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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
August 31, 2004

Interview of First Lady Laura Bush by Bill Hemmer of CNN
Dearborn, Michigan

7:30 A.M. EDT

Q Thank you for your time and good to have you back with us here on our program. Good to see you as well.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks.

Q I want to get to your speech in a moment here, but there are a few things that have been said over the last few days, interviews you've done. I just want to try and clarify a little bit. The first thing that was suggested in Time Magazine, when you were asked about whether or not these ads against John Kerry were unfair or not, you said, "Not really. There have been millions of terrible ads against my husband." When you say, "not really," is that what you truly mean?

MRS. BUSH: Well, absolutely. Those 527 ads that aren't from either campaign have been against both candidates. A lot of them have been against my husband. And, in fact, my husband and John McCain have both filed suit with the FEC to ask the FEC to rule on getting rid of 527s, and I'm wondering if Senator Kerry will join me in that suit to make sure that 527s aren't there.

Q Also with the New York Post, Mrs. Bush, you were asked -- I believe it was over the weekend -- about the seven minutes in which your husband sat in that classroom in Florida while the attacks of 9/11 occurred at the Pentagon and also in New York City. You said the attacks of John Kerry questioning your husband's presence in that classroom were absurd. Why is that claim absurd?

MRS. BUSH: Well, absolutely because it was so appropriate for my husband to sit there in front of children for those few minutes. During those few minutes, he knew that his staff was trying to get more information to find out what had really happened. And I think it was really appropriate in front of children and in front of the press that was there as well to let the little girl finish reading and then to get up and leave.

Q Do you think these are issues that will continue for the next 63 days and be a focus point for this election?

MRS. BUSH: No, I don't.

Q Why is that?

MRS. BUSH: Because I don't think those are important issues. I mean, we are facing so many very, very important issues and those are the issues that you heard talked about last night from the Republican convention, and that you'll hear my husband talk about. And those are the really important issues facing our country right now.

Q Also the issues were raised over the weekend here in New York City, depending on what estimate you pay attention to, there were at least 100,000 demonstrators marching on 7th Avenue here in New York, perhaps the number went as high as 200,000, depending on which side you're listening to. When you see those protesters, they are there to do one thing, make a statement against your husband. When you see the images, what are your impressions?

MRS. BUSH: Well, you know, one impression is that we are a free country and that people have the right to protest. And as we look around the world, we know there are a lot of countries that -- where people don't have that right. And certainly in Afghanistan and Iraq, people didn't have that right before. And that's one of our cherished freedoms in the United States.

I also know that there are a lot of people around the United States who want my husband to win and who are for him and who support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I feel good about those people, too.

Q Just to follow that up, another comment you gave in that same interview. You said over the course of the past four years, and then you reflected on the relationship with your husband. You say at times a lot of this has been very, very tough.

MRS. BUSH: Absolutely.

Q At what time was it tough?

MRS. BUSH: Well, we've faced very difficult decisions and challenges in our country, every one of us have, as we -- since September 11th, as we fought the war on terror, all of those decisions that the President had to make to put young men and women in harm's way. That's the most difficult decision any President has to make. All of those times have been tough.

But they're also very hopeful when you look at what's happened, when you look at Afghanistan, where now 10 million people are registered to vote, 40 percent of those people are women. When you look at little girls back in school in Afghanistan. When you think that Pakistan is now our ally in the war on terror, that Libya is dismantling their nuclear program, that Saddam Hussein is in a jail cell in Iraq, and the Iraqi Interim Government is governing there. It's very, very hopeful as well as difficult. But there are a lot of challenges ahead. But I think it's a very hopeful and historic time for the United States of America.

Q On a different topic, your twin daughters, now age 22, are here in New York City, Barbara and Jenna. They were quoted on a broadcast on A&E as saying that the only reason their father is successful is because he has someone like you behind him. (Laughter.)

MRS. BUSH: That's pretty terrific for girls to say that, but I don't know if it's true. But it's really nice of them to say that.

Q There are some numbers, quickly I want to put them on our screen for our views and get your response to this. The opinion that you have of Laura Bush, favorable 63 percent. That's better than your husband. The LA Times also points out, who better fits your idea of a First Lady, Laura Bush, 56 percent; Theresa Heinz Kerry, 26 percent. Your reaction to those numbers?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I'm flattered with those numbers, I think that's nice. But this isn't really a popularity contest and it's a privilege. In fact, I have the privilege of traveling around our country and meeting people all over the country who are making a huge difference in the lives of their neighbors and themselves. That's what I'm really fortunate to be able to do.

Q Thank you for your time. We'll see you in New York later tonight.

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