As President Bush addresses the nation on the final night on the Republican National Convention, first lady Laura Bush will, as usual, be his main source of support.
In an interview with Peter Jennings, she offered her views on the president's mood leading up to his convention speech, the goals he hopes to achieve and whether she thinks the ads criticizing his opponent John Kerry's record in Vietnam are fair.
The following is an excerpt of that interview:
JENNINGS: The president seems upbeat recently, and it's been a tough year. War, jobs. Does he seem upbeat to you?
BUSH: He is upbeat. You know, times are tough. There's no doubt about it. It's tough when you are in a war like we are in our country, but, you know, Americans are so terrific, they're so decent, they're so generous, they're so supportive of their country, and that's what we see when we campaign around this United States.
JENNINGS: How do you notice when he is really feeling better?
BUSH: He actually doesn't ever really let me know if he's feeling very down. He doesn't show that very much. He's got a lot of resilience. He's funny. He likes to be funny, he likes to laugh, and that's great when times are tough to relieve some anxiety, to be able to laugh and talk.
JENNINGS: He gives a lot of big speeches, but this is a big one.
BUSH: He gives a lot of big speeches. He's given a lot of big ones, but of course this is the big one.
JENNINGS: So …
BUSH: The big convention speech. This will be the speech where he'll have the chance to lay out what he wants to do for the next four years and what's on his heart, and that's what he'll do. He'll talk about how changing times demand government to change, as well.
JENNINGS: Does he get nervous?
BUSH: I don't think he probably does.
JENNINGS: Do you ever get nervous for him?
BUSH: Sure, every time. (Laughs). That's what wives are supposed to do, isn't it? (Laughs).
JENNINGS: What are the hallmarks of a great George Bush speech? How do you evaluate the impact? How do you know he's given a really good, effective speech?
BUSH: Well, of course every time I think he's really good and effective, but, I think if he can let people know what's on his mind and what's on his heart, if he can — especially for tonight, for a convention speech — if he can let people know what he sees for our country in the next four years, what he wants our country to accomplish, the goals that he has for a second term.
JENNINGS: Do you talk to the political professionals in the campaign staff? Do you read the papers? Do you read the polls, or is it all in your gut whether or not he's done well?
BUSH: All of them, you know, all of it. But it's certainly mainly I watch him, and, you know, that's how I really make an opinion on what I think when I see him give the speech.
JENNINGS: What is your gut reaction about whether he is at the moment the favorite or the underdog?
BUSH: I think he's the favorite.
JENNINGS: Even though it's as close as it is? Perhaps, in our latest poll, one electoral vote.
BUSH: I think it's very close, but I think he's the favorite.
JENNINGS: I just want to get it absolutely straight so that I understand it. Do you or do you not think it's fair that those Swift Boat ads should have attacked [Sen. Kerry's] combat record?
BUSH: This is what I think. I think when you run for office you're going to get criticized, and whatever you run on you're going to get criticized about, and that's just what happens. It happens every time and to both candidates. And do I think it's fair that they ran $60 million worth of ads against my husband? No, of course not, but that's just what happens.
JENNINGS: I know you must cringe when people say things as harshly as they do about the president.
BUSH: Sure, absolutely. I don't like that. (Laughs). That's the really hard part of politics.
JENNINGS: Do you cringe at all when [Republicans] say harsh things about the other [party]? In other words, do you have a general feeling about negative politics?
BUSH: You know, I think just what I just said.That if something is a criticism of something in your record, something you voted on, something you did, I think those are legitimate criticisms. That's what we look at about somebody. That's what everyone, you know, in the United States, when they look at the candidates and try to pick who they're going to vote for, that's one way we know them. .