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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Bush Leaves for Midwest

Aired January 14, 2002 - 08:04   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: UP FRONT this morning: the president's health. At this hour, the president is heading to the Midwest for a two-day trip. Now, despite his fainting episode late yesterday, as you'll see here in these pictures from the White House, the president looks good. The doctors said he was fine to along with this trip.

These are live pictures of the president as he leaves the back side of the White House to get on Marine One. He will then get off Marine One and get on Air Force One and head off to Illinois, Missouri and Louisiana. He will be talking jobs, trade and economic security.

Let's see if the president is going to talk to reporters here, as he makes his way to Marine One.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning, everybody. I feel great. My mother always said, when you're eating pretzels, chew before you swallow. Listen to your mother. I feel great. I'm looking forward to a good trip.

QUESTION: What happened?

BUSH: I was -- I hit the deck, and woke up and there was Barney and Spot and showing a lot of concern. I didn't realize what happened until I looked in the mirror, and my glasses stuck to the side of my face. I feel great. I had good blood pressure last night, and good blood pressure this morning.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BUSH: Yes, yes. Anyway, we're going to have a great trip, and good to see you all.

ZAHN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what happened to him yesterday, when he apparently was eating a pretzel and either choked on it, or we know for a fact he fainted and fell off the couch. Once the president talked to reporters and turned his face, you could actually see the abrasion on his left cheek. It was about the size of a half of a dollar, and you might have made out a small bruise on his lower lip. His two dogs, Barney and Spot, were with him when it happened.

Let's turn to John King. The president certainly has used a dose of humor, when he has talked about the dogs not having moved. They sort of looked at him, and he said in an odd way. What else have we learned about the president's condition? And then, why the doctors are so convinced this was nothing more than just an isolated incident?

JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we learned this morning, Paula, just as the president was coming out, I spoke to the press secretary, Ari Fleischer, who said the president was again checked out by Dr. Richard Tubb. He is an Air Force Colonel on the White House medical team -- checked out this morning. All of his vital signs are A-OK, according to Dr. Tubb. And the doctor said it was fine by him if the president wanted to take this trip.

We are also told that what was described last night as a scrape on that left cheekbone, about the size of a half dollar, has turned into -- what we could see a little bit there, and we will check other camera angles as they day progresses -- has turned out to be quite a nasty, larger bruise. That the size of a scrape, there's a scrape in there about the size of a half dollar, but the bruise is quite larger than that. But you heard the president in good spirits this morning.

As to why the doctors think this is an isolated incident, they can't rule out it won't happen again, but they say the president, because he is a runner and because he exercises regularly, has a remarkably low pulse rate. When the president's pulse was taken last night after the incident, it was at one point, 49, at one point, 51. Remarkably low because of the shape he is in, and because of that, it is easier for him, if you will -- one of the downsides of being in such good physical shape is your heart is already functioning at a slow pace, so if your heart rate does down a little bit more, you are more prone to fainting.

But the White House medical team says the president is fine. Top aides say he's a bit embarrassed, but you see him there. He is on Marine One, off to spend the next focusing on his proposals to revitalize the U.S. economy -- Paula.

ZAHN: All right, John King, thanks for much for the update. We'll continue to track the president's tri-state tour. John was talking about the doctors obviously saluting the level of the president's fitness. We have learned that he is actually in the top two percent of men in his age group in cardiovascular fitness. The president saying he is A-OK as he heads off to Illinois, Missouri and Louisiana to talk jobs, trade and economic security.

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