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 Home > News & Policies > December 2008

For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
December 18, 2008

Interview of the First Lady by Greta Van Susteren, FOX News
Map Room

11:16 A.M. EST

Q Mrs. Bush, nice to see you.

MRS. BUSH: Thank you, Greta.

Q I think I'd be remiss if on behalf of, you know, our audience, I didn't thank you for the last eight years. You know, I've traced -- I've tracked you across the world for -- on breast cancer for women, and now this morning with what you're doing for Afghan women. I think a lot of people really appreciate what you've been doing.

MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much.

Q This morning, what was the -- tell me about this Afghan Women's Council.

MRS. BUSH: Well, this was just a very sweet morning for me. President Bush and President Karzai founded the Afghan American Women's Council in 2002 and this, today, we celebrated the partnership going to Georgetown University, so it will continue after we leave here. It's a partnership of women in the private sector, American women in the private sector who support women in Afghanistan.

Today this was all on entrepreneurialship. These are women who got to come to Thunderbird University and study to be entrepreneurs. It's really a way to make sure that women in Afghanistan who have no opportunity to be in business at all, or really to support their families, to even work outside their home before the United States liberated Afghanistan. Now this gives them a chance to be able to make money for themselves and support their families. And we heard a lot of great examples.

Q Yes, it's so interesting because I don't think the American people really realize what the job of the First Lady is. It's sort of unique. Each First Lady gets to define it. But you've actually reached out to so many women around the world on these issues. And I mean, Afghan women didn't have much of a chance or don't have much of a chance, and the breast cancer that you've been doing -- the breast cancer awareness. When you leave, we're going to see you again, aren't we, on these issues?

MRS. BUSH: That's right. I mean, that's -- I'll continue to work on these issues, and now I'll be on the private side of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council, when I've been on the public side before. And I think that will be a way for me to continue to work on all the issues that I've worked on for these last eight years that have to do with women -- both breast cancer, you know the Komen Foundation is headquartered in Dallas. So when I go home I'll be able to continue the work that I've done there with the countries in the Middle East that I did as First Lady before, but now will be able to do as a private citizen.

So I look forward to that. I'm going to be -- I'll admit it -- sort of feeling my way around. I'm not really sure how all of that is going to work, but I think the policy institute that President Bush will be building with his presidential library will be a great vehicle for me to be able to continue to work on these international issues, and then to obviously still work on education in the United States and all of the things that have been my career my whole life.

Q But it's been a real eye-opener when you look at, like -- let's talk about the breast cancer awareness, when we followed you to the Middle East. I mean, the women who are there have a very different opportunity. In fact, they have less of an opportunity than we have.

MRS. BUSH: That's right. Well, they are sort of -- on breast cancer -- about where we were when the Komen Foundation was founded and when Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan made their bouts with breast cancer public; and that is, people didn't -- you were embarrassed to mention breast cancer or even mention -- say the word "breast." And so women in the Middle East didn't go for mammograms. They didn't know to be screened. And so when they were diagnosed with breast cancer, it was in stage four and they had very little hope or very little chance for treatment.

And because we were able -- and this of course is also in partnership with the governments of the countries we visited -- to be able to talk about this, it gave us a chance to bring it out into the open and then our sisters over there in Saudi Arabia and Jordan and in these other countries have now -- are now continuing the work. And we're getting great reports that many, many more women are now going with their sisters and their mothers and having a mammogram and making sure they get the screening, so that if they are diagnosed they have a good chance of being treated and surviving.

Q Well, you take Saudi Arabia. I mean, I was almost -- well, I guess I was scandalized. You have to have permission from your husband to have a mammogram. That doesn't seem like a very good start -- or from your brother or your father. I mean, it is profoundly different, and when you travel to these parts of the world you see how different it is.

MRS. BUSH: Well, you do see how different it is, and I think you probably remember this -- the women were very, very covered. In many cases, even their mouths were covered, that we met in Saudi Arabia. And I realized that I had gone in with sort of a stereotype where I thought they were closed to me. And then when we started having the discussion of breast cancer, which is really sort of an intimate discussion, I realized that they're in so many ways like us and that women around the world are similar in a lot of ways. We want to be educated. We want to live in peace. We want our children to be safe and healthy, and we want to be healthy ourselves. And I think that that's what I saw, that even under the robes we -- all of us have a lot of the same dreams.

Q Are you going to miss the White House?

MRS. BUSH: I'm going to miss the White House. I'm going to miss all the people here. I'm going to miss the opportunities that I have every day to talk to my staff and solve problems and talk about things and laugh. And I'm going to miss all that camaraderie. Of course I'm going to miss the butlers and the ushers and the chef and everyone that's here that's made our lives so really wonderful for the last eight years.

Q All right, you mentioned the word "chef," and the first thing that goes through my mind is, I suspect the President better know how to cook, because he made a crack about somebody else's cooking. What's with that?

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think actually he's going to be -- have to learn how to grill. (Laughter.) He did know how to do that when -- before we moved here, but we're going to see. I mean, it's going to be interesting to see what it's like. We're going --

Q Did you hear what he said about your cooking?

MRS. BUSH: Well, that he might get skinny? (Laughter.)

Q I don't think -- that was a good comeback. That was a good -- but he said that he wasn't -- he said something to the effect that he wasn't looking forward to your cooking.

MRS. BUSH: That's because I haven't cooked in 14 years. He can't even remember what it was like, and neither can I. (Laughter.) So this will be interesting.

Q You know, I imagine -- and I just look at sort of through my own eyes, I would think it would be sort of, with all the wonderful things you've done here for Afghan women and women all over the world on breast cancer, I would think, it'd be so nice to get out of here and reclaim my life.

MRS. BUSH: Well, I think it will in some ways. I mean, I'm looking forward to that part of it. I like houses. I like home. I'm somebody who really likes to do things like decorate homes. And so I'm looking forward to that again -- you know, to having my own house and the things that are there, to running a home again, if I can remember how to do it. And I think that will be fun, just the whole opportunity to have a private life for George and me.

Q Did you pick out this new house?

MRS. BUSH: I picked it out, totally.

Q You saw it? I mean, you actually went and visited?

MRS. BUSH: Oh, I've been to it, sure. I've looked at it. He hasn't seen it. I showed him the pictures.

Q Does he have any say on this?

MRS. BUSH: Not really. (Laughter.)

Q That's what I figured. It's your turn, I guess, right?

MRS. BUSH: No, he's really like that. He trusts me to pick out something that he'll like and that'll be perfect for us, and it will be.

Q You know, it's so interesting, eight years is a -- especially for your daughters, we saw them as basically teenagers and now they're women, they're grown up.

MRS. BUSH: That's right. They have grown up and I'm very proud of them. They're terrific girls and it was fun for them to give advice to Malia and Sasha when the little girls came for Barbara and Jenna to show them around because they were seven, Sasha's age, when they first came to White House in 1989 when their grandfather was elected. So I can remember what that was like. I can remember looking at the White House through their eyes and how they would want to run along the big long cross halls that have such a long spread for children to run in and slide down the ramp on their bottoms from the solarium. And so they showed Malia and Sasha those things, and really it was a very nostalgic tour for me to have all those memories of other times that we've been at the White House.

Q You know, there's that famous quotation of yours, and I don't want to get it wrong, but something about -- something to the effect that when President Bush was thinking of running for Congress, that the deal was you wouldn't have to give a speech. (Laughter.) It didn't turn out that way.

MRS. BUSH: It didn't turn out that way. That was our prenup, that he -- I would jog with him and he would never make me give a speech. And of course I never jogged with him -- ever -- and I ended up giving speeches. But that's one of the really wonderful things for me about being married to George is he has such energy. He's given me energy and he's given me a really wonderful life and a chance to grow in ways I would have never expected that I would have -- a librarian from Midland, Texas.

Q It must have been, though -- I mean, there must have been unbelievably -- I don't know what the word is -- powerful times, like when he's making important decisions and the wife -- the First Lady is the sounding board. What was it like sort of behind the scenes, like going -- you know, the decision to go to war and it's just the two of you? I mean, how do you explain that?

MRS. BUSH: Well, these have been very, very challenging times for our country, obviously starting with September 11th and what that was like to be married to the President of the United States under those circumstances, the tragedy of that, September 11th, and to be the one with me, to meet so many of the families that lost somebody that day and hear the stories of what they were like. And then since then, because of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, to meet the families of our troops --

Q Let me ask that again. Let me ask it this way: There are other times in the eight years besides, you know, the fun ones we see -- the Barney and the family thing -- those sort of memorable times like when 9/11, for instance, the personal times when it's just you and the President. I mean, what was it like?

MRS. BUSH: Well, it was very, very difficult, obviously, for everyone in our country, but also very consequential to be married to the man who's the President of the United States for him as President and for me to deal with those tragedies and to meet the families who lost someone. And then since then, obviously, to meet with the families of the fallen, the people who -- the families left behind by those -- our soldiers who we've lost in Iraq or in Afghanistan.

And these are the moments that I remember and think of that are the most powerful moments of living here, the ones that are -- that affect me the most and the President the most emotionally, and in every other way. But I think these are the moments that show me how really unbelievably strong the people of the United States are and what a privilege it is for me and for him to be able to serve the people of the United States, and that's what we've seen.

Q I always think it would be sort of fun to have a webcam when the First Family first moves in with all the sort of expectations and excitement that first day, and then also have, you know, the webcam when you leave, like you sort of reflect back, you know, how much has just happened in eight years.

MRS. BUSH: Well, there is a lot of reflection -- there's no doubt about that -- at this time after eight years. You come into the job knowing that you're going to have four years and you -- it's something that you just know. I mean, you're going to be there for four years and if you're reelected you'll be there for eight years. And I think you -- at the very first, especially, you have no idea of how powerful the images are that you're going to leave with.

And as I reflect on them and remember, you know, individual faces and from moments all through the eight years -- I mean, from being with people in Africa who have had what's called the Lazarus effect because they are on antiretrovirals because of the generosity of the people of the United States, and to hold hands with people like I did in Nigeria who were praying at a Catholic charities, people who were all -- all had AIDS who were surprised that I would touch them, that I would hold their hand. I mean, those are the images that I'll never forget and that all those different images make up what's happened in the last eight years for me.

Q Well, it's just amazing. The First Lady is the most -- one of the most unique jobs, is that, you know -- the First Ladies bring their personalities and they do so much. You don't get paid and you work long hours and -- once again, I've just got to tell you, I mean, I appreciate what all the First Ladies do for us.

MRS. BUSH: Well, thank you very much. Thank you, Greta.

* * * * *

Q Mrs. Bush, if we could just sort of orient where we are. This is --

MRS. BUSH: This is the Colonnade to the West Wing, right here. You look down this Colonnade. So the Oval Office is right over there on the end. And this is called the Palm Room. This is the room everyone walks through on their way to the residence itself. And you can say we've got these fabulous poinsettia dazzlers. They call these the dazzler trees, and they really are, with the red and white striped poinsettias. And this year, because of our red, white and blue theme, we have the drums that all the plants are in.

Q I was told by your staff that you love those.

MRS. BUSH: I love those. I love these dazzlers. We've had everything in them. You know, one year we'll have azaleas, and one year we'll have something else. And then this is one of the decorations that we brought back from the attic. You know how every family goes up into the attic to get their former decorations. This is Mount Vernon. And this is from Christmas 2001, when the theme was "Home for the Holidays." And we had presidential homes there. So we brought a few of these homes that we made in 2001 back for this year's red, white and blue theme, because obviously this was -- is the father of our country's home, Mount Vernon.

Q All right, you say attic. You mean --

MRS. BUSH: We didn't really go to the attic, but we went to the storage --

Q The storage.

MRS. BUSH: We went to the real storage.

Q Is that in this building? The storage? Is it the archives?

MRS. BUSH: No, it's not in this building.

Q Okay. And there's another --

MRS. BUSH: Another dazzler tree here. So this is just such a pretty room. It's a lovely one for people to walk through. And really, it's not on the tours because it's far down at this end. So it's mainly people that work in the West Wing that walk through this room.

Q What is this area then called?

MRS. BUSH: So now we're in the Cross Hall, the ground floor Cross Hall, and you can see we have these huge poinsettias, once again, in the drum bases. And these are more of the presidential homes. And now I wonder if I could present you, Greta -- (laughter) -- I know you were trying to leave with some of these the other day from the party, so here's your own box of Barney cookies.

Q Look at this, my own box. Barney, who was falsely accused in my ad of something, and I've defended him. I'm Barney's defense lawyer. But these are great. I tried to steal one the other night at the party and I missed it.

MRS. BUSH: So here's your own. And you'll see you also have one of Kitty.

Q Oh, Kitty. I've never seen Kitty. Poor Kitty.

MRS. BUSH: Kitty stays upstairs all the time.

Q That's stealth -- stealth Kitty right?

MRS. BUSH: That's right.

Q Okay, well, thank you very much.

MRS. BUSH: So thank you so much.

Q Actually -- I'm serious about having the cookies. Like I said, I didn't get out -- I didn't manage to sneak out the other night with a pocketful. But thank you very much.

MRS. BUSH: Good. I hope you enjoy them. And so here are more homes.

Q I'm not going to share them, by the way.

MRS. BUSH: Yes, don't share with anyone. Save them for yourself. This is Teddy Roosevelt's home. And over here we have the LBJ ranch house, which is now part of our national park system. And we moved the portrait of Lady Bird Johnson, which is -- her portrait is usually over the fireplace in the Vermeil Room. But we moved it to hang here, because we had the Johnson ranch home here underneath.

Q And I assume that at some point there will be a Crawford home?

MRS. BUSH: Yes, I guess so. It should be.

Q That -- you'll soon be living in Crawford and Dallas.

MRS. BUSH: Dallas and Crawford, that's right. We'll be spending -- we'll go home to Crawford first, and then hopefully move into our house a few days after that in Dallas.

Q Well, I appreciate you giving us this tour. One last house, and then --

MRS. BUSH: One last house over here, this beautiful red house looks terrific.

Q Look at this.

MRS. BUSH: It's Grant's home and it looks great underneath the beautiful portrait of Nancy Reagan in a red gown.

Q These are very intricately made. I mean, they're beautiful homes.

MRS. BUSH: And, you know, the carpenters at the White House and all the -- the plumber and everyone that works here -- the florist -- worked to build all these little homes. And didn't they do a great job?

Q They did. And this is the --

MRS. BUSH: So this is the Diplomatic Reception Room. This is where people who drive up to the south entrance walk into the door, and it's called the Diplomatic Reception Room because ambassadors, when they present their credentials to the President, come in through this entrance to go to present their credentials.

This is the room where we've been standing in front of this mantel every night for lots of parties. This is where we've been having the photo receiving line. So we had a picture with you in this very same spot a couple of nights ago.

Q Indeed, and it was fun. I heard there were 60,000 people invited to these White House parties?

MRS. BUSH: No, there are 60,000 people who come through the White House at Christmas. I think about 9,000 people come to the parties. But there are open house tours, and choirs and musical groups from around the country come and sing at the open house tours so that all the people who work in the whole White House complex or work in congressional office can bring guests and come on tours.

Q And the President and the First Lady -- both you and the President and predecessors are so gracious. You shake hands and take pictures with all of us, which is, you know, always fun for all of us.

MRS. BUSH: Oh, good. I hope so. It gives us at least a few seconds to be with everybody that comes to the party. So that's fun.

Q And one other small piece of information -- you and I once did an interview on the other side of the room.

MRS. BUSH: That's right. We've done an interview in here in the Diplomatic Reception Room, and this is the famous wallpaper that Jackie Kennedy brought to the White House. It was old wallpaper she found in Virginia, I think, and it represents the seven scenes of America, which are on all the East Coast, of course, this far back. (Laughter.)

Q Thank you very much.

MRS. BUSH: Thank you so much, Greta.

Q Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

MRS. BUSH: Merry Christmas, happy holidays. Merry Christmas.

END 11:42 A.M. EST

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