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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 23, 2002
Remarks by Karen Hughes, Counselor to the President
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
10:00 A.M. EDT
MS. HUGHES: Thanks, Ari. Good afternoon, everybody.
THE PRESS: Morning.
MS. HUGHES: Good morning. Good grief, I don't usually do this this early in the morning. I'm not a morning person.
Q I know, you come in and see us, by now it should be afternoon.
MS. HUGHES: Exactly, it seems like afternoon. Between Ari's wedding announcement and my announcement today, this is family week at the White House. I came to let you all know, because I want you to hear it from me, myself, that later this summer I'm going to be changing the way in which I serve the President.
My husband and I have made a difficult, but we think, right decision to move our family home to Texas. As you all know, our roots are there. I have a daughter and granddaughter in Austin. My son is going into his final three years of high school before he goes off to college, and we want him to have his roots in Texas, as well.
At the same time, the President has asked me, and I have agreed to continue, to be involved, to continue to serve as a key advisor to him, to help develop his message, to handle -- to give him advice on strategic communications, and to continue to work on major speeches.
I've talked with both the President and Mrs. Bush, and they're both very supportive of my decision. They both said that they respect and understand the reason that I want to take my family home to Texas.
The President has a great team of communicators in place here. I'm confident, with Ari and Dan and Mike Gerson, and Jim Wilkinson and Scott in Communications, and Nicole Devenish in Media Affairs, and Tucker Eskew working on our CIC operation, that he will continue to be served in an outstanding way by the members of the great communications team that we have here.
I've always prided myself that this is a family-friendly White House, and I think this is a family-friendly decision. My commute is going to be a little longer, but you'll still be seeing me around frequently. And I plan to -- I've been known as an advocate for the President; I think he's doing a phenomenal job for our country; and I plan to continue to be an advocate for the President.
I'll be happy to answer a few --
Q Can you talk a little bit about what brought this on, and can you say with a little bit more detail what exactly you'll be doing? Will it be confined to writing for the President -- writing speeches and whatnot? Where will it go from here?
MS. HUGHES: Well, we're still -- this decision -- the need to make this decision right now was actually prompted by a deadline at my son's school. I had to notify them by May 1st as to whether he would be attending there next year, or not. So we're still working out the specifics, and I'll be here for several more months. I'm not going anywhere tomorrow. I'll be here until much later this summer. So I'll continue to be here. We're going to continue to work that out.
But the President told me, when I told the President last week, this is something, obviously, that you don't -- this is a decision that you do not make lightly. My husband and I have been talking about it for several months. And we think it's the right thing for our family.
And so I talked to the President about it last week, and he -- again, his immediate reaction was that he understood, that he respected my decision, and that he wanted me to continue to be involved in a key way. And I assured him that that is my intention, that I want to continue to be involved, to continue to serve as an advisor to him, to continue to be available to my colleagues if they want to seek my opinion. And so we'll be working on the way to do that.
Q Karen, was it just about the distance between the family members now in Texas and the ones here, or is it something about the climate in Washington?
MS. HUGHES: No, John, I really think it's that we decided that we wanted -- our home is Texas. I'll be honest, I guess we're a little homesick. We miss our friends. I went home during Prime Minister Blair's visit and saw my best friend's son play soccer in Austin, and I realized that I was missing seeing my friend's children grow up; and that my son, likewise, was missing the opportunity to go to his friends' home and be in touch with his friends' parents.
And so, John, we are very, very grateful for this opportunity and I wouldn't change a thing. We -- everybody in Washington has been very welcoming. I've enjoyed living here. It's been a thrill of a lifetime and an honor of a lifetime to serve the President here in the White House. And, again, I plan to continue serving him from a further commute.
Q But, Karen, basically, could you tell us what is really the difference for you, the Texas versus Washington? Because the Texans that are here make no bones about it, there's a big difference -- (laughter) --
MS. HUGHES: Well, you know, that's hard to describe. I don't really know. As many of you know, I grew up as an Army brat and traveled a great deal. I found my home in Texas. I think it's important that -- for our family, that we feel that we give our son that feeling of home, that place to come home to. And Texans are very open, friendly, warm people.
But, on the other hand, I also want to say that I have felt very -- everyone from my neighbors to the church I've been attending up here to my colleagues in the White House, everyone has been very welcoming here in Washington and we've enjoyed living here a great deal. I'm glad I got to see the cherry blossoms bloom several times and, again, I will continue to be here frequently.
Q Will you remain a full federal employee, full White House senior staff, and will it be basically kind of strategic and communications issues you continue to work on?
MS. HUGHES: Ann, again, we're still working out details. I will not -- I do not believe that I will remain, no, as an official White House employee. I will be leaving the White House. But, again, I will continue to be actively involved in any way the President wants me to. I will continue to be an advisor to him in any capacity that he wants me to.
Q And have you figured out what this means for your responsibilities within the White House, what this means for the White House staff, for the communications director, for the counselor, that kind of thing?
MS. HUGHES: Well, again, I think that we have a fabulous team in place, with Dan and Ari and Mary Matalin in the Vice President's office. We have a great team of people in place who are fully capable of serving the President very effectively.
Q But you run it. (Laughter.)
MS. HUGHES: Well, the President runs it. (Laughter.) And he's staying. (Laughter.)
Q How much did the long hours and significant travel you've had to do over the last several years now have a role in this decision, as opposed to just the distance from Texas?
MS. HUGHES: Well, I think it's -- clearly, I'm a person who is accustomed to working long hours. I do want a little more time to spend with my family. I think I can continue to serve as an advisor on strategic matters from Texas and in a big-picture way.
It's interesting you say that. I've now worked for the President for eight years. I went to work for him in the summer of 1994, during -- back when, as he jokes, the motorcade was one car and he was sometimes driving it. I date the beginning of the presidential -- dare I call it chaos -- to about five years ago, when the President first had a -- had to have a news conference to address the question of would he or would he not consider a race for President. That was in October of 1997.
So it has been a long time. And I'm looking forward to a little more time to -- and a little more perspective to think and write and speak and I'm looking forward to having, I hope, a little more time for some of those things, and also -- as I continue to serve the President.
Q You said the President is staying, but is he envious of your going back to Texas? (Laughter.)
MS. HUGHES: Well, he gets back to Texas frequently and enjoys it. As he always says, he's changed his address, but he hasn't changed his home.
Q Karen, will your position as senior counselor to the President remain a position here, and will somebody fill that on a day-to-day basis? For example, will Mr. Bartlett be elevated?
MS. HUGHES: Dan has been promoted, as you know, to Communications Director, and I imagine will continue to serve as Communications Director. That would obviously be up to the President. I really don't expect it, but I don't know. That's obviously up to the President.
Q We'll be taking that up later. (Laughter.)
Q Was the President surprised, or had he an inkling of this prior to your --
MS. HUGHES: Well, the President knows me well. And both President and Mrs. Bush know that I have been -- I've talked with them periodically about my family, and they know my family well. As you know, Robert traveled with us during the presidential campaign. So the President and I have had a number of conversations about my family. So I think he knows me well, and I think he certainly understands and respects the decision.
Q He wasn't surprised then, particularly?
MS. HUGHES: I mean, I don't want to characterize, other than to say that he -- when I talked to him about it last week, he said that he respected my decision and he admired it.
Q Since you won't have the President's ear, so to speak, day to day, do you --
MS. HUGHES: Oh, there are phone lines.
Q That's the question, really. Are you going to feel comfortable --
MS. HUGHES: Absolutely.
Q -- when something's getting under your skin, just calling him up --
MS. HUGHES: Absolutely. As you all know, I have worked for the President for a very long time, and he is not only my boss, but also he and Mrs. Bush have become very good friends. And so I will feel very comfortable continuing to talk with him, and again, continuing to advise him in any way that I can.
Elizabeth, last question.
Q Did your son like it here -- and secondly, does this tell you anything, or us, anything about women trying to balance everything? I mean, is this a defeat in some way, do you feel, or --
MS. HUGHES: Actually, I think what this is -- throughout my career I have tried to prioritize my family while I have a career. And I think that -- as I said, I've prided myself that this is a family-friendly White House, and I think this is a family-friendly decision. I think this says that I can do what is right for my family, and continue to serve the President in a key way. And I think that's a great credit to him.
Q You sure it wasn't the dinner? (Laughter.)
MS. HUGHES: Thank you all, very much.
END 10:14 A.M. EDT