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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 19, 2004
Interview of First Lady Laura Bush on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno
4:30 P.M. PDT
MRS. BUSH: Thanks. Great to be here.
Q Nice to have you. Nice to have you.
Now, I'm told you're not really comfortable with the title First Lady, you don't like -- what is you --
MRS. BUSH: People actually call me "First Lady." Like they say, "First Lady Bush," to speak to me. (Laughter.) And I think I'd just rather be called my name.
Q Just by -- oh, okay. Well, you can understand why people -- it's awkward. "Hey, Laura!" You don't want to do that. (Laughter.)
MRS. BUSH: Well, that's right. Mrs. Bush.
Q Mrs. Bush. Describe your day for me. A typical day, what time do you and your husband usually get up?
MRS. BUSH: We get up really early. We get up about 5:30 a.m. He goes in and gets the coffee and we drink coffee and read the newspapers. That's been our ritual our whole married life.
Q So he gets up and gets the coffee?
MRS. BUSH: He gets up and gets the coffee. He's very nice.
Q Does he grind the beans? (Laughter.)
MRS. BUSH: No, he doesn't go quite that --
Q Instant coffee? What? (Laughter.)
MRS. BUSH: I think he turns on the button. The coffee is already made at the White House. (Laughter.) It's really easy to punch the button and turn it on.
Q Does he bring it in on -- does he have one of those trays with handles?
MRS. BUSH: No, just two cups.
Q The two cups. Okay, then what happens? You have the coffee --
MRS. BUSH: Then we read the newspaper in bed.
Q Now, didn't I read your husband says he doesn't read the newspapers? Because I've done a lot of jokes about that.
MRS. BUSH: He only reads -- he does read the newspaper, of course. Just not the reporters that follow him.
Q Oh, okay. (Laughter.) Now, why is that?
MRS. BUSH: Because he says he doesn't want to be mad at them the next day. Also, because he was there at the event, so he doesn't need to really read their coverage of it.
Q Oh, okay. (Laughter.)
Now, do you work out?
MRS. BUSH: I work out. I have a trainer who comes two or three days a week, depending on how many days I'm at home.
Q Do weights?
MRS. BUSH: Do weights, lift weights. I'm getting quite buff. (Applause.)
Q Do you think in a fight you could take Theresa Heinz? (Laughter.) I don't know.
MRS. BUSH: Very funny. (Laughter.)
Q Well, let me ask you this. When you watch TV, is it hard for you when the TV is critical of your husband?
MRS. BUSH: Sure.
Q Do you think it's harder being the person or being in love with the person?
MRS. BUSH: I think it's harder being in love with the person. You know, you hate to see somebody you love criticized or characterized in a way that you know they're not.
But actually, I don't watch that much television.
Q Late at night? (Laughter.)
MRS. BUSH: Well, every once in a while. (Laughter.)
Q Now, you have discussions with your husband, obviously. Do you offer opinions when things -- whatever the story of the day is?
MRS. BUSH: Sure. Sure. (Laughter.)
Actually, when he was running for Congress the very first time, his mother told me -- Barbara Bush said, never criticize George's speeches. So I really took her advice to heart and never criticized any of his speeches.
I knew there were plenty of other critics without me being one of them. Until one night, we were driving into our driveway and he said, tell me truth, how was my speech. And I said, well, it wasn't that good. (Laughter.) And with that, he drove into the driveway, drove into the garage wall. (Laughter and applause.)
MRS. BUSH: That's really true.
Q I can see why she didn't want you to that. (Laughter.)
All right. More with the First Lady right after this. (Applause.)
* * *
Q Welcome back. We're talking with Laura Bush, the First Lady of the United States.
Now, you were in Las Vegas last night, I imagine partying until dawn? Did you gamble at all while you were there? Did you pull a slot machine? Did you go to a Chippendales show? (Laughter.)
MRS. BUSH: Jay, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. (Laughter and applause.)
Q Wow, that's the last answer I expected to hear. (Laughter.) Let's hope the President went to bed early. (Laughter.)
MRS. BUSH: He did; he was in another time zone.
Q Have you ever put a quarter in a slot machine?
MRS. BUSH: No, I never have.
Q Really? Don't gamble at all? Well, I'm not a gambler, either. Okay.
Now let me ask you, this is I guess the last campaign, would you say?
MRS. BUSH: That's right. That's right.
Q Are you relieved? Are you enjoying this life? Is it fun?
MRS. BUSH: It's fun. It is fun. But there's something sort of bittersweet about it being the very last campaign. We have been in a lot of campaigns. When my husband was running for Congress, we spent the first year of our marriage in a car traveling up and down the panhandle of Texas. That was a lot of fun. Then, of course, we had his dad's campaigns and then his two campaigns for governor.
Q Go back to that first one. Now, that was not successful. You did not win that one.
MRS. BUSH: That's right.
Q What is that like? I mean, you do this. I mean, it's like running for President. I understand it's a smaller scale. But, you know, you knock on the doors --
MRS. BUSH: Not quite like running for President.
Q Well, I guess not, no. But, I mean, how --
MRS. BUSH: George was driving. (Laughter.) It was the two of us in the car.
Q We have a picture. Show that picture. Here they are. What kind of low-rent campaign is that? (Laughter.) you're facing the wrong direction.
MRS. BUSH: That was a 4th of July parade in Morton, Texas, a little, tiny town in the panhandle. And since the high school band -- since it was the 4th of July, the band wasn't practicing, so it was a totally silent parade. (Laughter.) You know, just kind of waving at the crowd as you drove by in the back of a pickup.
Q Now, when you lost that campaign, did you say to yourself, oh, thank God, I never want to do that again. Or, I want to get back in this right away? What was your feeling? Because it must be devastating to do that for six months or a year --
MRS. BUSH: It was. But we made tons of friends that we really like and, you know, we were newly married. We wanted to have babies. We had a lot of other things to look forward to.
I used to jokingly say that maybe he would run again when we were 50, because we had a really good time. And then, as it turned out, we were almost 50 when he ran for governor.
Q Now, when you're out on the campaign trail, you say you don't criticize the speeches. Was that the last time?
MRS. BUSH: No, of course not. (Laughter.)
Q Well, I mean, there are certain things like -- I sense that there are certain -- sometimes the President will say something and do you ever say to him, why did you put that word in the speech or why did you say -- because there were certain -- like I remember there were a couple of phrases that really got to be -- axis of evil and evildoers and these type of things.
What is your opinion on that? Do you ever say, that seems a little strident, that seems a little -- you know?
MRS. BUSH: Sure. But not in time, usually. (Laughter.) He's already said it.
Q When was the last time you and your husband had a disagreement on an issue?
MRS. BUSH: Jay, what happens in the White House says in the White House. (Laughter and applause.)
Q Wow. How does one unwind in the White House? Do you have a guilty pleasure? Have you ever watched a reality show? Have you --
MRS. BUSH: We watched the very first Survivor a lot during the 2000 campaign in motels across the United States, a lot of them in New Hampshire and Iowa and other places. But, no, we watch baseball.
Q Baseball, okay. Are you a big fan?
MRS. BUSH: I'm a huge fan. When he owned the team, we went to about 60 games a year, and I loved that. Baseball is very relaxing. It's long and it's slow and you have plenty of time to watch and daydream and do everything else. (Laughter.)
Q There you go. Now, obviously, the convention is coming. Is it me, or does this campaign seem like the nastiest in a while? It seems like they start earlier and earlier. It seems to me, where we are now would have been maybe July or August a number of years ago. I mean, the intensity, the amount of money. Does it seem that way to you? From your side, how does it seem?
MRS. BUSH: Well, you know, I don't know how to say that. I think the fact is, campaigns are always like this. They are always alike in one way which is, of course, you want to make your opponent look the worst you can possibly make them look, I guess. I think that's what happened. (Laughter.)
But in our history, a lot of campaigns have been very, very brutal. There was a lot of pamphleteering, for instance, during the campaign of Lincoln, just like there seems to be now about President Bush. No one gets that joke. (Laughter.)
Q Now, you spoke at the last convention. Will you speak at this one at all?
MRS. BUSH: I'll speak at this one.
Q Okay. Because obviously you're very popular and people like you.
I remember you -- I think you were one of the first First Ladies ever to give a presidential address; isn't that correct?
MRS. BUSH: A radio address.
Q A radio -- right. Okay, okay. But were you the first?
MRS. BUSH: That's right. About the women in Afghanistan under the Taliban and what their life was like.
Q That was pretty historic. Okay.
You know what I wanted to ask you about. I had Barbara Bush here, obviously the ex-First Lady. And she shook my hand, and she went, "Don't tell any more jokes about my son." She almost broke my hand. (Laughter.)
And I thought -- she was the most intimidating woman. I was like this -- and I was wondering, when you're dating and you go to see Barbara Bush, was she --
MRS. BUSH: She was pretty intimidating. (Laughter.) She was, for sure. She still can be. (Laughter.)
She's terrific, though. She's a wonderful mother-in-law. And she loves her children -- and, of course, I love one of them, too.
MRS. BUSH: I like that.
Q When did you know you were first in with her? Was there one time when she wasn't giving you the eye, you know what I'm saying? And you went, whew --
MRS. BUSH: When we moved to Washington, we moved to Washington in 1987 to work on Mr. Bush's '88 campaign. That was really the only time we'd ever lived in the same town. And we finally bonded.
Q Oh, okay. Finally bonded? (Laughter.)
MRS. BUSH: There was a little bit of a slow start. (Laughter.) Not really. (Laughter.) She's great.
Q Now, your girls are graduating.
MRS. BUSH: This weekend.
Q I thought this was kind of sad that you and your husband can't make the graduation because, obviously --
MRS. BUSH: Well, we could make the graduation but if we went to the graduations, everyone would have to go through mags and they're both huge graduations, outside. And it would just be a hassle for the parents and the students, so we chose not to.
And, in fact, I didn't go to my college graduation. I went to my undergraduation with my parents. But I didn't go to my graduate school graduation at the University of Texas, because it was the same way. That's where Jenna is graduating now -- so big.
And so once I started giving commencement addresses, I looked up to see whose commencement address I had missed and the speaker was George Bush.
Q Oh, really? (Laughter.) Don't tell your mother-in-law that --
MRS. BUSH: Don't tell her. (Laughter.)
Q Well, very good. Well, thank you. I know you have to run. I want to thank you very much for coming by. I didn't even get a chance to ask you if George was a good salesman when he was at Sears.
MRS. BUSH: He was a very good salesman at Sears.
Q How far do you think he could have risen at Sears if he hadn't become President?
MRS. BUSH: President. (Laughter and applause.)
Q First Lady Laura Bush. Thank you very much. (Applause.)