Laura Bush's Last Days in the White House

She talks heart disease, Jenna's wedding, George's drinking and the Clintons.

Feb. 1, 2008 — -- First Lady Laura Bush will be spending her last year in the White House working to raise awareness of heart disease, planning her daughter's springtime wedding and trying to stay above the political fray.

In a candid interview with "Good Morning America," Bush spoke about her work with Heart Truth; plans for Jenna Bush's Crawford, Texas, wedding; Bill Clinton's role in his wife's campaign and even her husband's former drinking.

Bush and GMA anchor Diane Sawyer wore red in honor of the "Red Dress Project," which encourages women to wear red on the first Friday in February as a national reminder that heart disease is the number-one killer of American women, claiming the lives of 480,000 U.S. women each year.


As a presidential spouse, Bush said that watching former President Clinton campaign for his wife "makes for great theater, there's no doubt about it."

Asked what she thought about his involvement on the campaign, Bush said "I think he's doing what comes very naturally to him, and that is defending his wife … Anyone would expect their spouse to do that. And, you know, whether or not they cross the line, I guess, other people have to judge."

On Monday Bush watched her husband give his final State of the Union address, which she described as "always slightly high-tension," with her twin daughters Jenna and Barbara at her side.

"It's actually very interesting because, of course, we're sitting in the gallery where we can look down and see everyone's response. We see the whole floor below, the Republicans standing up to applaud or … all of the looks from the other side [laughs]. And that was fun. It was fun. It was fun for us to talk about it later," Bush said.

As a loyal Republican, Bush says she'll support whoever wins the party's presidential nomination.

Jenna's Wedding

Despite great anticipation of a White House wedding, Bush says she's looking forward to Jenna's, which will take place at the family ranch in Crawford, Texas, this spring.

"I sort of halfway hoped it would be at the White House. But I always knew the whole time that Jenna wanted it to be at home. And I don't blame her. It'll be small and it'll be private, and you know, just be perfect for Jenna and just what she wants," said Bush, adding that the number of attendees would be "a couple of hundred of people actually."

"So who's most likely to cry when she's coming down the aisle?" Sawyer asked.

"Her dad," Bush replied without missing a beat. "Not even close. He wept ... at our rehearsal dinner when he gave me the toast [laughs]."

That was more than 30 years ago, when Laura and George W. were married in nearby Midland, Texas, in a ceremony Bush described as "a very small wedding. It was only 75 people, and I didn't have any attendants. You know, I don't have any sisters. I just shopped at a store in Austin and bought the silk skirt and blouse."

As her daughter enters her own marriage, Bush wants Jenna to know "how important it is to be able to laugh together."

"One thing I see in Jenna and Henry is that they have that. They like to laugh together. I also think they really care for each other and they show how they care, literally care for each other, and I appreciate that," Bush said.

Heart Disease

Since 2003, the first lady has served as ambassador for Heart Truth, an organization to promote awareness of heart disease. This year she's proud to say that there were approximately 17,000 fewer deaths from heart disease.

Bush gives credit for the drop to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and to the Red Dress Project, for getting the word out. One of the project's main goals has been to get American women to realize that it isn't just a man's disease.

Unlike men, when women experience the symptoms of heart disease such as pain in the jaw, pain in the neck, pain in the left arm, pain in the center of the chest, a burning sensation in the back, extreme fatigue and difficulty breathing, they don't immediately get help.

"It's very important, if you have any of these symptoms, to get to the hospital immediately," Bush said. "And don't be embarrassed. If it isn't a heart attack, you know, there's no reason to be embarrassed."

Bush's Drinking

"I doubt I would be standing here if I hadn't quit drinking whiskey and beer and wine and all that," President Bush told ABC's Martha Raddatz in an interview earlier this year.

The first lady spoke to Sawyer about how difficult it was for her being married to her husband during his drinking days in Texas. "It's very hard. Well, I did say things, of course, absolutely," Bush said.

"He knew what I thought about it and he thought that too. I mean he wanted to quit and any time anyone quits drinking or any other habit, they do it because they do it. I mean ... you have to do it yourself."

After making the decision to quit, it took "a few years" to stop for good, in which time Bush says his friends helped him to stop.

"I was really very proud of him, really proud of him. It's not easy. And we lived in west Texas, where drinking was a very big part of everyone's social life in a sort of Wild West, Texas town."

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