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Laura Bush discusses life in White House

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Larry King speaks with first lady Laura Bush at the White House  

Linda Petty
CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- First lady Laura Bush ignores television comedy attacks on her husband, shrugs off tabloid gossip about her daughters and concentrates her energy where she thinks she can do the most good: promoting education.

"I miss teaching. I love teaching. And I have the opportunity, because I visit schools all the time, to still read with children and work with children," Bush said during an interview on CNN's Larry King Live.

She said she was surprised and thrilled about the forum she gained by moving into the White House. She plans to use that extra influence to encourage more people to consider teaching as a profession.

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She especially likes two programs. "Troops to Teachers" helps pay tuition for retired military to get a teaching certificate or a master's in education. "Teach for America" benefits young recent college graduates who commit to teaching at least two years in rural or inner city areas.

But as a former teacher, Bush said it is a teacher's role to spot troubled kids such as those who have made headlines with school shootings. She also said parents and the community share in the responsibility.

"We need parents to seek help for their children. We need teachers and principals and community leaders to get together and figure out strategies in each of our communities of ways we can help children that need help," she told King.

Furniture, politics and spy plane crew

Life in the White House is not all work. The first lady said she indulged her love of antiques by getting historic pieces of furniture out of storage so she could redecorate the mansion.

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Laura Bush during interview with Larry King  

"One of the things I brought upstairs to the long hall that's upstairs in the living quarters is a beautiful French desk that Jackie Kennedy brought into the White House in 1962," said Bush. "And for the president's Treaty Room, which is the office upstairs in the residence, I brought in Grant's furniture, which George really likes."

The first lady said she expects the crew members of U.S. Navy surveillance plane who were held in China would eventually be invited to the White House. But she and the president thought the fliers would appreciate first spending time with their families, she said.

"Of course, he's talked to them on the phone. I think he said to the pilot -- George knows a little bit about being a pilot since he was a jet fighter pilot -- that he wanted to congratulate him on such a safe landing in such a very, very difficult situation," she said.

When asked if she watched television shows that mock her husband, Bush replied, "Are you kidding?" She said that her family is aware of the shows, but that she and the president prefer to watch baseball -- if they watch any TV at all.

The first lady revealed that she almost balked at meeting the future president.

"I didn't think I really wanted to meet George when our friends were going to introduce me, because I didn't think I liked politics, but come to find out -- I did," she said.

She also said she likes campaigning because she likes meeting people. And while she was consulted about the president's potential advisers when he was putting his Cabinet together, she said they don't always discuss politics.

"George and I mainly talk about what we're going to do over the weekend or funny things our animals did. And we talk about our girls a lot, even though we don't get to see them enough," she said.

Children and pets

Bush said former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was generous with time and advice on "ways to raise children in the White House," during a transition tour. She also said she and her husband were reassured by how the media allowed Chelsea Clinton to have a private life during her father's presidency.

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Laura Bush holds Barney, a Scottish terrier, during her interview with King  

But she noted that the tabloids don't give children a break.

"It's difficult," Bush told King. "But also, I think people know that half of what's in the tabloids is not true. I hope people read that with a grain of salt."

She said her two daughters, Barbara and Jenna, follow her lead in shrugging off whatever nonsense is printed about them.

Laura Bush said she may write a book on life in the White House, as viewed through the eyes of the latest Bush family addition: A 7-month-old Scottish terrier that the president recently gave the first lady for her birthday.

The dog came from then-New Jersey Gov. Christine Whitman and he was named Barney by the Bush daughters.

The first lady reported that the new puppy sometimes annoys their older dog, Spot.

Spot is the offspring of former a First Pet, Millie, who lived in the White House during the previous Bush administration.



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