I was privileged to watch the Exclusive Interview with President George W. Bush and First Lady, Laura on the Dr. Phil show. It aired on ABC on September 29, 2004
It opened in a very relaxed setting, the two couples meeting (Dr. Phil McGraw and Robin, his wife, the President and Mrs. Bush) in the home of President and Mrs. Bush in Crawford, Texas on a very rainy day.
Dr. Phil good naturedly gave Robin away, at first opportunity, by telling the Bush couple that she had stowed her notes under her cushion.
I have a feeling he got a good talking to after the interview. President Bush instantly set out to make her at ease.
The couples sat across each other, as the interview began.
Dr. Phil opened the interview saying that he was committed to strengthening families throughout America with his television broadcast, Family First and spoke to the President saying, "I believe you've done that in the Whitehouse."
Dr. Phil told President and Mrs. Bush of the survey he had conducted of 20,000 parents, for a book he was releasing. He had asked them every question he could think of, on parenting. He was shocked when 40% of the poll said, had they known then, what they knew now, they wouldn't have started a family.
Both the President and Mrs. Bush were equally shocked at the response. President Bush remarked that it was hard to believe that anyone wouldn't want to be parents.
Laura Bush responded that she believes their response comes from the difficulty of raising children. Parent-child relationships are hard. But that it's the biggest blessing to have and love children.
President Bush went on to add that your children should be the number one priority in your life. That if you are fortunate to be a parent, you hold a huge responsibility. Some people want their own life to be number one, and so it is a huge sacrifice for them, to raise children.
Dr. Phil added his input.
"My belief is that you're not the only influence in your child's life, so you better be the best influence in your child's life. They're listening to the television, all the messages that are out there-you've gotta counter balance that. And I think one of the things I worry about with education; we teach people how to read and write and add and subtract, but we don't teach them how to be moms and dads."
The Bush's strongly agreed with his comment.
In the event of the interview, that newsworthy moment of their twin daughter Jenna, sticking her tongue out at the press, came up.
Amidst laughter from Dr. Phil who said he instantly thought, "I so love this!" He went on to say that it was probably something the president and his wife had wanted to do for so long, themselves, but had refrained.
Dr. Phil asked if they had talked to her about it later. Mrs. Bush had been hiking at Glacier Park.
President Bush replied that he had been in the limo with Jenna at the time. She turned around to her dad and said, "I just stuck my tongue out." To which her dad said, "Jenna, you just made national news. You've got to be careful. You're in a fish bowl, whether you like it or not. Every move you make, particularly when you're with me will be recorded."
Both the President and Mrs. Bush said that later, Jenna felt very bad about her immature move, very humiliated.
Laura described her girls personalities-Barbara being the bookworm of the two, Jenna the boisterous one.
Laura shared touching memories of their lives together. Owners of the Texas Rangers game, they hung out there many times as a family.
It was in fact there, that the President and Dr. Phil had met. Dr. Phil had been the relief pitcher.
President Bush told of times when he had taken the girls on individual outings, one being a memory Jenna holds dear, to this day.
It was Labor Day, the hottest day on record at 108 degrees. She and her dad had gone to the ballpark as father and daughter. Wanting to be with her dad, for this one-on-one time, Jenna covered herself in wet paper towels to keep cool.
Laura laughingly referred to her as "looking like a mummy."
Laura also shared a memory she herself holds dear. The girls were about four, they had been living in Midland, Texas. It had snowed pretty heavy one evening and around midnight George asked the family if they'd like to take a night snow walk.
When Laura told her mother about that touching incident, she hadn't realized how much it had meant, until her mom told her it was so terrific. That a father would think of doing that with his children, constructing a memory that would last forever.
Laura affectionately smiled at her husband. "He's a great dad," she said. She went on to say that she hoped the girls would look for qualities in choosing their husbands, like those of their dad. He'd always been interested in parenting, always willing to help out wherever, even in the diaper changing and car pool in Dallas.
Laura said she hoped they'd marry someone just like their dad to which the President went, "You do? Whew!"
The President remarked that he just wanted someone to go fishing with him, other then their dog, Barney- a son-in-law. To which everyone laughed.
Dr. Phil asked how George and Laura had successfully raised their two girls. Their secrets, their advice.
How did they discipline? Was there one who was a heavy in discipline? Did they use spanking in discipline?
Laura replied that she and her husband tried to give the girls a normal life, keep them out of the limelight. They wanted to pass on the values that they held important, when there was such a counter sound with the media and everything else. That made it all the more difficult.
They said they always remind the girls that they love them. That no matter where life takes them, they'll always be loved.
President Bush went on to add to his wife's comments by saying that if the foundation of love is real, then the counter influences are not as corrosive.
They said they rarely had to use spanking as a form of discipline, rather they were in-your-roomers.
Dr. Phil asked if the Bush's had had a definition of success, for the girls, while raising them, to which President and Mrs. Bush said, "No."
Laura said she wanted them to be happy, to be successful in school, socially, with their friends, to encourage the talents they knew they had, but never forcing them upon them.
President Bush responded that it's a mistake to set goals for your children. They just need unconditional love. He recalled a memory of he and his dad. His dad had told him, when he was young, "I love you. Good luck."
They said they believe they raised their two daughters by joining forces. When they were younger Jenna and Barbara tried to play them against each other, a sort of, "But dad said.."
George and Laura said they had backed each other. There was no divide and conquer-they had raised the girls together.
Dr. Phil spoke of how he and Robin were trying to instill good values in their two boys, to teach them to love themselves, to feel loved, to discover the talents God had given them, to find their authentic self. He asked the President and Mrs. Bush if their girls know who they are, to which they responded quickly, "Yes"
Laura mentioned that the girls, though being twins, were very different, and they as parents recognized this and embraced it. The twins have a special bond. There was rarely sibling rivalry.
Dr. Phil spoke of his belief that everyone has a personal truth, that thing that makes a child feel special, that they are worthy of having something to give back to the world and society. He asked of them, if they feel the girls have this personal truth.
"I do," Laura responded.
"How did they get it?," Dr. Phil asked.
George replied again, that he loved them. He thought that they had a good sense of capability and good judgment.
Robin added that she and Dr. Phil were always trying to teach their sons how to treat a woman with dignity and respect. She asked of Laura if there were any rules or guidelines that they taught the girls in treating young men.
Laura replied that the guidelines they instilled in the girls, were those of how to treat people in general, not just men. She said they learned these guidelines more from observing the two of them. In the way they interacted with their family, their friends, each other. She gave the television audience one of her favorite quotes by James Baldwin.
"Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them."
Dr. Phil added his input. "Parents say, so much, their kids won't listen. I've often thought, 'Better quit worrying about the fact that they're not listening, but worry about the fact that they're watching-like a hawk'. Kids are so perceptive."
When asked about their personal life as husband and wife, George admitted there was one thing that got on his wife's nerves. Tracking mud into the house. Laura did say with a lovely smile to her husband, that, "He doesn't get in that much trouble."
Robin laughed, saying that she told her husband, that he and the President are alot alike- ornery, to which the President said, "I could be."
George and Laura had met at the age of 31, very much opposites. She was the quiet, ultra neat librarian. He was what people described as a hell-raiser, a tad on the sloppy side.
They had married three months later, very much in love. There was a speed bump in their marriage-George liked his liquor. Finally Laura had had enough and at the age of forty, he gave up drinking and become a committed Christian.
The two say they love getting away from the hustle and bustle and just decompressing in their home in Texas. They love spending time outdoors, enjoying the quiet, the nature walks.
Dr. Phil spoke of the many people who have come to him and have said, "We really like President Bush, but we're not really sure we know him, what he's all about, how is behind the scenes."
He addressed the President saying, "If they did know you, what would they discover?"
Leaning back in the sofa, looking comfortable and completely at ease, President Bush responded.
"I think they would find a person who loves life, who can relate to people in all walks of life, somebody who would say 'Let's go for a bike ride on the ranch', or 'If you've got some time, why don't we go fishing?' Somebody that loves to read history, somebody that's a good listener and somebody who likes to laugh alot."
To which Laura slyly interjected, "And likes to talk alot."
There was shared laughter between the couples.
"Well, that too," the President good naturedly responded.
Dr. Phil- "Would they find a sense of humor?"
President- "Oh yeah."
Dr. Phil- "Is that part of your day?
President- "I'm a needler. And can take a needle, but do it in good humor."
He went on to say that the presidency is a decision making job, lots of decisions. The environment can tend to be somber. He wants the people that works for him to have access to him, to laugh, to enjoy the moment.
He said that he is a team builder. He realizes that you're not just it, but that you're part of a team.
Dr. Phil asked if the President, when making these decisions, ever steps back to access the situation, to essentially walk in the people's shoes, to which he responded in the affirmative.
He believes his experience as governor, in working closely with the people has helped his position as President. It has helped him keep the connection with the people in America.
Robin asked of Laura, "How do you handle the harsh or unfair criticism of the man you love?"
"We try to ignore it," Mrs. Bush said. She admitted that this was the hardest part of being in the Presidency. Of seeing her husband hurt. But that it strengthens their bond as a couple. That their experience in Washington has welded them together; that they have a common purpose.
The interview ended by the McGraws expressing their pleasure at being in the Bush's home and shaking hands.
Later, in their studio, Robin said she had had a ball on the Bush's ranch and that it was "very, very much fun" She described President and Mrs. Bush as very heart warming, very real and genuine, very down to earth.
To which Dr. Phil said, amidst laughter, "They're Texans-what can I say?"
Robin also told of an incident when the cameras had been turned off, when Laura Bush had insisted, in her very sweet way, that the crew come in and pose with the President.
Robin said that she had spoken very highly of him, that she was very proud of her husband.
She and Dr. Phil opened the floor for a few moments for questions from the audience. One woman asked if Mrs. Bush cooked their meals, while at the ranch and Robin informed her that yes, she did, as well as decorating their home and keeping it in order.
Another audience member said that she respected the President as a father, that she liked his views on parenting and that she'd like more people to have them.
Article by- Jorene Haight
Comment by: Old Site Date: 2/9/2013 7:49:00 PM
A reader says ... Hi, it's Emilia Liz (firstname.lastname@example.org) again. I did some more research on Dr. Phil's survey and found that yes, it is indeed as useful as two mammary glands on a male bovine (translate into plain English). It only surveyed people who were part of his audience or who visited his website - people who do not necessarily represent the general population. As well, it is flawed by what is called "response bias:" that is, the individuals who responded probably were those who had strong (and negative) opinions on the matters surveyed. So the 40% of respondents who would not have had children again do not in all probability represent the general population.
A reader says ... Just a question: was Dr. Phil's poll showing that 40% of parents would not have children again a scientific one? Some years ago Ann Landers ran a poll showing that 70% of her respondents would not have children if they could do it over again. However, as a write-in poll, Ann Landers' poll was scientifically flawed; a well-designed Gallup poll done later showed only 10% of parents would not have children again. It seems Dr. Phil's poll seems to show the same bias: in other words the respondents may have consisted of only those who bothered to write to him. I would love to check this out further, but I strongly suspect Dr. Phil's poll is not scientificially reliable. Please e-mail me at email@example.com if you want to get in touch with me.