSH: Well, I mean, I just -- the talk wasn't about substance at all, the first debate, the talk was evidently more about how he looked. And of course, I was there in person. He looked terrific in person. You know, the magnification of television I guess makes him a different look.

But I thought the substance of what he said was by far the best.

KING: Did you know this race would get close?

BUSH: Sure, absolutely. I mean, I expected it to be. After the last one, I think that's -- you know, I would just expect this one to also be very close.

KING: Now your daughters, do they like this, being out and about, because they've been pretty well not out and about for four years?

BUSH: That's right. They've really enjoyed it. Barbara introduced me today in Las Cruces when I was there. And I don't know if Jenna introduced her dad today. I know she wanted to. But they both traveled with us. They have traveled a lot with each other without us and they've loved it. They've gotten a lot of confidence from it. And they've really enjoyed it.

But they're anxious. You know, it's - politics is a very anxiety-provoking business as you can imagine, especially if you're the child of a politician, so they worry about their dad. They're doing great.

KING: You have something none of us have in politics. You have the November 2nd.

BUSH: That's right.

KING: You're judged. You don't get a week...

(CROSSTALK) KING: You get one day to be judged.

BUSH: Well, you get a long time before, during the campaign and then at the end you get the final results on a day.

KING: That's the finish line.

BUSH: That's the finish line.

KING: Do the children handle being presidential children well? I've read lots of books about this...

BUSH: I think they really have very very well.

KING: It's not easy.

BUSH: It's not easy, but we made a huge effort to always let them try to have as much a private life as they possibly could. Their grandfather was vice president when they were born, so their whole life somebody in their family has been involved in politics, but I think they handle it very well. They have a lot of really good friends who've been very supportive of them and that's terrific.

KING: Do they like New York? Who lives in - one lives in New York.

BUSH: They're going to move to New York afterwards, after the election.

KING: Does that scare you a little?

BUSH: No, not really. I think it'd be great. They have a lot of friends who are already there. I love New York. I visit New York a lot. Barbara and Jen and I have traveled there a lot over the years, mother/daughter trips. We love to shop and go to the plays.

KING: Do you want them to get married?

BUSH: Sure, absolutely, right away and start having kids.

KING: You want to be grandfolks.

BUSH: Yes. I'd love to be grandfolks. Don't worry. They're not about to get married. Neither one of them have somebody they're going to marry but I wish.

KING: Dick Cheney, liability because of Halliburton?

BUSH: No, absolutely not. He is so steady and so solid and so experienced and he's a really great vice president.

KING: What about his debate?

BUSH: I thought he did great. I listened to a lot of it because I was in the car driving to -- from some event to the hotel and then we got to watch the end, the end of it, but I thought it was very good. It's a very different debate when you listen.

KING: Absolutely.

BUSH: Very different and I think that first debate of George's, I think, people have told me that, listen to it. His substance was great.

KING: The first Kennedy/Nixon debate was rated even if you listen to it, but the difference in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the way they looked, unfortunately or fortunately - style does count.

BUSH: It does. Absolutely. And we know that. We all know that. That's certainly something they teach in the media but also in corporations and whatever. They talk about body language.

KING: Have you had friendly moments with the opposition?

BUSH: We've haven't had very many moments with them. We've just spoken to them but sure, they've been friendly, but at the end of the first debate, when Mrs. Kerry and I were both wearing white suits and we got our picture made together in our matching suits, that was fun.

KING: Was it awkward or...

BUSH: No, it was funny. It was funny. It made you laugh. There wasn't anything awkward about it.

KING: It was also very nice when the candidates each complimented the other's children. I thought that was nice to see touches like that. They're few and far between in election campaigns. What do you worry about most for tomorrow night?

BUSH: I really don't worry about tomorrow night. I think it'll be great. I think the president will, you know, get to tell the American people what he thinks. This debate is supposedly about domestic issues, so he'll be talking about the economy and a lot of other issues, education, the ones that I'm particularly interested in. So I think it will be really good.

KING: Will they be standing now again?

BUSH: I think it's standing. I think it's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but I'm not positive, but I think so.

KING: And our friend Bob Schieffer will moderate fairly.

BUSH: That's right.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with the first lady of the United States, Laura Bush. Don't go away.


G.W. BUSH: I admire Senator Kerry's service to our country. I admire the fact that he is a great dad. I appreciate the fact that his daughters had been so kind to my daughters in what has been a pretty hard experience for I guess young girls seeing their dads out there campaigning.

KERRY: I think only if you're doing this and he's done it more than I have in terms of the presidency can you begin to get a sense of what it means to your families. And it's tough and so I acknowledge his daughters. I've watched them, I've chuckled a few times at some of their comments and...

G.W. BUSH: Trying to put (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on them.

KERRY: Well, I've learned not to do that.

And I have great respect and admiration for his wife. I think she's a terrific person, a great first lady.



* a great first lady.



KING: We're back with Laura Bush, our remaining moments as we approach the third and final debate and this hectic campaign will come to an end shortly. They are too long, our campaigns, aren't they? Would you agree?

BUSH: They're probably too long, but I don't think you can make them short.

KING: How do we measure a first lady?

BUSH: I don't know. You know, I think we watch first ladies. I mean, this is what I do. I've watched a lot of first ladies, including one I love a lot, my mother-in-law, and what I think we really do is we watch them live their lives. And they live their lives with a lot of scrutiny. They live their lives with a lot of challenges, because of course that's what happens in the presidency. No matter when you're the president, there are always a lot of challenges that our country faces, but the ones that I know, that I've gotten to see in my lifetime, and of course have met, what I'm really inspired most about them is their grace and their dignity and those things that you get to see while you watch and live in the beautiful White House.

KING: You're in a club.

BUSH: In a club, that's right.

KING: What is your -- if you had to say, what was your number one accomplishment the last four years, Laura Bush?

BUSH: Oh, gosh. I don't know. That's a very good question.

KING: What are you proud of?

BUSH: I'm very, very proud of the No Child Left Behind Act, really proud of that. I travel to schools around the country. I see schools that are using their reading first money out of that act for a reading coach at the school to coach people, a retraining of all the teachers, or summer school, or extended that school for the children who need extra help. And I think that's terrific. I like that a lot.

I'm proud of the way my husband handled what happened to us on September 11, and since. I'm proud that the people of Afghanistan got to vote this week. I'm proud that little girls in Afghanistan are in school. I really do truly believe that what happened on September 11 and the loss of our military men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq will have a good ending and there will be peace.

KING: So you're proud to have been a part of...

BUSH: Very proud to have been a part of that.

KING: What -- nobody can like everything. What don't you like about this job?

BUSH: Well, of course the one thing that I think everyone would say is just that the lack of privacy. The...

KING: You have none.

BUSH: Well, I mean, we have some. Of course we have a private apartment, and we have the ranch that's remote and private. But you always feel like when you go anywhere, that you don't get to be anonymous, I guess is what it is. Maybe it's the loss of anonymity.

KING: Can you duck into New York and shop?

BUSH: Sure, and I can do that, and I do that.

KING: But a bevy of people are trailing you, right?

BUSH: They are, but if they're pretty discreet, then New Yorkers are not looking at everyone on the street. They're looking straight ahead.

KING: You mean you've gone in unnoticed to stores?

BUSH: Sure. So I can still do that in big cities.

KING: Do you talk to Lynne Cheney a lot?

BUSH: I don't talk to her a whole lot, but I love Lynne Cheney. I think she's so smart. She's so bright. And I love her books on my coffee table at the White House, are the two new books that she's done since she's been -- since Dick Cheney's been vice president. "A Is for Abigail: All About American Women," and "A Is for America, an ABC Book About America." Anytime we're together at the same event, we rush to the side to try to talk to each other, because we don't get to see each other that often.

KING: We only have a short time. What's the biggest reward in teaching?

BUSH: You know, the biggest reward by far is just the relationship that you have with kids, and the way you can see kids mature and develop and get confidence and learn.

KING: Any grades you like better than others?

BUSH: I love second grade. Second are the cutest.

KING: They're 7.

BUSH: They're 7, and they can do things, they can do a lot of things, but they are still -- have such a wonderful view of life.

KING: And my boys painted a picture for you.

BUSH: That's right. It's in my office.

KING: Thank you, Laura.

BUSH: Thanks so much, Larry.

KING: Always good seeing you.

BUSH: Good to see you.

KING: Good luck.

BUSH: Thanks a lot. Thank you.

KING: Laura Bush, the first lady of the United States.

Tomorrow night, we'll be on at 11:00 Eastern, 8:00 Pacific, following the last presidential debate. See you there for that with some great guests and interesting discussions. We thank Laura Bush for joining us. Stay tuned for Aaron Brown and "NEWSNIGHT," and from the Royal Palms Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, this is Larry King. Good night.


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