Vargas Interview: The Personal Side of President Bush

ByABC News
February 28, 2006, 6:00 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2006 — -- Before the sit-down portion of her exclusive interview, ABC's Elizabeth Vargas got a glimpse of President Bush as he's rarely seen. Vargas spent some time talking to Bush about life in the White House, how his daughters deal with the pressure of living in the public spotlight, his perspectives on being a parent, and the personal impact of Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident. What follows is a transcript of their conversation.

[In the Oval Office]



VARGAS: Thank you so much.

BUSH: Glad you're here.

VARGAS: Thanks, nice to be here. Are you ready for your trip? (Crosstalk)

BUSH: Welcome to the Oval Office.

VARGAS: Thank you.

BUSH: I'm packed and ready to roll.

VARGAS: It's a big trip. How do you prepare for it?

BUSH: Well, you know you get a lot of briefings, but, uh ... get the right clothes out there to make sure I look stylish. Kind of hard for me to do.

You know, you prepare for a trip like this through, in my case, five years of experience. I'll be seeing people I've seen before. I'll be working on an agenda item that has been in the makings.

Now what is interesting about this trip is that I can go to Pakistan as a friend of India's, and be able to have a good dialogue. And go to India, as a friend of Pakistan's and be able to have a good dialogue.

VARGAS: It's a delicate thing you're doing though, [BUSH: Yeah it is.] with these two countries.

VARGAS: It really is.

BUSH: But the good news is that it's less delicate than ever before, which is positive in terms of helping secure our country, as well as achieving strategic objectives.

And a big objective for example is energy independence from fossil fuels. And that's going to be a big part of the agenda in India, as part of a more comprehensive strategy. Anyway, thanks for asking. I'm looking forward to it.

VARGAS: Your desk is so clean Mr. President.

BUSH: Yeah, well, you know that is what happens when you have desk cleaners everywhere.

VARGAS: Do you spend a lot of time here?

BUSH: I do. This is where my main office. I've got an office here obviously, and I've got one upstairs in the White House on the second floor, right down from our bedroom. It's called the treaty room. I like to work here 'cause I like how open it feels.

VARGAS: It is ... very.

BUSH: You know an interesting story about the rug? Laura designed the rug.

VARGAS: She did?

BUSH: Yeah, she did. Presidents are able to pick their own rugs or design their own rugs.

VARGAS: Did you just change the rug, or did you change some of the furniture as well?

BUSH: Changed the rug, no, the rugs been here since I've been here. Or actually since she designed the rug and then it was woven.

VARGAS: So what happens when you're finished?

BUSH: It goes in a warehouse.

VARGAS: It does?

BUSH: Yeah. (Laughs)

VARGAS: You're not going to take it home and put it in a family room or something?

BUSH: I don't get to. I think this is government property, Elizabeth. And as you know, you got to leave government property where it belongs. But the interesting thing about this rug, and why I like it in here is 'cause I told Laura one thing. I said, "Look, I can't pick the colors and all that. But make it say 'optimistic person.'"


BUSH: And she did a fabulous job.

VARGAS: She did. It's beautiful.

BUSH: Well, thanks, I will tell her you said so. And anyway, this is a very bright and open area and it helps me think and I like it. I like to stay here.

VARGAS: I see your pictures of the girls back there. How are they?

BUSH: They're good. They're great. Thanks for asking.

VARGAS: You and your wife have done such a great job of protecting them and preserving their right to have personal, private lives...

BUSH: Well, actually that would be you. (Laughter) That would be you who's done a good job of helping me protect them. You and the media, and I thank you for that. I think the Clintons first started off very well by saying, 'Look, give Hillary, I mean Chelsea, some space.' And uh, and I respect and appreciate the media respecting our girls. They're good.

It's one of the joys of being a father is to watch your children grow up, and our little girls understand that it's, you can gain a lot of satisfaction in life by helping others. And so Jenna's a teacher, and Barbara has returned recently from South Africa where she was working in a hospital for kids with AIDS, and it's ...

VARGAS: That's really great.

BUSH: Ah, it's good on both of them, I love 'em dearly. And, it's, you know, I put 'em through a lot. If you think about it, you know, can you imagine being a teenager, and your dad's in the public spotlight? Or, you know, you think you head off to college, and I'm running for the president of the United States?

VARGAS: They are part of a rare club of children who have grown up with fathers in the White House.

BUSH: Yeah, yeah. The only think you can do is to explain to them, um, why I ran and what I'm trying to accomplish, but more importantly, just tell 'em you love them. And you tell them you love 'em all the time. And ...

VARGAS: Do they ever tell you, "Dad, I wish you weren't president?"

BUSH: Oh yeah, of course.

VARGAS: Probably a lot more than you'd like. (Laughter)

BUSH: Yeah, you know like others in the country, are willing to say that to you. No, they understand now, they do, they can see it. I think they are looking forward to the day now when, uh, there is not the attention on someone they care about, and that they can feel relatively free.