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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
September 1, 2008

Press Availability by Mrs. Laura Bush
Crowne Plaza Hotel
St. Paul, Minnesota

8:41 A.M. CDT

Q Tell me the challenge of balancing this convention with what's going on in the Gulf Coast.

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think, you know, we'll just see how it goes. Obviously everybody here understands. I mean, people are disappointed, the delegates that are here are disappointed they're not going to get to have the big party on the floor tonight and the regular program. But on the other hand, they know. I mean, they're watching the Gulf Coast. I just left the Texas delegation. Everyone in Texas is watching the hurricane, too, because we'll be affected.

And so I think people understand the delegates that are here. They have their business that they have to take care of legally to nominate John McCain for our presidential candidate, and so they'll do that. And then I think we'll just see day by day whether or not the night's program will be appropriate and the right thing to do. And so we'll just see that as we go during the week.

Q Okay, thank you.

MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much, good to see you.

* * * * *

Q Mrs. Bush, Mike Allen.

MRS. BUSH: Hey, Mike.

Q Thank you very much for doing this for Politico.

MRS. BUSH: Sure.

Q You're very nice. I think you know Jon Ward from The Washington Post.*

MRS. BUSH: Hey, Jon. How are you? Good to see you.

Q Mrs. Bush, how are you? Good to see you as well.

Q What's your number one message for delegates who are disappointed by what's happened?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I actually think delegates really understand, they really do understand. And there's, you know, some of the states, all five of the Gulf Coast states that are affected, that could be affected by the hurricane or by Hurricane Hanna that's coming next are Republican states with Republican governors, and they're very aware that those governors now are not going to be able to attend the convention. And so I think people understand and are keeping their eyes on the Gulf Coast to see if there are any ways we can help, either as a party from up here or as just a way to get the word out to the rest of the country, because of the convention being here, of what we can do to help across the Gulf Coast.

Q And Mrs. Bush, what do you hope will come out of the convention, or what can the nation learn from the way Republicans are responding to this surprise?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I hope that what comes out of the convention is that people really get to know John McCain. That's the point, is for him to be able to give his speech, for the people of the United States to see what his policies are and what his hopes are for our country, and obviously to get to know Sarah Palin, because most people don't know her.

And so I hope that both of those speeches will be able to go on and that people will have the chance to hear both of them, because after all, that's what really is important. That's the most important part of any convention, and that is for the candidates themselves to be able to speak for themselves and let people around the country know what their hopes and goals are for our country.

Q Mrs. Bush, as a penultimate question, what do you think the people will learn about John McCain from the way he's handled this?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think they'll learn what John McCain is really like. John McCain is very sensitive. John McCain says, you know, what's important for the country is what's most important. He, as many people know, has worked with people on both sides of the aisle. I think that's what people are hoping for in this election, not politics as usual. I think that's what the other side is promising, but I actually think that's what John McCain is actually delivering. And I think that's really important.

Q And Mrs. Bush, as the last question, what do you hope or think the nation will remember about these eight exciting George W. Bush years?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I hope that people will know that George Bush's values didn't change with polls or with politics and that he has the integrity that he always had when he went into this office as when he leaves it. I hope people will remember he's kept us safe since September 11th. I think that's very important. And I hope people will really realize what the actual accomplishments are. And one, obviously, is keeping the United States safe, but also very important education reform, which is really important to me, and besides that, very strong foreign policy as far as aid is concerned -- the way the Millennium Challenge Grants have helped governments develop their own strategy in developing countries for how they can develop their countries; AIDS -- the AIDS program, PEPFAR, President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; the President's Malaria Initiative -- that we're saving -- literally saving millions of lives around the world.

Q Are you looking forward to Texas?

MRS. BUSH: I'm looking forward to Texas. I mean, I'm going to enjoy and savor every moment left in the White House, and then when January 20th comes, move on home.

Q Mrs. Bush, thank you for talking to Yahoo! news. So nice of you.

MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much.

* * * * *

Q Mrs. Bush, what surprised you about Governor Palin's selection? You said you were surprised.

MRS. BUSH: Well, I was surprised. I didn't know. I had no idea John McCain was considering Governor Palin. George and I know her. I've gotten to know her at the National Governors Association meetings when she's been in Washington. We were just with her August 4th on our way to -- when we were on our way to the -- Asia for the Olympics and we stopped in Alaska to see our troops and she was with us.

I'm thrilled about it. I'm so glad that I'm going to get this chance to vote for a Republican woman on this ticket. I've been looking forward to that day. I think she brings very interesting experience to this ticket. She's been a mayor. Mayors around the country know what that means. She -- when you're mayor, your constituents are your next-door neighbors and the parents of your children's friends in school, and you know what the local problems are. You know the ways that state and federal governments can work the best with local governments, with city governments and town governments to have the most effective cooperation with each other, which is also one of the things I think we're seeing in this response to Hurricane Gustav, and that is the way the local governments, the city governments can work with the state governments and the federal governments to take care of disasters like this, to take care of people who are either in harm's way with a disaster or who've had to evacuate because of a disaster.

* * * * *

Q Mrs. Bush, do you have a moment to talk to people in the Rio Grande Valley? We live right along the Gulf Coast. Just one quick question, if that would be okay. We just wanted to know, first of all, President Bush's -- if you could tell us what he's doing right now for the folks --

MRS. BUSH: Well, the President is in Texas today. He was going to Austin, which is one of the coordinating centers for the hurricane disaster relief, and then he's going to San Antonio, which is one of the refuges. San Antonio and a number of other Texas cities have opened their cities to refugees, to people who want to come to -- who are evacuating from the Gulf Coast and need a place to stay for just a few days, hopefully, that they'll have to be away. We hope that the hurricane will -- the damage from the hurricane will not be that severe and that people will be able to move back home right away.

I know that people along -- in the Rio Grande Valley were -- got a lot of rainfall. There was some flooding from the last hurricane that just came across. And I know people there are still probably cleaning up their houses and the other things that they have to clean up -- their businesses after that flooding.

So we hope that we won't get so much rain as an effect of this hurricane that we'll flood again. We always are glad to have some rain across Texas because we need it, but we hope it will just be enough rain to be something that's beneficial for the state rather than damaging.

Q One more question on Sarah Palin. You've seen the challenges your husband had to deal with in foreign policy and military affairs -- probably more than anybody else. Do you think she is ready now to deal with what your husband had to deal with not soon after he took office?

MRS. BUSH: I think she will be ready. I think she is a very, very quick learner. I think she -- I think when you have run a city like she has, when you've run a state like she has, you have executive experience. And I think she will be ready right away, and I think obviously she's running with someone who is very, very experienced in foreign policy issues, who's devoted a lot of his Senate career paying attention to foreign policy issues. And so I think they make a very good pair. And believe me, she'll get up to speed right away.

END 8:51 A.M. CDT

* Washington Times

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