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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Opening of the Bush Library; Ty Pennington "Makes a Difference"

Aired April 25, 2013 - 08:30   ET

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


LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: So this big piece, this big is from the second tower. It's the 83rd floor, the point of impact. And you can see it's really like a sculpture, but it's one of the beams from the World Trade Center.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You were with Senator Kennedy that day.

BUSH: That's right. I was with him and I have, actually, over here on the wall, the painting he gave me that day, signed and dated September 11th.

This display goes through minute by minute, from the first tower to Shanksville, and then day by day on this screen to up until the joint session , when George spoke to the joint session of Congress.

There is a little booth over here for people to record their memories of where they were on September 11th. So all of those memories can become a part of the archive here.

KING: That's great. And this -- this would be --

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: And that's the bullhorn--

KING: -- pretty famous.

BUSH: That's right.

KING: And someone people think that, in some ways, that was, with the country at its lowest point, your husband hit his highest point.

BUSH: That's right.

KING: Do you agree with that?

BUSH: Well, I think it gave -- I think that was just another example of how his leadership really helped us through those years and through that time.

People really pulled together. I remember those days, driving into New York after September 11th. And that flags were everywhere and they still are; when I drive in still now to see my grandbaby, I hope I still see those flags everywhere. This is a replica of the Oval Office as it was when George officed here.

KING: What is the president like when he comes in here?

BUSH: I think he really likes it a lot.

KING: Does he want to start barking out orders?

BUSH: Well, no, he still does that at home. But --

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: -- not really.

KING: Wow.

BUSH: Looks great, doesn't it?

KING: It's (inaudible).

BUSH: So it's a reproduction of the rug that we designed. And then if you look up, you will see the seal on the ceiling, just like in the real Oval Office.

And it's been fun to work on this. And I think -- and people visit -- for many, many people, this will be their only chance to ever step into any space that is like the Oval Office. So it's fun to have it as part of the tour.

KING: He often talked -- the president did -- about living in the people's house and then how extra special this space was.

BUSH: And he was very respectful of it, as you know. He wore a suit when he came in to the Oval Office. He also -- he does the tour in here. It's his voice that you will hear, and there a lot of things about the Oval Office that he thinks represent what was important to him.

Obviously, there are paintings of Texas on the wall, the Rio Grande in that painting and the Alamo and the prickly pear cactus from Texas. But also he put two presidents, Washington over the mantel and then President Lincoln, the president that you are most aware of when you live in the White House.

But he said he could put the most influential presidents on the wall, because the most influential president for him, portrait hung in his heart, and that's his dad. So we're so glad his dad's going to be here for the library opening.

KING: That's great.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And, Christine, having covered the first six years of the Bush presidency, I can tell you, when they say exact replica of the Oval Office, they got it just right. I was half expecting the staff to beam in and yell at me, don't ask any questions in the Oval Office.

And a few other key points: there's a Decision Points Theater, where you can walk in as a visitor, into this theater, and get the advice President Bush received about Iraq, get the advice he received about Katrina, and make your own decisions about whether you would agree or disagree with what the president did.

And one thing that will be somewhat controversial, when are you in that War of Terror room, the timeline from 9/11, you go seamlessly from that bullhorn to steps away to pictures of Saddam Hussein. Obviously, the Iraq war, so the president knows as he opens this library today, he is trying to make his statement about how he hopes history will judge his legacy.

But, Christine, they are also likely to stir up some of the old controversies as well. We'll discuss that and more with one of his top advisers, the former White House counselor, Ed Gillespie, who will join us here at this dedication ceremony in just a few moments, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And it will be something, John King, to see, all of those presidents together, a real moment of history, no question. All right. We'll be watching all morning. Thanks, John.

We're also continuing to follow breaking news in Mobile Bay, Alabama. Dangerous flames have burned all night aboard two fuel barges. It finally died down this morning. Those barges loaded with gasoline, they exploded last night. At least three people are hospitalized in critical condition. Reporter Kalie Desimone of our affiliate WEAR has more from Mobile Bay.

Good morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KALIE DESIMONE, REPORTER, WEAR: Now that the sun is coming up, it's becoming clear what is behind us. You can see multiple boats out there, one of which is the Coast Guard boat, another which is Mobile Fire Rescue. Finally starting to gravitate over to the barges, trying to see what their investigation will entail for today.

We have confirmed, there has been seven explosions that did occur throughout the course of the evening. They are still not sure exactly whether or not all the flames are out at this time. They will begin their investigation here in the next couple of minutes where they hope to learn exactly what caused this incident.

For now in Mobile, Kalie Desimone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right. New this morning, President Obama attending memorial services at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, today in honor of the 14 people killed in the blast at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas. At the devastated site of the explosion, investigators trying to piece together exactly what happened. They still don't know what caused that fire or what triggered the deadly explosion last week that leveled the plant and nearby homes and building. This morning, Rhode Island is one step closer to legalizing same-sex marriage. The state Senate approving a bill that extends marriage rights to same-sex couples and supporters are very happy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENN STEINFELD, SAME-SEX MARRIAGE ADVOCATE: We did it together in solidarity with such phenomenal people. So you never know what something is going to feel like. And it feels amazing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Once finalized by the statehouse Rhode Island will become the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage along with the District of Columbia.

Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, quote, "can't say" that we've seen the last of those infamous lewd photos he posted on Twitter. Weiner says that is now out of his control. He stepped down from office two years ago after he was caught sending out those racy pictures to different women. Now Weiner is considering a run from New York City mayor and despite the scandal, he's back on Twitter. He says it's a valuable tool for those involved in government.

And it's like Christmas in the NFL. The 2013 draft begins at 8:00 Eastern tonight at Radio City Music Hall here in New York. The Kansas City Chiefs have first dibs. They're expected to take offensive tackle Lake Jochul from Texas A&M.

One of the most interesting stories in the draft this year is Ziggy Ansah from Brigham Young. He's from Ghana. Has only played football for three years but he's expected to be among the top 15 picks.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, President Obama attending a memorial service in Waco, Texas, today. He's going to honor the 14 people killed in last week's fertilizer plant explosion. Investigators are still struggling to find out what triggered that disaster.

And a well-known do-it-yourselfer Ty Pennington is going to be here to talk about his latest project, a National Make a Difference tour. There he is.

Good morning, Ty.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm John King live in Dallas, Texas, this morning. We're awaiting the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center here on the campus of Southern Methodist University. With me is the man who knows the former president quite well. Ed Gillespie, who served as counselor in the Bush White House.

On this day, people will reflect back, and especially in the wake of the Boston attacks. I think we'll be reminded of perhaps the biggest legacy of the Bush presidency, the response to 9/11. You recently wrote about this in an article on "National Review Online." There was leadership in the moment. After then, there was controversy when the administration took that 9/11 in response to Afghanistan, and went to war in Iraq. Reflect now five years later on what you think today means to that conversation?

ED GILLESPIE, FORMER COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, obviously, you know, it's a significant feature of the museum and the library, the discussion of Iraq and Afghanistan, the events of September 11th. You know, I think as we look at what happened in Boston and the tragic circumstances there, and the attack there, we are reminded we're not safe as a nation, but we are safer today as a result of the steps taken by President Bush.

The increased surveillance and the, you know, Guantanamo, the detainee program, and you know, to President Obama's credit, he kept much of that structure in place today and, you know, I think that's why we've had about, you know, 11 1/2 years without a terrorist attack on our -- on our homeland. And President Obama deserves credit for having -- you know, despite having campaign against it, when he got there and got the intelligence and the briefings and everything, maintaining much of that infrastructure.

KING: Inside the museum, there is a concession, no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq.

GILLESPIE: Yes.

KING: That was a key part of the argument in going to war. The president told me in an interview last week, he thinks this is a much more objective library than many of his critics might think. That you can go in there and agree or disagree.

Listen to his take on how history should judge him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The museum is -- it does give people an opportunity to hear the different points of view, that I got on these particular issues. The purpose of which is not to try to defend the policy. The purpose of which is try to show people what it's like to be the president. And how you make decisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now the purpose of which to feel what it's like to be president. But of course any president is trying to at least shape the conversation about his legacy by starting the library, right? GILLESPIE: Well, it's both. You know, I was fascinated by the tour yesterday. We got a sneak peek, and there is a decision points theater where people can kind of interact and hear advisers saying you ought to take this step or that step, and you get to kind of make a decision at the end.

I thought that was pretty informative and interesting. But at the same time, look, you know, President Bush rightly believes that history will be kind to his presidency, his two terms in office. He confronted some very difficult challenges, beginning with the attacks of September 11th. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the financial crisis.

It was a historically consequential presidency. I think he acquitted himself and handled himself very well. Those of us who served him are proud of our service to the president. Proud of his service to the country. And -- so it is both. I mean, I think it's a -- it's a statement of why we took the steps that we took and why we thought they were necessary but also hear the different points of view and I do think it's objective in that regard.

KING: And so this is the consummate Texan, dead or alive, with us or against us, gruff, not known to introspection. And yet now he's taken up painting.

(LAUGHTER)

Including a -- a portrait of himself in the shower, he paints people's pets. Listen to the 43rd president of the United States on his new hobby.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

G. BUSH: I relax, I see colors differently. I am -- I guess tapping a part of the brain that, you know, certainly never used when I was a teenager and I get the satisfaction out of completing a project. And I paint people's pets and I love to give them their pet as a gift. And I readily concede the signature is more valuable than the painting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Could you ever have imagined George W. Bush turning into George W. Rembrandt? And have you had the Gillespie family pet painted yet?

GILLESPIE: No, I have two Jack Russell terriers and I was actually thinking of dropping a couple of hints here this week about -- what a lovely painting they would make. But he's actually very, very good. I don't know if you've seen the landscapes and the -- and the portraits and the painting of the -- of the pets.

KING: And his own feet in the bathtub.

GILLESPIE: He's very good. I mean and I do think it is -- for those of us who have seen him you know relaxed and essentially, you know, kind of get away from it all, by pounding on the bike, on the trails, you know, this is a different side of him and but look, you know he's a grandfather now too.

KING: There is a sculpture in the middle of the courtyard here of 41, George Herbert Walker Bush and 43, George W. Bush you've been active in Republican politics a long time. Why are these two men treated often as pariahs within their own party? George H.W. Bush broke his no new taxes plans, there a lot of Republicans now who rarely if ever speak of the George W. Bush presidency. And they criticize the Medicare prescription drug benefit as a big entitlement. Why are they viewed so negatively by their own party?

GILLESPIE: You know I don't -- I don't accept the premise, John, I think that both are very well respected and well liked.

President Bush 43 you know decided in his post presidency that the appropriate role of a president -- a former president is not to engage in the give and take of politics and to engage -- to be in that fray. I respect that decision. I think a lot of people do. I think that's why we see his numbers rising as much as they have in the past since he left office, more than doubled his approval ratings.

You know President Bush 41 is a revered figure I think in the party. Not everybody agrees with all of the steps they took. Look when you're in the seat and you make the decisions that comes with the territory that you're going to -- you're going to upset some people who aren't going to agree with everything that you -- that you do. But that's -- that's why they are the one who run and get elected and make those decisions.

KING: Lastly throw partisanship out the window for a second as someone who loves politics.

GILLESPIE: Yes.

KING: Five presidents here today.

GILLESPIE: Yes.

KING: Three Democrats -- Carter, Clinton and the current president, President Obama; the two Bushes, just what do you think that says?

GILLESPIE: Well you know it's just so historic and it really gives a very -- I mean it just kind of feel the electricity of it and you know there is a respect for the office that they share obviously and you know we're seeing that on full display today. And I think there is respect for the office of the American people share that's on display here today as well.

KING: Ed Gillespie thanks for your time today.

GILLESPIE: Thanks John.

KING: Christine as we go back to you. I think it is worth remembering. We'll stir up some of the memories of George W. Bush.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. KIND: And people will view those through their own political prisms likely me, but it also is a pretty exclusive club, the President Club. And we will have all five living U.S. Presidents at this dedication today.

ROMANS: All right, when Ed gets his Jack Russell terrier painted by the President, we hope he can bring him on the show to us. Thanks for watching this morning.

Ahead on Starting Point, Ty Pennington at it again, the former host of TV's "Extreme Makeover" has got a new passion project. And he's here with me this morning to talk about it live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. You want something? Who are going to call? Ty Pennington, television host, a do-it-yourself expert. Ty Pennington of course he's the former host of TV's "Extreme Makeover". He's now crafting up with craftsmen, he's now teaming up with craftsmen to rebuild community across the country. He joins us now to unveil the "Make a Difference" tour. Good morning, nice to see you.

TY PENNINGTON, TELEVISION HOST: It's good to see you.

ROMANS: This is cool. So you're going around the country. You're going to start in New Jersey.

PENNINGTON: Yes.

ROMANS: Sandy-ravaged town in New Jersey and you guys are going to -- you're going to do your best, you're going to renovate, you're going to rebuild.

PENNINGTON: Well I tell you what. I have been blessed to have a career where I have been part of some pretty amazing renovations. And -- and whenever you can give back to the military, I always jump at the chance. And so tomorrow we're doing the thing called the "Craftsman Make a Difference" tour and it's actually kicking off on national rebuilding day. Down in Moonachie (ph), New Jersey and we're helping out a military veteran.

What's really kind of cool about this is so many people have come together, you've got the Craftsman brand, you've Sears at home, we've got Rebuilding Together, a non-profit, the Craftsman Club which is part of the (inaudible), all of these guys come together now we're literally like crossing the country with this gigantic truck, full of Craftsman tools.

We're helping out people in disaster relief, literally helping out military veterans as well, doing community projects and it's something that everybody can be involved in. So it's a really cool thing.

ROMANS: So one of the reasons why these makeover and do it yourself shows are so popular is because people can see progress they love to see the progress. We also love to see the look on someone's face when they've gone some --

(CROSSTALK)

PENNINGTON: Right, the reveal.

ROMANS: You know, the reveal. So tell me what it's like being with the folks, like these folks you're going to with in Moonachie (ph). What's the reveal feel like for you?

PENNINGTON: Well, you know I think -- I think one of the greatest things and I have been part of some really amazing (inaudible) people like literally pound the pavement. They scream up the sky and you're like you can't help but get emotional.

But I think then you can give back to people that have given so much and have lost so much, I think that's the emotional part. But I think for me, too, it's not just like us giving them something. It's really seeing the community come together who wants to help. That's something that really gets me is getting notes from the people that roll up their sleeves and like put their lives on hold for a couple of days, sometimes even a week. And --

ROMANS: These are volunteers, right. The people are volunteering to help their neighbors.

PENNINGTON: Yes. And you see more and more and more of that. I think, you know, it's great to be part of a show that really sort of I think sort of started that feeling like you can do more in your community and that's really what the "Craftsman Make a Difference Tour" is all about.

ROMANS: They care more about making stuff and fixing stuff in this country now than we did maybe 15 or 20 years ago.

PENNINGTON: We're good at it. I mean what is more American than like, you know, fixing things and inventing things and doing it yourself? So, yes.

ROMANS: 20 cities. You've got a big truck full of tools.

PENNINGTON: Yes. 36-foot long truck with incredible Craftsman tools; we're literally crossing the nation, heading to all kinds of different towns, doing community projects, and starting communities -- you know, really helping out wherever we can.

ROMANS: All right. So you're the reno expert, and there's all these do-gooders and you know, here's a selfish advice that all of us want.

PENNINGTON: Ok.

ROMANS: So what's the smartest thing you can fix in your house to make more money.

PENNINGTON: Well, I would say -- you know the smartest thing, in my opinion. Do you want to raise more value, of course, it's your kitchens and bathrooms. ROMANS: That's the most expensive reno.

PENNINGTON: It is the most expensive. The other thing I think you can do is what I call companion home. Would you turn your garage into an apartment for either someone else or even a family member that you're bringing because of economy and that maybe can help take care of your kids? So it's --

ROMANS: Hear that, grandma and grandpa?

PENNINGTON: Yes. You're moving in soon. But maximizing the space you have and I mean maximize whatever space you have.

ROMANS: All right. Ty Pennington, really cool stuff. Thank you. "Make a Difference" is the name of the campaign and you'll start in Moonachie, New Jersey tomorrow.

PENNINGTON: If you want to join in, learn more, go to craftsman.com/makingadifference.

Romans: You've got it. Thanks Ty. Nice to meet you.

STARTING POINT back in a moment, live from Boston right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. This just in to CNN -- the mother of the Boston bombing suspects tearfully speaks about her sons Dzhokhar and Tamerlan. She addressed reporters at a news conference in Dagestan, Russia just a short while ago. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZUBEIDAT TSARNAEV: Yes, I wish you're not in America now. Why did I even go there? Why? I thought America is going to like protect us, our kids are going to be safe for any reason. But it happened. America took my kids away from me -- only America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

So the Tsarnaevs' father is expected to arrive in the U.S. tomorrow. He says he wants to try to speak to Dzhokhar, who's currently in a Boston hospital.

Meantime one of the victims of these bombing attacks, Marathon Monday, one week ago plus, has been invited to stop by the set of "Dancing with the Stars" next week. Adrienne Haslett-Davis is a professional dancer who lost her left foot in the attack. Adrienne told CNN's Anderson Cooper that she knows just what she'll perform first when she's recovered.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADRIENNE HASLETT-DAVIS, BOMBING VICTIM: Waltz.

ANDERSON COOPER: The Viennese waltz. HASLETT-DAVIS: Yes. One of the tougher ones but fast and beautiful and it's a wonderful, wonderful dance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Adrienne has been invited to dance on "Dancing with the Stars" whenever she is ready.

That is all from us here in New York for STARTING POINT. Stay with CNN throughout the day for a series of big events. At 11:00 a.m., the Presidential library of George W. Bush will be dedicated and five U.S. presidents will be attending. From there, President Obama will travel to Waco, Texas, for a 2:00 p.m. memorial service for the victims of that terrible fertilizer plant explosion.