tv Barbara Bush Funeral CNN Special Coverage CNN April 21, 2018 8:00am-9:00am PDT
he brought police and residents together to get illegal guns off the streets - and keep kids out of gangs, and on the right path. that's antonio villaraigosa. a governor for all of california. ♪ we're standing by for the start of an extraordinary service, the funeral for barbara bush, getting under way soon at st. martin's episco pal church in houston, texas. they've been lighting candles already. i'm wolf blitzer and this is cnn's special coverage. barbara bush being remembered today as a devoted wife, mother and first lady.
>> she is -- she's a wonderful mother and grandmother and all of those things. but she's also very tough. i remember going to kennebunkport and i was staying in the nice bedroom upstairs and she said anything -- this is your home, anything -- but you do know we make our own beds? i said okay, mrs. bush, i get it. i'll make my own bed. she was just wonderful. >> barbara was someone, too, who could tell george what she thought. and she would. just like she could tell everybody what she thought. and she would. >> she had a foot with the family and a foot in his career. this idea that she was not politically involved is not true. she was there. and as president bush told me, she always was honest with me about whether she thought someone was serving me well or not so well. she didn't meddle but when the
door was shut, i always knew what she thought. and i think she handled that role with an incredible amount of grace. >> critical political partner? >> an essential political partner. >> she would always say, you know, i don't really get involved in policy. i just leave that all to george and whatever he wants to do is just fine. i'm just a grandmother with these great big pearls. and behind the scenes, she was very smart, very focused, looked out for his interests. and she was a very good judge of people. >> i'll never forget the first time i met her was at a lunch at the french embassy. and i just arrived in the white house. i'm a three-star general. and i'm seated next to mrs. bush. and i turn and say good afternoon, mrs. bush. it's a great pleasure to meet you, ma'am. she said call me barbara.
i said, i can't do that, ma'am. why can't you do it? ma'am you're the wife of the vice president of the united states. and she says, i don't care. call me barbara. i said, ma'am, my mother would kill me. if you don't do it, i'll kill you. yes, barbara. >> i have enormous admiration and affection for mrs. bush. i know what it's like to be a spouse as well as a candidate. and i imagine it took her a lot longer to forgive me than it did him. and maybe she never has. but i'm crazy -- you know, i would walk across coals for her. i think she's immensely impressive. and i get why they fell in love and how they stayed together all those years. >> john king and dana bash are joining us as well. john, she was very, very protective of her husband and her family. >> and yet she was an open
minded, forgiving person. the fact that bill clinton became so close to the bushes tells you everything you need to know about barbara bush. that have campaign, she was bitter. during that campaign, she didn't think much of him. i got an angry phone call. a phone call to me once after i wrote something, the casper weinberger had come out. i won't get into all the details but said at the time he was trying to attack the governor of arkansas, bill clinton, as not being a truth teller, not being a man of character, this undermined that. his own friend saying wait a minute. i got a call from a campaign official, on the campaign trail in 1992, yelling at me about that story i wrote. then i had to hold on. for about 30 seconds she came on the phone and she said how dare you compare my husband to that -- i won't repeat the words -- about the governor of arkansas. then they lost. she was bitter. they were told by the staff, bill clinton is an illegitimate governor, failed governor of a small state. remember that? then they became very close
friends. in that moment, a, the enforcer, behind the scenes, didn't get involved that often. just like the timing. who are you on phone with? boom. she was very protective of her husband and then she was a very forgiving person. bill clinton became a close friend. who is this guy to beat my husband? tells you a lot about the heart. >> you ran into her in 2016, and she remembered you. >> she remembered. he, the president, president bush, was in a wheelchair. she was pushing the wheelchair. she had staff members around. she was pushing the wheelchair. reince priebus was still the republican national committee chairman. donald trump was taking the republican party over. president bush made a joke to reince priebus and he said would you like your old job back, sir? president bush shook his head and said no, thank you. then she had the president -- i was on the side of the room watching this. she directed the president and said hey, that's john king. say hello. she remembered. and again i reminded her of that story once. and she said that's okay. it was a long time ago. >> dana is with us, too.
you're wearing lovely blue, barbara bush blue, you have the pearls on today. give us your thoughts. >> first of all, you mentioned the pearls. not only am i wearing barbara bush pearls but i got these pearls while i was on a trip to china covering her son, the president, while he was visiting china. and i thought it was very ap apprapo. he was appointed ambassador to china, a whole other part of her life that, you know, because it was so rich and so filled with unbelievable events, that we don't get to talk about. and that is that it was a very -- it was a frontier that, unlike what we see right now, going to china. they really helped to change the way americans and the world see china after, of course, nixon had gone there during the ford
administration. look, i met her. i didn't get to know her the way you all did. the way i know her is through the prism of her two sons, who i covered very closely. and all you need to know about how she is, is about the kind of men -- i'm not talking about politics. this is totally nonpartisan. the kind of men that she raised, to be polite. to be well mannered and to be good people. and to think about the human beings they're campaigning against and even, frankly, the reporters who are covering them. it is unlike anything i've ever experienced. >> yeah. we'll see those sons and jeb bush will be delivering a eulogy as well. our special coverage will continue, including details of a marriage spanning seven decades. the lasting love affair of george and barbara bush. our coverage resumes right after this. does your moisturizing romine does. an mvp?
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houston, texas. former first lady married to george h. w. bush for seven decades. let's listen to him read one of his early love letters. >> mother has made it pretty clear, i think, to the kids that her first love was dad. she loved us, of course. but she adored dad. >> i kissed barbara and i'm glad of it. i don't believe she will ever regret it or resent it. i certainly am not ashamed of it. i've never kissed another girl. >> when we tell our children what i tell them i never knew, i was the first girl you ever kissed. but when i told them that you were the first person i ever kissed -- >> no, i was the second, darling. haven abbott. >> oh, he was not. >> you know, it's -- kate, what a wonderful love story. >> i think a lot was made about the reagan romance. 73 years, the longest presidential marriage in all of
history and they met when she was 16, he was 17 at a country club dance. she dropped out of school, smith college, all women's college, to marry him. i think it's just a really beautiful story of devotion, over seven decades. and they teased each other. you could see them laughing together. they also had a lot of fun. i would stress in the white house she was probably the happiest first lady, at least who i have studied in modern history. she loved living there. they had a horseshoe pit set up for the staff. they would play horseshoe games with them. she said they were like primaries, it was so much fun and competitive. she had nicknames for the staff. and some of them are here today at the funeral. and it's just a really beautiful, touching romance. and they're real people who cared about people who worked for them. and i think that's unique. >> listen to the former president, president bush, read a love letter to his wife. >> my darling, bar, this should be aa very easy letter to write.
words should come easily and in short it should be simple for me to tell you how desperately happy i was to open the paper and see the announcement of our engagement. but somehow i can't possibly say all in a letter i should like to. i love you, precious, with all my heart and to know that you love me means my life. how often i have thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours some day. how lucky our children will be to have a mother like you. >> you saw that love affair up close and personal, kristan. >> yes. and it truly was a love affair. they just adored each other. often times we were traveling and we would come back late at night. even they she would be getting out of the car to go back in the residence even if it was after midnight, she would pinch her cheeks so they were nice and rosie whenever she saw him. as she said, he still made her heart go pitter patter. >> what i loved, doug, they were very open about it.
>> very much so. christopher buckley wrote a piece in "the new york times." he was a speech writer with the bushes and he was in an elevator and suddenly the elevator stopped and the secret service were oh, my goodness. suddenly, he ended up pinching her and she was like, heya, fella, you know, gonna have a romance in the elevator because it was stalled. you can't fake the kind of affection they displayed all the time. if you went to kennebunkport, i went up there for a book event. they would suddenly be sitting almost on each other's lap or arms wrapped around as they were talking. your point is perfect. everybody talks about ronnie and nancy and that great love story, but this is also an extraordinary story. and the fact that it has all this world war ii elements. she's working in the factory, like a rosie the riveter while he is one of the great war hero presidents ever, you know, james bradley wrote an incredible book
about his fly boy service in the pacific, that people should read. they become -- really are a type of american royalty. >> they really were the greatest generation. >> yes. >> we'll have much more, former presidents bush, obama and clinton all about to arrive. our special coverage when barbara bush's funeral continues. it touches your tongue... and neutralizes stomach acid at the source. ♪ tum tum tum tum... smoothies... only from tums
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united states, holding a baby with aids and tim, you remember that moment very, very personally and you remember how important it was. >> this country didn't have a national dialogue about aids, in part because the reagan administration didn't want to have it. barbara bush understood this. in the 1988 campaign when her husband was running to secede ronald reagan she pushed her husband to talk about aids and go to an aids clinic. within the first 100 days as first lady she went to an aids clinic and held a baby with aids and she also met a young man with aids. and this wasn't theater. i can tell you because when i chatted with her about this years later, she not only remembered this, she could tell me about the man. he was a catholic whose mother had died when he was young and his father had dropped him, just didn't want to know him, when it became clear that he was sick and he was gay.
she told me that story and she teared up. she wanted america to understand that people with aids could be hugged. she wanted them to be hugged. and she talked to the doctor, the president's doctor, and the president's doctor and she went and visited an aids clinic. that was a huge cultural moment. >> it influenced george w. bush, her own son. when he was president, look at the amazing work he did for aids in africa. bono, u2, rolling stone cover story recently said george w. bush saved millions of lives tackling the aids crisis in africa and his inspiration was barbara bush. >> so instrumental, kristan. you'll remember this, in making sure that the salvation army was able to do its important work. >> she loved the salvation army. every year at christmastime, she would make a point, a very public point to go and give money and be seen. because, of course, the salvation army had been at a peak before and as charities had
emerged and there's so many great opportunities to give, she felt as though it was being ignored and the work that they were doing was so important. >> some shopping centers, some malls were preventing the salvation army from showing up there and seeking donations. >> yes. and it was part of her quiet activism. similar with the aids baby. she knew there were things she could do, just by showing up. and having a presence there and having her name associated with things, she knew, made an impact. she was more than happy to do that on a daily basis. >> it's something that we should remember in the prism of today, which is it's that kind of activism. it's that kind of imagery, making an impact by saying so few things but having a very, very clear message and using the power of the white house, the power of being first lady or second lady in a very direct, very targeted, but very effective way, that she really did an extraordinary job of.
>> she certainly did. four presidents and first ladies among 1,500 invited guests arriving right now for the barbara bush funeral. our special coverage will continue right after this. wing . leaving brad to dig in and enjoy. super poligrip. ahh, a h...and a half.... but they can relax. they got an unbeatable price on a suite. with an extra bed. no one looks out for you, like travelocity. with price match guarantee, you'll always wander wisely.
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coming in from st. martin's episcopal church. the clergy has arrived. the 1,500 guests, many of them, are already inside. former presidents, former first ladies. kate bennett is watching all of th with us. melania ump, the current first lady, she will be theres well, kate. >> that's right, wolf. the first lady actually said ahead of the president that she would be attending this memorial service. she felt it was important to be there in person, to pay her respects. and there is protocol to this, wolf. she will be sitting next to barack obama, the most recent former sitting president. that's who the first lady and were president trump to be here, that's where he would sit, on the other side of melania trump. certainly she's walking into a situation with people seated beside her, who her husband has, you know, tweeted about and called, you know, nicknamed crooked hillary and blamed barack obama for the negative aspects that he feels the
country is in now and also jeb bush and the bush family will be there. this was low-energy bush, jeb, we all remember from the campaign. certainly this is a first lady demonstrating that she is, you know, very confident in being able to sit inside and next to some of these current foes of the president, of her husband, people that he has talked ill about in the past, or tweeted about. certainly is a remarkable moment for her to take on solo. i will add, wolf, that the first lady is bringing with her two members, one a former member, george hanney of the white house staff, head maitre'd. mrs. trump knew these two staff members were very close to the bush family. she offered to bring them to the furm funeral on her plane today and did so. they will be there and be present for this special day.
and a woman that they worked for very closely in the white house during the bush tenure. >> dana, president trump is not going to be there. white house issuing a statement earlier in the week, he didn't want to be disruptive to this event. that's why the first lady, melania would be there, but not the president. >> yeah. listen, i think hat tip to the president for getting it, for being self aware enough to understand that if he went, given the very clear feelings that barbara bush had for him, animous, outward animous, that it would be inappropriate and because of that, people would have to talk about it, be focused on it. and the focus should be where we have been focused all morning and where we'll certainly see the focus during this event, which is on her and the good things about her life and the thing things over the 90 plus years she lived to celebrate and not just this absolute -- >> throughout the bush family.
>> yes. >> barbara bush thought very little, if anything, of this president, to be honest with you. not just because of how he treated her son, jeb, during the campaign but h he coucts mself in office. what the first lady is doing, especially by bringing the white house affers, shows you graciousness, shows you history, graciousness and respect. and the bush family, frankly, doesn't think the current president of the united states shows those characteristics at all in how he conducts himself in office. and, again, part of it is generational. part of it is what dana talked about earlier. we could sit here and talk about the iraq war, katrina, mistakes in the george h. w. bush administration. how they conduct themselves, banners, politeness, respect for institutions, respect for your opponents, game well played, if you will, whether it was sports or politics. they don't see that in donald trump. hat tip to the president, you're right. a very close extended member of the bush family, joe hagan, if there were any questions about how the bushes feel about president trump in the trump
white house, joe could answer them. >> with that said george p. bush, land commissioner of texas, has gone out of his way to embrace donald trump. he endorsed him for president and has been running against a guy named jerry patterson down there. he got donald trump to tweet his endorsement. george p., because he's running, is careful not to alienate. >> he did not attend nancy reagan's funeral and george w. bush did not attend lady bird johnson's funeral in 2007. former presidents are about to arrive. our special coverage continues. ♪
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we're standing by for the funeral of barbara bush. you're looking at the church there at st. martin's episcopal church. momentarily the grandsons, the pa pall bearers will be arriving as well. kristan this is a very detailed script. you helped them. >> we started working on her funeral when i was with her in 2006. at the time she thought it was frivolous, that nobody was going to come, that a funeral for her could be thrown together just like any person who dies at any point in their lives. slowly she came around to the idea that perhaps there needs to be forethought put into it. she is up in heaven looking down and shocked by the turnout. >> former secretary of state, condoleezza rice, secretary gates is there. john king, a lot of people who
worked in the bush administration and became lifelong friends, they are there as well. >> again, that's a great credit to the character and the compassion and the heart of barbara bush. colin powell was in the other day, to talk about this rican-ameranuy from modest upbringing, svi on the staff of the white house but becomes a close, personal friend to the vice president, then the president, then the former president of the united states. these are not transactional relationships. this town full of transactional relationships where people are on your staff and you're nice to them as long as you're in office or need them. then that period is over and you might have reunion bus you're not in touch with them all the time. that is not barbara bush or george h. w. bush. that is the annual invitations to kennebunkport, notes on the birthday, notes or phone calls when you lose somebody in your family. you hear bob gates, condi rices and colin powells, they worked for and around the first lady of the united states but speak of
them as brothers and sisters of the united states. some of that credit goes to president bush, president h.w. bush but they always talk about barbara bush checking in on them and just being human. >> you saw the former national security adviser to president george h. w. bush and secretary bob gates. you saw john sununu, former white house chief of staff. >> who had great moments with barbara bush. >> yeah. >> she was an enforcer inside the white house. in many ways, i would say, she was to george h. w. bush almost like he was to ronald reagan. many thought that he was weak because he didn't speak up in meetings. he didn't think that was his job. he thought his job was to deal with the president privately. if he had something to say to ronald reagan, 99 times out of 100, he did it in private. he didn't think it was polite to publicly challenge the president of the united states.
people thought he was weak. barbara did that for george h. w. bush. she didn't do it in public. if she did, you knew you were way over the line. n george w. would talk about not the words from mom but the looks from mom. >> another chief of staff andy card there arriving as well. this is the funeral, kate, of a first lady and former first lady but for all practical purposes, it could be the funeral, almost, given all the dignitaries that are there, of a president. >> it's incredible. as kristan said, she was so humble to think not this many people would show up to celebrate her tochlt john's point, barbara bush told laura bush, if you have a disagreement with your husband, keep it between the two of you while he's president. and that was about not wanting to undermine her husband's policies. and i think it's just incredible how beloved she was. this is also a wing of the republican party that's changing a lot. >> james baker, former secretary of state. susan baker will be delivering
one of the eulogies, very close friend of barbara bush. they are there as well. brings back for a lot of us who covered the bush administration a lot of memories. john? >> let's go back to the gulf war. again that was after the first persian gulf war. george h. w. bush is at 9 % approval directly after that war. that's why the stunning bill clinton victory was such a stn. 92%, to go out and lose the election. ross perot had something to do with that. economic unrest of the country had something to do with that. in a lot of those days i spent inside saudi arabia and kuwait. but i travelled with secretary cheney and colin powell, joint chief of staff during those days. you went all around the world, stop to refuel and have a few guinness with colin powell, dick cheney. the revernece with which they
spoke to of their boss, the president of the united states, not just barbara bush but president bush, it's hard to describe. a different culture. if you worked for them, you became part of the circle. the fact that they're still part of the circle years and years and decades later, again, tells you of the character of the couple we're talking about here. >> a real reverence. i remember when i interviewed barbara bush in 2000 in washington, one of the first things she said to me, she said wolf -- not on camera, but she said i remember your coverage of the first gulf war, when her husband was president of the united states. six months of operation desert shield, six weeks of operation desert storm. cnn was the only 24/7 cable news. she was watching all the time. and even then she thanked me for our coverage. >> and what a seminole moment that war was. it was a tv war, the liberation of kuwait. >> by the way, you saw caroline kennedy there, chelsea clinton is there. the families of other
presidents, they are arriving. all right. everybody hold their thoughts. let's take a quick break and resume our special coverage right after this. we're standing by to see the former presidents. ♪ when heartburn hits... fight back fast with tums smoothies. it starts dissolving the instant it touches your tongue... and neutralizes stomach acid at the source. ♪ tum tum tum tum... smoothies... only from tums
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comcast, building america's largest gig-speed network. the kids are arriving now. the grandchildren. there's some great-grandchildren of barbara bush. they're there. you can see them arriving. the grandsons will be pallbearers. they will be there as well. we'll see the former presidents arriving. president bush, george h.w. bush, president and mrs. bush 43, president obama, michelle obama, bill clinton and hillary clinton, vice president dick cheney will be there with lynne cheney. vice president dan quayle with mrs. quayle. you see these special vips arriving. i'm sure they're so touched, so moved. >> i know the family gathered last night.
they were just together and 43 gave a wonderful welcome and shared some incredible stories of his mother. and from what i understand, everybody was laughing through their tears. as the bush family always does. in particular, 41, who was absolutely weepy last night. but i think drew a lot of strength from being surrounded by all of his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. >> i know you wanted to be there, but you couldn't make it. tell our viewers why. >> i am 38 1/2 weeks pregnant and i would give anything to be there and be a part of it, but to be perfectly honest, in classic barbara bush fashion, i heard her in my head saying, if you go into labor at my funeral, you're going to make it all about you. so it's an honor to be here today and thank you for letting me serve in this capacity, so i feel like i'm a part of it. >> and we're honored that you are here with us and helping us and all of our viewers that
appreciate this truly extraordinary woman. and she really was extraordinary. >> she was. when i interviewed her, i talked about, you know, her granddaughters and she said she loved being in washington because she could be around her washington grandchildren. so those are marvin and dorothy, bush's children, dora bush's children. but barbara bush, george w. bush -- >> by the way, there's melania trump, the first lady of the united states. i want to bring in kate bennett who's watching this as well. she's actually going to be seated, kate, directly next to the obamas, right? >> that's correct, wolf. the first lady has not seen or spoken to michelle or barack obama since inauguration day, since that sort of -- that exchange that michelle obama joked about on the ellen show where melania trump handed her that tiffany box and she didn't quite know what to do with it. melania hasn't seen them. she'll be sitting next to them today at the funeral. >> you see president obama and michelle obama. you see bill clinton and hillary
clinton walking in as well. all of the distinguished guests are going to be there. one at a time they'll be seated. this is a moment, john king, that a lot of us have covered all these individuals but they're now all together. >> you see the former presidents and first ladies. former prime minister of canada -- >> john major. >> john major, former prime minister of great britain. the connections to barbara bush. the hospitality she showed them when she came to the white house, the relationships that were important, bilateral relationships that became personal relationships that outlasted the presidencies or their service as prime minister. they continued to stay in touch. again, we're being repetitive, but that, again, is the character of the bushes. whether it's the staff member who they struck up an interest in who 20, 30 years later they're still talking to or whether it's a former prime minister who led their country at a time in the years after all are removed from power, they're still friends. that tells you something very important on this day.
>> and mull rooneys are very close to the bushes. in fact, bushes went to a number of the mullrooney weddings. so when you say -- we're talking about personal, not political, friendships. >> and not political but yet you look at that front row there and see the image of these iconic figures in american politics over past 30, 40 years, and how they are all so intertwined in so many different ways. and frankly it all started with the woman that they're going there to celebrate, the matriarch. and her journey with her husband and of course the fact they gave birth to the president, the would be president, how they interacted as competitors and as friends. this is one of those moments where you just sort of take a breath and take a, you know, sit back and look at it and say, you know what, this is pretty extraordinary they can all get together at this moment. >> we talk about what a great
mother she was when she gave birth to six kids but she was a super grandmother. she called all of them all the time. she had a hands-on relationship with them all. >> and they loved their grandmother very, very much. you saw that up close. >> absolutely. she certainly had an impact on all of their lives. and whether it was through e-mail or she was famous for her handwritten letters. she was constantly in touch with them, offering her thoughts, sometimes unsolicited, but certainly offering her thoughts and guidance for them. and that love truly comes through whenever any of them speak of her. particularly in this moment. >> in the bathroom on the second floor of the main house, i want to explain why i know about this, there is a list of rules. the bush rules. and these were for visitors and for the children. i don't doubt who wrote those rules. >> she called jenna and barbara
wild little girls growing up in the white house. she described once they were playing in the bowling alley at the white house and ordered lunch down there and to eat it downstairs. she said no, you're going to eat it upstairs and not have it brought to you. the enforcer was something she brought to her children and grandchildren. >> you see the former president, the former first ladies, the current first lady melania trump. they're seated there right in that first row. this is an historic moment. >> very much so. really does seem like funeral or a celebration of a president. not just a first lady. and it's because it's so cross generational. and the bushes were bipartisan. 41 loves michelle obama. they have developed this incredible friendship and bill clinton was almost adopted into their family. and here, holding this in houston. i mean, he, in 1963, became the head of harris county texas republican party. that's when the democrats were in charge really of texas.
he became a leading member of the republican part. james baker, his best friend really with addition to scowcroft, they would play tennis all the time together -- >> there's the children arriving. governor jeb bush. you can see all of the children, dorothy and the other kids as well. and there's president george h.w. bush arriving as well. let's just watch him for a moment if we can. this is another moment, dana, historic, iconic, extraordinary. >> absolutely. and yet the bushes are putting their own take on it. look at 41, her widower, and he is wearing socks, he's known for wearing fun socks, but with books all over them as an homage to his wife who of course made
it her life's work to help with literacy and raised $100 million over 30 years forly the raze. over 30 years for literacy. >> all right, let's listen. ♪ land where my fathers died land of the pilgrims' pride ♪ ♪ from every mountainside let freedom ring ♪ ♪ my native country, thee land of the noble free thy name i love ♪