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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
June 9, 2004

Interview with First Lady Laura Bush by Dana Bash of CNN
Sea Island, Georgia

7:36 A.M. EDT

Q Good morning, Mrs. Bush.

MRS. BUSH: Good morning.

Q Thank you very much for joining us.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks. Glad to.

Q Before we get to issues about this summit here in Sea Island, first I wanted to talk about what's happening back in Washington. Today is the state funeral for President Reagan. Have you spoken with Nancy Reagan?

MRS. BUSH: I haven't spoken to her. The President spoke to her on Saturday from France as soon as we found out about Ronald Reagan's death. But I haven't quit thinking about her -- she just was an unbelievable role model for all of us.

My father died of Alzheimer's and I know how very, very difficult the disease is and how difficult it is for the caregivers. And she was stalwart and so devoted to him.

So we'll see her tomorrow night. As soon as we get back to Washington, we'll pay a call on her.

Q And you had some special access, if you will, to President Reagan, since your father-in-law was his Vice President. Tell us about a special moment, either the first time you met him or another memorable moment.

MRS. BUSH: Well, he was so funny. I think that's what people really remember. He was a big man, he was a very attractive, big man. But he had this very modest and self-deprecating sort of sense of humor, so he really made you feel comfortable.

I know what it's like to meet the President of the United States. And when we met him, we were very intimidated. We didn't know what to say. But he could immediately make us feel comfortable. And I think that's what the American people loved about him. That, and that he so obviously believed in the American people and he was so optimistic about our future.

Q I want to ask you about something relating to Nancy Reagan. First of all, your mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, publicly disagreed with her husband, President Bush, on the issue of abortion. Nancy Reagan has come out recently and said that she supports stem cell research in order to try to find a cure for Alzheimer's. You mentioned that your father also had Alzheimer's.

What is your personal view on stem cell research?

MRS. BUSH: Well, everyone supports stem cell research, and so did the President. And there are lines, embryonic lines of stem cell for research. It's a very delicate balance between what we want to do for science and for research and for what is ethically and morally right to do.

There's adult stem cell research that's available for people. There are lines of embryonic stem cells that are available for research. And we all want a cure for Alzheimer's. And I know there are many, many researchers who are working with stem cell but also with other medicines and other possibilities of prevention and vaccines for Alzheimer's.

Q Do you think the federal funding for the existing lines should -- it should stop there, the existing lines?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think that's -- we need to really be very delicate about it and figure out what's the best way to do it, because there is a moral and an ethical part of it as well.

Q On the issue of the summit, you're hosting later today a spouses' roundtable on women's rights in the greater Middle East?

MRS. BUSH: Well, we're going to talk about women's issues in the greater Middle East, about education and health care for women there, and we have a woman minister from the Iraqi Governing Council and a woman minister from the Afghan Governing Council. We have a young woman who is an Iraqi Fulbright scholar studying in the United States coming to talk to us.

And what we want to have is a very informal dialogue about ways the spouses of the leaders of the G8, which are the largest economies in the world, can help our sisters in the broader Middle East, both with education issues and with health care issues.

Q On that issue, some say that because of other concerns in the region, like oil, like terrorism, the administration hasn't been tough enough to make sure that women do have rights in countries like Saudi Arabia.

Given the fact that this broader initiative is a part of the summit, will the President take a tougher public line on women's rights in these countries?

MRS. BUSH: The President already has talked the whole time about human rights, and that's what women's rights are. The whole idea of governments treating people in their countries with respect and with dignity is the basis of all the greater Middle East -- broader Middle East project. Certainly we'll talk about those issues.

But we also respect the culture and the traditions of those countries. We respect their religion and we want to work in ways that work within their traditions and their culture.

Q Another big theme of this summit is moving forward, closing the chapter on differences between the allies that are here over the war in Iraq. You were right here last night, a group of the world leaders, half of whom did not agree with your husband on the war in Iraq. He is somebody who is known to put a lot of stock in personal relationships. He is forgiving, but does he really forget?

MRS. BUSH: No, of course he is forgiving. Half of the world leaders -- every one of the world leaders that were here last night except one are part of the coalition and supported the President and the United States and were vitally important to what happened in Afghanistan and what happened in Iraq. And every one of them signed the resolution yesterday that stands where the people of the world, of the international community stand with the people of Iraq as they try to build their democracy and build a country that respects human rights. And I'm very excited about that. I'm very proud of it.

I was proud when we saw little girls two years ago go to school for the first time in their lives in Afghanistan. And we and all of our coalition partners have made a huge difference in the Middle East.

Q One final campaign question. Your daughters have said they want to get involved in your husband's campaign. Have they decided exactly what they want to do?

MRS. BUSH: No, we're going to let them sort of decide. I think they'll work at the headquarters a little bit and then we'll see if they have the confidence to go on the campaign trail.

Q Mrs. Bush, thank you very much for your time.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks a lot.

END 7:42 A.M. EDT

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