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‘It's the moment that is really the most satisfying’

First lady Laura Bush talks to NBC White House correspondent Campbell Brown about the inauguration and her plans for the next four years.
/ Source: TODAY

During President Bush's first four years in the White House, first lady Laura Bush has grown more comfortable in the spotlight — and in popularity with the American people. NBC White House correspondent Campbell Brown sat down with the first lady and spoke about her plans for the next four years, her relationship with her husband and, of course, the all important inauguration outfit.

Campbell Brown: Did you ever in a million years think that people would be paying so much attention to what you wear?

Laura Bush: No, I never thought in a million years that I would pay that much attention to what I was going to wear at anytime.

Brown: Has it been fun?

Bush: It's been great to work with all the American designers and they're fun and they're enormously talented. I enjoyed it very much.

Brown: You've been through this before. Describe the feeling for me of watching your husband being sworn in as President of the United States.

Bush: Well, that's the most moving part of the whole week of the inauguration. That's what I really look forward to. You know, it's the moment that is really the most satisfying and most moving for both of us; and also the moment when, four years ago, he thought if he turned around and looked at me or looked at his parents, he would weep. I think this time he thinks he won't have that problem.

Brown: There has been some criticism because of the war in Iraq, the tsunami disaster, about the money that's being spent on the inauguration. What do you make of that?

Bush: The money that is spent on the inaugural is privately raised; it's not government money. I think that is important for people to know. But I also am really proud that so many Americans have given their own hard-earned money very generously to the victims of the tsunami.

Brown: I don't know if you look at recent polls or have seen any of them, but your approval rating in the most recent polls is between 65 and 85 percent. Whichever poll you believe, the rating is well above your husband's.

Bush: Well, I like that. I mean, I think that's very flattering. I don't like it that it's way above my husband's. I mean, I understand. I don't have to make the hard decisions, and he does. And when you make the hard decisions, then of course you're criticized.

Brown: At what point did you realize the influence that you have in this country?

Bush: Not really until I gave the radio address about the women in Afghanistan and the treatment of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban. So many women spoke to me and thanked me for that — total strangers that I would meet places. And I realized then, first, how in solidarity American women stood with the women of Afghanistan, but also how I had a podium.

Brown: What do you want to do with that podium for the next four years?

Bush: Well, I want to build on the No Child Left Behind Act, which focused mainly on early childhood, on making sure children learn to read by the third grade, and turn the focus a little bit to older children, to middle school and high school students.

Brown: You know, one of the things I think most people are interested in is pillow talk.

Bush: People are very interested in that. And, of course, I'm not really that interested in relating it to everyone.

Brown: Well, can you tell people or give a sense for the kind of conversations you and the President have when you're alone?

Bush: Well, we have the same kind of conversations every couple have. We talk about what we're going to do for the weekend and what our kids are doing and what amusing things our pets have done. But of course we talk about issues. I mean, we don't only talk about them, we think about them every single day. And when you have the challenges or are facing the kind of challenges that our country faces, that's what's on the President's mind every single minute.

Brown: When you disagree with his policies, do you tell him?

Bush: Sure. I do tell him.

Brown: What are those conversations like?

Bush: Well, that's the great thing about having a private conversation with your spouse; it can remain a private conversation.

Brown: Iraq will certainly be a huge focus for your husband.

Bush: That's right.

Brown: Do you worry at all that this is going to be his legacy?

Bush: I think it really could be an unbelievable legacy. When you look at what's just happened in the last few months, Afghanistan had an election. Forty percent of the people that voted in Afghanistan were women, who had been totally forbidden to be educated or to even step on the streets a mere three years ago, and now they were voting for a president.

Now we are looking toward a vote in Iraq. And I know people there are afraid for violence, but I also know that people want to vote, and we have there also the chance of seeing a democracy being built. If it is his legacy, I think it could be a really unbelievable and wonderful legacy.