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tv   [untitled]    February 20, 2012 2:30pm-3:00pm EST

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[ laughter ] >> which one? >> yeah. >> no. >> one of the things we knew, and we knew this from when my george decided to run, you know, what you know, and i knew this personally, because, of course, we'd been the child of children of a president, was that in these jobs, the people who are serving get characterized in a way that they are not, and we know that. and, you know, it's just something you have to accept, i think. i don't think there's really anything you can do about it. you do everything you can. you have a very strong press office that does everything they can to try to get the word out about what people are really like, and they are just always the opposition and sometimes the opposition is the press. you know, tries to paint another picture. and because i knew that, it really didn't bother me that much. >> you know, an interesting
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thing, i think, is i saw nancy reagan do something for arthritis one day and the whole press clip, sorry, you up there, whole press corps was there and we never saw a word about it, but the people who were there from oshkosh, wisconsin, and other towns, their press wrote about the people, what they had done and what nancy had done, so the truth is, the word gets out to houston, texas, or wherever you're from, nice things. so you don't really worry about the fact that washington did not print that nancy had this wonderful pianist that had arthritis and he was coming out, that doesn't phase you. you know at home, people know, that you're doing your best. >> what is harder to bear, criticism, which you believe to
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be unjust of a spouse in the oval office or criticism of a child in the oval office? >> you phrase that differently. which i know to be unfair, not which i think to be unfair. much harder the son. >> is it? >> much harder the father. it is, really. >> much harder, the son. >> when you're there, when you live there, for one thing, you don't have time to read all the criticism, but when you're watching from outside, it's very, very difficult, i think, to see somebody you love criticized. >> i never heard one bad word about laura. i was ready to take them on. not one bad word. [ applause ] >> you were -- you were both wartime first ladies. that must have, to some degree,
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redefined the job or the job that you expected to perform when you went into office. how did it change your lives? >> well, i remember when gampy was president and we lived in dallas, i can still picture where i was standing in our kitchen watching him announce that troops were going to go into take iraq out of kuwait, and how worried we were and how nervous i was watching that. and then, of course, for us, you know, we had september 11th, which was the real tragedy, really, and other things sort of had fallen on that. >> i think the -- i think george's war, my george's war, they are both my georges, but i
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think my george's war was easier than george w.'s, because we -- the missiles went in, they went around corners, they hit the targets, the war was over once they started, it was over very quickly. i honestly think that george h.w. bush taught the world how to keep the peace by negotiating, and i remember sitting at camp david once when i heard george say -- his french is better than mine, but not much. it occurred to me, george was calling every head of state to just check in with him and get sort of get things in -- he had his ducks in order, well, there's an easier world than it is now. 9/11 changed all our lives, so george had a much -- laura had a much more difficult time. >> what can you do at times like
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that to provide support, to provide sustenance to reassure -- >> stop nagging your husband, for one thing. >> i think the ritual of daily life, the dinners together, you know, the girls coming home. and when i wrote my book, i looked back at my schedule and saw that barbara and jenna both came home for their spring breaks right before we went into iraq. they didn't go off to the beach or something, but they wanted to be with their dad. the other thing i saw looking at the schedule were a lot of our long-time friends, our life-long friends, george's and mine from midland, who were in bar's cub scout troop when she was the den mother also came to the white house. and then a lot of times when times were tough, i know marvin, george's brother, who lived there, lives in alexandria would call and say i'm going to come over, let's watch some game that
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they wanted to watch, and they would just watch a game all afternoon, and i knew there was this sort of unspoken brotherly comfort for george to have his brother and his sister both live near us in washington. and it really ended up being great emotional support for our eight years, to have marvin there and dorrow there. >> and is it possible to have a normal dinner without events of state intruding? >> sure, sure. absolutely. >> unless there's a war or something. >> unless people are jumping up going in to make phone calls, which andy card probably remembers some of those dinners. >> you also mentioned camp david. clearly, that's a place that presidential families cherish. >> i think it's not only a great place for family and you can have people come up and advise you and talk to you and it's private, it makes a huge
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difference, and i know that george met his cabinet up there and vice president and met just -- had meetings where he could be off the record and really learn things, and he was on the phone a lot, and it was great. i mean, i think it was great. he napped, which was good. we went to church, we built a chapel, and then our daughter got married there. people think we built the chapel for her, but we didn't. but it was just a great place. >> our two families really loved it. in fact, we have a record that will never be broken of 12 christmases at camp david. >> that's right. >> for the four years you were there and the eight years we were there. >> and she fed us. do you know this, i bet you don't know this. every bite a guest eats at the white house or camp david, the president pays for, maybe his wife does, but anyway, it's not
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something you just go and the white house feeds you, but you'll get a bill saying joe blow was staying, one egg, 18 cents. i mean everything is itemized, and so it's much cheaper than you all pay or we pay now, but it's -- everything is paid for. so all the guests that they had and we had, we were delighted to pay for. now, they took -- laura is an only child, she had two first cousins that i know of, and nothing else. we have 850,000 relatives all on george's side, and she fed them all. she had all of us, we're now 32 or 33, and we probably weren't quite that many then, but almost, and they fed us every christmas, wonderful. >> but we did love going to camp david, and it was a great
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relaxation, i think, for the president, andy and kathy card went with us a lot, because you may not know this, but somebody from the chief of staff or somebody from the chief of staff's office travels with the president everywhere, so on the weekends when we would go to camp because their kids were grown, they would come to camp and kathy would get up early on sunday mornings and drive off because she was a minister of a methodist church in mcclean, so she'd leave then, but it was also a really great way to get to be friends with both the people who worked with you, traveled with you, and all of our friends, as well, would come with us a lot. >> of which they have thousands. >> it was fun. a lot of emotional support to have your friends with you. >> you may have already answered this question, at least in part, how cognizant are you in the white house of being inside the so-called bubble, this kind of
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unreal world, and how do you stay connected with the real world outside? >> friends. >> i think friends are helpful. george always loves to tell the story about taking these guys into the oval office, boys that we grew up with, you know, now men, 65-year-old men, and saying, and they'd go in the oval office and say god, bush, i can't believe i'm here, and then they'd look at him. >> i can't believe you're here. [ laughter ] >> but friends make a difference. >> i think friends make a difference. family makes a difference, it's great to have family, and the girls always had lots of their friends there. back in the second four years after they had graduated in 2004, a lot of their friends moved to washington and worked in the administration in various spots, and that was fun for them, and they did as well. they worked on the 2004
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campaign, that's where jenna met her husband. >> let me ask you about someone who's, i think, common to both bush white houses and, indeed, to virtually every white house going back to harry truman, america's spiritual president in some ways, billy graham. he played a significant role in your lives, didn't he? >> big, big. >> tell us. >> billy was a great friend of ours, and certainly a great friend, george's mother adored him. and she went to the inauguration, the first one, and then she went back to the white house in the queen's bedroom. billy came back and sat with her and so he was that close a friend. and she would tell george, i think the happiest day of my life was when billy graham came and sat on the porch and talked to us. but he came to dinners, and i think y'all were there when he came to the dinners and one of
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our nephews or cousins, one of george's millions, was there at dinner and said to him, dr. graham, i have a very close friend whose brother died, and he was a very good guy, why did that happen? and billy was so sweet, and he gave him a wonderful, loving answer, which seemed to satisfy him at the time, but it's a hard answer, and billy was so thoughtful to our family and certainly loved george w. and h.w. >> faith clearly helps you get through at tough times? >> faith does, for sure, and the churches that we went to, the chapel that bar mentioned at camp david really was very, you know, something that i miss. we went there, of course, with the troops that are stationed there, the navy and marines that
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are stationed at camp david, and their little children, and every year we went to the christmas pageant with the little kids, and one year two little shepherd -- we made the mistake one year of having the christmas pageant at 8:00 at night. it was too late and one pair of shepherd brothers got in a fight, they were choking each other on the stage, one turned around on his head, so his whole face was covered while his brother was choking him, but these -- >> spirit of the season. >> they were very sweet times, and it was sweet to be with those little kids and see them grow up. their parents weren't stationed there for long, two years maybe or three years, but later after one of the hurricanes he was down on the coast and ran into the little shepherd's father who was a seabee and was down working on something to do with the hurricane, and so, you know,
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those were very meaningful times to go to church at camp david with the troops that were stationed there. and then we went to st. john's across the street from the white house. that was the church we walked to or drove to when we were in town in washington. and that minister, louis leon, is a cuban immigrant, he was part of pedro pawn. his parents put him on a plane by himself, he never saw his dad again, his mother didn't get out for five years, and his dad died before he got out of cuba. i remember on the second anniversary of september 11th, we went to a prayer service at st. john that morning and louis leon said mr. president, you didn't ask me, but i think they did it because we're a country where an immigrant can preach to a president. >> sweet. you know, we went to camp david the last weekend we were in
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town, and they had us going away ceremony, and we -- it was so emotional, i mean, it was -- i'd been very brave, darrelle left town, marvin left town, they just couldn't stand being there, but for the inauguration of our successor, we were very good sports about it, but that was the most emotional, all those soldiers and military people in such a tribute to george, one of the most emotional times, i think, we ever had. >> another scene that is, obviously, never seen in public, but every four years occurs -- four or eight years -- occurs, and that is usually on the morning of inauguration day when the outgoing president and his family bids adieu to the permanent white house family.
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>> terrible. >> tell us, because we've never seen it, and yet i'm told it was particularly emotional for both the bush families. >> well, i was lucky, because i got to go back with laura and george, but i remember rushing around the corner to go hug george and the other ushers, who -- not ushers -- >> butlers. >> well, we loved the ushers too, but running around because i hadn't said good-bye to one, and they were in tears, we were in tears, and guess what, eight years later, we were back. [ laughter ] >> well, that was, you know, that was another advantage that made it seem like home to us, and that was because we knew the ushers and the butlers from the four years that we visited president bush and barbara, and, of course, you know, they stay. they are permanent employees, they are not political
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appointees, so there we were back and they were back, and that was really fun to get to be with them. but that was very sad with a lot of crying and a lot of telling people good-bye, and the one gardener, dale, who always takes care of all the dogs, the dogs love dale better than us. >> that's your dogs, mine love us better. >> dale even went after the fords left, went to colorado when their dog, liberty, had puppies, and he couldn't even come to the good-bye, because it was not a good-bye to us, but a good-bye to barney and miss beasley for him. >> well, very touching. when we opened this library, the clintons, very kindly, told all the household help that they could come down to the opening of the library, and they had a repeat of the horseshoe tournament. >> yeah, that's right. >> i think unfortunately we were
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beaten again, they sent their ringer, best players down. but that was very sweet of them, because they knew how much we love them and they loved george, so that was nice. >> can you remember an entertainer who you had to the white house who was particularly memorable? >> i can't remember his name, but i do remember one entertainer who announced, we were going into the state dinner, and he'll be glad i can't remember his name, but we were going into the state dinner and he wanted to sit next to his girlfriend. well, that's not the way it works at the white house. not married to or you haven't come with so you can go home and talk about all these fascinating things you did or met or heard, and this guy announced that he was not going to entertain, and we were all down waiting, and laurie firestone, our
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protocol -- what was she -- >> social secretary. >> social secretary, terrible, he won't come unless he can sit next to his girl. we said he can't, everybody's seated. anyway, he did come, but she went down and said to him, we're calling a press conference right now. anyway, he did entertain, but it was a very scary time. >> one of the nights i loved was we had a state dinner for john kufore from ghana, and we had the dinner inside, and we went out to the rose garden in the dark with the full moon and had the cast from "the lion king" come and sing, and, you know, they sort of came out of the dark in those great costumes, and it was really pretty fabulous. >> you see the best and the worst of human nature around such events. and the worst of human nature around such events.
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we certainly was part of an oral history project and we interviewed all the white house social secretaries and i think there were 14 of them around, some things never change, people try to change the place settings at the president's table d you run into that? >> no i let the social secretary deal with it. >> my associasocial secretary k in the dark. i did not know it until i was working on my book, two of them came to dallas and stayed with me a few days and they told stories that i put in the book, but i did not actually observe these wild stories. >> mrs. johnson, there was a foreign person who shall remain nameless and someone wanted to come to the dinner and he could not get an invitation and his wife was of this country's decent, and eventually word
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whaffed up to the first lady that the lady in question was dieing of cancer. >> oh -- >> and she got invited. and i think she is still with us. >> i think so too. >> yeah, but people will go to extraordinary lengths. >> you know mrs. johnson, before laura became first lady, mrs. johnson was my favorite. but mrs. johnson whrks we first got to congress, and there were 48 or 57 new congressmen that year, and mrs. johnson invited everyone up to the family quarters. and she told us that she had never been up there before herself. and so, she wanted to be sure and she remembered george's mother, their husbands were in the senate together, she said please bring up dotty bush, i
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would love to have her. i found that extraordinarily generous that she would get us all up stairs. she was just a lovely person. and i do not think she got the credit she was due. >> she is also, she deidentifies the labels. she is on one hand a traditionalists and cared about making life for her husband better, but she cared about making life for everyone better. >> we are both that way so stop it. >> i'm suggesting you have a lot in common. >> oh, good. >> i did get to show lady bird around the white house, she still was so expressive the way she always was, she saw is portrait of her husband she would put her arms out like that. at the door, the doorman was a
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retired matrade, and had been, when linda brought her up to the south porti coand mr. german fell into her arms. it was fun to get to see the white house with her and she was still, you know, really good at letting me know which parts she liked a lot and which she did not. there's a portrait in the white house by thomas ackins of a little girl named ruth who looks sort of unhappy and supposedly lady bird was giving a tour of the white house and she said i love the portrait of this unhappy little girl and a man in the group said, she grew up to be my happy wife. >> i think that is a true story. >> i don't know i asked her
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about it. >> couple things before we open this to questions to the audience, i assume christmas is a magical time. >> unbelievable. you know, the same floorists came back every year and it was like trying get into the most exclusive club in america. and they came for two weeks? >> or a week, a full week as least. these are volunteer florists that come and decorate the white house. >> they go the wreaths, i know we got there in january, and january whatever it was that we were there, the 20th of the 25th, they came up and said what is the theme next year for christmas? i said what will the theme be? but they work all year long the florists on getting ready for the theme and whether it's
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storybook time or saint nicholas, different things. they work all year long. then they come in and do a wonderful job, they are fed by the white house chefs, they have more fun and puck not literally get in that club unless someone dies off. it's beautiful. i can remember sam lablonde as a little boy, they have the wonderful white house trees in the foyer with white lights and snow on them. they invited the kids to come down, and have a snow fight, sam loved it. >> what the florists do, is look at protocol, on looking at the flowers they will use for a state dinner and there's a story for the white house, but supposedly the big foe paw of
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having the colors of the flowers cannot be the color of the country's enemy's flag. sow have to pay attention to a lot of things. >> one year when george was president, they brought out for the mexicans, a dpsh sort of an adobe house desert, but they had figures on the side of mexicans taking ciestas with the big cowboy hat, which they felt would be insulting t waiters walked out, and stood and plucked the people off the sides. crazy. >> there's a famous story of the ford white house at the height of the bicenntenial when queen elizabeth and prince phillip
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were guests. and nobody had vetted the band's program. and as they stepped on to the dance floor the marine band broke into the lady is a tramp. >> how about the story that ronald reagan was leading a lady into the dining room and she halted and he urged her to come on. and then, no she wouldn't, and he did not speak french and her english was not very good or wasn't at all, and finally she pointed, he was stepping on her dress. he told that story. and later our chief of protocol told that story as though pit happened to him. but we know it happened to ronald reagan >> i want wrote it in my book because i did the same thing with the lady of poland's dress,
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i stood on her ground and kept trying get her to move on. >> you are kidding? >> it's better not to wear a train to the white house. >> you have not asked this but i think the most exciting i read, where you were going ask us this, but i tried though think, i think the most touching day at the white house was the day valenca came and george invited all the labor union people in our country, they are the people that fought for solidarity and we had been to poe planned a lot and we had seen the transition and it was so touching. he kpam and came and he did not english, but he was talking and had tears running down his face and he kept saying god bless it, god bless it and he leaned down and kissed the floor.
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i think that was the most emotional moment and then, we -- these were great big people, these labor people and we had a big reception and while we were standing in the receiving line with this wonderful man, why, someone in this party leaned against the dining room table and it went down in the middle. and everybody at the white house rushed up and fixed it up. now that person was never seen again. and the table was gone for like four months. but it was just one of those -- it was an extraordinary day really. and it was so right to have the people who fought for them. this was amazing. >> i have to ask you. in your memoire, he told a story about as a wife of the vice president, you were in tokyo and


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