Return to Transcripts main page


Former First Lady Barbara Bush Dies At 92. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 17, 2018 - 21:00   ET


[21:00:53] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Our breaking news tonight from Texas. Sad news, former First Lady Barbara Bush has died. She was 92 years old, the matriarch of an American political dynasty.

According to the Bush family, the First Lady has been battling for some time congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

In a statement, her son, former President George W. Bush, writes, "My dear mother has passed on at age 92. Laura, Barbara, Jenna, and I are sad, but our souls are settled because we know hers was. Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love and literacy to millions.

"To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end. I'm a lucky man that Barbara Bush was my mother. Our family will miss her dearly, and we thank you all for your prayers and good wishes."

Wolf Blitzer has more on her remarkable life.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: America loves Barbara Bush.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Barbara Bush was the woman behind two U.S. presidents. The wife of one, the mother of another. Barbara Pierce was born in Queens, New York on June 8th, 1925. She grew up in suburban New York. At a Connecticut country club dance, she met a young man who would change her life, George Herbert Walker Bush.

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: I was square all through high school. I just tried to do the best I could. I was a -- I married the first man I ever kissed. You talk about a bore, I'm the world's worst.

BLITZER: George Bush focused on building an oil business, Barbara Bush on building a family. George Bush eventually entered a life of public service. And while Barbara's candor might not have made a good match for his job as CIA director --

B. BUSH: That's because I can't keep a secret.

BLITZER: -- her charm was a definite asset to her husband's political career.

B. BUSH: Find the joy in life. Because as Ferris Bueller said on his day off, life moves pretty fast and if you don't stop and look around once awhile, you're going to miss it.

BLITZER: George Bush served two terms in Congress and in 1980 was elected as Ronald Reagan's Vice President. Eight years later, he sat in the Oval Office.

Barbara Bush loved living in the White House, keeping diaries of her time there and using them to help write her memoirs. Two other books showed her lighter side and a dog's eye view of the executive mansion.

Mrs. Bush knew well her vision of a first lady's role.

B. BUSH: I think the person who has the courage to run for the office is the one you should hear. Not the wife or the husband. Having said that, of course I told George how I felt.

BLITZER: For George and Barbara, their more than 60 years together included decades of devotion, this letter to her written by George while he was serving in World War II.

G. BUSH: I love you, precious, with all my heart. And to know that you love me means my life. How often I have thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours some day. How lucky our children will be to have a mother like you.

BLITZER: Two of those children, George W. and Jeb would solidify the Bush political dynasty as president and Florida governor. But in a surprising comment in 2013, as talk of a presidential run by Jeb's swirled, the matriarch told NBC's "Today" show there should be a limit on the family's White House claim.

B. BUSH: There are other people out there that are very qualified and we've had enough Bushes.

BLITZER: But after Jeb did decide to run for the 2016 Republican nomination, she fully backed him and hit the campaign trail.

B. BUSH: He's decent, honest. He's everything we need in a president.

BLITZER: In or out of politics, the legacy Barbara Bush nurtured will live on through her family, children, and grandchildren.

B. BUSH: I know that I'm the world's luckiest woman. I think if I sort of put it in a nutshell, these are the things that are important to me. Faith, family, and friends.


[21:05:04] COOPER: An extraordinary life.

Joining me now on the phone is Former Senator Alan Simpson, a close friend of the Bush family. Senator Simpson, thank you for being with us. I'm sorry under these circumstances. I know you and your family were very close to Mrs. Bush, still our dear friends to President Bush. What are your thoughts on this evening?

ALAN SIMPSON, FORMER SENATOR (via telephone): Well, Anderson, she was a powerhouse. And we had such fun together. She was who she was. And she was fierce. And she had this great love of George. And they had a love affair.

Ann and I would see it. There were such wonderful times when we fished together or we traveled together, the four of us at Kennebunkport. So we felt very privileged to share that friendship and to see so much of the other "L" word. There was love. I heard George say, George W., love, levity, and the other, loyalty. Loyalty to her friends, loyal to her family, loyalty to her country. She -- and man, oh, man, you knew where she stood. There were times when I shriveled at the look she gave me. But I was able to recover.

One time, it was a horrible horror story. She had a secret birthday party. No one was to speak about this thing. She didn't know about it. And I was teaching, and I was busy, and I called her and I said, Barbara, I can't make this party.

COOPER: Oh, no!

SIMPSON: She said, what party? I said, well the party that Simpson -- so I realized that a sewer was opening up at my feet. And she said, what are you talking about? And I'll tell you, she laid it on me for five years. She says, you're the one, you're the one that did it. I said, please forgive me.

But she sent us off to get cards to set the table at night at Kennebunkport or Washington, we would get these bizarre things from those novelty shops and she never knew what we were getting. They would open them up, she would say, who did this? I said, I have no idea. But wonderful, wonderful times. She was joyous, and she was so strong.

And if she felt you were cowed by her, she didn't respect you anymore. So I had a wife, I have one, who was just like Barbara Bush. I'll never forget the two of them were playing around the cube one time, one evening, and Barbara said, you know Ann, what you just said there, I think that hurt me. And Ann said, it's your move Barbara. You've done that 100 times, let's just get over it.

George and I left and they would walk on beach, they would walk together, they would walk the dogs. A love affair that Ann and Barbara had was -- and we saw the decline, we saw what was happening. And she just stopped short. She just kind of went down and within herself and she knew what was coming, and she expressed that to George. And he knew what was coming, as Jim Baker told me, you know, telling George, I know she's going to Kennebunkport, she's gone. She will be gone and he said, Jim's you went through this, didn't you? And Jim's first wife died at his side, and Jim said, yes, I sure have, happy I am, happy being the Spanish word for cheap.

So it's been a -- if we, we, we few, you know, things that the Kennedy center, and trips and the logistic glorious we feel so privileged to have shared the depth of the woman because she was a tall tree on the skyline.

COOPER: I love that. I know that they just celebrated a wedding anniversary January 6th. I mean, you talk about the love between them. I keep thinking about her 16 years old, meeting, you know, young George Herbert Walker Bush for the first time at a dance in -- I think it was Greenwich, Connecticut, and knowing very quickly it seems that he was the one and being together all this time.

SIMPSON: Well, they talked about that. That's the things they would speak of right up until the end. You know, a lot of joshing went on, oh, George, you know, and then they would be at Kennebunkport, and he would say, Barbara, I forgot to tell you there will be four people for lunch.

Well, she said, you fix the lunch. Say, no, no you don't understand. Or I want to go out on the boat. Well, I'm not getting on the boat unless you get me a cushion. You rattled my spine the last time and I'm not going to do it.

[21:10:03] And they loved each other dearly. And they would hold hands and smile and tell stories about the first kiss. And the kids would sit there like, oh, come on. You know, but it was real. The two of them were so decent and so authentic. I think the realism of the two of them is that anyone could see that these two people, especially -- well, not one over the other, but you're looking at are so authentic, so real. You may not agree with them, but what you're seeing is truth oozing out of their being. And that's what it was.

COOPER: And also, the desire to serve. I mean, I think it's -- I don't know if it's a different in generation, but there was this real belief in the importance of service. You know, soon after I think it was a year and a half after meeting her, they got engaged. He went off to war, did extraordinary things during World War Ii as a pilot, the youngest pilot, I think he was, and came back, married her, went to Yale, and then went to Houston to make his way in the world of business, and then dedicated his life to service?

SIMPSON: Yes, and then of course remember the terrible stuff was the beautiful Robin (inaudible) beautiful, beautiful and George wrote the most powerful letter, which is in the museum, saying, "I hope that we can remember that instead of just boys and ball clubs and bats and football, the beauty of a golden haired daughter that we lost." Man, I tell you, they were there -- we were there the day they dedicated one of the Texas institutions, hospital institutions. But that one never, never left, never left.


SIMPSON: And the beautiful painted portrait of her always was in their living room. And then they went on and there was sorrow and he was just as Bucky's funeral the other day. And we called Barbara, we said we know George is at the funeral, how are you? This was three days ago. She said, I'm great, how are you, what's up? How's life? And then, I said, what are you doing right now? She said, Susan Baker is reading to me. And you know how I love to read. And she said, in fact, you remember, I invited you to my book thing. And I said, I do, because I felt like a jack ass at the Kentucky derby, I knew I couldn't wind but I know the association would be helping me. And she said, get out of here. There were oftentimes when she would say, Al, do me a favor, get out.

COOPER: You're talking about their daughter Robin who died at the age of three, before she turn four of leukemia. And it was in that year that I understand Mrs. Bush's hair actually turned white in the grief of that loss. And as you said, Senator Simpson, a loss that there's no such thing as closure, it stayed with them their whole lives. And she stayed with them and they will be buried next to her, both of them, when the time comes for the former president. And Mrs. Bush will be buried next to her daughter Robin.

Senator Simpson, it's such an honor to talk to you, I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for wonderful time.

SIMPSON: Well, you've followed it all and done it beautifully. And thank you for your remembrance of her, beautifully done.

COOPER: Well, she deserves a whole lot more. Thank you, Senator.

SIMPSON: You bet, you're very welcome, Anderson.

COOPER: Much more to come tonight as we remember former First Lady Barbara Bush.


[21:17:33] COOPER: Messages are pouring in, as they will continue obviously for days to come, remembering, honoring former First Lady Barbara Bush who has died at age 92. We'll listen to what political figures and the family's orbit have said about Mrs. Bush in recent years.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: She is a wonderful mother and grandmother and all of those things. But she's also very tough. I remember going to Kennebunkport, staying in a nice bedroom upstairs, and she says, no you know, anything this is your home, anything -- she says, but you do know that we make our own beds. I said, OK, Mrs. Bush, I get it. I'll make my own bed. She's just wonderful.

JAMES BAKER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE AND FAMILY FRIEND: And Barbara was someone who could tell George what she felt. And she would, just like she could tell everybody what she thought, and she would.

JON MEACHAM, HISTORIAN: She had a foot with the family and a foot in his career. This idea that she was not politically involved is not true. She was there. And as President Bush told me, she always was honest with me about whether she felt someone was serving me well or not so well. She didn't meddle. But when the door was shut, I always t always knew what she thought. And I think she handled that role with an incredible amount of grace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A critical political partner?

MEACHAM: An essential political partner.

DAN QUAYLE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: She would always say, you know I don't really get involved in policy, I just leave that all to George, and whatever he wants to do is just fine, I'm just a grandmother with these great big pearls. And behind the scenes she was very smart, very focused, looked out for his interests. And she was a very good judge of people.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I'll never forget the first time I met her was at a lunch at the french embassy. And I just arrived in the White House. I'm a three star general. And I'm seated next to Mrs. Bush. And I turned, good afternoon, Mrs. Bush, a great pleasure to meet you, ma'am. She says, call me Barbara. I said, I can't do that, ma'am. Why can't you do it? Ma'am, you are the wife of the Vice President of the United States. And she says, I don't care, call me Barbara. I said, ma'am, my mother would kill me. And if you don't do it, I'll kill you. Yes, Barbara.

[21:20:03] BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have enormous admiration and affection for Mrs. Bush. I know what it's like to be a spouse as well as the candidate. And I imagine it took her a lot longer to forgive me than it did him. And maybe she never did. I'm crazy -- you know, I'd walk across gulf, I think she's immensely impressive. And I get why they fell in love and how they stayed together all those years.


COOPER: Well, back now with the panel, joining the conversation as well as Dana Bash. Dana, we haven't heard from you tonight, I'm wondering what your thoughts are?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, you know, I sort of think of Barbara Bush through the prism of her two sons whom I covered, George W. Bush in the White House and obviously more recently Jeb Bush on the campaign trail. And about the kind of men that they are, just as a mother of a son myself, I know what it takes. My son is young. They grew up to be president and governor, and one obviously ran unsuccessfully for president.

But it's not just their sort of politics it's the kind of people that they are. And they became those people because of Barbara Bush. Because -- as you've been talking about with the other guests, she was the person at home raising all of those kids while her husband was off either as ambassador or a CIA director or vice president and so on and so forth.

And Jeb Bush in particular, Anderson, I think about -- as I said most recently, and he really is his mother's son. All of the descriptions that we've heard this evening about Barbara Bush being humble, not wanting to talk too much about herself, being about public service but not making it about herself. Those are all the things she did impart to her sons, particularly Jeb Bush, who is a lot like his mother, in many ways, many people say.

And in 2016, that didn't work at all. So all of the things that made her special and made her in keeping with the generation that she was, it really did not work in today's times, which is why she spoke out against Donald Trump but it is also why, you know, her son, who has those characteristics and traits, didn't stand a chance against somebody like Donald Trump who just was very, very different.

COOPER: Yes. We should point out that the White House has put out a statement on behalf of both the President and the First Lady. The First Lady has put out a statement on her own as well as have former President Obama and Mrs. Obama, the former First Lady.

Jamie, I know the secret service has just released a statement about Mrs. Bush's passing as well. What does it say?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, in its own way it says a lot, because you have all of these VIPs. I don't think I remember a statement from the secret service at a time like this before. But they said, the U.S. secret service expresses sincere condolences to the family of Mrs. Barbara Bush, the epitome of class and grace during and after her service to the country as First Lady of the United States.

I want to highlight this because, first of all, her code name was tranquility, which I think was an inside joke with them. But they were -- Barbara Bush and George Herbert Walker Bush were beloved by the secret service. They treated them so well. And I think it says a lot when you hear about the ushers and the staff and how much they loved them.

But one of the things that the Bushes did for the secret service was on holidays, on Christmas, on New Year's, they would always stay home and stay in, so that as many secret service agents as possible could be with their family. Or when they went to the Vatican to see the pope, the President would say, who's Roman Catholic, and he would always make sure that they were in to these visits. And that kind of courtesy and consideration speaks volumes. And I think it's the reason why you're seeing this kind of expression of condolences tonight.

I just want to add one thing to what Dana said about Mrs. Bush. She talked about the civility with Jeb and how he was his mother's son. I would also say that her other son, George W. Bush, used to love to say all the time, I have my daddy's eyes but my mother's mouth. And that goes to the fact that they both could be very sharp, blunt, and quick- witted. That was also a big part of her personality, Anderson.

[21:25:06] COOPER: Doug Brinkley, you know just the extraordinary decency of Mrs. Bush over the years, in public life. It just -- it sort of harkens back to another time, but really both her and the former president?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It really does. You were just talking about secret service. And she had a little feud with the secret service because as first lady, she wanted to be driven in a very small car, not a giant limo. They said no, you've got to do the limo. She thought it was very ostentatious.

I mean, she won that battle. She started to be taken around in a much smaller vehicle. Then she wanted to fly commercial. She didn't want to have air force one privileges when she had to go give a speech. She argued long and hard about flying commercial. But the secret service won that particular one.

But I'll tell you, some of these flexes that we're having here, one story I picked up that I've never told before or written, but William Webster, former head of the CIA, told me that -- it's one of his best stories, he's allowing me to tell it -- that they created a body double for George Herbert Walker Bush at CIA, meaning somebody who looked just like him and it was uncanny how much CIA had created a human that looked like 41.

So they just said, well, the only way -- it's so good, let's see if we can fool Barbara with it. They had the body double go into the Oval Office and sit there, and have Barbara Bush come and for few minutes or maybe a little less than -- maybe one minutes she didn't know that that wasn't her husband for seconds.

COOPER: This is for real?

BRINKLEY: This is for real. And then suddenly 41 came out and split his gut laughing, he was hiding behind the scenes with Webster and a few others, and it was like, oh, you guys got me. You guys got me. And it's that kind of a -- it's an amazing story, but it tells you sort of the sense of humor that he had, 41, trying to punk Barbara Bush, as it were.

COOPER: Yes. Sanjay Gupta is with us just on the medical aspects of what Mrs. Bush was going through. We know during her time in the White House she was diagnosed with grave's disease. But really in her later years it was congestive heart failure and COPD?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just over the last couple of years, in fact. She did have heart surgery back 10 years ago, nine years ago, that was for an aortic valve replacement. But she's pretty healthy, you know, overall.


GUPTA: COPD is Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and basically it can case by variety of things with the airways, sort of the air passes through your tricky into your lungs, those airways becoming increasingly inflamed and smaller. It's hard to breathe. It becomes harder to breath and there's various medicines that can keep to try and keep those airways open.

What happens as well sometimes, Anderson, is because the heart is pumping blood to the lungs, and the lungs have this inflammation, the heart has to work harder and eventually that can cause congestive heart failure. So in fact, she had both things.

I think it's worth pointing out, she a discussion with her family and her doctors just over the last couple of weeks about what is known as palliative care. And there's a probably a lot of people who maybe hearing that term maybe for the first time or looking it up.

COOPER: It that -- I mean, is it similar to Hospice?

GUPTA: It is, but it's not no care. People say this is end of life care or withdrawing care. It's not. Basically the way to think about it is we're not necessarily doing things anymore to try and cure the disease but certainly doing things to try and treat the symptoms and people can --

COOPER: To make you comfortable?

GUPTA: Yes, make you comfortable, and whatever symptoms might be coming up, probably not putting in a breathing tube, for example, for someone having difficulty breathing or doing anything to restore heart rhythm if the heart has failed for some reason.

COOPER: It allows somebody to enjoy what time they have left with her family maybe at home?

GUPTA: That's right.

COOPER: -- as Mrs. Bush was?

GUPTA: That's right. And it's a conversation that takes place between the person and their physician, their family, obviously. And it's oftentimes when a conversation happens enough I think people wait for these types of conversations. They're difficult to have. But she clearly had that. And I think it's probably a conversation that many families maybe tonight will hear about this and maybe have with their own families tonight. It's really important. It's not giving up, it's just sort of changing the priorities in terms of how that care is provided.

COOPER: Kate Andersen Brower, I mean really -- to the point that Sanjay made, her life ended in the way that she lived her life, really on her own terms, surrounded by family, surrounded by friends, surrounded by the people that she loved?

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, AUTHOR, "FIRST LADY": One of the beautiful things about her is, she went out, she was the consume at political wife. She went out and campaigned for her husband. She was in New Hampshire more than he was when he ran for reelection. She was fiercely loyal to him. They called her the silver fox, the enforcer. If there was a story that President Bush at the time, Bush 41, didn't like, he would go up to a reporter and say the silver fox is very angry with you.

[21:30:04] One reporter from "The Houston Chronicle" told me that he was on a foreign trip and he had written this story about President Bush's defeat in '92, and he went up to Mrs. Bush and they had been old friends and he asked for a photo and she looked at him and said, not with you, bub, and walked away.

So she was smart. And she was watching and reading and very connected. And I think to the point about the secret service and what they said about her, I mean every resident staffer who I talked to, the ushers and the maid, they just spoke so highly of the Bushes. The Bushes had a horse shoe pit set up near the swimming pool at the White House and play these competitive games with the staff, and these tournaments.

And two or three times a week in the spring, Marvin and President Bush would go out and play with the staff. And Barbara Bush would go into pastry shop in her bathing suit in a bathrobe in the morning to go for a swim, come rain or shine, and check in with the pastry chef who she called the cookie man, and the florist. I mean she just really enjoyed being first lady.


BROWER: And it was not a chore for her.


Paul, your thoughts tonight?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Particularly she left this world the way she wanted to. Sanjay talked about her choice for palliative care, which I think is really important so that she could go home so that -- and then she could be with her husband and someone very close to the family just texted me and said that, today she spent the day with her husband, President Bush, with her son Neil, with her Pastor Russ Levinson, they were all with her at her passing and they read to her all day and President Bush held her hand all day.

It's just beautiful. This is everything that she stood for everything she wanted. And it's only fitting that she leaves us with such dignity because she lived her life with such dignity.

COOPER: Jamie, an extraordinary way to end a remarkable life, holding the hand of the man you met when you were 16 years old.

GANGEL: President Bush's chief of staff Jean Backer, who talked about today. She said, of course 41 is broken hearted to lose his beloved Barbara, his wife of 73 years. He held her hand all day today and was at her side when she left this good earth. She said, obviously this is a very challenging time but it will not surprise all of you who love him that he is also being stoic and strong and is being lifted up by his large and supportive family. He's determined to be there for them as well.

And, you know, it's a sad day, but she would also want us to be making a bourbon toast to her. That was her last drink. And I think that she would want us to be celebrating at the same time.

COOPER: Hopefully the liquor store is open by the time I get home. I'm not much of a drinker but I will certainly have a toast to her. We'll going to take a short break. Much more ahead, we'll be right back with reaction from President Trump, also the First Lady and former President Obama and Michelle Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [21:36:34] COOPER: We are remembering former First Lady Barbara Bush tonight. She's died at the age of 92. Our Jeff Zeleny joins us now. I know you're collecting statements from the White House as well as from former President Obama?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We are indeed, Anderson. President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump actually issued separate statements this evening. They are at their Mar-a-Lago resort having dinner with the Japanese Prime Minister.

But the President's statement it reads in part this, Anderson. It says, "Mrs. Bush was an advocate of the American family. Among her greatest achievements was recognizing the importance of literacy as a fundamental family value that requires nurturing and protection. She will long be remembered for her strong devotion to country and family both of which she served unfailingly well."

Anderson, we should also point out that Mrs. Bush of course, was very astute about politics of course throughout her life as the mother of one president and the wife of another. And she had words to say about President Trump as well during his campaign.

Of course Jeb Bush, a son she thought would be president at one point, she said, I don't understand why people are for President Trump, of all he says about the women and the military.

So certainly that was a moment from the 2016 campaign. After that she didn't talk much about the President, at least in public. But privately I'm sure she still had things to say about this administration.

But going on to the Obama statement, Anderson, we also received a statement from President and Mrs. Obama. It said in part this. "We'll always be grateful to Mrs. Bush for the generosity she showed to us throughout our time in the White House. We're even more grateful for the way she lived her life, as a testament to the fact that public service is an important and noble calling. As an example of the humility and decency that reflects the very best of the American spirit."

So those statements among hundreds and indeed thousands likely pouring into the Bush family. Of course everyone remembering them for their unique role, her unique role in American history, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. And at such an important time in American history as well. Jeff Zeleny, thanks.

Barbara Bush had a unique vantage point on politics. Obviously in 2005, she talked to Larry King about what is like when people are picking on your kids and even if that kid in question happens to be president of the United States. Take a look.


LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: Historically Republicans and Democrats have had great friendships. G. BUSH: That's right.

KING: -- ordering Kennedy would great --

B. BUSH: Yes, but I think they still do. I think -- I really just think that some of them still do. There's certainly a lot of bitterness, though.

G. Bush: Yes, there is.

KING: When they take on your son.

G. BUSH: Very much so. You get personal about that.

KING: Yes.

G. BUSH: We can't do anything about it. But yes, much worse when your kids are criticized, in this case, the president, our son, is criticized, or when Jeb went through a lot of grief down there in Florida. You feel it. You feel it more than when it was about yourself. When you're in the arena, you can strike back or you can call them so and so's and do something. When it's in this case one of our two sons, you really feel it. It affects me very badly.

KING: You too?

B. BUSH: You bet. It affected me when George is criticized. I was thinking he has a very short memory. He didn't just love being criticized.

G. BUSH: No, I --

KING: Which is worse. It's worst when it's --

[21:40:00] B. BUSH: It is worse.

KING: You get angrier, right? Historically, you've seemed to get --

B. BUSH: Hysterically?

KING: Historically.

B. BUSH: That's what you thought I did.

KING: So your image was --

B. BUSH: That's right. The enforcer.

KING: That's right.

B. BUSH: That's because he wanted to be the good guy and I was the bad cop.

KING: He would have going out there and he would turn the other cheek and in that one off to so.

B. BUSH: Oh, you do not.


COOPER: The nickname, the enforcer, a lot of her kids called her that because she was the enforcer. Her husband was away, obviously a lot of times and she was the one basically raising the kids.

With me -- I was with Jeff Toobin, Kirsten Powers, Ryan Lizza, Mike Shields.

Mike, it just interesting listening to them talk about you know, Democrats and Republicans being friends and just -- it sort of does harken back to a different time in American politics?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It does. And you know, they're part of the greatest generation. I mean, George H.W. Bush was a navy pilot in World War II.

COOPER: Heroic.

SHIELDS: Heroic navy pilot, yes, lied I think about his age to get into the navy and was shot down. And so they are truly embody a family of service, the whole family. And it comes from the top. It came from Barbara.

And so she was both a loving, caring mother and she said there, the enforcer. She was tough. One of the anecdotes we were talking about that really sticks with me is, in 1987, when George H.W. Bush was running for president, he was the vice president, and he finished third in the Iowa -- in the Ames Straw Poll. And they're flying back on Air Force Two and Lee Atwater and Rich Bond who ran the campaign summoned to meet with vice president and Mrs. Bush. The vice president says, and greets them. Mrs. says when are you going back to Iowa? And sort of sending the clear message she said there, she was the bad cop sometimes and the enforcer.

COOPER: Not just with the kids but with --

SHIELDS: With everybody for his career to protect him. And I think the other thing. I loved that clip you just show there because you also got to see what their relationship was like and how steady it was, how much they cared and loved for each other, what an example that was for everybody.

COOPER: Also Kirstin, and again I just keep coming back, George Bush the first man she ever kissed, she was 16 years old, married him when she was under the age of 21, one of the few first ladies who married as a teenager.


COOPER: I mean, it's extraordinary that --

POWERS: It was a different era. And it's similar to their era. It was really romantic story also. You know, it's very romantic even looking at them -- COOPER: He was a senior at the Phillips Andover Academy?

POWERS: Yes. She gets it for the whole life and then there they are, we see them talking and you can just still see this incredible bond between them.

I think also, one thing to remember about her is that she used to be sort of covered like this, oh, she's just this housewife, right? You know, I don't think a lot of people -- in the beginning, before we got to know her.

COOPER: Right, when she spoke, there were some protests.

POWERS: Yes. Yes, and people didn't really understand what a force she was and how, you know, influential she was in this family over her husband and also in raising these sons. And, you know, who grew up to be, you know, one grew up to be a president.

COOPER: Yes. I was just reading, in 44 years together they had 29 moves and she had to do it all.

POWERS: Crazy.

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I had a very different reaction to all of this. I mean, the list of adjectives that we have heard described, public service oriented, the honesty, decency. What about the contrast to our current president? I mean, this family, whatever else you think of the Bushes, were a family that was just wall to wall decent, good to people, considerate of others. And I'm sorry, I just keep thinking of Donald Trump in the White House who has none of the qualities that the Bushes had. And I think it's just a sign of how different this country is now than it was not that many years ago.

COOPER: Well, I think it also gives you a sense of why Mrs. Bush was so repelled by Donald Trump.


COOPER: I mean, she --

TOOBIN: Absolutely.

COOPER: You know, sort of, again, whatever you think of either of them, he is antithetical to all of the values that she grew up believing in and lived her life by.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, we're talking about someone who was from a different time and different era, right? I mean, this is someone who during World War II volunteered at a nuts and bolts factory, right?

She was so devoted to her husband that when he was shot down during the war, they weren't yet married, there was a month-long period when she didn't hear from him. And I think the two things that come to my mind with her is just this sense of service to the country that goes all the way back to World War II, when she volunteered to -- sort of Rosie the Riveter like life, and that is kind of amazing to think about that we're talking about someone who was in politics relatively recently but goes that far back.

TUCHMAN: George Herbert Walker Bush didn't invent bone spurs that you can't remember which foot they were on to get out of fighting in World War II. Instead, he was a hero.

COOPER: I just want to read a paragraph from a letter that George H.W. wrote to Barbara Bush in December 12th, 1943, right after they got engaged. He said, "I love you, precious, with all my heart and to know you love me means my life. How often I have thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours some day, how lucky our children will be to have a mother like you."

[21:45:11] POWERS: Beautiful, yes. What do you say after that?


SHIELDS: I wanted an expert opinion on Barbara Bush so I texted my mother and mother-in-law, Republican women. And they both said that she was someone to look up to and that she really focused on reading was her cause. And they both went out and bought the book she wrote on Millie as soon as it came out and that's the kind of culture impacts she had sort of a vision that we have of the first family and their pets and their children and everyone in the White House together with something had a huge impact on millions of people.

And I think it's a beautiful tribute that we can sit and talk about this. I don't think it's appropriate for to us take the moment to talk about Barbara Bush to talk about the President.


SHIELDS: We can talk about the President every single day.


SHIELDS: Well, I know and I disagree with you Jeff. I think it's not by the President enough because talking about the Bush family and celebrate a wonderful life and the life she had.

COOPER: What do you think that Jamie Gangel said, which I hadn't realize and you know, I've been talking about their daughter Robin who died at the age of three, and that grief. Barbara Bush's hair turned white in that year. And she kept it white, you know, she was very young when that happened. And I just think of her kind of living her entire life with this marker of the time that her daughter died. I mean, something obviously she carried in her heart all the time. But whenever she looked in the mirror she would see that white hair as a marker.

LIZZA: And you know, in the '80s as a First Lady of this era when image mattered so much as a First Lady and coming after Nancy Reagan who was a slightly more polarizing woman who did cared a lot about appearances, she didn't really care. She used to joke about her matronly appearance. She used to say I don't care about my weight, about my hair color. You know, and she is sort of maintained high approval ratings, you know --

COOPER: To that point I want to read you something she was said when she was asked about her high popularity because in all the polls when she was in the White House she would often rank I think in the top three of the most admired women in America. She was popular because, she said, "Because I'm fat and old and nobody feels threatened by me."

It's just so self-deprecating. You would never imagine a First Lady saying -- you know, being so self-deprecating.

LIZZA: You can see the story on here but you can't talk about this woman without talking about her wicked sense of humor. And she famously got in a lot of trouble once when she said another politician was a word that rhymes with rich. And she got a lot of trouble, she had to apologize. And of course she couldn't help --

TOOBIN: It was Geraldine Ferraro.

LIZZA: She couldn't help in the apology saying, I don't know what the big deal is, calling someone a witch.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. Much more ahead as we remember former First Lady Barbara Bush. This from Jean Becker, chief of staff of the office of George H.W. Bush. So many of you are asking how is 41. He's of course broken hard to lose his beloved Barbara, his wife of 73 years. He held her hand all day today was at her side when she left this good earth. It went on to say, it will not surprise all of you who know and love him that he is also being stoic and strong, he's being lifted up by his large and supportive family. He is determined to be there for them as well. We'll be right back.


[21:51:29] COOPER: Well, a sad night tonight as we remember former First Lady Barbara Bush who died at 92 but who lived such an extraordinary life.

Joining me now is former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. Director Clapper, I know you met former First Lady Barbara Bush in person. You served in the George H.W. Bush administration. I'm wondering what your thoughts are tonight.

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, this is a loss of an iconic figure in this country, a great monument to decency and kindness and whatever you call it, traditional values of this country.

And someone who had I think far more influence than she's given credit for, both with her husband as well as her son. And so I join in grieving with so many other people that had an encounter with her.

Our encounter with her was in 1990 when I was the chief of intelligence for what was then strategic air command, which is now transformed into strategic command. And this is an off in air force base in Omaha, Nebraska. And President Bush visited. It was the first time that a president had visited sac in 13 years. I had the honor and privilege of briefing him in my position as chief of intelligence. And he was accompanied by another iconic American, Brent Scowcroft, who was then the national security adviser.

Mrs. Bush met with a group of wives which included my wife. And we were reminiscing about that visit tonight. And my wife Sue was recalling how down to earth and earthy, both, Barbara Bush was during that visit and how completely captivating she was and how she captured everyone that she came in contact with. And I think that is emblematic of many other comments. And by the way, Anderson, compliments to a wonderful tribute to her by CNN.

COOPER: It was such an important time -- I mean, President Bush was only in office for one term but it was a really important time in American history. I mean, there was so much, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin wall had taken place in 1989. Obviously the First Gulf War, there was -- it was a very different time, but a monumental time?

CLAPPER: It was exactly that. And certainly from my personal perspective, and my history, looking back at the momentous events that occurred that were so significant just from my vantage, through my lens as a senior intelligence officer. It was really a profound historical time for this country.

COOPER: And also, obviously George Bush had been head of CIA in prior administrations. So he came from an intelligence background.

CLAPPER: He did. And of course that was a great help, when he served as President. Obviously he had direct personal insight into the intelligence community. And, you know, he's remembered yet today at CIA as one of the -- his tenure wasn't very long but a great impact on the agency. He's still very fondly and respectfully regarded yet today at CIA.

[21:55:05] COOPER: Well, General Clapper, I appreciate you being with us on this night as we look back at Barbara Bush's extraordinary life. Thank you.

CLAPPER: Thanks.

COOPER: We'll be right back.


COOPER: Breaking news from Texas, again tonight former First Lady Barbara Bush has died at the age of 92, she survived by her husband of 73 years, George H.W. Bush, the man she met at dance when she was just 16 years. The first man she ever kissed, the man who held her hand through much of today and was by her side as she slip away slipped away.

Back in 2004, Barbara Bush said, this to Larry King.


KING: Not to be modeling but do you know where your resting place will be?

B. BUSH: You bet, I'll be glad to show it to you.

KING: Where it is?

B. BUSH: It's at college station, the prettiest place you ever saw.

G. BUSH: Our daughter is already buried there. So when we die --

KING: How old was she?

B. BUSH: Almost four.

G. BUSH: 50-some years ago.

KING: And you'll be buried together there?

G. BUSH: Yes.

B. BUSH: Mm-hmm.

KING: Is that maudlin or comforting?

G. BUSH: It is comforting to us. The only thing --

KING: What do you think is comforting?

B. BUSH: It is comforting.

G. BUSH: I went by there, and these guys were working like mad, I said, slow down, fellows. I mean -- but it's beautiful.


[22:00:03] COOPER: The mother joins the daughter she lost somewhat 50 years ago when she was three years old.

Thanks very much for watching 360. Time to hand it over to Don Lemon. "CNN TONIGHT" starts right now.