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Interview With Barbara Bush

Aired October 22, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Barbara Bush, the former first lady and current president's mother, her first live TV interview for her new memoir, "Reflections: Life After the White House." She's here for the hour, in-depth and personal. The one and only Barbara Bush is next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We're at the beautiful Houstonian Hotel in Houston, Texas, the home for six months of the year for Barbara Bush and her husband, the former President George Bush. She's the author of a terrific new memoir, "Barbara Bush: Reflections: Life After the White house." There you see its cover. Published by Scribner.

She is our own living Abigail Adams, wife of a president, mother of a president.

Why did you write this?

BARBARA BUSH, FMR. FIRST LADY: Well, I wrote it because I keep a diary. And I wrote it because people ask us all the time, What happens to old presidents and what do they do? Well, that's a good question. George Bush does everything.

KING: I know. I had lunch with him today in between traveling somewhere.

BUSH: That's right. He makes my life sing. And a lot of funny things happen. A lot of good things happen. And I keep a diary, so it's not too hard.

KING: Have you always been a diarykeeper?

BUSH: Pretty much. Or write long letters and keep them, using that sort of as a diary.

KING: Do you look back often at what you wrote 10 years...

BUSH: No. No -- and I'm sort of surprised. I forget, needless to say.

But what it really reminds me, Larry, is that I'm the world's luckiest woman. I've had the most wonderful experiences, and I -- one day, I woke up, and I looked at the television. I had met, in the two hours of whatever morning show I was watching -- I'd met every single person on that show except for Yasser Arafat, who I then later met.

I mean, George Bush has brought me that kind of life. So it was sort of fun to write.

KING: Blessings.

BUSH: That's right.

KING: You -- it has been said in the "Newsweek" article that they had to take quite a few things out of the book.

BUSH: I read that, and now -- that really wasn't quite true. They were protecting me from being sued. But...

KING: Were you pretty rough on some people?

BUSH: No, I really wasn't. But they just wanted to be sure that -- today is such a suing world. And having written a book 10 years ago, when nobody hardly mentioned being sued, suddenly -- are you sure that's true? And I said, no, I'm not sure it's true, but it's true according to my diary. And we were very -- we checked our facts very carefully.

I thought that was sort of a funny statement because, in truth, I don't really think that was (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: And you can also -- I mean, you're critical of some people. And you can have opinions about them.

BUSH: That's right.

KING: You wouldn't be Barbara Bush without opinions, would you?

BUSH: No. You wouldn't be Larry without opinions, would you, Larry?

KING: You have to have them. How else do we exist?

BUSH: That's right.

KING: You have to have opinions. But you don't slander anybody.

BUSH: No, I don't think so.

KING: All right.

Your recent comments on the Democratic presidential...

BUSH: Isn't that funny? I knew that was going to come up.

KING: Oh, I want to discuss a lot of things. You said so far, they're a pretty sorry group.

BUSH: Well, you know, mothers are allowed to be proud of their sons. And it gets a little old when 10 grown men run around the country not talking about what they're going to do, but knocking my precious, courageous, brilliant son. That's a mother speaking.

KING: What's the biggest difference from being the husband -- being the wife of a president and the mother of a president?

BUSH: Well, first of all, you have to watch the father of the president suffer. And it hurts when your children are criticized. It hurts a lot.

KING: He takes it badly?

BUSH: He and I both do. He -- he curses, and I grit my teeth.

But, no, he really -- he knows that's the name of the game. But it gets pretty ugly.

KING: But was it harder for you...

BUSH: Much.

KING: ...when he -- when the current president is criticized than when the husband was criticized?

BUSH: Right.

KING: How do you explain it -- motherly?

BUSH: Motherly. And fatherly. I mean, that's just a normal reaction.

But the same would be true if something happened that was difficult for Jeb or for Doro or Neil or Marvin. And you can criticize me, but don't criticize my children and don't criticize my daughters-in-law and don't criticize my husband, or you're dead.

KING: You mentioned Jeb. Would it surprise you if he one day attains higher office?

BUSH: I'm not sure Jeb is interested in that. He certainly is brilliant and could do anything he wanted. I'm just not sure that's what he has in mind.

KING: Because years ago, it was -- they say it was he would be the one ...

BUSH: You were saying that.

KING: Not me.

BUSH: You, the media. You, the media.

KING: I wasn't. They.

BUSH: They were saying that. We weren't. I never thought any of them would be president. Come on.

But Jeb is certainly very, very capable. And he's certainly the most compassionate, loving -- you can tell I don't like him.

KING: How's his daughter doing? BUSH: She's great. She's doing -- she's working, and she's really...

KING: I mean, she had her problems. Is yours the kind of family that comes together?

BUSH: Everybody does. That's -- and, you know, it makes -- it's horrible, but it makes you understand what other people have gone through for years. There's not a family in America that hasn't had that problem, and this is the most precious, loving -- there's not a mean bone in this child's body, and so...

KING: It also shows you that anyone in any circumstance can become influenced or addicted to something.

BUSH: That's right. And a lot of times it's -- you know, the peer group, or a lot of times it's some -- just some -- something you don't even know. But there's a lot of help out there for people, and she's doing very, very well.

KING: The press was very kind generally to Chelsea during the Clinton administration.

BUSH: They've been kind to our children.

KING: They've been kind to your children too. And kind to the president's two daughters, haven't they?

BUSH: Oh, yes, they have been. They have been. The girls have been -- they're wonderful girls. They're both seniors at college now, and they're thinking about what life is going to hold for them, what jobs they're going to have.

And we took them on a trip this year, and with a big group of old people. And they just were the life of the party. They were cute and fun. And you know, George loves to march up and down hills, and he had those girls up early and march marching.

KING: By the way, George looks amazing. He's going to be 80 next June. He looks unbelievable.

BUSH: Well, he is unbelievable.

KING: What is his secret?

BUSH: Married well.

KING: We got lots of things to talk about tonight, Barbara. The book is "Reflections." We're going to take a break and come back and discuss lots of aspects of the life of Barbara and George Bush since leaving the presidency.

We're in Houston. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, George Herbert Walker Bush, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States. And will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God.


G.H.W. BUSH: Thank you.



KING: We're back with Barbara Bush. Lots of things to talk about, about her terrific new book "Reflections."

Election night, your son's election night.

BUSH: I know.

KING: What was that long night like?

BUSH: It was a long night. But, you know, I saw sort of interesting things. My two older sons really were very close that night, and they were -- I mean, I think Jeb was just sick. He thought he'd let George down, and George was really wonderful about really not blaming Jeb. Not that he would have anyway, but they were just great. And that made me feel good.

You know, for one glorious half hour, I was the mother of the president-elect. I've often wondered what would have happened if George W. had walked out, said to his people, look, you've been standing there in the rain forever, it's 3:00 in the morning, Al Gore has very graciously called me. I'm going to come out in the morning, and we'll discuss the future plans. I am the president-elect. What would have happened?

KING: What would have happened?

BUSH: I don't know. It would have saved America a lot of agony.

KING: You praise Vice President Gore in the book. You said he acted with class.

BUSH: He did. He was very gracious, and he was a good sport. And went out of his way to speak to Jen, and meet Jen and Barbara and Laura and me. And he was just very gracious. And you know it hurts to lose.

KING: You know that.

BUSH: Only three times or so. But it does hurt to lose. And you can sort of tell something when somebody does -- handles that situation as well as he did. KING: How well do you -- so class is how well you handle it? It's easy to handle victory.

BUSH: That's right.

KING: Victory isn't hard to handle. There is no greater loss, though than the loss of a child, right?

BUSH: Oh, absolutely.

KING: And you lost a child?

BUSH: That's right. George and I did.

KING: She was, what, 4?

BUSH: Almost 4, and beautiful and loving. We do a lot of things -- you know, we do a lot of cancer work because of Robin.

KING: She died of cancer?

BUSH: Leukemia. And a lot of people have given money because of Robin. And I went out today and planted a Robin Bush tree at Bo's Place, which is a wonderful house here for children who have lost somebody, to get together, and their families, and have people listen to them.

KING: Dealing with loss, how did you deal with it?

BUSH: I had a great husband. He had a terrible time when she was sick, but he was OK. And I was, she says immodestly, very strong, and I just broke up terribly. And George refused to let me stop, just refused. But it hurt. I mean, it hurt like a physical pain for both of us.

KING: And you never really get over it?

BUSH: You think you're over it, and then you find yourself weeping. But now we weep, I think, because of nice things that have happened because of Robin. Truthfully.

KING: So people have been helped because of her pain?

BUSH: That's right. And, you know, it's very hard, Larry, when something terrible happens, unless you make it something good come out of it, then a whole life is wasted. Nobody will remember her and think about her. And I feel good about Robin now. Now.

KING: Do you worry a lot about what the society's become?

BUSH: Yes.

KING: Tabloids and screaming and anger.

BUSH: Yes. Of course, we get, I guess, what we ask for. We all watch or read or see. Life has changed enormously, and I hope -- I hope more people read good things.

KING: You're a reader and I'm never (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you're always...

BUSH: Yes, but I'm not reading as good books as I should these days, because I want to get through this election. You know, I'm like...

KING: You're worried now?

BUSH: Sure. They've been campaigning six months against him.

KING: Yeah. But you've got until -- worry next summer.

BUSH: No, no, I'm worrying now. But I'm like the man who went into the travel agency, and he said, look, I don't care where the cruise goes, bring me back after the election's over. That's what I'm for.

KING: Because you write in the book, you write about the time I moderated the South Carolina debate with your son, against John McCain, and how you could not watch.

BUSH: I couldn't, no. And did you moderate that? I didn't know.

KING: I sure did. You've left the room.

BUSH: I did.

KING: Walked out on LARRY KING LIVE.

BUSH: That's right.

KING: But George kept watching?

BUSH: George doesn't miss a thing. You know, you did do something, not campaign-wise, but you had George on after the Guatemala terrible earthquake and mudslides and floods. And you did the most marvelous thing. Do you know that Ameri-cares and the American Red Cross, because of your program, and you showed the pictures, and you were wonderful, and you ran the telephone numbers. They got more money from that one program than they ever had before. You should be very proud of that.

KING: I remember, your husband, we had a guarantee that that's all we'd talk about, and we stuck to the guarantee.

BUSH: And that's why I'm here tonight, because you did that, truthfully.

KING: Really? I appreciate it.

BUSH: Because that was such a decent thing to do. And you really -- you may not know how many people you helped, but you helped a ton. KING: By the way, when your husband turns 80 in June -- he talked me into this today at lunch. We're going to do two things.

BUSH: What?

KING: I'm going to jump with a parachute. I know I said I'd do it last time, but this time he's got me arranged so I can go in tandem...

BUSH: Oh, yeah.

KING: ... with a Navy helicopter man, he's going to jump -- a Navy parachutist. He's going to jump solo, your husband.

BUSH: Of course.

KING: And I'm going to jump in tandem. And as soon as we land, we're going to tape an interview for 20 minutes in our parachute suites that will play the next night on CNN.

BUSH: How great.

KING: So this will be in June. I'm going to jump with your husband.

BUSH: June -- it's June 13. And then you know...


BUSH: You know that that's going to raise $30 million. So you're doing some more good.

KING: I'm happy to do it. But how do you feel about him jumping?

BUSH: I think it's great. He loves jumping. They won't -- I mean, he is well trained for it, and he...

KING: But he's got to pull that thing, and it's still got to open.

BUSH: Don't worry. I've been told, whether it's a lie or not, that if you go a certain distance, it opens automatically. But he'll pull it. Don't you worry.

KING: So there's no fear. And in my case, the other guy will pull it.

BUSH: Other guy will pull it. But George says that five minutes where you float down...

KING: Five minutes?

BUSH: That you float down after the chute's open.

KING: Oh, after it opens. I thought you said five minutes... BUSH: Oh, no.

KING: Good luck.

BUSH: Oh, no, that's over. But if you -- once you pull that chute, you can go faster or slower as you want. He says that five minutes is heaven. It's so quiet and calm. Now, I'm afraid of high places. I would no more do that than fly to the moon. But...

KING: Is yours still a love affair?

BUSH: I don't know about him, but I sure love him. I think he's the greatest man I ever knew. I wake up every single morning and look over at that funny old face and say, I'm the luckiest woman in the world. That's lucky, isn't it? You're going to get me in tears.

KING: Have you had major arguments?

BUSH: No. We don't agree on everything, but we've learned after 58 years no point in -- I'm stubborn.

KING: Did you always express your opinions to him? I mean, you didn't go public when you disagreed with him in the political area.

BUSH: I didn't disagree with him that much, but uh-huh.

KING: You do let him know how you feel. You wouldn't be you if you didn't do that, right?

BUSH: There's that. And he wouldn't be him if he didn't stick to his thoughts too.

KING: We're going to take a break, and when we come back we're going to ask where the Bushes were on 9/11. The book is "Reflections." Still lots more to go. Don't go away.


BUSH: And a lot of people, mostly the press, ask if George W. was a rascal when he was growing up. And the answer is of course not. He was a perfect child.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And mother, everybody loves you, and so do I. Growing up, she gave me love and lots of advice. I gave her white hair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.


KING: We're in Houston at the Houstonian Hotel. Last time we were here, we interviewed her husband. We are now talking with Barbara Bush, the author of "Reflections: Life After the White House," just published by Scribner. Great collection of photographs in the book as well. OK, 9/11.

BUSH: 9/11.

KING: Where were you?

BUSH: George and I had been at the white house that morning, kissed Laura good-bye. George, as you know, George W. was in Florida. And we flew off about 8:00 in the morning to go to Saint Paul -- Saint Paul, Minneapolis, whatever, Minnesota.

KING: The twin cities?

BUSH: The twin cities is where we were going. And we were both going to speak there and then fly down to Houston to open the big rally for the Texan football team. Which we are big fans.

KING: The new team?

BUSH: The new team. And we were barely at the airplane, and I got out my computer and was writing, and George was reading the paper or something.

KING: Private or commercial?

BUSH: Private. And the man came back, and he said, bad news, they've hit the twin tower. And we were just barely absorbing that, saying how can a commercial plane hit -- and the next thing we knew, he said, it hit the next one, and it's a terrorist attack. So we stopped right then in Milwaukee, and we had a long day. Now, we were luckier than most Americans because we had Secret Service, and some of our children had Secret Service, and Jeb had State Police. So we knew where George was, and we knew where Laura was, and we knew where Jeb was. And so eventually during the day we sat in this motel and checked with our children.

KING: Were any relatives in New York?

BUSH: Fascinatingly enough, Marvin Bush, which we didn't know, was on a subway going down to Wall Street. And about two blocks from the twin towers, the train was stopped, the subway was stopped. He spent about an hour on the subway, and then they got them off, and they said -- up on a platform and out a funny door, I guess. And they gave them a mask, and they said you turn right, and you just walk. And Marvin said it was just the most extraordinary thing because they just all walked up -- he walked 70 blocks. He said the people in New York were wonderful. People offered them water when they got further up. There were a lot of people who can't walk 70 blocks. So there were people helping other people. He said it was extraordinary. Now, he did have a room in a hotel. A lot of people didn't have that and were stuck.

KING: How soon before you spoke to your son George?

BUSH: He called after he'd talked to, you know, his wife and his daughters. And he called to see where we were. When you have Secret Service...

KING: You reach anybody anywhere? BUSH: You reach anybody who has them.

KING: How did he sound?

BUSH: Well, he sounded -- George is a very -- he didn't sound frantic or -- he sounded worried. Who wouldn't have. I mean, the country's under attack. They don't know whether they're -- it's a massive attack which it was certainly massive if you were there and for those poor people. But he sounded fine. I've been -- I am prejudiced. I admit I'm prejudiced, but I think he's shown remarkable strength, and courage and wisdom.

KING: During all this, were you worried for his safety or yours?

BUSH: No. No.

KING: You don't think about security?

BUSH: Why would I? I'm surrounded.

KING: Yes, but you could be surrounded, but John Kennedy said, if you want to kill someone, you can. If you're willing to give up your own life.

BUSH: I am sure that's true. But who wants to kill a fat, white-haired old lady? No, I'm kidding. That part I'm not kidding about, but I am -- I think, when you're 78, which I am, and you've had a great life, you worry about other people. You don't worry about your own security. I mean, nobody's had a better life than I have, and plan to keep on. In my next book, I'm going to tell you how great my life's been.

KING: You're in good health?

BUSH: Yes.

KING: What do you make of terrorism?

What do you make of this whole era?

BUSH: I don't know, but I think we've had some bad fallout. I mean, it's -- we've been wiping a whole group off when there are a few bad apples, and I'm worried about that. And I'm worried about prejudice.

KING: Against the Muslims and others?

BUSH: Against the Muslims, and I'm worried about prejudice of any kind. And it's an excuse to be prejudiced, I think. I'm worried about parents who aren't parenting. I'm worried about -- I like to worry. That's why I have white hair. But I'm worried about parents who aren't parenting, who aren't seeing what their children are doing and aren't listening to them. I'm worried about feeling that we feel we're owed things. We're really not owed things.

KING: Coming to us? BUSH: It shouldn't come to us. And I think that worries me a little bit. But, boy, do I see a lot of good out there too. Sometimes I say to George how come there's so many people doing so many good things?

In the end Hunger Network or the -- it's just all over. Christian ministries, whatever that people are doing.

How come there's so many sad things going on?

I mean, people are trying all over.

KING: You mention that you're not so sure it's fortunate to be like my sons, 4 and 3 years old today.

BUSH: Well, I just worry about how they can absorb all of this. I mean, every day, as you were saying, you're just hit, bombarded every single day with all the news that's not fit to print. Perfect example, I think, is the case of the basketball player who was accused of raping. It's more important than, you know, an Asian trip or a kids' choir that's won an award or -- if we haven't heard a lot about that, a lot about it. And it's much more than I want to know about it.

KING: So what are they going to grow up and see?

It's going to be more of it than less of it, right?

BUSH: We've got to see there's less of it. We've got to see they can see the healthy things, the good things. You know, the America's promise, which Alma Powell is now heading...

KING: Colin's wife?

BUSH: Yes. And Colin started it. But it has five goals, and they are to see that every child has a caring person, that every child has a safe place, that -- I'm sure I'm not going to remember them all. That every child is fed and nourished, and that every child learns an occupation. Learns to read, write, so that they can enter into the world. And the fifth goal is that they turn around and serve. Teach them to give back. If that worked, we would have no troubles.

KING: No child deserves to be left back.

BUSH: Absolutely. No child deserves to be left behind.

KING: They deserve a level playing field. Barbara Bush is our guest. The book is "Reflections."

We'll be right back.


KING: We're back with Barbara Bush. The new book is "Reflections." This is a follow-up to "Barbara Bush: A memoir." Does this, like, continue from the memoir? Is that... BUSH: The continuous story.

KING: The continuous saga of Barbara Bush, part six.

BUSH: The lucky Barbara Bush.

KING: You miss your dog?

BUSH: My dog is -- you mean I didn't -- the old dog?

KING: The old dog.


KING: Who I interviewed...

BUSH: You interviewed her, that's right and -- no I don't miss -- I loved Millie, but we have Sadie now. And I really should have brought her, but I didn't. We love Sadie.

KING: You mentioned all the people you meet. Let's run down some of them. Your thoughts.

BUSH: All right. Yikes.

KING: Tony Blair?

BUSH: I like him very much. I liked him before I knew what he -- how strong he was going to be for George, with George. I liked him very much. He's charming, and his wife, Sherry, is very nice.

KING: Did you worry because he was so close to President Clinton?

BUSH: No. No. I mean, even I know a lot of good Democrats.

KING: Barbara!

BUSH: I do. No, I didn't worry about that.

KING: And he's certainly been staunch on Iraq.

BUSH: He has been. No, he's been wonderful. As were many of the 10 people you mentioned that I didn't think so highly of.

Eight months ago, they were all saying, Look, we've got to do this. They've got weapons of mass destruction. Come on, Mr. President. So that's a little bit...

KING: Do you think somewhere along the way, your son included might have been misled?

BUSH: No, I don't.

KING: You have faith that the information was correct?

BUSH: Mm-hmm.

KING: So they're still going to find things, in your opinion?

BUSH: Well, they may not find them, because, my gosh, it's a big sandy country.

But look what they did find in the sand. They found thousands of bodies. That's enough for me. I mean, this man was a mass murderer, and these people were just in agony.

And, incidentally, we keep getting messages from people who are over there helping to rebuild, saying, It isn't perfect at all, but there's electricity. There's water. There's schools that are opening. Girls are going to school. I mean, there's a lot of good going on there, none of which happened before. So we just got to keep plugging away.

KING: Are you happy that some of the people from your husband's administration are in your son's?

BUSH: Well, sure. You mean like Colin Powell, who's my hero?

KING: Rumsfeld.

BUSH: I like Rumsfeld. I didn't know him that well. I mean, I've read today where someone criticized me because I didn't have Rumsfeld in the book. Well, why would I? I haven't seen him in 10 years.

But, no, I'm very happy with...

KING: Why are you so high on Colin Powell? Ever since I've known you, you've talked about Colin Powell.

BUSH: I think Colin Powell probably has -- he's as close to Brent Scowcroft -- now, he might not like that. But I think he...

KING: General Scowcroft.

BUSH: General Scowcroft. I mean, I think he has no personal agenda. He loves his country. He really wants to serve his country and his president. I think that's rare in the political world, truthfully, and I think Colin would have been much happier off doing, making money and being with his family. But when his country called, he answered.

KING: It's often been said that the one area you disagreed with many in the Republican Party was the question of choice.

BUSH: It's often been said a lot of things.

KING: What is the truth?

BUSH: It's not your business.

KING: You don't -- you don't share your feelings on it? BUSH: Not particularly. I'm not an elected public official, and I support my husband and my children.

KING: But there are some things you won't take a stand on?

BUSH: Absolutely. I don't think that's should even be in politics, to tell you the honest truth.

KING: You don't think the question should be in politics?

BUSH: No. And so I'm just out of that. Move on.

KING: OK. That answers it, in a way, too, if we leave it out of politics.

And they banned the partial birth abortion today, and that was signed. Or it will be signed.

BUSH: I don't think I know anybody who believes in abortion in the last month or two. I really don't know anyone who does that.

KING: Your book, you write about David Gergen, an often sought- after commentator. And you say, "self-serving." While he was with the Bush team in 1980, while things looked good, he just took off the day that George lost in New Hampshire.

BUSH: Right.

KING: That hurt you.

BUSH: That what?

KING: Hurt you.

BUSH: Well, it did. I mean, he stayed with the Weintraub's house, and we -- he was on our team. That hurt.

KING: Your husband told me today he has a love-hate relationship with Maureen Dowd.

BUSH: He does?

KING: Yes. Not you. Yours is not love-hate.

BUSH: No, I admire her writing.

KING: The writer of "The New York Times."

BUSH: No. I know who she is.

KING: No, I'm telling it for the audience. Some of them may not know.

BUSH: You mean none of you -- well, that will hurt her feelings.

I think she's a great writer. And I'm -- and, you know, I wrote in the book that I liked her when she was against them and then not against us. And I understand being against -- when I say against us, I mean George or George W.

I think she got a little off base, and I didn't always understand her, and that won't hurt her feelings. But I just think she got sort of bitter, and I'm sorry about that because she is a wonderful writer.

KING: You don't write much about Bill Clinton.

BUSH: Well, why should I? I think I saw him twice during the 10 years.

KING: Oh, is that all?

BUSH: Yes, Maybe once actually. I think I saw him at the -- no, twice. For the portrait unveiling, and I saw him at the -- you know, the 200th anniversary of the White House.

Very pleasant, very nice. But I'm certainly not going to write about him. I hope he won't write about me either.

KING: What do you make of Hillary -- I mean, as a senator?

BUSH: I think she's probably a very good senator. I don't know.

KING: You don't follow her daily doings?

BUSH: No, I do not.

KING: Is there a Democrat among these 10 that you so feel about that you worry about?

BUSH: No. I'm sort of a fatalist. I mean, I think...

KING: What will be, will be?

BUSH: Well, I think -- who knows what's going to happen. Whoever dreamt 9/11 would happen? The economy is looking good. But I've given up getting excited about a little thing like the economy getting good.

I mean, who knows what's going to happen in this world? So I'm not going to worry about any of them.

KING: What was your son's inaugural like for you?

BUSH: It was thrilling. It was. It was wonderful. I was very proud of him and proud of Laura. I think maybe Laura's been the biggest surprise for America. What a woman.

KING: We didn't know her.

BUSH: That's right. But we did in Texas. She was the greatest governor's wife ever. I mean, she started a huge Texas book festival that's going on next week or so, I think. And it's become an annual thing. It's very, very popular. And then -- now, this sort of irritates me. Laura Bush and the Library of Congress had 70,000 people celebrating the book and authors and reading on the mall in the 1st of September, around there sometime. Did you read about that?


BUSH: No. And should you have read about it? Yes. You heard about a basketball player who attacked a woman or maybe they think attacked a woman, allegedly attacked a woman. I'm trying to be politically correct.

KING: She turned George's life around, didn't she, Laura? I mean, she helped him a great deal during tough periods.

BUSH: Yes, but his life wasn't that tough. But she made him perfect. It wasn't -- George was never a problem.



KING: Well, straighten this out.

BUSH: He wasn't. And he really was not all these horrible things. He brought that on himself, I think, truthfully, with all his Jack Daniels -- choose me or Jack Daniels, or whatever it was he said on maybe CNN. But I think Laura has been a huge, gentle, wonderful influence on George. She's unbelievable. And she's always been -- I mean, we loved her from the moment we met her. Everybody did.

KING: Do you ever think of your family in the terms of dynasty?

BUSH: No, I do not. We are far from perfect. And no.

I mean, when I think about -- I thought about -- I thought you might ask me that, and I got to thinking, you know, who says that about the Roosevelts or the --

KING: Adamses -- those are the -- and the Kennedys.

BUSH: No, wait a minute. And the Tafts.

KING: Tafts.

BUSH: No, wait. We could go right down the line of father-son politicians to lesser jobs maybe.

But, I mean, they're just -- it's perfectly normal. Arch Moore's daughter, the governor of West Virginia -- his daughter's now a Congresswoman. I mean, you could just go right down the line sort of it's normal. If your family serves -- I choose to think that serving in the Senate or the House or the mayor or a fireman is public service. You're certainly not paid enough to make it...

KING: You mentioned how you like some Democrats. We've just learned...

BUSH: Name one?

KING: We've just learned that Ted Kennedy has been selected to receive the 2003 George Bush Jr. Excellence in Public Service Award.

BUSH: George Bush Jr.?

KING: George H.W. Bush. It says junior here. George Bush -- for Excellence in Public Service on November 7. And it will be presented by your husband himself.

BUSH: That's right. George invited him about ten months ago. It's a little bit difficult since Ted spoke out rather indiscriminately -- was that a good word? Anyway, certainly makes it a little bit difficult. But he has served for many, many years as a Senator, and I think George felt he deserved it or whatever committee picked it. You know, George always has the ranking committee. I guess the ranking committee ranked him up there. And I'm certainly going to be there and welcome him.

KING: That's what America's about, isn't it?

BUSH: That's right.

KING: Our guest is Barbara Bush. Her book is "Reflections." The publisher is Scribner. Did you do a recording of it too?

BUSH: Yes.

KING: You did the read?

BUSH: And I wrote it too.

KING: I noticed. There's no co-author here.

BUSH: Sometimes people have co-authors and didn't put them in.

KING: What did you work with a word processor?

BUSH: A little word processor.

KING: Do you type good?

BUSH: No. I type like this.

KING: One finger?

BUSH: I work in two if I'm real excited.

KING: Did your husband read this while it was being written?

BUSH: Yes. Chapter by chapter.

KING: Change anything? BUSH: No. He -- that's not fair. Let's see. He didn't change anything. He made suggestions of better words sometimes. Because I would be -- sometimes I have trouble describing exactly what I mean.

KING: Your husband doesn't hold anger, does he?

BUSH: No. George Bush thinks -- and he's right, although it's much nicer to think the way I do, much more fun. He thinks that it's better to have a friend than an enemy. And think about that. That's probably the best advice anybody would ever give you.

KING: Hard, though?

BUSH: Sometimes. But I don't hold a grudge. I just don't see them.

KING: They're just not around?

BUSH: Just not around.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Barbara Bush. Don't go away.


BUSH: Now, our growing family has meant that our summer's spent in Kennebunkport, Maine have been busier than ever. Last year, we counted 131 overnight house guests, including, of course, all our children, grandchildren, friends of children, friends of grandchildren, friends of friends, and honest to Pete, two people we never even knew who they were.



KING: We're back with Barbara Bush, the former first lady. The book is reflections. Back to names: Schwarzenegger.

BUSH: Oh, I love him. You mean Arnold?

KING: No. What other -- no, Phil.

BUSH: No, I love him. They've been friends of ours for a long time. And loyalty is big in our family. Arnold Schwarzenegger was there when George was campaigning, when things were good and when things were bad.

And I'm very hopeful that he'll surround -- I'm sure he will -- with very good people. You know, it's a terrible job. I mean, it's a big state with many problems. So I'm hoping that things will go well for him.

KING: He does have a lot of ability, though.

BUSH: Oh, no, no. A lot of ability. Nobody could run the empire he runs and run it as well as he does. He's got a great wife, family. I think he'll do well.

KING: This may be morbid but...

BUSH: Don't be morbid.

KING: Well, you mentioned that, when you went to the Nixon funeral, you saw the burial plots. I know Nancy and Ron know where they're going to be buried right next to each other up near the library. Do you know where you and George?

BUSH: Of course. It's not morbid at all. It's the most beautiful place you ever saw. We're going to be buried in -- at College Station, and when you go up to the library, and there's a wonderful pond behind it. Then you go across a bridge, and there's some lovely big trees. And there's a little plot right there with a lovely fence, iron fence. And they worked forever doing marvelous things to make it perfect. And Robin Bush is there right now.

KING: Oh, she is?

BUSH: Yes.

KING: She had to be moved there?

BUSH: We moved here there from Greenwich. And she's there.

KING: Do you go there?

BUSH: Yes. I went there the day before yesterday.

KING: Do you think about dying?

BUSH: No, I don't. I don't worry about it at all.


BUSH: No. I just hope I don't go forever.

KING: Cancer, pain, long time suffering?

BUSH: Well, more than that, I don't want my family to have to worry about that, truthfully. I don't want to be a bore. But I'm -- this is a good chance for me to say, everybody should write a living will.

KING: Yes. With that case in Florida, wouldn't that be a good idea?

BUSH: I mean...

KING: Jeb had a sign today -- he did sign that today.

BUSH: Yes, but that was for a very compassionate, loving man, that was tough, but having said that, I think it's taught us all a lesson. No matter what age you are, if you feel strongly about it, you ought to make it clear now. It just saves your family a lot. George and I both have one. And have had it for a long time.

KING: So if anything happened, God forbid, to Barbara or George Bush, you have in writing what you want. Because society's in a tough place here.

BUSH: Terrible. I mean, it's really a -- I think something between the family, and it's just heart breaking. But, you know, the legislature passed it.

KING: Your son has had to sign -- your husband was never Governor, so he wasn't faced with this. Your husband has had to sign death warrants.

BUSH: My sons.

KING: Your sons, rather. In two states that do it a lot, sadly. What do you think of the death penalty?

BUSH: Well, I'm a little tougher maybe than I should be, but I think it's a deterrent. I really do. I think, if you think you can kill somebody and take a life -- I would like to live in a world where I didn't think that was true, but I think that's -- that's Barbara Bush, not George Bush, not George W. Bush, not Jeb Bush.

KING: DNA evidence, though, showing a lot of people didn't do it?

BUSH: Well, we have DNA now. So we don't have to worry about that, don't we?

KING: No. I mean in the past, you might think we have killed someone who didn't do it.

BUSH: That's terrible. That would be terrible. But we've had 12 years to -- they go on forever and ever, all those appeals.

KING: Do you have a lot of faith? Are you a religious person?

BUSH: Yes. I mean, besides going to church every Sunday, I pray every night.

KING: You do?

BUSH: George Bush and I pray every night.

KING: Do you ever doubt it? Like a 9/11.


KING: Doesn't cause you to doubt?

BUSH: Now, that's a good question. It doesn't cause -- it -- it causes me to wonder how people can live in our country, but it has nothing to do with religion, I think. It's their religion or their fanaticism. But how can someone live in our country for nine years, accept our education, our life, a way of life, and then all that time plan to kill us? That makes me wonder. But I know that's not the Muslim religion. It is not. Their religion is very like ours and yours, which is -- and your wife's -- to value men's lives. And to trust god and...

KING: But you don't question your own god as to how this happened?

BUSH: No. I don't think my god had much to do with that or their god or any -- they're all the same.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Barbara Bush, author of "Reflections: Life After the White House."

Don't go away.


KING: I mentioned the parachute jump coming in June. It's the army parachutists, not the navy -- that are going to tender me and bring me down safely with your husband.

BUSH: That's right.

KING: That will be June 13 the day after a big birthday party for the president, the night before, June 12. Your health. You've had a number of operations, two hip replacements, five operations on your feet, two back operations. You have Graves Disease.

BUSH: No, no, that's all gone. All gone.

KING: It's all gone. How's your current state?

BUSH: Perfect. As the doctor says, for a woman you're age, you're great. That your age part worries me a little bit. No, we're fine. I have a bad back, but so what?

KING: And your husband, he's -- he gets his checkups.

Is everything OK?

BUSH: Yes. Everything's fine. I mean, we're 78 and 79. George is 79. I mean, we're not going to be perfect, but we're pretty perfect.

KING: When your son (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the president, was asked if his family had eaten together, and he said yes, unless you were cooking.

BUSH: That was cute, wasn't it?

KING: You're not a good cook?


KING: Good pause, good take. BUSH: Good eater. Good eater. Someone has to eat. I'm a good eater, and someone else is a good cook. But I could cook for 50, but you would not go home and say wow, Barbara Bush cooked the best meal.

KING: Did you have...

BUSH: I'm a provider, though.

KING: The house is never without?

BUSH: I'm a very big provider.

KING: Did you have a favorite son, truth.

BUSH: A favorite son?

KING: Yes.

BUSH: The son that is in trouble is my favorite son. This moment, they're all in pretty good shape. So no.

KING: You didn't have one that sort of twinkled the eye a little more?

BUSH: No, I don't think so. They all have something very special about them.

KING: How about grandchild?

BUSH: Well, Pierce is here.

KING: Pierce is here. We all remember the famous Pierce.

BUSH: Pierce is here. Pierce is my favorite grandchild tonight. But no...

KING: Pierce on the show at the convention?

BUSH: That's right.

KING: Remember that night?

BUSH: Yes. George P., I saw yesterday in Dallas, our oldest grandson.

KING: That's Jeb's boy?

BUSH: Jeb's boy. He's divine. They're all great. They will tell you I'm probably the meanest woman alive because I boss them around and everything, but I think they love me. They all come to visit, and we have fun.

KING: Are you the...

BUSH: Enforcer.

KING: You are? You're the tough lady?

I see an ad on the TV about drugs and things, and they call the mother the enforcer, and I think they got that from me. That's what the children call me.

KING: What do you -- anything you want to do you haven't done?

BUSH: No, not really. I'd like to -- no. I'm very happy.

KING: And it has been our delight having you with us.

BUSH: Thank you.

KING: Thank you, as always.

BUSH: You're great, Larry.

KING: Thank you, Barbara. The book is "Reflections." The author is Barbara Bush. She wrote it herself. "Life After the White House." The publisher is Scribner. And I'll be back in a couple of minutes to tell you about tomorrow night. We're in Houston with Barbara Bush. Thanks for joining us. I'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: I want to thank everyone at the Houstonian Hotel for their wonderful courtesies and all of our staff who came here from Atlanta and Washington and Los Angeles and New York.

Tomorrow night, a tribute to Dean Martin.


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