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First Lady Appears with Sniper Victim

Aired December 12, 2002 - 10:52   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Now the first lady is speaking, let's listen in to her.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: ... and Iran Brown, who was also a patient here, is going to actually get to go back to school soon. So thank you both for escorting me today.

And, of course, I was escorted by Santa Claus. Santa has gifts for everybody.


Santa has this beautiful book, "The Polar Express," to give to the children -- the little children. And then he's got a great art kit to give to the older children. And that gives me the opportunity to thank Target and Houghton Mifflin for their sponsorship and for providing these great gifts for Santa to give everybody.

This year at the White House our theme for the Christmas decorations is "All Creatures Great and Small," and the White House is decorated with animals -- with all different papier-mache animals that were pets that belonged to different presidents or that were animals that worked at the White House.

During World War I sheep mowed the lawn because all the men and all the people who had worked in the gardens at the White House had gone off to war. And so, we had animals that worked at the White House, like the sheep. Or the cow, Pauline (ph), that gave milk for President Taft. And the big Christmas tree in the White House is covered with birds; all the different birds of America.

And so, the White House really represents this year all the majesty of creation; animals that we have that we get to watch or that we get to live with -- our different pets. Or the beautiful fruits and trees that we have and flowers that the White House is decorated with.

But, of course, three of the most special animals at the White House this year are our three pets that are with us: Willie, the cat; Spot, the dog; and Barney, our dog, the Scottish terrier. Barney came with me last year when I came to Children's Medical Center. But this year, instead of reading a story, I want to show you a special video that Barney made of the Christmas decorations.

Barney was going to wear a little video camera on his collar and run around the White House and we were going to see the White House Christmas decorations from Barney's viewpoint -- and when you actually meet Barney, you'll see he's very short -- but when we put the mini- camera on Barney, he became immobile. He didn't move. So instead, a person had to run around behind Barney holding the little bitty camera. And right now, you all are going to be the very first ones to get to see Barney's view of the White House Christmas decorations.

So if we can turn it on the video camera -- I mean the television screens which are right here, we'll watch Barney's view of the White House Christmas decoration.

Can everybody see?

There is Spot, our other dog.

HARRIS: As we sit here and we watch the first lady watch this film produced by the White House pet crew, let's bring in our Bob Franken, who is standing by in Washington as well.


HARRIS: Yes. Literally.

FRANKEN: Never, never follow pets. I am sure Jon Voight will agree with that.

HARRIS: Now, have you ever seen anything like this? This is actually a pretty cute idea, with putting a camera on the White House pet here?

FRANKEN: I just -- I am sorry, but I am the skeptical reporter wondering how much that costs taxpayers.

HARRIS: Oh, listen to you. Bah-humbug.

FRANKEN: OK. But let us not forget why we are so incredibly interested in this. We, really, have such a reason to celebrate. When we are not seeing the cats and the dogs, we are seeing Iran Brown, who -- we are seeing him for the first time, and we are seeing somebody, I think you will agree, Leon, who is so remarkably healthy looking, considering the ordeal he went through just a couple of months ago, October 7, to be precise.

HARRIS: That is exactly right, Bob. You were very familiar with this. Give the folks who are listening a rundown of the list of the injuries that this young man suffered from the one bullet that struck him.

FRANKEN: Pretty much are his entire abdomen, spleen, kidneys, liver, et cetera. I remember at the time that the doctors were talking about how they were basically going to have to reconstruct everything, and you might remember, Leon, that the doctors said at the time that normally they don't make a priority of saving some of the -- the remnants of the bullet, that type of thing. But in this particular case, they did, because the stakes were so high, and the stakes were so high, the nation's capital area was under a state of siege that didn't end for quite a while after that.

This was the one that probably, as much as any of the shootings, horrified this entire region, or horrified the world, a 13-year-old boy going to a middle school in suburban Washington. Prince George's County, shot down by what -- by people who are now accused of being the snipers, the two who are, in fact, are beginning the court process now. We, of course, are aware that there was a discussion this morning about the trial of the first one, John Allen Mohammad, and the decision by the judge in Prince William County that there will be no television in the court room over that.

But this is the happier moment. We are now celebrating, and let's go back, if we could -- let's take a look now again, isn't he remarkable? Look at that. This looks like a normal 13-year-old kid, just out for a day with the first lady. I am sure the first lady, Laura Bush, is just delighted as can be that he is upstaging her. You want to listen a little bit, Leon?

HARRIS: Well, this is actually tape that we are playing back right now, I believe, because they are still playing the dog videotape right now, and we want to give folks a picture of what it is we are talking about here, this young man, Iran Brown, and now we are back to the live pictures.

Quite a remarkable story that this young man has, and he looks remarkably well for having gone through what he has endured.

FRANKEN: Let's listen to the first lady.

BUSH: ... Barney. If you want to see it again, you can see it on the Internet today. It's going to And so, if you want to look at Barney again, you can find him on the Internet.

Oh, don't jump, Barney. He wanted to give you a kiss, I think. I don't know if you noticed, but when Barney was looking at the gingerbread house -- all those animals that are made out of sugar and marzipan that were on the lawn of the gingerbread house are animals that actually lived at the White House, like an alligator. Layfette gave John Adams an alligator and there was an alligator that lived in a bathtub in the East Room of the White House. So there have been all kinds of animals that have lived there.

Do any of you have some questions?

QUESTION: Did he eat the gingerbread house?

BUSH: Barney didn't eat the gingerbread house. He just looked at it. And, in fact...

QUESTION: I thought he was calling Spotty so he can join and eat em.

BUSH: But it...

QUESTION: I thought he was calling Spotty so then they could both eat the gingerbread house. BUSH: They probably were hoping somebody would drop a piece of bacon or something like that instead of the gingerbread house.

The gingerbread house is eatable. It's totally made out of all real food. But no one really eats it. It stays out in the dining room for the whole Christmas decoration -- the whole Christmas season. And by then, I guess it wouldn't be that good.

QUESTION: How does Santa Claus get into the White House?

BUSH: Well, one really good thing about the White House is there are lots of chimneys. So I don't know what chimney Santa Claus comes down, but...

MODERATOR: He brings lots of elves, too.

BUSH: That's right. He brings lots of elves. And I don't know if you noticed that Barney's claws on the floor kind of sounded like the reindeer on the roof, didn't they?

QUESTION: Does Santa Claus get confused sometimes?

BUSH: Get confused? I don't know. Santa, do you?

SANTA: Somehow we manage to keep everything straight every year because I have the elves helping Mrs. Claus and all my elves.

BUSH: Remember when you write your letters to Santa be very specific so he can't get confused.

Any other questions?

QUESTION: Is the president a good dancer?

BUSH: Is he a good dancer?


Not very. But you'll be glad to know we actually danced. We danced once this holiday season. We had all the Congress to the White House for a Christmas party, the Congressional Ball, and we started the dancing. It didn't last very long, but we helped everyone else to keep dancing after us.

QUESTION: Do you ride horses at your ranch?

BUSH: We don't ride horses at our ranch. We don't have any horses at our ranch. My husband is what's called "the windshield cowboy." That means we ride a pickup.


BUSH: And I even have my own pickup that I drive at the ranch. That's the only time I drive. But I do like to ride horses, if I can. I ride in the summer if I have the chance.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: If you had a super power, what would it be?

BUSH: If I had a super power? It'd be to make everybody well -- make one well. What would yours be?

CHILD: I don't know. But I've been thinking I wanted to be a flying hero, but it's too hard.

BUSH: But it's too hard, is that what you said?

CHILD: I try to fly every day from my bed, but I always fall down and sometimes...


BUSH: Flying would be a great super power, wouldn't it?

Any other questions? Do you have one?

Well, I want to wish everyone here a very, very happy holiday season.

MODERATOR: Let's give Mrs. Bush a big round of applause for being here today. Thank you so much.

BUSH: Thank you all.

HARRIS: And looks like they're wrapping things up here at the children's medical center in Washington. We were hoping to at least get some words from the young man who is seated, as you looked at the camera there, to the right of first lady Laura Bush. She's reaching out to him right now. Let's see if we can listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Again, thank you all for coming. Mrs. Bush is now...

HARRIS: We were hoping to get some words from that young man. That is Iran Brown. He is the young man who was shot on his way to school back during that spate of shootings in the Washington area by the snipers.

And -- is Bob Franken still with us?


HARRIS: Bob has been listening in on this as well. And we just really only -- Bob, we just learned his name. Have we learned anything else about him this morning?

FRANKEN: Well, we've just learned from the first lady that he's going to be going back to school soon, which is so remarkable, considering the circumstances that he was wrenched out of school on October 7, and we know a lot about his family, and how they have rallied around him so much and how an entire world's community has rallied around him. To me, the shot, the shot that we saw there was the one of Santa Claus juxtaposed to Iran Brown. It was sort of representative of the Christmas gift to the world that we all have, knowing that this tragedy that so traumatized all of us, particularly him, of course, is ending on such a happy note. We also know, by the way, that the recovery is anything but over. We know that -- that he's on the way to recovery. We're told by doctors that he has made a remarkable bit of progress on the way to it. Much faster than they thought they did, as evidenced by the fact that such a short time later, he's able to make an appearance like this, but this is just something that is just such a gift to everybody who suffered through all that went on. Nobody suffered, of course, more than the victims of it. He, of course, one of those who survived. So many of the families, ten families, lost their loved ones at this random shooting that is just now laboriously going through the justice system.

HARRIS: Now, as for his recovery, do we know if he has any more surgeries in the offing here or what?

FRANKEN: The impression I have is that there will be more surgeries over time, that he is anything but fully recovered. But the fact that he's going back to school means that he's in pretty good health. You saw there a very robust looking young man this morning, sitting there. That is what surprised me as much as anything else. Just in fact, how healthy he looked. Obviously, he'd had to go through physical therapy and the rest. Looks like it has really taken.

HARRIS: Well, that is very true. As a matter of fact, I'm recalling now the words from some of the doctors back then, that they were saying his youth really did play, and is playing to his advantage right now, because of him being so young and being able to recover so much quicker than an older person would be from the extent of those injuries there.

FRANKEN: But apparently, also, he's a really remarkable young man. He's a kid with a lot of spunk, to use an overused term. He also has a family that has provided tremendous amount of emotional support. And he also had an aunt, you'll recall on that day, who acted instantly. Doctors say that had she not so quickly gotten him to a nearby emergency ward and had they not acted so quickly to get him to this state of the art children's hospital in the nation's capitol within about an hour, he probably would not have survived. So I think that as we celebrate his ongoing recovery, I think that there are people there today who can justifiably be very proud of the work that they've done to bring this to this point.

HARRIS: Yes. Well, we're going to step away right now. But if there is any more that happens there, we'll go back to that event. Bob Franken, thank you very much. Hey, how about those words out of the mouths of babes there, asking about Santa Claus's security clearance, how does he get into the White House?

FRANKEN: The other thing that was interesting to me was the first lady saying that the president is not a good dancer, which we all know is wrong, because we've all watched him at news conferences. HARRIS: You got it. All right, thanks, Bob. We'll see you in a bit, all right?


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