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Special Event

President Bush Takes White House Tour on First Day in Office

Aired January 21, 2001 - 3:08 p.m. ET

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

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Bush is speaking right now.

GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Gene Randall in Washington.

It is George W. Bush's first day in the White House as president, and he is greeting some White House visitors.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the first tour we've been on and the first public tour since the inauguration. Got a lot of folks coming today to go through the White House.

Betty's going to give us a tour of the history of the different rooms. I need to brush up on the history. Laura does as well.

We're proud to welcome some folks from all around the country.

It's such an honor to live here, but we want to remind everybody that this is not our house. It is the people's house. And one of the grand traditions in the White House is to share the people's house with people from all around the country, and that's what's going to be happening this afternoon. We'll greet a couple of hundred people during the course of the day.

This morning we had friends of ours who came in from around the country, guys I went to college with and their families, and some of the folks Laura went to college with. And it was really a wonderful chance to share this experience with family and friends.

This afternoon, a lot of the folks who had worked on the campaign and the transition and the inaugural committee came, and they got to tour. And now we've got people, all of whom we met during the course of the campaign, right here. But the general tours will start right after this tour.

And it's exciting to be here.

L. BUSH: Mrs. Betty Montan (ph), who you all probably know, but she's the real expert on the White House. She'll be giving the tour, which will also be our first tour today. So we hope we'll be learning as much as everybody who is joining us on this first tour.

QUESTION: How was your first night at the White House, Mr. President?

BUSH: It was OK. I mean, I'm exhausted from dancing so much last night.

(LAUGHTER)

About 10 minutes worth of dancing at 10 balls was -- or nine balls, I guess, was pretty tiring.

Oh, it was great. You know, it's an honor.

And I woke up this morning first thing, early, and I went in and had a cup of coffee with my mother and dad. And I had to find the visitor's room and found it.

(LAUGHTER)

But they were staying in the Queen's Bedroom.

The people here who work at the White House are magnificent people. We knew a lot of them in the past. And they are -- they do their jobs really well, and they make the life very comfortable for the people who are permanently here -- I say permanently here, they're here for a period of time, and their guests.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) decorated the Oval Office. What other changes have you noticed that you'd like to make as you go through the building?

L. BUSH: We'll change our bedroom, of course, and the little part of the living quarters, our sitting room. I don't know what we're going to change them to. We'll work on that later.

The house was recently redone, as most of you know, by Mrs. Clinton. It's all really beautifully redone upstairs. So we'll just make things personal for ourselves in our personal quarters.

QUESTION: Mr. President, did you do any -- have to do any policy work today?

BUSH: No, I have not done much.

QUESTION: And how do you plan to spend tomorrow?

BUSH: Well, we're putting out a schedule. I know I'm going to be in the office the first thing for a series of security briefings. I'll be meeting with the national security staff.

I haven't seen my full schedule, but it's going to be a full day.

And I am really looking forward to getting to work.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about your priorities, sir, for the coming week -- education.

BUSH: Education will be a priority, of course. Swearing in my staff will be a priority, working with people on the Hill from both parties will be a priority.

And as I mentioned during the course of the transition, the first legislation we'll be sending up will be an education package.

QUESTION: Mr. President, what your thoughts on the ongoing energy crisis in California? And what, if anything, you can do.

BUSH: Well, I have repeatedly said that the crisis has occurred because of faulty law in California. Californians need to address the law.

I'm having folks analyze exactly where the federal government can help. For example, we're looking at regulations they may have for full output of production in California power plants.

I know for the long term, we need more energy, we need more power, we need more pipelines bringing energy to the plants because we want the people who work for a living not only to have affordable energy but make sure that the folks that employ them have the capacity to keep their industries going.

Listen, thank you...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) chance to go to the Super Bowl (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: No.

(LAUGHTER)

Regrettably.

Thank you all.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... of the Oval Office, sir?

BUSH: Yes, I have.

QUESTION: Not going to share it with us, sir?

BUSH: No, I'm not. Nice try.

(LAUGHTER)

It's a personal note for which I'm very grateful, very gracious note the president wrote, and it will remain between me and the president.

Thanks.

You're welcome to come on the tour. You might learn something.

(LAUGHTER) RANDALL: President George W. Bush looking very relaxed at an impromptu White House news conference. He is also part tour guide and part tourist at the White House today, and Kelly Wallace is there for us.

Kelly, tell us about the tour.

WALLACE: Well that's exactly right, Gene. As you heard, it looks like it is going to be Mr. Bush's first tour, the president and the first lady, their first tour throughout the White House. Mr. Bush saying he hopes he learns a lot, needs to brush up a little bit on the history of the White House.

What we understand is this group, it's about 24 people, these are people that the president met during the campaign trail, people who focused on issues he was focusing on, like education. Some of these people may be from those families which he used to demonstrate the impact of his $1.3 trillion tax-cut plan, also some people who are faith-based providers, an issue that Mr. Bush cares about, allowing faith-based organizations to provide more social services. So they will taking the first tour of this new Bush administration, and then the general public, some 3,000 tickets, were made available for the general public to take tours of the White House -- Gene.

RANDALL: Kelly, also the president emphasized what his chief of staff talked about earlier this morning on the talk shows, and that is that education will be a top agenda item if not the top agenda item. Where then will the tax plan fall in? That will be introduced in the Senate this week.

WALLACE: Well, yes...

RANDALL: What kind of priority will that have?

WALLACE: Well, you know, they do say, of course, that education is the top priority. But they say that the tax cut plan is also a top priority. This president says that he's campaigned on a number of issues, education reform, the tax-cut package, Social Security reform, Medicare, providing prescription drugs to low-income seniors, as well as beefing up the military. And this president is making clear, or trying to make clear, that those are issues that he campaigned on, those are issues he's going to take to the White House.

So they are saying that first will be education on Tuesday. Mr. Bush is expected to send up his education-reform plan. Already some controversy, some Democrats saying that if it includes vouchers, which would be subsidies to low-income parents to take their kids out of failing public schools and pay for private or parochial schools, some Democrats saying if the plan includes vouchers, it would not pass Congress.

But again, education first. Clearly, though, this president saying that tax cuts and those other issues he focused on during the campaign will be his priorities during his first year in the White House -- Gene. RANDALL: Kelly Wallace in the White House, thanks, Kelly. And if you joined us late, President George W. Bush, his first full day in office, is taking a tour of his home.

We'll go to a break, see you at the bottom of the hour.

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