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tv   The Presidency Barbara Bush Remembered  CSPAN  November 1, 2018 8:50pm-9:38pm EDT

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barbara bush is the second lady to be married to one american president and the mother of another. she hosted this event downtown. >> ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the 43rd president of the united states, george w. bush. because thank you all. please be seated, thank you. thank you. mother would have liked you a lot. i think you all for coming, this is an unusual event. honoring barbara bush. we thank you for being here. i want to thank highland
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capital for sponsoring this engagement and i want to thank our team for your leadership, i welcome the turner's, he happens to run msu by the way. we are incredibly proud of our relationship and i want to thank our board members who are here, and i want to thank the grandkids who took time to come. the second panel will be barbara, jenna, ellie, and debbie. there is no telling what will happen with the second panel. my notes say give reflections on barbara bush as a mother. man, she was a piece of work. she was funny, she could be blunt, she was kind of a blurred or. i don't have that as a noun.
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she was very compassionate and always loving. ever since i quit drinking, i didn't hear voices. but i heard one last night. it was mother saying george, why are you going to spend two hours talking about me at the library? i didn't answer back, i was somewhat taken aback. she said are you going to wear those ugly looking shoes? and anyway, we all miss her but she is going to come to life tonight for you. our first panel is going to be moderated by coach roberts, well-known figure in the media, good friend and fine person. susan baker will be here, she
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has been my mother's longtime friend, she gave the eulogy at mother's funeral which was a darn good one. susan page writes for usa today, she is a washington bureau chief, but more importantly, she has a but coming out in april called the matriarch. it is about mother. finally, my chief of staff, my first five years, a dear friend, someone who worked in my dad's white house who has been exposed to mother a lot and has handled her and her good moments in her sometimes not so good moments and that would be andy card, please welcome our panel.
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good evening, i must say when i woke up in washington this morning i realize this is going to be another bad hair day. i thought o lord, they always told me to do something about my hair. pretty much every time she saw me unless i was done up for tv. here i am, i'm sorry mrs. bush. we have such an interesting combination of folks here who have known mrs. bush in many ways of her life and susan has now written a book about her so she probably knows more than we think she does. but i want to start with her dear friend susan baker because susan you said that barbara bush was the gold standard of what it meant to be her friend and you have talked about how
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when she got to washington she started inviting you regularly to sunday lunch but she pushed you, too. you said she pushed you out the door. she really did, and i kind of resisted because i would much rather be in the audience then outfront. >> she really kind of gave me the courage she said come on, you have to take advantage of your husband's position and i'm so thankful that she did. >> including hosting events that the vice president has>> that was the best. this was the cause that do not have a lot of supporters at the time in the early 80s and making people aware of homeless situations was really important. if we had a meeting that was not at the vice president's
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house, they probably would not have come and also she would invite very prominent homeless leaders who made some big headlines and the administration was not very keen about that. but, barbara did it. she just had courage but i will tell you the way she cared was not just me, she did the same kind of thing for so many of her friends. she was a remarkable friend in every way. >> you said she was a fierce protector of her friends? >> yes, and especially her family. she had an uncanny ability to read people for good and for bad. >> first of all, she was the definition of love. she loved her husband, unbelievably. she loved her family.
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she would give love and she wasn't afraid to give tough love. i witnessed a lot of the tough love. sometimes, i was expected to pass on the tough love which was very difficult but i remember first seeing her when she was really talking about trips to china and the slideshow and she was a little shy and i remember her empowering her daughter to step up and learn the slideshow and give the slideshow. i remember her doing cross stitching at every down moment, writing notes, i remember her thinking of detail, i remember her being passionate about things that were happening in her peripheral vision that we
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didn't see. but most of all, i remember her appropriate fighting commentary. this was reported by the chief of staff to president george hw bush, he was probably the most intelligent person i had ever met. he was not that smart. >> not easy to deal with. >> i was the closest fool to him. but his chief of staff had ended and he reported about a month after he left, he was in a place where the governor came in and he pounded his chest, why is it that people take such an instant dislike to me? i will never forget what she said.
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she said it is much more efficient that way. >> at the same time. >> she was very good at passing on to her son, commentary before you spit them out, he had very good languages present. he did not have such good language before he became president. that is the witness that i saw but she also made sure that everyone in the orbit of her husband helped him do his job and she cared deeply about his successes. she wanted to make sure that they weren't successes for him because he couldn't practice this. is much bigger than you realize.
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was always for a greater good and she would cause us to see things differently. it is very easy in the white house to believe you know everything. she was a joy to work with she is a joy to listen to and i appreciate the wisdom she had. she was contagious in her love but she also taught us to practice tough love when it was necessary. >> eventually she gave us access to all of barbara bush's life including her diary which is a remarkable thing.
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>> i wanted to do this book because washington i thought barbara bush was the one person they thought she would know best, and why is that?>> i thought she was wonderful, white-haired, cookie baking grandma but i learned she did not make any cookies and it underestimated her influence. we had a few interest on this book with continuing curiosity people had about barbara bush. i thought i was going to be
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screwed. i worried if i asked her beforehand she said she would not have control over the book. after about two weeks she sent me a letter saying she would meet with me at lunch when she did, she said she would meet for the second time. at the first interview she said and you will never see my diary. i understand that diaries are very personal and in the third interview i said i know i can't see her diary but i wondered if i could see excerpts? i was interested in the relationship. she said i would think about it which i thought meant no but i will not say that to their face i didn't notice it was the last interview, her health was failing. at the end of that, without me asking she said and i have
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decided you can see all my diaries and i went really? are you sure? i think she knew that she was at the end of her life, i think she knew she had 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 am grateful to her. >> had you known her before?>> i first covered 10 presidential campaigns, the first one was a 1980 and i interviewed george hw bush. my biggest interchange with her was i covered the bush administration in 1990 on-duty for newsday and the bushes always game this picnic for the press that was on the studio
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there. i went to it with my two young sons and i had never had personal exchanges with her before that. she gave me the world's hardest time for working because my kids were young and how dare you work when you have little children. i am taken aback. at first i thought she was kidding it was clear she was not kidding. and at that point i tried to physically back away from her. this was a few months after the 50s and i think she felt i shouldn't be working if i have two little kids also my kids were not that well behaved. she might have thought if i were not working my children will be better behaved and that was uncomfortable. >> i interviewed her in a sitdown interview and it was
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for 17 magazine. and, i was interviewing her and at all been arranged and all of that and i arrived and it was a little intimidating. i sit down and she comes in and says what are we doing here? and i said i'm here to interview year and she said for 17 magazine? and she said they can't vote. >> i told her it was okay, some of them were older and they had parents. >> she didn't hold anything back. moving here and season at what
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point did you meet barbara bush? >> it was early 60s, 61 or 62 when they had been in houston a few years and what i was really taken with about her was from the beginning, she was so interested in everybody she met. she is such a relational person. she invited me to lunch with somebody else after we had been there a while and then, the way she nurtured all the volunteers that were 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 with these little signs that say bush and she put them on little baskets and give them to people to thank them and she also made canvas bags. she was one of the most energetic involved people i have ever seen in the world. her energy level was remarkable and i just think that she has
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this motto that you will be judged about the success of your life by your relationships with your family, your friends, your coworkers, and people you meet along the way. for her, everyone had value. she was even nice people she didn't like. they could come out and she tolerated people. i told her once there were people who had been so pushy and i just couldn't, i won't say what. barbara treated them with kindness and i thought she is teaching me the way you have got to be with people, it was beautiful.
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she has talked about in her books and other places the move to texas from connecticut, getting away from the gaze of the parents i think is how she put it. did you see that? did any of you see that? liberating? i think she was liberated, period. i think this, she was so engaged in whatever her man was doing and she wanted to do it with him and she was just a fabulous life partner and so much fun. she really was so much smarter than people understood because she had the self-deprecating humor which made people not realize how really brave she was. when you think about all the
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things she managed, all the campaigns, all the summers were she not only had wonderful family but she had an endless stream of visitors, some of them were heads of state and here she was, she didn't have a massive staff, she had to be planning and doing everything in the flow and ebb of dinner people not coming, golf, tennis, she was in the middle of it and she never tired. i mean i'm sure she did, but she kept on. >> that attributed to how smart she was. she had peripheral vision and you have also said that even though she didn't put her thumb on the scale in terms of policy, she always asked about consequences. >> i don't ever remember her saying the policy should be. i do acknowledge that there
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were many times that she would say have you thought about this? or did you know that and it would raise your conscience and she invited peripheral vision i'm going to say it again. she invited us to pay attention to that which we didn't see at the white house. look outside and see what is happening. it was very valuable. she couldn't cook, though. president george w. bush told me that she was a lousy cook and i had the benefit of enjoying her cooking a few times and yeah she was not a good cook. >> why did she even try?>> there was something in laura bush's book that struck me about barb and it was when laura invited the bushes to come meet the grandchildren, barb's
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grandchildren. and, they ran out of the house and said ginny, and she said that barb was told that she had taught them about her before they came out and she loved her family, her family was the top and you were not allowed to say anything negative about the family, she would say it. sometimes, you were there when she was saying it and you felt uncomfortable, right jenna and barbara? she was just very giving. i do have to tell you one story. you should know that you do not apply to become the president chief of staff. they don't go to a recruiter or
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linkedin and 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 his transition so i thought that 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 just before the election but before i went to florida i was supposed to go see his parents and i thought that was a strange suggestion that i should do. i went to houston, his parents were not in the house, the secret service was there, i had to sit there all day and there were cameras watching me. they finally came home after a long day of campaigning for their son, barb came in first and then the president and we had peanut butter and banana or carrot sandwiches. and went to bed.
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the next morning i get up, i slept in the guest room, i made the bed, i took a shower, i was all dressed and barb comes to the door and says you are already at and you are just. >> yes i am and she said did you even sleep in the bed?>> yes i slept in the bed. she said had you had any coffee yet. she said go grab a cup of coffee and join us. i went and got a cup of coffee, they were in bed. stood outside the bedroom with my cup of coffee, the tv is on, both the president and the former first lady are commenting on the news on tv and then they are dispersing it like come on in, come lie down with us. lie down in the bed and she says right there right there.
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i laid in bed with them with a cup of coffee. the conversation is strange because it is commenting on the news, it is commenting on the campaign, and you know what it's like, you will take care of him. you will help him. you know what it's like. and i have to admit i said are they talking about the transition? but, that was so telling because i was an intermediary sometimes between the former president and former first lady. the president would be frustrated with it and i remember one time i went down there to say something and he said did my mother call you? and she had until that moment but she did other times. i was struck by how much she
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cared about him. and laura and the burden that they had to carry. it was a great privilege to be included in that relationship. >> i want to talk a good bit here about her time as first lady but briefly before i get to that, susan, when you were talking to her and reading the diaries, your time in china was terribly important. >> if you ask barbara bush what her favorite period of time was, she often would say china was the best of times because it was the one time when she was there and there were parents around, children around, it was just the two of them and it was basically about a period of time that they adjust to each other. i think more than being in china which was then of course incredibly exotic place and americans thought they would
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never go, i think it was as much the opportunity to be with george hw bush and that was the exotic location they were in. >> in her time as first lady, there is the iconic picture of her going to grandma's house and having that baby. at a time when hiv-aids was considered untouchable. and, i noticed in an earlier video we saw he referred to her as the godmother and we will hear from the mother and a little bit. i am wondering, you have all talked about how she was so naturally empathetic when she saw that maybe and in some ways you think it related to her experience with losing her daughter robin. >> i do, the death of robin was
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a threat to the whole rest of her life. i think it affected her kindness and compassion, and also made her left patient. i think that is one reason she said if you are going to be idiotic she would tell you. it was a good six months that shaped her in fundamental ways. when robin was sick and being treated, leukemia was a very mysterious disease, not a lot of people had heard of it and they thought it might be catching. that was wounding to her. she saw something similar and it's easy to forget at this point what the stigma was like.
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we realized a health crisis and she was determined to show empathy and kindness toward people who had aids. she visited babies to the campaign in 1988. that wasn't new for her. i was interested on why she went to grandma's house and what actually happened was in the transition to bush's presidency, the public affairs transition office defined in the spirit of 1000 points said that instead of buying each other christmas presents they would collect it and give it to a charity. they collected about $700 and they decided to give it to grandma's house. one of the people working in the office delivered it
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personally to grandma's house and this was a time when they wouldn't have a sign out front because they were afraid of being the target of attacks, neighbors would protest if they knew that they were treating kids who had aids. grandma's house sent a letter saying thanks so much for the money and we would love to have barbara bush visit us and that letter got 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 headlined around the world and it was because she not only visited but she held the baby without any fear that she doesn't have protect those holding on. people were afraid to touch people with aids and she also made a point that she had a private meeting with adults who had hiv-aids. one of the men in the meeting said to her, you hugged a baby
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but people think babies are innocent victims of aids. people don't feel that way about us, we need a hug and so she gave him a hug and 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 there were pictures of her hugging an adult with aids to make the point that he had made with her. >> some people working at the white house were uncomfortable that she had embraced the aids community and this was controversial political. she did call over to the white house and spoke to me and said i don't think this person is serving my husband well. and, we had to make the change to the white house.>> he was
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fearless. she was fearless. >> it was a tough thing to hear, but it was exactly right and she was again a conscience.>> there was a political rebound that president bush got challenged by patrick buchanan after the public nomination and most of that was cultural conservatism. the whole issue not summits aids but gay-rights became something that was a political issue. you know who did not back down on that? barbara bush. >> the people in this discussion probably know much more. >> she was asked to give the commencement speech at my alma mater.
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she absolutely had a home run. >> one thing will never change. fathers and mothers, 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 as a family, our success as a society depends not on what happened in the white house but what happened inside your house. >> spiritual would have to come first. of course the other really smart things she did in her wonderful speech was bring with
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her other people. susan baker you were there at the white house when the two of them had a private visit, millie was also there and you saw that they really formed a bond. >> yes, it was very interesting because life was not easy and barb made every effort to have things be smooth and she would say something funny and get some kind of funny reaction which she said you know, she is having to act a certain way to please the people at home in the way she dressed and things like that. has barb was trying to be a great hostess, she really took into account exactly what she was going through and she did
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just the right thing. to have her there was just a strike. i remember thinking how marvelous that these young women who think that they know what to do and what is right, to have her come along and save both ways are right, it is important to be a mother, to do that. it is also important to have a career. 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 needed desperately at that particular time. >> do they have a cause?>> at the time there was tension in our global partners and what was going on and was a surreal
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thing? the invitation to come to the united states was a big deal and barbara bush took teresa with her and that was a bonus. it wasn't something that was contrived or planned, it was barbara bush wanted to do it and so this was not part of the political community or the diplomatic community. she actually kind of wondered if it would be all right if she invited her. she was acquiescing and willing to acquiesce but i think that speech was one of the greatest speeches ever given by a first lady and i tell my grandchildren that they have to listen to that speech. but, barbara bush at that time helped calm the waters so that people didn't think we were going too far or not far enough
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, it was the right thing to do at the right time and she helped give a more personal side to it so it wasn't just global politics or diplomacy, it was much more intimate. barbara bush allowed that intimacy. >> you came to understand that it wasn't spontaneous?>> barbara bush had watched nancy reagan just go to war with each other. it was a civil war between them. >> it was not civil.>> it was pretty fierce. is not exactly a problem but you know how if you have a really good friend but your husband hates them then you can never have dinner together and i think barbara bush felt it was not helpful to the united states although as you say that would be pretty difficult.
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barbara wrote a letter to her brother scott just before the first time she would see ray as first lady and she wrote to scott that she is going to be my friend no matter what she does and that is what she did. she made it work. i remember when i was covering them at a summit, they came out holding hands. women in russia hold hands, women in texas do not generally walk around holding hands and i thought barbara bush will do whatever it takes to build a relationship and it was not just a matter of being cordial, this was important in the geopolitics. brian maloney who was a canadian prime minister told me that the fact that barbara built this relationship of trust was that she was a very
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important advisor. this relationship was a valuable thing to have and it reflected a conscious determination that she was going to make it happen. by the end of the relationships they had a friendly relationship. >> after she left the white house, they will always read books and all that. what do you think she was doing for that advocacy?>> first of all she was a reader.
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she loved to read and she just knew that families can't progress. she just came to the idea that literacy was necessary so she made it her cause. i think that she had other causes as well. when they came back to houston, they had so many of those literacy programs but she did other things and i think they were in their 80s, early 80s and they had been in the newspaper and on the tv every day that week because they were helping good causes. i called her and i said barb, what are you doing?
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how can you keep this up? she just said well, we are just doing what we want to do and i said well, i think you are nuts. and she laughed and she said i think you are right. be careful, i'm doing it. >> she went all over the country with her literacy program to 12 states i think and 100 and some programs. she was very hands-on with it. >> oh, totally. >> she inspired people to really support, she was very good at that. that is putting the arm on her. >> i would say that she was unfathomable with campaigning. you had it up with seven presidential campaigns and that doesn't count the congressional campaigns, all of those.
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includes when she was 90 years old in new hampshire for her son jeb. there is a remarkable picture from the 2015 campaign, are they showing it? she is 90 years old, she is in a snowstorm in new hampshire, don't think that umbrellas doing anything for her, she's not even wearing a hat. she is pushing her walker. i heard one person speculate that she didn't actually need to use her walker and it was to make the point to everyone that she didn't need help. she did it for two reasons i think. she did it because she would do anything for her family so she did it for her son and she also didn't much like that donald trump is doing so well. it was a wonderful campaign for the other guy. >> you all saw her doing those campaigns over and over again,
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just amazing. her energy level is just astounding. it really was. i was thinking, you know, even until the very end, she was as sharp as she could be. i was reading to her the week that she passed away and the nurse came in to do something with the oxygen and we stopped and it was time to resume again and i lost my place and she said susan, the last sentence said this. >> that is a good thing. >> you didn't see her become a different person into me, that is really what i will always remember is her total authenticity. we have so many people who have been media trained and are so
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smooth or at least they think they are and she was who she was. >> i love the quote and i wish i knew who had said it, barbara bush is as authentic as her pearls are fake. >> when i was looking at your diary you put it in a very private diary but diaries are exactly what she presented to the public. they were a little more candid, but the barbara bush is exactly the barbara bush that talked at press conferences or addressed an audience or met with friends for lunch or whatever, it was
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totally consistent, totally consistent personality and that means she was presenting to the world exactly who she was. >> well, i will say this. jimmy and i were with them the day before barbara passed away and the guys had gotten a drink and the aide had said to barbara and me would you all like something and barbara said i think i will have a manhattan. and she did, she had several sips of that before she nodded off to sleep. she was full of spunk until the very end. a remarkable lady. >> thank you all so much for sharing those memories.
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