The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
July 15, 2004

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Media Availability in Jacksonville, Florida
St. Vincent's Medical Center
Jacksonville, Florida

11:20 A.M. EDT

MRS. BUSH: Thanks everybody for coming out today. I really appreciate it. Thanks for covering the Heart Truth.

You're the ones who really can get the word out to women all over this community and all over the country to pay attention to their health. And if they start to have any symptoms that they think are associated with heart disease to go straight to the emergency room, just like they would send their husbands if they did, and not to wait until they had severe symptoms.

In fact, that's one of the reasons they think more women than men die of heart disease, because they go to the hospital much later, they've already suffered more damage, more heart damage by the time they get to the hospital. So thank you for covering this event today, and I hope you'll get the word out to everybody here in Jacksonville and around the state.

Okay, I'll be glad to answer questions.

Q Mrs. Bush, was the administration disappointed with the Senate's failure to pass the gay marriage amendment?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I don't know. I think it actually opened up the chance for debate, which is what I think we want to do, I think that's what the American people want to do about this issue, because of -- rather than have a judge in Massachusetts or a mayor in San Francisco make the decision for them. I think the American people would like to talk about that.

But I want to add, I think it needs to be talked about in a very respectful way, and it's something that I --

Q (Inaudible.)

MRS. BUSH: Not necessarily. But I think that this is an issue that's very touchy. It's very close to people's hearts on both sides. And that it's a time for us to respect each other and to respect each other's opinions.

Q Mrs. Bush, it's been said that the women are going to play a big role in this year's campaign, yourself, Theresa Heinz. Any thoughts on that?

MRS. BUSH: Let's see. I don't know. I will tell you that I'm campaigning for my husband a lot. I've traveled around the country. Yesterday I was in Alabama and Georgia and I'm going on to Tennessee after this. So I'm going to be very active because, of course, I think he ought to be reelected. I think he's been an excellent President and that he really has the character and the courage and the straightforwardness that we need at these difficult times in our history.

Q What's it like campaigning with your daughters for the first time?

MRS. BUSH: It's really fun. I've really loved it. It's moving to me, actually. Barbara was -- our daughter Barbara was with George yesterday on a bus trip in Wisconsin and the day before in Michigan. And she told me that at the first stop when he came on the stage, she wept. So it's been actually moving and a lot of fun to have our girls with us on this campaign.

They've never -- at each one of our other campaigns, when George was elected governor of Texas, they were 13. And then when he was elected President, they were in their first semester of college. And so they really weren't old enough any of those times to be involved in the campaign.

And they were the ones who came to us and said, you know, we don't want to tell our children later in life that we never worked on a single one of our father's campaigns. So they wanted to be involved in it.

We had chosen, made a really conscious decision early on not to use them in our campaigns. We're really glad they want to be involved in it.

Q Mrs. Bush, do you have any reaction to Ron Reagan, Jr.'s, announcement to -- stem cell research at the Democratic National Convention?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think that is a very important issue to discuss. The fact is the President is the one who actually authorized federal spending for embryonic research, stem cell research.

But I do think it's one of those issues that we do have to be very, very careful about. There's a moral implication in it, do we want to create life for research purposes, to destroy for research purposes? And I think that's an implication.

I also want to say that one thing that I think has happened in the discussion of embryonic stem cell research is that you all and other people who talk about it have given people around the United States who are watching a loved one suffer with Alzheimer's or with some other very severe disease that a cure is right around the corner, if only we could do embryonic stem cell research or more embryonic stem cell research.

But the fact is, that's not right. There isn't a cure around the corner, sadly, for Alzheimer's with embryonic stem cell research. It's much, much -- embryonic stem cell research is much more preliminary than that, we're not about to come upon a cure. And the fact is there's adult stem cell research which has been more promising in regenerative medicine. So there are a lot of sides to the issue. And it's another one of those issues that I think needs to be treated very carefully and with respect.

Q Your own family's history, how much does that play into your feelings?

MRS. BUSH: Well, of course I want a cure for Alzheimer's; we all do. But I don't believe personally that a cure is right around the corner because of embryonic stem cell research. I wish that were the case, but it's not.

Q -- how important is getting the word out about heart disease?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think it's very important. It's not a political issue, it's not a campaign issue, but it's a life-saving issue. And when I spoke in Kansas City last year and then got a newspaper article from the hospital a couple of days later about Joyce Cullen who heard the television coverage about heart disease and that night went to the emergency room and found out she was having a heart attack and had surgery, it made me feel great. It really did.

I mean, this has been really one of the most satisfying things about -- of all the different issues that I work on because my husband is President. To be able to get the word out to literally save lives is -- makes me feel really great. It's a wonderful issue for people to talk about.

And that's what Joyce today was telling us. I mean, that's why she thinks, she believes her life was saved, so she could get the word out. So she has a mission now after recovering from heart surgery, to let other women know about it.

Q Mrs. Bush, what is it like having your husband's integrity questioned by Democrats, the whole weapons of mass destruction argument? What does through --

MRS. BUSH: Well, of course I don't like for my husband to be criticized. Obviously, that's the worst part of political campaigns, what happens in campaigns where people are criticized many times unfairly, I might add.

The intelligence that my husband saw was the same intelligence that everyone else saw, that the Congress saw. It was the same intelligence that the Congress acted upon when they voted almost unanimously for a resolution to use force against Saddam Hussein. And I'm very, very proud of my husband. I'm proud of him for the -- leading the United States in the cause of freedom. I'm proud that the Iraqi Interim Government is now building their country. I'm proud that women in Afghanistan can walk outside without male supervision and that girls are in school in Afghanistan, many for the first time in their lives.

These are challenging times. They are very, very difficult, and I understand that. But I also know we as Americans can do hard things. And we've seen it in previous generations, and I'm proud that our generation can also do hard things.

Q -- in effect apologize or accept responsibility for the interpretation of the intelligence?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think there are a lot of people that were involved in that intelligence. But let me just say one thing: Intelligence gathering is not an absolute, it just isn't. I mean, that's just a fact of life. They're doing the best they can to find out things that other countries and other people are hiding or trying to hide. And it's not 100 percent failsafe.

At the same time, it's easy with 20/20 hindsight to be able to criticize. But the fact is I think they're doing the very best they can.

Thank you all. Thanks for getting out the heart truth. I really appreciate it. Good to see you all.

END 11:30 A.M. EDT

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