The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
February 2, 2007

Interview of the First Lady by NBC Today Show
The W Union Square
New York, New York

8:10 A.M. EST

Q And welcome back to New York City's Union Square. It is the number one killer in this country, heart disease. And yesterday, President Bush signed a proclamation making February American Heart Month.

First Lady Laura Bush is the National Ambassador for the Heart Truth Campaign, an effort by the federal government to educate women about the dangers of heart disease.

Mrs. Bush, good morning to you.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks. Good morning, Meredith.

Q It's not just National Wear Red Day, which we are doing. But it's also somewhat of a red-letter day for heart disease and women. As ambassador, I know you have some good news to report for a change.

MRS. BUSH: That's right. That's right. Well, this is the fifth year of the Heart Truth Campaign. And new data shows that many more women are aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women, and that's great. Because part of the reason more women than men died of heart disease is because women didn't take heart disease seriously. They thought of it as a man's disease. If they started having any symptoms, they just thought they were tired or anxious, and didn't get to the hospital as fast as they would have gotten their husband or their boyfriend there.

Q But the number of deaths is actually down?

MRS. BUSH: That's right. So the number of deaths is down. It does mean that more women are living with heart disease. And there are some great support groups around the country for women who are living with heart disease. That's the good new.

Q Yes. It is still -- as we said in the beginning, it is still the number one killer of women and men.

MRS. BUSH: The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease.

Q And part of it is that people still don't understand the risk factors. What are the risk factors?

MRS. BUSH: Well, they're -- if you have any one of these risk factors you really should check with your doctor and always follow and do what you can to prevent heart disease. The risk factors are obesity. They're smoking -- being overweight, smoking, no exercise, if you don't exercise, if you don't have a healthy diet. And then --

Q High blood pressure --

MRS. BUSH: High blood pressure and high cholesterol. And you should always see your doctor and know your numbers, know what your blood pressure is, know what your cholesterol is, and then make a real effort to start to exercise, to keep a healthy weight and to eat healthy foods. And we all know what they are now. We can pick up any magazine or any newspaper and read about the sort of diet we should have. And it's -- all you really need to do for exercise is about 30 minutes of walking, and most people can do that.

Q I want to move on, Mrs. Bush, to a red hot button issue, global warming. There is a report -- a long awaited report out this morning that says the problem is virtually manmade, and it's going to get worse. Your husband recently acknowledged the link between the two. But there are a lot of critics who think that he was late coming to the table on this issue. Is that a fair criticism?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I wouldn't say -- no, not at all. I don't think that's a fair criticism. He -- last year in his State of the Union address, as you know, he said we were addicted to fossil fuels, addicted to oil in our country. And this year, he set very specific and ambitious goals to reduce our use of fossil fuels, and so reduce the amount of carbon gases in the air.

Q Is it an essential issue to you?

MRS. BUSH: It is an essential issue. Obviously, the environment has to be an essential issue to everybody. And it is to our government, as well. We're spending billions of dollars in the government on research on ways to be able to have cleaner energy and so have a cleaner environment.

Q I want to move on to politics. Conservative Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who has been a longtime supporter of your husband, recently came out opposed to the troop surge. I want to show you what he said at a committee meeting, actually, for the Foreign Relations Committee.

(Video is shown.)

Q I thought you had an IPU. You do not.

MRS. BUSH: I don't. (Laughter.)

Q I'm going to read. He said, "We better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder. We better be as sure as you can be."

Mrs. Bush, I know you're keenly aware of the fact that many of those young people could be your kids. Your daughters are 25 years old. My son is turning 18 next week, and he will register with Selective Service, so I'm very aware of it. Given that fact, do you still feel comfortable that sending these young people to this war is the right thing to do?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I do feel comfortable because I know the President does, and that's what he thinks. And he has listened to a lot of people, including Senator Hagel, but also including our generals, our military.

This is very difficult. It's always difficult. Every step of it has been difficult. And no more difficult for anyone than the President, the Commander-in-Chief, who is the one who puts our troops in harm's way.

Q Do you feel -- does the President feel at all betrayed by people like Senate Hagel?

MRS. BUSH: I don't think so. I mean, he's very aware that people -- that things aren't going the way everyone would want them to go in Iraq, and that everyone who is elected, and a lot of people who aren't, have opinions about what should happen and what he should do and what our country should do.

But he also knows it's his responsibility as the President of the United States to try to make the decisions that protect our country in the very best way it can possibly be protected. And leaving Iraq right now he thinks would not be in the best interest of our country.

Q In the best interest. Mrs. Bush, thank you so much.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks, Meredith. Thanks a lot.

Q And thank you for raising awareness about heart disease in women. You look great in your red. And good luck at the --

MRS. BUSH: The Red Dress -- a style show. I thought you're in it, right?

Q No, I'm just going to be watching.

MRS. BUSH: Okay.

Q But our Natalie Morales is actually in it once again.

MRS. BUSH: Great, good. Thanks, Meredith.

END 8:16 A.M. EST

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