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Motorcade Takes Bush Family to Prayer Service

Aired January 20, 2001 - 9:07 a.m. ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: In the next few minutes, the president- elect expected to attend a church service at St. John's Church, an Episcopalian church here. The church on Lafayette Square, first established in 1850, known as the President's Church.

Kate Snow once again with us live this morning outside there. Hey, Kate, good morning again. What's happening?


We're standing here in a bit of a drizzle. George W. Bush expected to arrive shortly. The service will start at about 9:30 this morning, it'll last about a half hour. We're told that there will be 60 family and friends who will be here along with the president-elect. Actually you're seeing a motorcade coming this way, I'm not sure if that is the president-elect or not. But we'll keep an eye on that.

About 60 of them; it'll be a very intimate service. We're told that it's going to start with an opening hymn, "Father Eternal." A reverend from one of Bush's Texas churches, a Methodist church in Dallas where he attended, will be here as well, as well as the rector of this church, Luis Lajone (ph), who happens to be a Cuban American. He was born in Cuba, and he came here at the age of 12. He's been the rector at this church for about six years now.

This is a very traditional church for presidents to visit. It's called the Presidential Church. Most -- many presidents have visited here, in fact, every president since James Madison has been here at one time or another.

The motorcade passing by us now, I'm told, is not President-elect Bush, but we do expect him to come here fairly shortly, along with his brother Jeb Bush, his other two brothers, his sister, his father, President George Bush.

There is some history to this church. About halfway back in the church, in the rows of pews, is pew 54. That's known as the presidential pew. Now, that's where presidents tend to sit when they come to this church. I've been told that George W. Bush will not sit way back there, because he's still the president-elect, he's not the president yet.

President Bush, the senior, was offered to be in pew 54, it was offered to him, but he said, "No, thanks, I'd rather sit up front along with the rest of my family."

I'm told that Dick Cheney is in this motorcade. We're looking now for the Vice President-elect to enter the church here. He should be accompanied by his wife, his children, and his grandchildren.

Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, also entering St. John's now. As I mentioned, the other spouses -- excuse me, the other siblings of George W. Bush are expected here as well.

It's quite a family affair. They've decided to keep it small. The administrator of the church told me yesterday that originally they were planning a very large church service, and then they scaled it back. They decided that it -- they really wanted it to be more of an intimate family affair.

George Bush, Senior, now entering the church. He came here a number of times. Excuse me, leaving the Blair House and making his way now to the church. He came here a number of times to this church when he served as president.

He -- in fact, there's a story that's pretty well known about George Bush Senior, coming to this church. At one point in 1989 he came here, and he was walking in and he saw a homeless man. And the homeless man said to him, Mr. President, will you please pray for me? George Bush at the time said, No, I won't; why don't you come in and pray with me instead of me praying for you?

That man, William Wallace Brown Jr., was homeless at the time. He ended up coming to this church for a number of years. He was a parishioner here for the rest of his life. He just died back in October of 2000, and he's buried outside the church here in the churchyard. So a touching story about George Bush Senior, and his participation at St. John's Church.

Again, traditionally, this is where many presidents have come. The last president to come here on inauguration day, however, was George Bush Senior. So George W. Bush taking a lead from his father and coming to this church.

It's got a lot of history. It's always been yellow, the color that you see. It just got renovated within the last six months. They repainted it so that the church would match the building behind it, sometime had faded away and so they decided to repaint it. It's gone through some renovations. I was told a long time ago, they put in floorboard heating so that when it was first built, of course, it had no heat. This morning it should be very comfortable out of the rain for the first family and the first family-elect.

Bill, back to you.

HEMMER: Kate, hang with us a second here.

We're going to go across the street from where you are, outside of Blair House, and CNN's Bob Franken, where some activity's taking place there as well.

Bob, what's happening?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, now we're waiting for the president-elect to come out. As I mentioned a moment ago, there are two motorcades, and you've seen various family members come out of the Blair House. We saw the governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, get into a gray van. They're going through, they're going through the security- oriented movement from the Blair House. As you can see, there's a -- just a repeat of activity as we wait for the president-elect and his wife to come out, and Secret Service gathering around.

A lot of the times they do this kind of thing mainly just for security considerations. They want to have two motorcades, for instance, to confuse anybody who might have any ill will, that type of thing. So at the last minute, they tell us what they're going to do.

And we're told, by the way, by Mary Mazarini, who is somebody who has been a protocol press officer connected with the State Department for longer than she would probably like us to tell, and she is -- you can see her over there in the red hat. She comes over every once in a while and fills us in on the details at the last minute. She's very much intimately involved in all of this planning.

And it's interesting, all the Secret Service agents are very deferential to her, as she walks around being pretty much in charge.

But as I say, we're waiting for the president-elect, George W. Bush, to come out, the former president, George H.W. Bush is already on his way to St. John's. You can see every once in a while Secret Service men coming out, Secret Service officers, lots of police activity, of course, as we wait for this motorcade to begin.

Of course, we're breathlessly telling you about every single step that everybody makes right now, but this is all very traditional. It is all part of this process of going from the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton to the presidency of George Walker Bush.

And so we're seeing the beginning of what really amounts to a ceremony, a ceremony that begins here at Blair House and will end up at the White House with the new president installed.

HEMMER: All right, Bob Franken, outside of Blair House. Bob, stand by with us here. Again Kate Snow is also in that same area just near the White House.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's started. I mean, now that...

HEMMER: It has.

KAGAN: ... the day, the day has justly started, we saw the elder Bush, we saw President Bush and Mrs. Bush, we saw Dick Cheney arrive. There's another picture, there's another aerial picture, just different shot of Blair House, as we're keeping our eyes waiting for President-elect George W. Bush, his wife, and, I imagine, his daughters there being with them as well as they head to church this morning. HEMMER: Earlier today, Bob Franken was reporting that we are watching every step the incoming president is making. He reports that it -- George Bush got up this morning at 6:30 a.m. here in Washington, about two hours and 40 minutes ago, met with a couple of his siblings, including his brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, this morning.

And we will certainly track the progress throughout the day here.

KAGAN: Bob, we were -- and we have Kate standing by as well -- Bob, we saw Dick Cheney arrive at the church earlier. As I understand it, he didn't stay at Blair House. Do you know where he's been staying?

FRANKEN: Well, probably at home.

KAGAN: Well, that's true.

FRANKEN: In McClain. Of course, he'll be moving. He moves up now to the Naval Observatory, which has been the home of Al Gore and his family for the last eight years. That's up in northwest Washington. But Dick Cheney, who seems to have houses just about everywhere in the world, one in Wyoming, where he's originally from, one in Texas, where he lived, and one in McClain, Virginia, now has another home, and it's the Naval Observatory. So that's where he'll be staying.

And, you know, we had talked earlier about Blair House, and I think it'd be kind of fun to do that again. This has become the traditional place where the incoming president stays on his last night as nonpresident. It's also...

Wait a minute, we have three motorcades now. We have Mary Mazarini, who's talking to us. Mary?

MARY MAZARINI, STATE DEPARTMENT: Now, the second one, they're telling me, the daughters are coming down.

FRANKEN: OK, you're hearing this, yes?

MAZARINI: And that -- I'm hearing that. And that -- they may -- there they go now.


MAZARINI: OK, they're leaving, and then the other motorcade is -- there's three motorcades.

FRANKEN: So we're getting play-by-play from Mary Mazarini, who...

HEMMER: We can hear it too, Bob.

FRANKEN: ... has been (inaudible).

KAGAN: Great source. Was that the -- those weren't -- that was not Jenna and Barbara Bush who just walked down the stairs? FRANKEN: She's now very unhappy with me, by the way. She does not like to be on television.

In any case, what you just heard her say is that there are going to be three motorcades, and this is the second...

MAZARINI: Second one leaving. The next one is (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

FRANKEN: ... one leaving with the daughters, and the next one that's leaving is the president. So you say this time, Mary. She's the one who's been providing us the information.

But as you can see, they're doing this in steps, and of course the main considerations are security considerations. But now we've had the second of what will be three motorcades, and we would expect that the president-elect and first lady-elect, if I may use that term, will be coming out of Blair House shortly.

Again, as I was saying, Blair House is a house with so much tradition. Harry Truman stayed here for three years while they renovated the White House. The Bushes, of course, are staying here for one night before they go into that White House, which right now doesn't seem to need any renovation.

HEMMER: Hey, Bob, with regard to the immediate Bush family, you mentioned the two daughters, Barbara and Jenna. Will the other brothers and sisters be in attendance also at that church today, or do we know that?

FRANKEN: Well, we just know that there's going to be about 60 people, 60 people. It's going to be -- obviously that's enough people to have just about all the family. So the answer is yes, of course, they're going to be there, and it's just not going to be a large, huge service. The church, which is there for the use of the first family, and it was built for that.

KAGAN: Bob, if I understood you correctly, you said the daughters, Jenna and Barbara, already left in a motorcade? Is it possible, with all those cameras we have trained on Blair House, we didn't actually see them come out of the house and get in the car?

FRANKEN: Well, one of the things that everlastingly delights camera people is that the security people will oftentimes see to it, we think, that they block the camera shots. Obviously that's not what they're doing. What they are doing is blocking, sometimes, a vantage point for somebody who might be up to no good. So oftentimes we don't see.

So in answer to your question, yes, it's entirely possible.

HEMMER: Might as well complete the trivia in Barbara and Jenna, both girls are named after their grandmothers, and of course we know Barbara Bush, the senior Bush, quite well, a former first lady herself, Jenna attends the University of Texas in Austin, and Barbara attends Yale, like her father and her grandfather and her great- grandfather. KAGAN: And they are 19 years old, very -- they're fraternal twins, very different personalities, as we understand it. And a little bit of trivia about the gowns they'll be wearing tonight to the inaugural balls. They were designed by Susan Dell, who is the wife of Michael Dell...

HEMMER: Austin, Texas.

KAGAN: Absolutely, who is an accomplished fashion designer in her own right.

We have a car pulling up. Let's stand by and see who's getting out.

HEMMER: We are finding this out...

KAGAN: We're watching along with you folks.

HEMMER: ... right along with you.

Kate Snow's outside. Kate, can you hear us?

SNOW: Yes, I can hear you, Bill. It's -- we're having a little trouble figuring out who's in which motorcade. I understand that Dick Cheney, the vice president-elect, is inside the church now. Barbara Bush and President Bush, I believe, are entering the church now, coming out of this motorcade. A few moments ago they towed a car away to get it out of the way so they could clear the way for this motorcade to come up here.

President Bush, as we've mentioned -- yes, there's Barbara Bush, I can see her over my shoulder in as blue coat. They'll be joined by family and friends, about 60 people expected here this morning, Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, of course the brother of President- elect George W. Bush, is here, along with his wife.

Senator Alan Simpson, we're told, is also walking into the church, other invited guests of the Bush family. I was also told that some of the leadership of the church will be here, about 20 of the folks who are long-time members of this church and want to get a glimpse of the new president, they'll be here, as well as the choir, who, by the way, have practiced several times to make sure that everything goes smoothly this morning. The organist was practicing last night when I visited the church.

They're very excited to have a president here. There's not been a president here on inauguration day since George Bush, Senior, the President Bush, was here in 1989 on his inauguration day. So like father, like son, the George W. Bush decided to come here as well.

It's known as the President's Church because every president since James Madison has attended this church at least once. It's an Episcopal church, but the service this morning will not be just with one reverend, it'll include several different people, several different reverends from different parishes, including one from Texas, a Methodist minister who came up, one of Bush's old ministers. And they -- it will include hymns and prayers. I'm also told that there will be a prayer for the president and there will be a homily, which is similar to a sermon, that will be delivered by Luis Lajone, who is the rector of this church. He's a Cuban-born Cuban- American who's been with this church for about six years now.

The church, by the way, is an active church. They have about 900 members in their parish here in Washington. Most of them drive in from outside of Washington. They don't live around this neighborhood. This is a very government neighborhood that we're in here. The White House just across the park here, across Lafayette Square.

The reason the church was built here, though, back in 1816, is this used to be prime real estate, a prime residential area. This was the very wealthy part of town, and the church was built to accommodate some of those wealthy residents back in those days.

HEMMER: Hey, Kate, Bob Franken was reporting about 60 people will attend this service. Do we know the length here, possibly about 30 minutes or so?

SNOW: That's right, about 30 minutes is what the administrator of the church told me yesterday. They can't, of course, give us the details of the service for security reasons. They don't want people to know exactly what will happen when. But basically it'll be a half hour long, it'll be an intimate, small gathering.

George W. Bush will be sitting in the front pew, and we should tell you that pew 54, we've been talking about that this morning, is about halfway back in the church. It's actually not very good seating, but that's the presidential pew. They decided not to use that pew. In fact, the only one who could have sat there would have been President Bush, George Senior might have been able to sit in pew 54, since he's a president. But he decided not to, they decided to all...

KAGAN: Kate?

SNOW: ... sit up front.

KAGAN: Kate, we're going to interrupt you...

SNOW: And of course...

KAGAN: ... I do, I do believe -- there they are, there's Mrs. Bush, there's Laura Bush and George W. Bush.

Bob Franken, let's bring you in. What do you see from where you are?

FRANKEN: Well...

KAGAN: And the daughters.

FRANKEN: ... exactly the same thing you see, the first lady, the incoming first lady, going around, going around to the car. You can see the president-elect getting into their motorcade. And obviously you can hear the same thing I can, the very loud motorcycles. We were told that -- first we were told there would be two, and now we're told three motorcades, heading to St. John's, what we've been discussing all morning.

It's happening like clockwork, and I have to tell you, there are a lot of people who have commented that this is already a difference between this president-elect and the previous one. Around Washington, after awhile, we got used to the term Clinton time, which is to say never on time. But now we see that everything is operating exactly on schedule. And the president-elect and his immediate family getting ready to join this motorcade of about 20 vehicles...

HEMMER: Hey, Bob...

FRANKEN: ... and one presidential limousine.

Yes, Bill?

HEMMER: Since we're accentuating the minutiae today, that particular limousine that the incoming president just climbed into, was that the one that was put into service this past week?

FRANKEN: I couldn't begin to tell you, but I doubt it. It does not look like...

KAGAN: Yes, it doesn't look...

FRANKEN: ... it does not look like...

KAGAN: ... like it.

FRANKEN: ... it doesn't have that new car look, no.

HEMMER: I see, OK.


HEMMER: ... the new one is said to be bigger, badder, and better, so...

FRANKEN: Yes, this is definitely not it, no.


KAGAN: And it had rounder corners and looked a little bit narrower than...


FRANKEN: So listen to Daryn...

HEMMER: ... it would make a -- yes, it would make sense too, also taller as well, it would make sense that this would not be that limousine, because he is...

FRANKEN: I would like...

KAGAN: Because he is not the president.

HEMMER: ... not the president yet.

FRANKEN: I would like to thank you for throwing me that curve ball question.

HEMMER: There's more...

KAGAN: I was making you look good, Bob.

HEMMER: ... there's more coming your way, Mr. Franken.

KAGAN: You had said we had mentioned that when the elder Bush, when he was president, he walked from Blair House to St. John's, a short walk, and I can't imagine that this little ride's going to take very long, would it, Bob?

FRANKEN: One wouldn't think. And I'll tell you what, on a day like today, I -- chances are I wouldn't have wanted to make the walk. But no, it's about a one-minute drive.

KAGAN: So that means we (inaudible) from Bob to Kate, and any second the cars should be pulling up in front of St. John's, and we should be able to see the Bush family getting out. And sure enough, here comes the motorcade.

HEMMER: Also with us this morning is CNN's Candy Crowley, who has trailed the very steps of George W. Bush since the very beginning of his campaign. Oh, 18 months ago she spent about four or five months in Austin, almost a resident there.

Candy, good morning to you.


HEMMER: Tell us, other than the immediate family, do we know who else close to the president-elect that will be at the service today and tailing him throughout the day today?

CROWLEY: Well, he has a number of close friends that really -- you know, his campaign was run by close friends. John Evans was his campaign chairman. He'll be here today. Karen Hughes, a staffer, is very close to the Bushes. They have friends from Midland, Texas. He tends to have friends that go back for a very long time, 20, 25 years, and many of them will be here, many of them from Midland, where, of course, Laura Bush is also from Midland.

So it's a very tight, very loyal circle that both contributed to his campaign in terms of strategy, as well as in terms of money, and they will be here to watch this day that they have worked very hard for 18 months.

KAGAN: Very good, and there you have the future first couple walking into St. John's. Looks like they've selected an outfit that kind of complements each other, Mr. Bush's tie looking like it matches his wife's coat.

HEMMER: Candy, you spoke with George Bush earlier this week. Did he talk about this day in any detail?

CROWLEY: Well, we talked about it a little bit both before and after the actual on-camera interview. I said, "Are you nervous?" and he said, "I'm really not." And I have to tell you, the body language was very laid back, very calm.

I think you can tell from the -- sort of watching, certainly watching over the last 18 months, but even over the past month or so, and it happens to every candidate who then becomes a president-elect, is they begin to look more like a president. They begin to act more like a president. I think I saw that, George Bush sort of over the past month or so, a seriousness of purpose that, you know, sets in, and it sets in the look and that.

And I asked him if he, you know -- what he -- was he troubled about anything? And he said, "No, I'm -- actually, if I had to describe how I'm feeling, it's that I'm anxious to get to work." He's known to be impatient, and I think this has been, certainly the court part of the election was hard on him, and he even admits that.

And just -- and the waiting for something to happen has always been difficult for him. He said he learned a lot of patience during that whole judicial part of the election. And so I think now he's just mostly eager to have it start so he can get to work.

HEMMER: All right, Candy, we should let our viewers know that Candy Crowley's on Capitol Hill, and she's right near the trumpet section, apparently.

KAGAN: Right.

HEMMER: Because that band is quite loud. Candy, stand by with us. We'll be in touch throughout the morning and the afternoon today.

Also, Kate Snow and Bob Franken helping us out through the morning. We do know the president-elect is inside of St. John's Church, the church of presidents here in Washington, a service that'll take about 30 minutes. And from there, he'll head over to the White House and greet the Clintons and the Gores as the transition continues today.

KAGAN: And we should mention it's a private service, there are no cameras inside, though we have our cameras trained outside the church, and we'll be showing the president-elect and his family as they come out.



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