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Special Event

McGrath: Former President Bush Suffered a 'Glorified Fainting Spell'

Aired February 25, 2000 - 8:02 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: The younger George Bush was called about his father's condition late last night, and this morning a very relieved son told reporters everything is OK.

And now we hear Jim McGrath from the Bush campaign outside of the Naples Community Hospital with an update.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JIM MCGRATH, BUSH SPOKESMAN: ... He's in fine spirits and looking forward to getting back home to Houston, Texas. I don't have anything else to add.

Do you have anything to say?

QUESTION: Jim, how close was he to having these sort of problems? How do you (OFF-MIKE)...

MCGRATH: Not even close.

QUESTION: The doctor says that at some point it looked -- it didn't look good, like he could have fainted at some point.

MCGRATH: No, he felt light headed,. and we were able to get him seated, got him a glass of water, got him some breathing space, but he never lost consciousness that I saw.

QUESTION: How much time will he spend in the hospital (OFF- MIKE)? Is that arranged or is that just another check up?

MCGRATH: Well, I know it's arranged. I think it's another precautionary measure. You know, when you're a former president, they do tend to take precautions with you. And so it's no telling how long that...

QUESTION: Days, hour?

MCGRATH: I couldn't speculate for you right now.

QUESTION: Jim, I understand he's had a couple...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) news. How is he feeling, this morning? What is -- what was the first thing maybe he said to you today? MCGRATH: I'd like to say he said good morning, but he said, what are you doing here? And -- but he had an exam this morning with his physician, attending physician here, and we're looking forward to going home to Houston a little bit later on today.

QUESTION: Jim, the president's had a couple of previous similar experiences. How did this one compare to those two?

MCGRATH: Well, I wasn't on hand for the one in 1991 where he had the episode at Camp David after jogging. This one, I would call this a glorified fainting spell, if I had to characterize it, if I was writing -- if I was bold enough to write the headline for you.

QUESTION: I think you just did.

MCGRATH: OK.

QUESTION: What time is he going to leave?

MCGRATH: Well, it's up to the doctors. I think they're going to take another look at him and just make sure that he's OK again. Former president, we're going to take certain precautions, but we're looking forward to getting out of here today.

QUESTION: Are you flying back on a commercial flight or a private plane, or how are you getting back?

MCGRATH: Well, we're working on transportation arrangements right now.

QUESTION: Have they corrected the irregular heart beat or does he need to be admitted to another hospital when he gets back?

MCGRATH: I think that's one of the things they're taking a look at this morning. I haven't -- I'm not qualified to address the medical concerns that they might have, but I don't think they're serious. I know he's -- he's been given a clean bill of health as far as his -- the prospects for going home today are concerned.

QUESTION: Jim, is the governor, that is the Florida governor, coming down here at all this morning to see his dad?

MCGRATH: No need. No need. No. I -- we talked to him last night and made him aware of the situation, but if he comes -- it -- in the time it would to get down here from Tallahassee, we -- hopefully, we'll be on our way back to Houston.

QUESTION: Cracking jokes, we're told?

MCGRATH: Cracking jokes, I will diverge. Normally, we don't betray confidential conversations of the former president, but he did tell his son, the governor of Texas, that he was tired of him getting all the attention. So -- so he - he's in fine spirits.

QUESTION: He's a 75-year-old man. Doctors say he looks like he could act like he's about in his 60s, he doesn't really look his age. Talk to me about that.

MCGRATH: He's the fittest 75 I've ever seen, and he's got a staff of somewhat young Turks (ph) around him, and we -- trying to keep up with him is like trying to get a sip of water from a fire hose. He's just constant motion, and he's active at Texas A&M at his George Bush School of Government Public service. He has active speaking engagements, such as the one here in Naples.

QUESTION: Last night, were you there?

MCGRATH: Yes.

QUESTION: OK, give us a run down of what happened. So the president's up there, the lights were on, the heat. Break it down for us a little bit. What happens at that point?

MCGRATH: Well, yesterday was a long day. It started with an early breakfast meeting, he had an event in Houston midday for which he was on his feet most of the day -- or the event. Then we flew over here. He had a reception before dinner and then he gave a rather long speech with questions and answers afterwards. And then at that point they started a photo receiving line for several hundred people. So I think the combination of the lights, the flashing, the heat generated by that, being on his feet. I think when they got here they determined that he might have been slightly dehydrated, which is a contributing factor. It's just -- he's known for burning the candle at both ends, and I don't think that's going to change.

QUESTION: Do doctors plan on putting him on any long-term medication for this, even though you're saying it's not a permanent condition?

MCGRATH: I couldn't tell you. I'm not qualified to. I haven't heard that there are any plans to do that, and I couldn't' speculate for you, unfortunately.

QUESTION: Has (OFF-MIKE) before?

QUESTION: Has he been on any medication because of the tube (ph)?

MCGRATH: Let me go here real quick.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MCGRATH: Yes, this is the first time they've met, and he is overwhelmed by the care and loving -- the TLC he's received here at Naples Community.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. I was just wondering if he was getting any medication for his previous two (OFF-MIKE) and was there any long-term medication after his previous two episodes?

MCGRATH: I'm not -- I couldn't confirm that for you. I think there may have been something for his thyroid, but again, I would direct you to a qualified expert in that area. QUESTION: Jim, can you slow down the scheduled here? Did somebody say, Mr. President, this is too much, you aren't overboarding it on both ends but at some point you've got to slow down. I mean, what -- what's the discussion (OFF-MIKE)?

MCGRATH: Well, I just -- George Bush is a force of nature, and I don't know if you're going to slow him down. He -- we've put -- believe me, we have plead with him in the past: Sir, you know, you're running us all ragged. But he's a man who wants to accomplish things with his life, and he certainly did that when he was president and he's setting about doing that now that he's a former president, hopefully doing it in a way that brings honor to the office that he was proud to have held.

QUESTION: Have the doctors indicated...

LIN: Former president George Bush's spokesperson Jim McGrath, there, one of the self-described young Turks who talks about trying to keep up with his 75-year-old boss who is going to be released from the hospital today after being diagnosed with an irregular heart beat. He says he's doing just fine and that it was a "glorified fainting spell" last night.

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