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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Funeral of Barbara Bush. Aired 11a-12n ET
Aired April 21, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:01:25] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're standing by for the start of an extraordinary service -- the funeral for Barbara Bush, getting under way soon at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. They've been some lighting candles already.
I'm Wolf Blitzer and this is CNN's special live coverage.
Barbara Bush being remembered today as a devoted wife, mother and first lady.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: She is -- she's a wonderful mother and grandmother and all of those things. But she's also very tough. I remember going to Kennebunkport and I was staying in a nice bedroom upstairs and she said now, you know, anything -- this is your home, anything -- but you do know that we make our own beds?
I said ok, Mrs. Bush, I get it. I'll make my own bed. She was just wonderful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Barbara was someone too, who could tell George what she thought. And she would. Just like she could tell everybody what she thought. And she would.
JON MEACHAM: She had a foot with the family and a foot in his career. This idea that she was not politically involved is not true. She was there.
And as President Bush told me, she always was honest with me about whether she thought someone was serving me well or not so well. She didn't meddle but when the door was shut, I always knew what she thought. And I think she handled that role with an incredible amount of grace.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Critical political partner?
MEACHAM: An essential political partner.
DAN QUAYLE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She would always say, you know, I don't really get involved in policy. I just leave that all to George and whatever he wants to do is just fine. I'm just a grandmother with these great big pearls. And behind the scenes, she was very smart, very focused, looked out for his interests and she was a very good judge of people.
COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I'll never forget the first time I met her was at a lunch at the French embassy. And I just arrived in the White House. I'm a three-star general. And I'm seated next to Mrs. Bush.
And I turned and "Good afternoon, Mrs. Bush. It's a great pleasure to meet you, ma'am." She says "Call me Barbara." I said, "I can't do that, ma'am." "Why can't you do it?" "Ma'am, you're the wife of the Vice President of the United States." And she says, "I don't care. Call me Barbara." I said, "Ma'am, my mother would kill me." "If you don't do it, I'll kill you." "Yes, Barbara."
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have enormous admiration and affection for Mrs. Bush. I know what it's like to be a spouse as well as a candidate. And I imagine it took her a lot longer to forgive me than it did him.
And maybe she never has. But I'm crazy -- you know, I would walk across coals for her. I think she's immensely impressive. And I get why they fell in love and how they stayed together all those years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
John King and Dana Bash are joining us as well. John-- she was very, very protective of her husband and her family.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And yet she was an open minded, forgiving person. The fact that Bill Clinton became so close to the Bushes tells you everything you need to know about Barbara Bush.
After that campaign, she was bitter. During that campaign, she didn't think much of him. I got an angry phone call. [11:04:56] She jumped on a phone call to me once after I wrote something, the Casper Weinberger diaries came out and George Bush's friend essentially was calling into question whether George H.W. Bush had been honest about being out of the loop in Iran Contra.
I won't get into all the details but I wrote a piece saying at the time he was trying to attack the governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, as not being a truth teller, as not being a man of character. Well, this undermined that. His own friend saying, wait a minute.
And I got a call from a campaign official. They were on the campaign trail in 1992 yelling at me about that story I wrote. I worked for the Associated Press at the time. Then I got a hold on. For about 30 seconds she came on the phone and she said how dare you compare my husband to that -- I won't repeat the words -- about the governor of Arkansas.
And then they lost. She was bitter. They were told by the staff, Bill Clinton is an illegitimate governor, the failed governor of a small state. Remember that? And then they became very close friends.
In that moment, a, the enforcer; behind the scenes, didn't get involved that often. Just luck of the timing. She walked out, who are you on phone with? Boom.
She was so protective of her husband but then she was a very forgiving person. The fact that Bill Clinton became a close friend after that campaign where she thought, Who is this guy to beat my husband -- that tells you a lot about the heart.
BLITZER: And you ran into her in 2016, and she remembered you.
KING: She remembered. He, the president, President Bush, was in a wheelchair. She was pushing the wheelchair. She had staff members around. She was pushing the wheelchair.
He was talking to Reince Priebus and they were making a joke. Reince Priebus at that moment was still the Republican National Committee chairman. Donald Trump was taking the Republican Party over.
President Bush made a joke to Reince Priebus and Reince Priebus said would you like your old job back, sir? President Bush, because he was the Republican -- President Bush just shook his head and said "No, thank you."
Then she had the president -- I was on the side of the room just watching this. She directed the president and said "Hey, that's John King. Say hello." He looked up and said hello. She remembered.
And again I reminded her of that story once. And she said that's ok. It was a long time ago.
BLITZER: Dana is with us, too. Dana -- you're wearing lovely blue, Barbara Bush blue. You've got the pearls on today. Give us your thoughts.
DANA BUSH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, you mentioned the pearls. Not only am I wearing Barbara Bush pearls but I got these pearls while I was on a trip to China covering her son, the President, while he was visiting China.
And I thought it was very apropos since Barbara Bush and her husband, George H.W. Bush before he became the RNC chair was -- excuse me, maybe it was after he was the RNC chair in the mid-70s -- he was appointed ambassador to China which is a whole other part of her life that, you know, because it was so rich and so filled with unbelievable events that we don't get to talk about.
And that is that it was a very -- it was a frontier that, unlike what we see right now, going to China. And they really helped to change the way Americans and the world see China after, of course, Nixon had gone there. This is during the Ford administration.
But look, I mean I met her. I didn't get to know her the way you all did. The way I know her is through the prism of her two sons, who I covered very closely. And all you need to know about how she is, is about the kind of men -- I'm not talking about politics, this is totally nonpartisan. The kind of men that she raised -- to be polite, to be well-mannered and to be good people and to think about the human beings they're campaigning against and even, frankly, the reporters who are covering them. It is unlike anything I've ever experienced.
BLITZER: Yes. And we're going to see those sons and Jeb Bush is going to be delivering a eulogy as well. Our special coverage is going to continue, including details of a marriage spanning seven decades -- the lasting love affair of George and Barbara Bush.
Our coverage resumes right after this.
[11:08:32] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Standing by for the start of the Barbara Bush funeral at the St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. The former first lady married to George H.W. Bush for seven decades. Let's listen to him read one of his early love letters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mother has made it pretty clear, I think, to the kids that her first love was Dad. She loved us, of course. But she adored Dad.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd kiss Barbara and I'm glad of it. I don't believe she will ever regret it or resent it. I certainly am not ashamed of it. I've never kissed another girl.
BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: When we tell our children what I tell them I never knew I was the first girl you ever kissed. But when I told them that you were the first person I ever kissed --
H.W. BUSH: No, I was the second, darling -- Haven (ph) Abbott.
B. BUSH: Oh, he was not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You know, it's -- Kate, what a wonderful love story.
KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean I think a lot is made about the Reagan romance but 73 years -- the longest presidential marriage in history. And they met when she was 16, he was 17 at a country club dance in Connecticut. And she dropped out of school, out of Smith College -- all women's college -- to marry him.
And I think, you know, it's just a really beautiful story of devotion, over seven decades. And they teased each other. You could see them laughing together.
They also just had a lot of fun. I would stress in the White House she was probably the happiest first lady, at least who I have studied in modern history. She loved living there. They had a horseshoe pit set up for the staff. And they would play horseshoe games with them. She said they were like primaries -- it was so much fun and competitive. She had nicknames for the staff. And some of them are here today at the funeral.
And it's just a really beautiful, touching romance. And they're real people who cared about people who worked for them. And I think that's unique.
BLITZER: Listen to the former president, President Bush, read a love letter to his wife.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
H.W. BUSH: My darling Bar -- this should be a very easy letter to write. Words should come easily and in short it should be simple for me to tell you how desperately happy I was to open the paper and see the announcement of our engagement. But somehow I can't possibly say all in a letter I should like to.
[11:15:00] I love you, Precious, with all my heart and to know that you love me means my life. How often I have thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours someday. How lucky our children will be to have a mother like you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You saw that love affair up close and personal -- Kristan.
KRISTAN KING NEVINS, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO BARBARA BUSH: Yes. And it truly was a love affair. They just adored each other.
And often times we were traveling and we would come back late at night. And even when she would be getting out of the car to go back into the residence to see him even if it was after midnight, she would pinch her cheeks so that they were nice and rosy whenever she walks in and saw him.
As she said, he still made her heart go pitter patter. And she just loved and adored being around him.
BLITZER: And what I loved, Doug -- was that they were very open about it.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Oh, very much so. Christopher Buckley wrote a piece in the "New York Times" where he's talking about -- he was in an elevator, he was a speech writer with the Bushes. And suddenly the elevator stopped and the Secret Service were, "Oh, my goodness". And suddenly, he ended up pinching her and she's like, hey, fellah -- you know, like they were going to have a romance in the elevator because it was stalled, you know.
You can't fake the kind of affection that they displayed all the time. If you went to Kennebunkport -- I'd go up there for a book event, you know, they would be suddenly -- you know, almost sitting on each other's lap or arms wrapped around while you're talking.
And your point is perfect. Everybody talks about Ronnie and Nancy and that great love story. But this is also an extraordinary story. And the fact that it has all this World War II elements when she's working in the factory, like a Rosie the Riveter while he is one of the great war hero presidents ever.
You know, James Bradley wrote an incredible book about his fly boy service in the Pacific, that people should read. But they become -- really are a type of American royalty.
BLITZER: Yes. They really were the greatest generation.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to have much more, former presidents Bush, Obama and Clinton all about to arrive. Our special coverage of Barbara Bush's funeral continues.
[11:17:05] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: The funeral of the former first lady Barbara Bush is about to begin. You're looking at live pictures of St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas.
She's certainly being remembered today as a quiet, but powerful activist. Here she is, by the way, a memorable moment at the height of the AIDS crisis here in the United States, holding a baby with AIDS.
And Tim Naftali, you remember that moment very, very personally and you remember how important it was.
TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: This country didn't have a national dialogue about AIDS, in part because the Reagan administration didn't want to have it.
Barbara Bush understood this. In the 1988 campaign when her husband was running to succeed Ronald Reagan she pushed her husband to talk about AIDS and to go to an AIDS clinic. Within her first 100 days as first lady she went to an AIDS clinic and she held a baby with AIDS and she also met a young man with AIDS.
And this wasn't theater. And I can tell if it's because when I chatted with her about this years later, she not only remembered this, she could tell me about the man. He was a Catholic whose mother had died when he was young and his father had dropped him, just didn't want to know him when it became clear that he was sick and was gay. She told me that story and she teared up.
She wanted America to understand that people with AIDS could be hugged. She wanted them to be hugged. And she talked to the doctor, the President's doctor, and the President's doctor and she went and visited an AIDS clinic. That was a huge cultural moment in 1990.
BRINKLEY: It influenced George W. Bush, her own son because When he was president, look at the amazing work he did for AIDS in Africa. Bono of U2 in a "Rolling Stone" cover story recently said George W. Bush saved millions of lives tackling the AIDS crisis in Africa and his inspiration was Barbara Bush.
BLITZER: She was so instrumental, Kristan -- and you all remember this -- in making sure that the Salvation Army was able to do its important work.
NEVINS: She loved the Salvation Army and every year at Christmastime, she would make a point, a very public point to go and give money and be seen. Because, of course, the Salvation Army had been at a peak before and as charities have emerged and there're so many great opportunities to give, she felt as though it was being ignored and the work that they were doing was so important.
BLITZER: Because some shopping centers, some malls were preventing the Salvation Army from showing up there and seeking donations.
NEVINS: Yes. And it was part of her quiet activism -- just similar with the AIDS baby. She knew there were things she could do just by showing up. And having a presence there and having her name associated with things, she knew made an impact. And she was more than happy to do that on a daily basis.
BASH: It's something that we should remember in the prism of today, which is it's that kind of activism, it's that kind of imagery making an impact by saying so few things but having a very, very clear message and using the power of the White House, the power of being first lady or second lady in a very direct, very targeted, but very effective way, that she really did an extraordinary job of.
BLITZER: She certainly did. Four presidents and first ladies among 1,500 invited guests arriving right now for the Barbara Bush funeral. Our special coverage will continue right after this.
[11:24:55] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: We're covering the funeral of the former first lady, Barbara Bush.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
You're looking at live pictures coming in from St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston.
The clergy has arrived. The 1,500 guests are about to -- many of them are already inside. There will be former presidents, former first ladies.
Kate Bennett is watching all of this with us, our White House reporter. Melania Trump, the current first lady, she will be there as well -- Kate.
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right -- Wolf. The first lady actually said ahead of the President that she would be
attending this memorial service. She thought it was important to be there in person to pay her respects, and there is protocol to this, Wolf. She will be sitting next to Barack Obama, the most recent former sitting president.
That's who the first lady and were President Trump to be here, that's where he would sit, on the other side of Melania Trump. Certainly she's walking into a situation with people seated beside her, who her husband has, you know, tweeted about and called, you know, nicknamed Crooked Hillary and blamed Barack Obama for some of the negative aspects that he feels the country is in now and also, you know, Jeb Bush and the Bush family will be there.
This was low-energy Bush, Jeb, as we all remember from the campaign. So, certainly this is a first lady demonstrating that she is, you know, very confident in being able to sit inside and next to some of these current foes of the president, of her husband, people that he has talked ill about in the past or tweeted about.
Certainly, is a remarkable moment for her to take on solo. I will add, Wolf, that the first lady is bringing with her two members, one a former member, George Hanney of the White House staff, who was the head maitre'd and very close to the Bushes especially Mrs. Barbara Bush.
And Buddy Carter who is also a butler at the White House, who also worked with the Bushes. Mrs. Trump knew these two staff members were very close to the Bush family. She offered to bring them to the funeral on her plane today and did so.
They will be there and be present for this special day and a woman that they worked for very closely in the White House during the Bush tenure.
BLITZER: You know, Dana, the president, President Trump is not going to be there. White House issuing a statement earlier in the week, he didn't want to be disruptive to this event. That's why the first lady, Melania would be there, but not the president.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Listen, I think hat tip to the president for getting it, for being self-aware enough to understand that if he went, given the very clear feelings that Barbara Bush had for him, animus, outward animus, that it would be inappropriate and because of that, people would have to talk about it, be focused on it.
And the focus should be where we have been focused all morning and where we'll certainly see the focus during this event, which is on her and the good things about her life and the things over the 90 plus years she lived to celebrate and not just this absolute --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Throughout the Bush family.
BASH: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barbara Bush thought very little, if anything, of this president, to be honest with you. Not just because of how he treated her son, Jeb, during the campaign but how he conducts himself in office. What the first lady is doing, especially by bringing the White House staffers, shows you graciousness, shows you history, graciousness and respect.
And the Bush family, frankly, doesn't think the current president of the United States shows those characteristics at all in how he conducts himself in office. And, again, part of it is generational. Part of it is what dana talked about earlier.
We could sit here and talk about the Iraq war, Katrina, mistakes in the George H. W. Bush administration. How the Bushes conduct themselves, banners, politeness, respect for institutions, respect for your opponents, game well played, if you will, whether it was sports or politics.
They don't see that in Donald trump. Hat tip to the president, you're right. A very close extended member of the Bush family, Joe Hagan, who is the deputy chief of staff in the Trump White House, if there were any questions about how the Bushes feel about President Trump in the Trump White House, Joe could answer them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With that said George P. Bush, the land commissioner of Texas, has gone out of his way to embrace Donald Trump. He endorsed him for president and has been running against a guy named Jerry Patterson down there. He got Donald Trump to tweet his endorsement. George P., because he's running, is careful not to alienate.
BLITZER: We did some checking too. President Obama did not attend Nancy Reagan's funeral in 2016 or Betty Ford's funeral in 2011, President George W. Bush did not attend Lady Bird Johnson's funeral in 2007. The former presidents are about to arrive. Our special coverage continues.
BLITZER: We're standing by for the funeral of Barbara Bush. You're looking at the church there at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas. The clergy is there. Momentarily the grandsons, the pall bearers will be arriving as well. Kristin, this is a very detailed script that they've worked out and you helped them actually plan this funeral.
KRISTIN KING, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR BARBARA BUSH: We started working on her funeral when I was with her in 2006. At the time she thought it was frivolous, nobody was going to come. There was absolutely no need to have a plan in place. That a funeral for her could be thrown together just like any person who dies at any point in their lives.
Slowly she evolved came around to the idea that perhaps there does need to be some forethought put into it and I think she is up in heaven looking down and shocked by the turnout. BLITZER: You see Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, Secretary Gates is there. John King, a lot of people who worked in the Bush administration and became lifelong friends, they are there as well.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Again, that's a great credit to the character and the compassion and the heart of Barbara Bush. Colin Powell was in the other day, to talk about this African- American guy from modest upbringing, serving on the staff of the White House.
[11:40:10] But he becomes a close, personal friend to the vice president, then the president, then the former president of the United States. These are not transactional relationships. This town full of transactional relationships where people are on your staff and you're nice to them as long as you're in office or need them.
Then that period is over, and you might have reunions, but you're not in touch with them all the time. That is not Barbara Bush or George H. W. Bush. That is the annual invitations to Kennebunkport, notes when you have children, on the birthday, notes or phone calls when you lose somebody in your family.
When you hear Bob Gates, Condi Rices and Colin Powells, yes, they worked with and for the president of the United States, and around the first lady of the United States, but they speak of them as brothers and sisters of the United States.
And the language they use is quite striking because of the personal connection and some of that credit goes to President Bush, President H.W. Bush, but they always talk about Barbara Bush checking in on them and just being human.
BLITZER: You saw (inaudible) the former national security adviser to President George H. W. Bush and Secretary Bob Gates. You saw John Sununu, former White House chief of staff.
KING: Who had some great moments with Barbara Bush.
KING: She was an enforcer inside the White House. In many ways, I would say, she was to George H. W. Bush almost like he was to Ronald Reagan. Many thought that he was weak because he didn't speak up in meetings. He didn't think that was his job. He thought his job was to deal with the president privately because he was the vice president.
If he had something to say to Ronald Reagan, 99 times out of 100, he did it in private. He didn't think it was polite to publicly challenge the president of the United States. People thought he was weak.
Barbara did that for George H. W. Bush. She didn't do it in public in front of everybody. If she did, you knew you were way over the line. George W. Bush used to talk about the looks from mom, not the words from mom, but the looks from mom.
But she had some classic confrontations with John Sununu when he was the chief of staff when she thought he was not serving the president properly.
BLITZER: You saw another chief of staff, Andy Card, there arriving as well. This is the funeral, Kate, of a first lady, a former first lady but for all practical purposes, it could be the funeral, almost, given all the dignitaries that are there, of a president.
BENNETT: It's incredible. As Kristin said, she was so humble not to think not this many people would show up to celebrate her and to John's point, I mean, Barbara Bush told Laura Bush, if you have a disagreement with your husband, keep it between the two of you while he's president.
And that was about not wanting to undermine her husband's policies and I think it's just incredible how beloved she was. This is also a wing of the Republican Party that's changing a lot.
BLITZER: You saw James Baker, former secretary of state. Susan Baker will be delivering one of the eulogies, a very, very close friend of Barbara Bush. They are there as well. Brings back for a lot of us who covered the Bush administration a lot of memories -- John.
KING: Let's go back to the Gulf War, which again that was after the first Persian Gulf War. George H. W. Bush is at 92 percent approval directly after that war. That's why the stunning Bill Clinton victory was such a stun because you had a year before the election of president, 92 percent, to go out and lose the election.
Ross Perot candidacy had something to do with that. The beginning of economic unrest, the recession of the country had something to do with that. But I spent a lot of time in those days I spent months in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
But I travelled both before the war and during the war with Secretary Cheney and General Powell, who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs in those days. You went all around the world, stop to refuel and have a few Guinness with Colin Powell, Dick Cheney.
The reverence with which they spoke to of their boss, the president of the United States, again, it's a generational thing, you don't see it as much. Not just Barbara Bush but President Bush, it's hard to describe, a different culture.
If you worked for them, you became part of the circle. The fact that they're still part of the circle years and years and decades later, again, tells you of the character of the couple we're talking about here.
BLITZER: A real reverence. I remember when I interviewed Barbara Bush in 2000 in Washington, one of the first things she said to me, she said Wolf -- not on camera, but she said I remember your coverage of the first Gulf War, when her husband was president of the United States. Six months of Operation Desert Shield, six weeks of Operation Desert Storm. CNN was the only 24/7 cable news. She was watching all the time and even then she thanked me for our coverage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what a seminole moment that war was. It was a tv war, the liberation of Kuwait.
BLITZER: By the way, you saw Caroline Kennedy there, Chelsea Clinton is there. The families of other presidents, they are arriving. All right. Everybody, hold their thoughts. Let's take a quick break and resume our special coverage right after this. We're standing by to see the former presidents.
BLITZER: The kids are arriving now, the grandchildren. There's some great-grandchildren of Barbara Bush. They're there. You can see them arriving. The grandsons will be pallbearers. They will be there as well.
We'll see the former presidents arriving, President Bush, George H.W. Bush, President and Mrs. Bush 43, President Obama, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. Vice President Dick Cheney will be there with Lynne Cheney. Vice President Dan Quayle with Marilyn Quayle. You see, Kristin, these special VIPs arriving right now. I'm sure they're so touched, so moved.
KING: I know that the family gathered last night. They were just together and 43 gave a wonderful welcome and shared some incredible stories of his mother and from what I understand, everybody was laughing through their tears as the Bush family always does.
[11:50:06] In particular, 41, who was absolutely weepy last night, but I think drew a lot of strength from being surrounded by all of his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
BLITZER: I know you wanted to be there, but you couldn't make it. Tell our viewers why.
KING: I am 38-1/2 weeks pregnant and I would give anything to be there and be a part of it, but to be perfectly honest, in classic Barbara Bush fashion, I heard her in my head saying, if you go into labor at my funeral, you're going to make it all about you. So, it's an honor to be here today and thank you for letting me serve in this capacity, so I feel like I'm a part of it.
BLITZER: And we're honored that you are here with us and helping us and all of our viewers that appreciate this truly extraordinary woman, and she really was extraordinary, Kate.
KATE ANDERSON BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: She was. When I interviewed her, I talked about, you know, her granddaughters and she said she loved being in Washington because she could be around her Washington grandchildren. So those are Marvin and Dorothy, Bush's children, Dora Bush's children. But Barbara Bush, George W. Bush --
BLITZER: By the way, there's Melania Trump, the first lady of the United States. I want to bring in Kate Bennett who's watching this as well. She's actually going to be seated, Kate, directly next to the Obamas, right?
BENNETT: That's correct, Wolf. The first lady has not seen or spoken to Michelle or Barack Obama since inauguration day, since that sort of -- that exchange that Michelle Obama joked about on the Ellen show where Melania Trump handed her that Tiffany box and she didn't quite know what to do with it. Melania hasn't seen them. She'll be sitting next to them today at the funeral.
BLITZER: You see President Obama and Michelle Obama. You see Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton walking in as well. All of the distinguished guests are going to be there. One at a time they'll be seated. This is a moment, John King, that a lot of us have covered all these individuals, but they're now all together.
JOHN KING: And as you see the former presidents and first ladies. You also see former prime minister, (inaudible), of Canada, former prime minister --
BLITZER: John Major.
JOHN KING: John Major of Great Britain there, again, the personal connections, not just to President Bush, but to Barbara Bush, when she had these relationships and the hospitality she showed them when they came to the White House, the relationships that were important, bilateral relationships that became personal relationships that outlasted the presidencies or their service as prime minister.
They continued to stay in touch. Again, we're being repetitive, but that, again, is the character of the Bushes. Whether it's the staff member who they struck up an interest in who 20, 30 years later they're still talking to or whether it's a former prime minister who led their country at a time in the years after all are removed from power, they're still friends. That tells you something very important on this day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Mull Rooneys are very close to the Bushes. In fact, Bushes went to a number of the Mull Rooney weddings. So, when you say -- we're talking about personal, not political, friendships.
KRISTIN KING: And not political but yet you look at that front row there and see the image of these iconic figures in American politics over past 30, 40 years, and how they are all so intertwined in so many different ways. And frankly it all started with the woman that they're going there to celebrate, the matriarch.
And her journey with her husband and of course the fact they gave birth to the president, the would-be president, how they interacted for so many years both as competitors and ultimately as friends, is just extraordinary.
This is one of those moments where you just sort of take a breath and take a -- you know, sit back and look at it and say, you know what, this is pretty extraordinary they can all get together at this moment. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We talk about what a great mother she was when she gave birth to six kids, but she was a super grandmother. She called all of them all the time. She had a hands-on relationship with them all.
BLITZER: And they loved their grandmother very, very much. You saw that up close.
KRISTIN KING: Absolutely. She certainly had an impact on all of their lives. And whether it was through e-mail or she was famous for her handwritten letters. She was constantly in touch with them, offering her thoughts, sometimes unsolicited, but certainly offering her thoughts and guidance for them. And that love truly comes through whenever any of them speak of her, particularly in this moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the bathroom on the second floor of the main house, I want to explain why I know about this, there is a list of rules, the Bush rules, and these were for visitors and for the children. I don't doubt who wrote those rules.
KRISTIN KING: She called Jenna and Barbara wild little girls growing up in the White House. She described once they were playing in the bowling alley at the White House and ordered lunch down there and to eat it downstairs. She said no, you're going to eat it upstairs and not have it brought to you. The enforcer was something she brought to her children and grandchildren.
[11:55:07] BLITZER: You know, Doug, you see the former president, the former first ladies, the current first lady, Melania Trump. They're seated there right in that first row. This is an historic moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very much so. Really does seem like funeral or a celebration of a president. Not just a first lady and it's because it's so cross generational. And the Bushes were bipartisan, 41 loves Michelle Obama. They have developed this incredible friendship and Bill Clinton was almost adopted into their family.
And here, holding this in Houston. I mean, he, in 1963, became the head of Harris County Texas Republican Party. That's when the Democrats were in charge really of Texas. He became a leading member of the Republican Party. James Baker, his best friend really with addition to Scowcroft, they would play tennis all the time together --
BLITZER: There's the children arriving, Governor Jeb Bush. You can see all of the children, Dorothy and the other kids as well and there's president George H.W. Bush arriving as well. Let's just watch him for a moment if we can. This is another moment, Dana, historic, iconic, extraordinary.
BASH: Absolutely. And yet the Bushes are putting their own take on it. Look at 41, George H.W. Bush, her widower, and he is wearing socks, he's known for wearing fun socks, with books all over them as an homage to his wife who, of course, made it her life's work to help with literacy and raised $100 million over 30 years for literacy.
BLITZER: All right, let's listen. (CHOIR SINGING)