tv [untitled] May 5, 2012 4:00pm-4:30pm EDT
>> i didn't go so much as barb did, thinking one specific topic. just because i'd been first lady of texas and worked on a number of issues including, of course, education. george had run on education as a campaign, you know, policy issue that he campaigned on. so i knew we would spend a lot of time on education. i hoped we would. because i started the -- texas book festival when we were in austin, it just seemed natural and actually james billington, the library of congress came straight to me as soon as george was elected. and then the very first day that we lived there, i walked downstairs and saw dick mo, who was the head of the national trust on historic preservation, on his way across the downstairs cross hall towards the west wing to meet with george and -- i told him that i wanted to continue to work on save america's treasures which hillary clinton had started when she was first lady,
before me. just because of my interest in historical preservation. so just -- and then i think things just sort of presented themselves. obviously women's rights and women's issues became very important as everyone in the world really turned to look at afghanistan. and saw how women were treated there. and i think american women were really horrified. the idea of a government that would forbid half of their population from being educated was really shocking to us and i noticed, i could tell, american women really felt very strong sense of sisterhood with women in afghanistan and wanted to do whatever they could to help. and so, you know, a lot of other things, too, as well. >> i wish they would show that picture of you with all the saudi arabian ladies. >> yeah. >> when you went, they had no idea about cancer, women's -- >> breast cancer, yeah.
>> you did 100 things. >> i did a lot of things. >> it must be an extraordinary feeling to know you have a pulpit and you can use to it to make a difference. >> well, i knew that, obviously, from watching lady bird's famous line about the first lady has a podium, and she said for herself and i choose to use it. but i didn't -- i don't think you really, you know, you know it intellectually but don't really understand it emotionally. when i gave the radio address about the taliban and right after that, we were at our ranch when susan was talking about the photographs when i was giving the radio address and then i went into austin, jenna was in college, a freshman in college in austin. and i went in to see her and went shopping with her at the department store. and the women selling the cosmetics said thank you so much for speaking for the women of afghanistan. that's really when i understood the people really did listen to the first lady. and that, you know, they -- they really did hear me.
>> you did a lot, though, in africa with aids. she and george had the most extraordinary reach for helping others. there are more little george bushes in africa than you can shake a stick at. [ laughter ] we think they are after your father, of course. but we know they're not. but he also -- i mean, they did things for ailments that were curable. i mean, you ought to talk about that because you really did. >> well, in -- that was one of the things that was really very lucky for me is -- i got to -- george would make the policy with his side. a lot of it i got credit for even though no one wanted to take credit. but it would really be his oils
policy issues, but then i could do travel for those policy issues. so i went to africa five times, two times with george. the first time and the last time. then -- while we -- while george was president we just went again, as you all probably, many of you know. because the bush institute just announced our global health initiative in last fall, and then in early december, george and barbara and jenna and henry and i went to africa for george to speak at the international conference on aids in africa in ethiopia. and announced the -- our global health initiative, which is adding the testing treatment and vaccine for cervical cancer to the platform that was already set up, the aids platform already set up. [ applause ] >> and you did something for malaria, too. >> and then the president's malaria initiative. >> i shouldn't have to be prompting you on these. >> thank you.
>> lincoln once said that one of the great things about the -- sort of the regular routine of the white house being so demanding was that you didn't have time, if you got mad at somebody, to keep it up. that you just -- i just have sufficient time for a temper. was that true? if hurtful things were done, or there were things bad happening outside, were you able to just put them aside or did they hurt? >> no. i mean, they -- you know, of course, you didn't like to have your husband be criticized. but i knew from the way the election was in 1992 that what happens in the united states is that our presidents and our first ladies for that matter get characterized in a way they are not a lot of times. and george and i were so miserable in 1992 when president bush lost. it was really the -- terrible for us to see our father who we loved criticized in a way we thought was unfair. so i was very aware that's just part of it. that's just something you put up with.
and you do. and you're right. you're so busy, and there's so many issues, and there's so many things you're working on. plus, you know a lot of times better than the people that are criticizing you. you really do. you know more about the issue than they're -- you know, it's easy to stand from the back row and criticize without really being as informed, obviously, as someone who's briefed every day is. and so i think you just -- i think you are too busy to spend a lot of time on it. i did, i will have to admit, i loved to call bar and commiserate about certain reporters. [ laughter ] >> who will remain nameless. >> that's right. >> speaking of '92 when we lost, and -- our children all went away because they couldn't bear to go through the thing. we went home and we went home on the plane with all -- many friends which was great. we loved that. and i really should mention the day we got elected jenna and
barbara plugged air force one's toilet. but other than that -- they were young. but anyway, we went home. i felt terrible for george. but there was a great welcome. but while driving home there was a beaten-up truck. people standing on it and a great big banner that said "welcome home, george and barbara." and we were home. >> and you were home. >> that made it okay. i'm going to weep over it, but it made it okay. we have loved being home. i probably more than george. jimmy baker and susan are -- as close friends as he has. but his friends are are dropping off a little faster than they should, passing on, and i have a lot of friends there that i really love, but the first time in my life i even work in the church on monday morning doing kneelers,
meeting new people. and they're so great. they do -- they do prison -- they go to the prisons. they do under the bridge which is the homeless. they feed them. they are the most wonderful people. i've had a great time with friends. >> i loved what you said in your memoir. after it was over, you said hooray, life after politics. which is one of the extraordinary things about our country that one day you are the president and the first lady living in this mansion, most powerful people in the world and next day you are private citizens and it is a miracle that that happens here. in so many other countries in the world, it doesn't happen. it's great. >> in england they are beaten and thrown out of number ten the next day. >> they're out. >> and that is not easy. >> but you've been around a while -- >> come on. you don't have to be ugly. [ laughter ] >> all i was going to ask you was, does it seem to you, as it does to me as an historian, that
times are coarser in terms of kra te critiques today? i'm sure maybe things -- we were talking about this before were terrible prior to the civil war. you had a senator who was hit on the head with a cane and didn't recover for a couple of years. and yet, there's something about the language, the negative and dysfunction of washington now that i've never seen in my lifetime. >> never, ever. it is -- you don't have to be around a long time to see that. but it has been -- i think the worst campaign i have ever seen in my life. i just hate it. i hate the fact that people think compromise is a dirty word. it is not a dirty word. [ applause ] >> absolutely. >> you, you haven't been around long enough. but you can speak. >> well, i think -- you know, obviously i thought when george was being criticized that things were really worse than ever. but then we went to the lincoln library in springfield with richard and saw those terrible cartoons about lincoln and you
realized it's just kind of part of american politics. the great news is we do elect somebody and they do serve for four years and then if they are re-elected they get four more. if they're not, they move out and somebody else moves in. i think it is just an example for the rest of the world. >> you are much kinder than i am. i think the rest of the world is looking at us and thinking -- what are you doing? why aren't you getting along? why aren't you working together? i'm sort of sad that we are not doing better. you are much more optimistic than i am. >> realistic. >> i'm optimistic but i would like this campaign to be over. >> i think once upon a time when people stayed in washington on the weekends before travel was easy, before they had to go home to raise the money for the ridiculous amounts the elections cost, friendships were formed along party lines. they would play poker together. get together on weekends.
>> what robert says, but when she was a child and her parents were friends with people -- because you live there and you went to the little league games together with your children. no matter what side of the aisle you were on. >> now they run home on thursday nights and come back on tuesdays and there's -- a real tribal sense of who's on what side. >> we were great friends with rostenkowski. george called him in jail. and bob strasburg. [ laughter ] we had great friends. we really did. but on the other hand, the press in those days did not -- if a senator or congressman fell under the table from drink, nobody mentioned it. >> right. >> but today they're pretty tough. >> no, i mean, i think about the fact when franklin roosevelt fell in 1936 coming to the democratic conventions, and his braces unlocked. he fell on the floor.
his speech sprawled out, and they -- finally he said, get me together. he gets up to the podium. he delivers a speech which is one of the best speeches in history. and the press never mentioned he had fallen. there wasn't a picture of him falling. they just talked about the speech. >> well, i do think the press is part of the reason it looks so acrimonious. because any little thing is repeated a million times. where before nothing, you know, you wouldn't ever have been repeated or most people wouldn't have heard it. >> there is a sense in the older days that the private lives of our public figures were relevant only if they affected their public responsibilities. so there was a certain kind of cushion of tolerance for people's lives to have some privacy. that's what i worry about whether people are going to be willing to enter public life now. >> why would they? >> yeah. well, because it's still -- as you know, looking for all the difficulty, you wouldn't change it for the world, right? >> no. except i would -- i think people would have a very hard time running for public office. for the presidency. these people have -- they are exhausted.
and it's acrimonious, if that's a word. and it's sad. >> it used to be it would be from september until november. because you had the brokers at the conventions. maybe that's what we need to go back to. good-bye, primaries. come back to those days. what extent does humor help to allay those difficulties? like, for example, i know you had dana carvey to the white house. what a brilliant maneuver. tell me how that happened. >> george. george. the whole white house when we lost was in the dumps. nobody smiled. bless their hearts. they were looking for jobs. and, you know. they had three months to do it in, and everybody's in the dumps. so george invited dana carvey to come. we went to, i think, the kennedy center honors the night before. he sat way away. nobody knew he was there. stayed at the white house. and then we went down, gathered and george gathered everyone together, and they went, you
know -- and ladies and gentlemen, the president of the united states, and in walks this tiny little funny man. and everybody -- he was wonderful. he imitated george and then george imitated him. it changed the whole feeling of the -- it was so sad. very sad. i mean, all looking for jobs. all in tears. but it cheered up. but george is very funny. >> i remember this is one famous moment when somebody said to lincoln, you're two-faced. he looked back he said if i had two faces, do you think i would be wearing this face? if only -- that seems missing in politics today, too, the sense of looking at yourself from the outside and laughing. you know. it just -- it seems -- >> he must have been a wonderful man. >> oh, i loved living with him. the most embarrassing thing is, one time i was on jon stewart. i fell so in love with lincoln. i said on jon stewart, i said i think he was really sexy, too.
but that's not what you think of for abraham lincoln. but there is this picture of him before the beard when he had this real ragged hair and he looked great. after that, you think lincoln was sexy? okay. what do you think is -- how do you memorize the things that you need to remember? you're in these state dinners. i know somebody tells you the name of the person when you come in. but you have to really remember stories about people. do you cultivate memory? i know your husbands have to, but you must have to as well. >> i think it's a matter of concentration. yeah. i think you get better at it. for sure. >> the good thing about being a woman is you can kiss a woman and man. you may not know them. they think you know them. but george could not kiss the men, but that works for me. still. if i kissed you, you know i love you and know you. i don't know your name. but i love you. >> do you remember the story you told in your memoir about helen hayes?
this is a great story of helen hayes talking about two old women at a bridge party. >> oh yeah. >> mrs. bush told this. do you want me to tell it? >> yeah, you tell it. >> they were at a bridge party. the one old lady said i really like playing bridge with you but i'm so embarrassed. i have been playing a while. i can't quite remember your name so the other old lady says, could you give me a few minutes to try to think of what the name is? >> we're at that stage in our lives. >> so how -- how hard is it to leave the white house? i mean, what is it like when -- you know you're going to camp david for the last time. you're going to see the troops for the last time? well, tell me about camp david. i feel always so terrible one time lyndon johnson invited me to go. i went out with my stupid boyfriend to the movies instead. so i have never seen it. what is it -- >> we love camp david. all the bushes did. we went all -- a lot when president 41 was president. we went for all four years from christmas and then they came with us for all eight years for christmas.
so we have the record that i know will never be broken of the number of christmases at camp david. we loved going there. so relaxed and lots of different sports, but a great place to entertain people. we had friends. a lot of our friends came every year at least once to camp with us, and everyone could just have their own cabin and make their meals. it was very relaxing to have camp, i think. >> you know they put in camp david a book and write, people who stayed up there and i suspect that between us, because we're both married to very gregarious men i guess and they invite everybody they know. so when they got to the bushes and skip the thing, well, four of the bushes, there's two or three guests, maybe. the bushes are, every bedroom is filled. and that made it so much more fun, and sharing it with friends -- but, really, i think,
and i'm sure george did, too. my george got more work done at camp david, because we'd invite guests and we'd say, we'll see you at lunch. you can go play tennis, can you bowl, do whatever you want, but we'll see you at lunch. and george worked. i probably worked on my diary, but george worked and met with people, business people, and who could help you with problems. did you do that? >> yes. >> yes, mom. >> i think it was a great place. nobody knew who was there. they could drive in and out. so you could meet without any problems. >> we used it a lot for entertaining heads of state and you know cabinet members. and congress people that would come with us on various trips. >> there must have been a greater sense of just while you are in the confines of camp david, you can roam around. >> that's right. you can go for long walks. >> i remember -- somebody
related to you once told me -- are the windows in the white house do not open and can you open them at camp david? is that true? >> they had some. >> we used to open the bed room window. >> we had the bedroom open. but i do remember when gorbachev came and mrs. gorbachev came out and he was sort of like you and we walked. oh, yes. i'm dying to walk. she had blisters beyond belief. and we put her into lower shoes later. but he stood up and george -- this is horseshoes. george said yes. he threw a ringer. a ringer. the first one. only one he shot. so george at dinner had it mounted. >> it must have been an incredible thing to have gorbachev there and having lived at the height of the cold war and here you have this head of russia there. and you become friends. i mean, that's -- that's a huge circle in our history. >> they brought putin to our
house in walker's point, and we became great friends. but i think that's lost now. >> george's story that was so moving to us was how close he was from japan, was one of the first to call after 9/11 to offer his alliances with us. when george's dad and his dad fought, you know, had been sworn enemies with each other in world war ii. the idea that somebody who had been an enemy, that short of a time was one of our closest allies now is really amazing. >> so how did things physically change in the white house after 9/11? >> right after 9/11 the tours stopped. we no longer -- really the white house is one of the only, i think, homes of a head of state that's open for public tours, but they stopped for a while. the white house book sellers used to sell their white house historical association books right in the white house but now
that doesn't happen anymore. i think people have to leave their purses and shopping bags and things outside. >> where do they buy the books now? >> they have to go down the street. it was really -- white house historical -- association or one of our partners in these knkss as well, conferences as well, and i think it did hurt their fund-raising. they had been able to sell a lot more from their gift shop. when their gift shop could be in the white house. so the white house was very quiet. that very first christmas of 2001, you know, we invited friends from all over, for the christmas parties, a lot of people didn't come. lot of people were still afraid to fly. >> didn't come? >> afraid to fly. >> the plane. yeah. >> yeah. >> and then the street got closed. was that when the street got closed? >> pennsylvania avenue was already closed. remember it was closed when the plane flew into the white house when president clinton was there, the little plane. >> is it closed now? >> it is closed now. >> we were thinking of opening it and then that happened and
then we worked with michael, the same landscape architect that's good and the bush library over here doing the landscaping for it to then landscape pennsylvania avenue, so it didn't look so much like a closed street. >> is that the one on the south lawn? >> pennsylvania avenue. the south street closes periodically, but it's not closed always. >> isn't impossible to imagine in lincoln's time people could just walk into white house. they didn't even need a card. you are floating around and he is going between people to get to his office. they said he had this little passageway through -- what was his reception room into what's now the yellow living room. so he wouldn't have to go out in the hall upstairs in the second and on the second floor, where job seekers, or people would be out there trying to shake the president's hand. >> wasn't it teddy roosevelt, who had so many children and he changed that. didn't he? >> he built -- yeah.
he didn't have enough bedrooms at the time when -- i was thinking when you were talking about the athletic activities, i was just reading, i am working on teddy roosevelt now. he used to take all the ambassadors and senator on these walks through rock creek park. really fast walks. fast walks. the rule was whatever you -- whatever you came across, you had to go straight through it. you came to a river, you'd have to go through it. soap the ambassador from france is there. he has his gloves and his outfit. huffing and puffing. finally they get to a river. he goes, thank god it is over. then roosevelt says -- okay, let's undress. we are going. so they -- he said for the honor of france, i took off my clothes. but then he kept his lavender gloves on. and roosevelt said to him why did you keep your gloves on? he said, we might meet ladies on the other side. >> speaking of that, roosevelt had all the animals as well. like mrs. coolidge did, too. talking about earlier with the story that the little boys
brought their little pony upstairs. when quintin was sick or -- >> exactly right. exactly right. >> because that -- the animals are also a great comfort to you in the paths you have. >> did millie really sleep in between you and your husband? >> are you kidding? where else would she sleep? we now have two little people in there. two little itty-bitty dogs. >> was it fun to write the book? about the white house, through the perspective -- >> yes. i must say, the white house photographers really helped me. we would have -- schedule a day to go down to the red room, and hope nobody saw us, because dogs were not aloud to be on the furniture, but we placed her beautifully in the room. she lounged in the red room. she -- the photographers were fabulous about helping. that was very much fun. she made over a million dollars for charity. as george says, i worked all my life, got the highest job maybe
in the world and my dog made more money than me. >> there is a very touching moment when, of course, fdr's dog, it was really fdr's dog, but eleanor then took the dog over, and the dog was so used to "hail the chief" that whenever it would be played when fdr was alive, he would get excited. at one point eisenhower came to visit eleanor after fdr was dead and the dog was so excited and thinking fdr was coming back. >> that's sad. >> please don't tell stories like that. >> fortunately barney and beasley never really got that excited. >> i would like to point out that when your photographer talked about the children, patty and barney -- good luck. >> be careful. >> didn't one of you have to give diet restrictions? was that for ranger? >> ranger. >> everybody is trying to feed them.
>> we discovered ranger had some juilliard ham or something that he had gone down to the kitchen and the chefs put plates for dinner, down low, and he just went and helped himself for a while. so he had a -- george put a thing on him. >> what about christmas in the white house? that must be a very special -- >> it is always really fun. we never spent actual christmas there. that was always at camp david because -- by then the parties were over, and if you went to camp david, then you know, the people that are there are posted there with their families. so we would see them in the galley for christmas dinner, and that way everyone got to stay home or be home for christmas on the white house staff and everyone else. >> we should mention looking at lori firestone that we were so lucky with staff. lori worked for me for 12 years. she worked for me but really she worked for george bush because he would bypass the chief of staff. isn't that right?
he would say, lori, we are having 40 for dinner tonight for a movie. can it just be informal? and -- she would arrange it. she did wonderful things. for us. but also, susan porter rose. the staff, carol powers, they were just fabulous. so i had them for 12 years. only lost one who got a better salary. but i hear from her. but -- they are still with us. >> some people have said that marriages get even stronger because you actually see the guy more than you might -- especially in the days when they are campaigning and they're gone. and then a lot of first family marriages have been stronger than other times. do you think that's so? >> well, i think, just the whole family really gets so close together. you always have an opponent in politics. so -- it doesn't have to be your husband. >> i like you anyway. >> so do i.
>> no. i think there is something about politics when the world isn't against your husband, you think, at times for children. our grandchildren, 17 plus four, in-laws, are very close, and i think it's because of politics. i mean they're very close. very loving. i will say to pierce, oh, i haven't heard from marshall for a while. oh, i just talked to her yesterday. or they get the iphone which is evidently you talk forever for free. incidentally, marshall has just asked me to sign a picture for cane corso dog breeder. and i said, well, what is that? it's a dog about so big that can eat you up. it killed a woman. she's getting one. i signed it, but i didn't want to. >> so what do you miss the most about the white house?
>> i always say the chef. >> understandably. >> just like barb said, we miss all the people we work with. we see some still a lot. it is great to see susan and for everybody that has come for this, first lady's conference. but it's really the people. the people that work there, butlers and ushers and all the people you live with every single day. you miss the most. all the people that work for george in the west wing. >> i have moved 27 different times. and i've learned, i don't miss anything. i loved them all. but my life is perfect as it is. >> that is so healthy. >> nobody ever said i was unhealthy. i really think you can't miss -- although, she's the chef was nice. she says the chef was nice. but -- you just go on to other things. we have been so lucky.