tv The Presidency Barbara Bush Remembered CSPAN November 23, 2018 6:30pm-7:16pm EST
watch the process unfold on c- span. former list -- first lady barbara bush died this past april. watch george w. bush as he introduces a panel of speakers to reminisce about his mother. she was the second woman in history to be married to one american president and mary -- the mother of another. dallas, texas hosted this 45 minute event. >> ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the 43rd president of the united states, george w. bush. >> thank you all. please be seated. thank you. [ applause ] >> romo, mother would have
liked you a lot. thank you for coming, laura and i welcome you. this is an unusual event honoring barbara bush. we thank you for being here. i want to thank highland capital for sponsoring this event. i want to thank our team for your leadership. i welcome the turner's, he happens to run smu. we are proud of our relationship with smu . i would like to thank the board members here. and i would like to thank the grandkids that took time to come. the second panel will be barbara, jenny, ella and debbie. there's no telling what will happen with the second half. my notes say, give reflections
on barbara bush as a mother. she was a piece of work. she was funny, she could be blunt, she liked to blurt. she was a very compassionate person and always loving. ever since i quit drinking, i didn't hear voices. i heard one last night. it was mother saying, george, why are you going to spend two hours talking about me at your library? i didn't answer back, i was somewhat taken aback. then she said, are you going to wear those ugly looking shoes? at any rate, we all miss her.
she's going to come to life tonight for you. our first panel will be moderated by cokie roberts. well-known figure in the media, good friend and a fine person. season baker will be here -- susan baker will be here. she's been a longtime friend, she gave the eulogy at mother's funeral which was a good one. the washington bureau chief of usa today. she has a book coming out in april called the matriarch. it's about mother. finally, my chief of staff, my first five years, a dear friend, someone that worked in my dad's white house who has been exposed to mother a lot. and handled her in her good moments and sometimes not so
good moments. that would be andy card. please welcome our panel. [ applause ] >> good evening. when i woke up in washington this morning and realized it would be another bad hair day, i thought oh, lord, mrs. bush always told me to do something about my hair. pretty much every time she saw me unless i was gussied up for tv. here i am, i'm sorry mrs. bush. we have such an interesting combination of folks here that have no mrs. bush many ways of her life. and susan page that has written a book about her, she knows more
than we think she does. i want to start with her dear friend, susan baker. you said barbara bush was the gold standard of what it meant to be your friend. you have talked about, when you got to washington, she started inviting you regularly to sunday lunch and all that. she was warm and welcoming, she pushed you too. she pushed you out the door. >> she really did and i kind of resisted because i would much rather be in the audience than outfront. she gave me the courage and said come on, you have important causes and you have to take advantage of your husband's position. i'm so thankful she did it. >> including hosting the event at the vice presidents house. >> that was the best because this was a cause that did not
have a lot of supporters at the time. in the early 80s. making people aware of homeless situations was really important. we had a meeting that if it had not been at the vice presidents house, they would not have come. she would invite prominent homeless leaders that made big headlines, it was not popular, the administration was not keen about it. barbara did it, she had courage. i will tell you, the way she cared, it wasn't just me. she did the same kinds of things for so many of her friends. she was a remarkable friend in every way. >> she was a fierce protector of her friends and especially her family. she had an uncanny ability to read people, for good and bad.
tell us the story. >> first of all, she was the definition of love. she loved her husband. unbelievably. she loved her family. she would give love and she was not afraid to give tough love. i witnessed a lot of tough love. sometimes i was expected to pass on the tough love which was difficult. i remember first seeing her when she was talking about a trip to china in the slide show and she was a little bit shy and i remember her empowering her daughter, barbara to step up and learn the slideshow and give the slide show. i remember her cross stitching
at every down moment. writing notes, i remember her thinking of details, i remember her being passionate about things happening in her peripheral vision we did not see. most of all, i remember her appropriate biting commentary. this was reported by tim russert. john had been chief of staff for president george hw bush, i was deputy chief of staff. he was the most intelligent person i had ever met, he was not that smart. >> not easy to deal with. >> iq of 180, i was the closest to him. his tenure as chief of staff ended, it was reported a month
after jon stewart left as chief of staff, the governor came in, why is it people take such a distant -- instant dislike to me ? i will never forget what tim russert said, it's much more efficient that way. >> save time. >> she was very good at passing on, even to her son, the president, commentary. tasty words before you spit them out, he had very good language as president, not so good before he became president. that is the witness i saw. she also made sure everyone in the orbit of her husband helped him do his job.
she cared deeply about his successes. she wanted to make sure they were not successes for him because he could not practice, they were successes for everybody else. her conscience was much bigger than you realize. , both good and bad. it was always for a greater good. she would cause us to see things differently. it is very easy in the white house to believe you know everything. barbara bush major you did not -- made sure you did not. she was a joy to work with and also a challenge to listen to. i greatly appreciated the wisdom she had, she was a true wisdom woman. she was contagious in her love, she also taught us to practice tough love when necessary. >> susan, as you started
writing this book, you eventually were given access to all of barbara bush's life, including her diaries which is a remarkable thing to give a writer. why do you think she did this? >> it was interesting, i wanted to do this book because of all the people i covered in washington, i thought barbara bush was the one person americans thought they knew best, in fact understood the least. >> why is that? >> people thought she was friendly, wonderful, white hair, cookie baking grandmother. it is true, she was a grandmother. in fact, she did not bake cookies. it so underestimated her influence, the role she played. i wasn't sure there would be interest in the publishing
world. we had six publishers bade on the book which was a sign of continuing curiosity people have of barbara bush. only at that point that i write her and tell her i would do the book. i was worried she would say no i would not cooperate, i felt like i would be screwed. i was worried to ask her before hand, she said yes, to have control over the book. i signed the contract and sent her a letter. after two weeks, she wanted to meet with me wants which she did. at the interview, she said she would meet me a second time i had five interviews with her in the last of her life. in the first one, she said you will never see my diaries. i said i understand, their personal. in the third interview, i said i know i can't see your diaries, can i look at excerpts about
gorbachoff. the last interview, i didn't know it was the last interview, i didn't know if she knew it was the last interview because her health was failing. at the end of that, without me asking, she decided i could see all of my diaries. i said, really, are you sure? i think she was at the state, she knew she was at the end of her life, she knew she lived a big life with a lot to say and a big impact. she was ready to let people see that. it was a great privilege and honor to be able to see that, i'm grateful to her. >> had you known her before? >> i've covered 10 presidential campaigns. the first in 1980, the first politician i interviewed was
george hw bush. my biggest interchange with her in the years i covered the bush administration was in 1990, i was on duty for newsday, the bushes always gave a party for the press, a picnic. i went with my two young sons. i had no personal interchange with mrs. bush before that. she gave me the world's hardest time for working. how dare you work when you have little children. i was taken aback. at first i thought she was kidding, i made a crack, it was clear she was not kidding. at that point, i tried to physically back away from her. this was a few months after the speech, she felt i should not
be working if i had little kids. also, my kids were not well behaved. she might have thought if i were not working, my children would be better behaved. that's not possible. >> the first time i interviewed her in a sitdown interview was at the vice presidents house. it was for 17 magazine. i was interviewing her. it had been arranged. i arrived and the vice presidents house was intimidating. i sit down and wait, she said what are we doing here? i said i'm here to interview you. she said for 17 magazine? they can't vote.
>> i convinced her it was okay. some of them were older and had parents. she didn't hold anything back. moving here, susan, at what point did you meet barbara bush? >> in the early 60s, 61 or 62, they had been in houston a few years. what i was taken with about her was from the beginning, she was so interested in everybody she met. she was such a relational person. she invited me to lunch with somebody else after we had been there a while and the way she nurtured all of the volunteers, in all the campaigns, she made us feel like we were the most important people in the world, and she would needlepoint all the time little signs that said bush and put them on little
baskets and give them to people to thank them for doing and she made canvas bags. she was one of the most energetic, involved people i've ever seen in the world. her energy level was remarkable. she had this motto you will be judged about the success of your life by your relationships with your family, friends, coworkers and people you meet along the way. for her, everybody had value. she was nice to people she didn't really like. she could come out with a marvelous quip and everything, she tolerated people. i remember once, there were people that had been so pushy and i couldn't, i won't say
what, barbara treated them with kindness. i thought, she is teaching me the way you have to be with people. it was beautiful. >> she talked about it in her books and other places, her move to texas from connecticut, getting away from the parental gaze. was that liberating for her ? >> i think she was liberated, period.. she was so engaged in whatever her man was doing and she wanted to do it with him, she was a fabulous life partner and so much fun.
she was so much smarter than people understood. she had self-deprecating humor which made people not realize how really brilliant she really was. when you think about all the things she managed, the campaigns, travel, the summers where she had wonderful family and and list -- endless stream of visitors. some of them were heads of state, here she was, she did not have a massive staff, she had a plan and do everything in the flow and ab of dinners, people not coming, golf, tennis . she was in the middle of it and never tired. i'm sure she did, she kept on. >> that business of how smart she was, you said she had
it was something in the bush by -- book by laura bush, and it was when laura invited the bushes to come and meet the grandchildren. they ran out of the house, and said ginny -- ganny, and barbara was so appreciative that they had talked about her before they came out. she loved her family and her family was the tops. you is not a lie old -- allowed to say anything negative about the family, but she would say, [ laughter ] >> and sometimes you was there when she said it and you felt uncomfortable. but she was very
giving and i do have to tell you one story, and you should know that you do not apply to become the president's chief of staff. when president bush was hinting that i should be his chief of staff, i thought he was hinting that i should be the director of the transition. i thought he was sending me to meet with clay johnson about transition, and he asked me to meet with clay johnson and he asked me to call him on the road. i called him on the road and then he asked me to come see him in florida is before the election. before i went to florida, i was supposed to go see his parents in houston, and i thought that was a strange suggestion. i went to houston and his parents was not at the house. the secret service was there and i felt like it was a museum
as i sat there all day board convinced there was cameras watching me. they finally came home after a long day of campaigning for their son, and barbara came in first, and then the president came in, and we had peanut butter and banana or carrot sandwiches. [ laughter ] >> then we went to bed. the next morning i got up and i slept in the guest room. i made the bed and took a shower, and barbara comes to the door as soon as you are already up. and your address? i said yes. then she said did you even sleep in the bed wakes [ laughter ] >> then she said have you had any coffee yet? i said no, and she said go get coffee and then come join us. i went and got a cup of coffee and they was in bed. [ laughter ]i stood outside of the bedroom and i am standing on the threshold of my cup of coffee, and the tv is on, and
both the president and the former first lady are commenting on the news on tv, and then they are dispersing it light come on in and lie down with us.[ laughter ]>> so the president, barb, me, [ laughter ] >> and the couple coffee. >> was there any dogs involved? >> the conversation is strange because the comment is on the news and the campaign, and then you know what it is like. you will take care of him and you will help him. you know what it is like. i have to admit that i set are they talking about the transition? but that was so telling because i was an intermediary sometimes between the former president and the former first lady. the president would be
frustrated with it, and the one time that i went down there to say something to him, and he said, my mother call you?[ laughter ]>> she hadn't on that moment, but she did other times. i was struck by how much she cared about him. and laura, and the burden they had to carry. it was a great privilege to be included in that relationship. >> i want to talk about her time as first lady, briefly before i get to that, susan, when you are talking to her and reading the diary, the time in china was terribly important. >> if you asked barbara bush what her favorite caribe -- creative time was, she would often say that china was.
she said that was a time when the parents and the children was not around and just the two of them. it was about a year of a period of time that they was around each other without no one else around. i think more than being in china, which was a very exotic place and americans thought they would never go, i think it was as much the opportunity to be with george hw bush and just the two of them. >> here is the iconic picture of going to grandma's house, and hugging that baby, at a time when hiv-aids was untouchable. i noticed in the early video that we saw, the godmother was going to hear from the mother in just a little bit.
i am wondering, and you all have talked about how she was so naturally empathetic when she saw that baby, and in some ways, you think it is related to her experience with losing her daughter robin? >> i do. i think the death of robin went barbara bush was just 28 years old was a threat to the rest of her life. i think it affected her kindness and compassion, and empathy for people. i think it made her less patient with flatter. if you is going to be idiotic about something, she would just tell you about it. i think it was a searing experience for those six months and it shaped her in a lot of ways. i think the experience when robin was sick and being treated, and they brought her back to midland for one last visit, and she found that even some of her closest friends refused to come over and see her because she had leukemia and it was a very serious disease at
the time and a lot of people had not heard of it and thought it may be catching. that was really wounding to her. i think you saw something similar happened to people who had hiv-aids. it is easy to forget at this point what the stigma was like the end. how president reagan had ignored aids, and even after it was described and we realized what a health crisis it was early in his term. i think that she was determined to show empathy and kindness toward people who had hiv-aids. she visited babies who had aids through the campaign in 1988, and that was not new for her. actually, it -- i was instant and why she went to grandma's house, and it was one of the things that i found, and what actually happened, in the transition, to his presidency, the public affairs transition
office decided in a spirit of 1000 points of light that they would instead of buying christmas presents, they would collect money and give it to a charity. they collected about $700 and decided to give it to grandma's house. one of the people working in transition was the one who delivered it personally to grandma's house and this was a time when they would have a sign out front because neighbors was afraid of being the target of an attack. they knew they was treating kids who had hiv-aids. grandma's house and sent a letter to the transition say thank you so much for the money and we would love to have barbara bush visit us. the letter was sent to her office and she visited grandma's house during the first 100 days of the presidency in march. that was extraordinary. that was headlines around the world, and it was because she not only visited, but she held a baby without any fear.
she doesn't have protective clothing on, and people was afraid to touch people with aids at that point. she also made a point and she had a private meeting with adults who had hiv-aids, and the press was not in the meeting, but one of the men in the meeting said to her you hug a baby, but people think the baby are innocent victims of age. -- aids. we need a hug. in the private meeting she gave him a hug, and then they went out to see the press that was there including some photographers, and she made a big point of going over and hugging the man in front of the camera so that would be pictures of her hugging an adult with aids to make the point he had made with her. >> some people working at the white house was very uncomfortable that she had embraced the aids community. this was controversial, and she
did call the white house, and spoke to me, and said i don't think this person is serving my husband well. >> -- we had to make the change at the white house. >> she was fearless. >> it was a tough thing to hear, but it was exactly right. she was again a conscience. >> that was a political problem that it created. then president bush got challenged by patrick buchanan for the republican nomination, and a lot of that was cultural conservatives and the total issue was not so much an issue of aids, but they writes, it became something of a political issue. you want to know who did not back down on that? that would be barbara bush. >> the creatures who should be in this discussion and they
know much more. >> another place where controversy came up was when she was asked to give the speech at my alma mater wesley college, and i must say at the time i was horribly embarrassed that the young woman who was there was raising a ruckus because she was not a career woman. but she went to wellesley and absolutely hit a home run. >> what ever the time, one thing will never change. fathers and mothers, and if you have children, they must come first. you must read to your children and you must hug your children, and you must love your children. your success of the family, and our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the white house, but what on happens inside of your house.[ applause ]
>> that is how you got in trouble susan. >> there was a month later that she came to me and said your children have to come first.[ laughter ] >> the other really smart thing that she did in addition to her wonderful speech was bring with her, and susan baker, u.s. there at the white house, with the two of them had a private visit, and no weight was also there and own -- noe was there also. you said they formed a bond. >> it was very interesting because life was not easy. and barbara made every effort to have things to be smooth and she would say something funny and get some kind of funny reaction from her. but she said you know, she is
having to act a certain way to please the people at home. in the way that she dressed and thinks like that. as barbara was trying to be a great hostess, she really took into account exactly what she was going through, and she did the right thing, and to have her at wellesley was fantastic. everybody, and i remember thinking how marvelous it was that these young women who think that they know what to do and what is right, to have her come along and say both ways are right. it is important to be a mother and to do that. it is also important to have a career, and in your career, don't forget about relationships. don't forget to have fun. life is to be enjoyed. i just think it was a marvelous thing, and it was desperately needed at that particular time.
>> did the trough -- did this thing cause a stir? >> yes. probably at the time, and there was tension in our global partners as to how we was going to treat her and what was going on and was this a real thing or not? the invitation for the president to come do the united states with a big deal, and for barbara bush to take her with her was a bonus. it wasn't something that was contrived or planned. barbara bush wanted to do it, and so this was not part of the political community or the diplomatic community. she wondered if it was going to be all right if she invited her, she wanted to do it. i think that speech was one of the greatest speeches ever
given by first lady. i do tell my grandchildren that they have to listen to that speech and read. but barbara bush at that time helped calm the waters so that people did not think we was going too far with the russian president, but for now. it was the right thing to do at the right time and she helped to give a more personal insight to it, so it was not just global politics or diplomacy, it was much more intimate and barbara bush allow that intimate relationship to happen. >> you came to understand that it was not spontaneous, but she had planned it. >> barbara bush as second lady had watched nancy reagan and her go to war with each other. >> it actually wasn't civil. [ laughter ]it was pretty fierce, and it wasn't exactly a problem, but you know if you
have a really good friends, and your husband hates, and if the spouses don't get along and you can never have dinner together, and i think that barbara bush felt it wasn't helpful to the united states for nancy reagan to have a feud with the russian president's wife. barbara bush showed a letter to her brother scott and just before she was gone see her as first lady, and she wrote to scott and said she is going to be my friend no matter what she does. that was what she did. she made it work. i remembered when i was covering her at one of the summits, and they came out holding hands. women in russia hold hands, but women in texas do not generally walk around holding hands. barbara bush will do whatever it takes to build a relationship with the wife of the russian president.
it was not just a matter of being cordial, but it was important in the geopolitics of the day. the canadian prime minister at the time told me that the fact that barbara built this relationship was helpful because she was a very important advisor to her husband. the point that we are trying to build trust between the two superpowers to negotiate the end of the cold war, and this relationship was a valuable thing to have, and it reflected a conscious determination on the part of barbara bush that she was going to to make it happen. i think by the end of their relationship, they in fact had a friendly relationship. but they would've had a friendly relationship no matter what because no matter what she does, we are going to be friends. quite remarkable. >> after she left the white house, and literacy became and was all along, but read to your
children and always read books and all that. what do you think susan baker was the impetus for that advocacy? >> she just saw, and first of all, she was a voracious reader and she loved to read. she just knew that families in particular who cannot read, cannot progress. so she just came to the idea that literacy was something that was necessary, and she loved it, and she just made her cause. i think that she was, she had other causes as well, but she was, and when they came back to houston, they had had so many of those literacy programs, but
she did other things, and i think they was in there early 80s, that's mac --, and they had been on the newspaper every day that we because they was helping good causes and i called her i said what are you all doing and how can you keep this up? she just said, we are doing what we want to do, and i said, i think you are nuts. she laughed and she said i think you are right. they kept on doing it. >> she went all over the country, and her literacy programs now or in 12 states and 100 or something programs, and she was very hands-on with. >> totally. she inspired people to really support, and she was very good at that. >> that is a good way of saying. [ laughter ]
>> she also was campaigning and susan, you ended up in seven presidential campaigns and that doesn't count the gubernatorial campaign sent everything, and all of those, and including when she was nine years old in the snows of new hampshire. >> it is a remarkable picture, and she is 90 years old and she is in a snowstorm in new hampshire, and i don't think that umbrella is doing anything for her. she is not even wearing a hat, and she is pushing her walker. i heard one person speculate that she didn't need to use a walker, but to make a point to everyone. but she did it for two reasons
i think. she did it because she would do anything for her family, and do anything for her son jeb. i also think she did not like that donald trump was doing so well in the primary at that point. >> you all saw her doing those campaigns over and over again. just amazing. her energy level is just astounding. it really was. i was thinking you know even until the very end, and she was a sharp as she could be, and i was reading to her the week that she passed away, and the nurse came in to do something with oxygen, and we stopped, and it was time to resume again and i had lost my place. >> she says susan, the last sentence, that is it.[ laughter ]. >> that is a good thing that
you did not see her become a different person. to me, that is really what i will always remember is her total authenticity. we have so many people who have the media trained within an inch of her live, and they are so smooth, or at least they think they are, and she was who she was. >> i love the quote and i wish i knew who said it. barbara bush is as authentic as her pearls are fake. [ laughter ] >> when i was looking at her diary, and you don't know what you're going to find when you look at a diary. you don't know whether or not you are going to find the dark underside are the alter ego, and the striking thing to me was
the diaries are exactly what she presented in public. they was a little more candid, but the barbara bush is exactly the barbara bush that stood up and talked at press conferences, or met with friends for lunch or whatever. it was totally consistent personality, and that means she was presenting to the world exactly who she was. >> i will say this that jimmy and i was with her the day before barbara passed away. the guys had got a drink and the aid had said to barbara and me, would you all like something? barbara said i think i will have a manhattan.[ laughter ]>> she did and she had several sips of that before she nodded off to sleep. she was full of spunk and life until the very end. a remarkable lady.
>> thank you all so much for sharing those memories.[ applause ]. >> former first lady barbara bush died this past april and was only the second woman in history to be married to one american president and the mother of another. next on the presidency, an event from the george w. bush presidential center with a daughter-in-law and former first lady laura bush introducing five of the grandchildren of barbara bush who remember the woman they knew. this is 45 minutes. >> i come from a family of strong women, including my mother-in-law barbara bush. as that video showed, barbara bush let our country and the bush family with grace and quick wit. when she died, we celebrated her beautiful life with a memorial service in houston,
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