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CNN Today

Future First Lady Speaks Out on Literacy, Abortion

Aired January 19, 2001 - 1:21 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The future first lady spoke out today on reading, writing, and a woman's right to choose. In an interview this morning on NBC, Laura Bush said she does not believe Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion, should be overturned.

Mrs. Bush has adopted a far less controversial topic, literacy, as her pet cause during her husband's administration.

And CNN's Wolf Blitzer joins us now with more on Mrs. Bush's plans and aspirations for the next four years.

We haven't heard very much from her until now -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we will be hearing a lot more from her now, Natalie. I did have a chance to sit down and talk to her at some length yesterday, and she made it clear that she was going to take a high profile, a high interest in her words, in the whole issue of education.

Remember she is a former schoolteacher, school librarian. This is an issue very close to her heart. Of course, it's the priority number one for the president-elect, George W. Bush, as well.

On another matter, I asked her whether she ever thought there was any doubt about the outcome of this election during those 36 days of uncertainty in the Florida recount. Listen to what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: When you look back now on the post-election, the 36 days of the Florida recount, was there ever a moment there that you thought that George W. Bush was going to lose?

LAURA BUSH: Sure.

BLITZER: What -- when were those moments?

BUSH: Well, I don't know about a specific one, but you know, it was a very up and down time, it was an unbelievable roller coaster. There would be a recount, and he would win, and then there would be another one, and he would win. But there were certainly moments when I thought maybe he wouldn't win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She showed a lot of confidence even though she acknowledged that she was always reluctant for her husband to throw his hat into the political ring, into the presidential ring. Couple of years ago, she was concerned, though, about some privacy matters. I pointed out to her that of course being the president and the first lady of the United States is a lot different than being the governor and first lady of Texas, and almost all of her privacy is going to go away.

She insisted that that was probably true. She hoped that like the press kept hands off on Chelsea Clinton, they would stay away from their two college-aged daughters as well. This is a matter of deep concern to the incoming first lady. She said this: Our children are not public figures, they didn't run for office, they want a private life.

And one final note: I asked her if there's anything out there about the president-elect that we really don't know, and she acknowledged, she said, there is probably something: how much he loves his pets, two dogs. Their names are Barney and Spot, appropriate names for dogs, and one cat -- that cat is named Willie. So there will be three pets at the White House coming up -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Socks -- could be left over, whatever has to do with that dilemma they had with the Clinton administration. But you talked about something we don't know about George W. Bush. Laura Bush has been quoted as saying when asked will you be like Barbara Bush, her response was I'll be like Laura Bush. She's been described as tough as nails. What did you take away from that interview that some of us might not know about Laura Bush that we'll more of tonight on your show?

BLITZER: Her father-in-law, the former president, calls her the Rock of Gibraltar. Her mother-in-law simply calls her the rock. I came away with a sense that this is a woman who is very, very steady, very assured. She slept well during those 36 days of uncertainty during the Florida recount. Someone that the president-elect relies on deeply, I think she's going to come across as a first lady in her own right, although she does praise her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush.

She also likes Lady Bird Johnson as a sort of role model. She was very diplomatic when I pressed her on Mrs. Clinton, her immediate predecessor. She wouldn't say anything at all controversial about the former -- soon-to-be-former -- first lady, now the junior senator from New York.

ALLEN: But Wolf Blitzer was trying. OK, Wolf, thanks so much.

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