ROBERT COSTA: Hello. I’m Robert Costa. And this is the Washington Week Extra, where we pick up online where we left off on the broadcast.
Joining me around the table, Nancy Cordes of CBS News, Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post, Mara Liasson of NPR, and Vivian Salama of NBC News.
Barbara Pierce Bush was the wife and mother of presidents, and the mother of a governor, and a distant relative, actually, of the 14th U.S. president, Franklin Pierce. She was known for her strength, wit, and grace. Her children and grandchildren nicknamed her “the enforcer.”
FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: (From video.) Mother was on the front line and expressed herself frequently. Dad, of course, was available, but he was a busy guy, and he was on the road a lot in his businesses and obviously on the road a lot when he was campaigning. And so mother was there to maintain order and discipline. She was the sergeant.
FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR JEB BUSH (R): (From video.) Well, mom, the nickname that – one of many nicknames she has was “the enforcer.” So there were unwritten rules, and if you violated them she would enforce the rules, and do it in a way that was pretty effective. I don’t remember my dad doing that.
MR. COSTA: (Laughs.) Barbara Pierce and George H.W. Bush were married for 73 years, the longest marriage in presidential history. She was also known for her dedication to increasing literacy rates nationally and her power behind the scenes inside the White House. Mara, what a life.
MARA LIASSON: What a life. She was authentic before being authentic was the thing to be. And I didn’t cover her directly, but our colleague Karen Tumulty – we should give her a plug – is writing a book about Barbara Bush. And I just have one little Barbara Bush story.
MR. COSTA: She’s writing a book about Nancy Reagan.
MS. LIASSON: I’m sorry, she’s writing a book about Nancy Reagan. Never mind. (Laughter.)
MR. COSTA: No worries.
MS. LIASSON: I was totally wrong.
JOSH DAWSEY: Karen appreciates you very much.
MS. LIASSON: Never mind. Never mind.
NANCY CORDES: I’m sure there will be some Barbara Bush anecdotes in there.
MR. COSTA: Don’t worry.
MS. LIASSON: So I’ve totally messed up your webcast.
MR. COSTA: No, no, no, no.
MS. LIASSON: Can I read my Barbara Bush quote now, please?
MR. COSTA: Please. Please do.
MS. LIASSON: And make up for my transgression? Thank you.
MR. COSTA: Please do.
MS. LIASSON: I love this one. “Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people.”
MR. COSTA: She could be tough.
MS. LIASSON: She was tough, tough, tough.
MR. COSTA: Frank. Funny. Candid.
MS. LIASSON: But she was gracious.
MR. DAWSEY: One of her quotes I saw on Twitter this week was that John Sununu asked her why everyone disliked him immediately, and she said it was because it saved time. (Laughter.) Which –
MR. COSTA: John Sununu, the former White House chief of staff, governor of New Hampshire.
MR. DAWSEY: He was the former chief of staff. Correct.
MR. COSTA: When you think about the Bush family in American politics, it’s really they are a bookend of sorts politically for another era in the GOP.
VIVIAN SALAMA: Oh yeah, sure. I mean, you know, they are basically the extension of the Ronald Reagan era. They were there for that, and that is a very cherished time for the Republican Party, something that they constantly look back on as sort of the prime era for them. And so, absolutely, they were a big part of that story. They carried it on and they became sort of – they had their own dynasty when George W. Bush became president as well, so.
MR. DAWSEY: And now the standard-bearer of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, you know, frequently mocked Jeb Bush as “low-energy Jeb,” has been deeply critical of George W. Bush, even at one point blaming him for the 9/11 attacks, saying the towers fell on his watch. You know, it’s hard to imagine that either Bush – Barbara Bush or George H.W. Bush – voted for President Trump. You don’t see a lot of love for that family. And so she dies in the middle of a totally different chapter for the Republican Party that does not have the Bush name or a lot of their values or approach attached at all to it.
MS. CORDES: And do you think that’s why he’s not attending the funeral this weekend and why Melania is going to represent the family?
MR. DAWSEY: I don’t know. I don’t think anyone fully knows. But I think President Trump is not a cup of tea for any of the Bush family, and I think Melania is a lot more inoffensive, likely, to the family to visit. And you know, it was pretty quick; early on they said Melania Trump will be going to the funeral. There was no mention of George W. Bush. I mean –
MS. SALAMA: Well, officially they’re saying –
MS. LIASSON: Well, you got to remember the Jeb Bush-Donald Trump rivalry was really intense, and sometimes pretty ugly. Plus, you had George W. Bush give that speech not long ago rejecting – he didn’t talk about Donald Trump by name, but he rejected Trumpism pretty completely.
MS. CORDES: And you have to wonder whether “the enforcer” herself had some thoughts about it that she shared. (Laughter.)
MS. LIASSON: Yes. Had some instructions for her funeral, right, right, right.
MS. CORDES: While she was drinking that bourbon, yeah.
MR. DAWSEY: I don’t think Donald Trump was going to be a pallbearer.
MS. LIASSON: Yeah, no.
MR. COSTA: There was a story about her drinking a bourbon near the end, anonymously sourced, wasn’t it Josh?
MR. DAWSEY: Yes. And I said online that I hope the day before I die someone anonymously sources I’m having bourbon. (Laughter.)
MR. COSTA: She was old-school. I mean, I covered her in 2016 when she was out on the campaign trail for Jeb. And she reminded me of Mrs. Kennedy. You always heard those stories of Mrs. Kennedy, JFK and RFK’s mom, being out on the campaign trail for them. Just a different – from a different generation of political families. We hope she rests in peace.
Last week, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois became the first sitting senator to give birth while in office. This week, she convinced the mostly male Senate to change the rules and allow babies to be brought onto the chamber floor. During votes on Thursday, her newborn daughter was welcomed. It was an emotional day for Duckworth.
SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): (From video.) It feels great. It was about time, huh?
REPORTER: (From video.) How do you feel as a mom to be here with Maile?
SEN. DUCKWORTH: (From video.) I think it’s historic. I just think it’s amazing. I want to thank all my colleagues for the unanimous consent vote that we can do this.
MR. COSTA: Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth is someone who is changing the whole scene of the Senate, Nancy, in just her being there as a veteran, a mother now, in the U.S. Senate. You were there. I saw you in a lot of those clips watching her this week.
MS. CORDES: Right. And, you know, there’s nothing as unifying as a 10-day-old baby. You know, when she came out onto the Senate floor this collective “aw” came from the gallery above and the senators down on the floor. But what’s so interesting about this situation is she really made her colleagues think about a predicament that no one in the Senate had ever considered before, because it had never been a problem before, which was that she was going to have a baby, she was going to go on maternity leave. But the Senate is very closely divided right now and her vote might be needed from time to time. She might have to rush in at short notice. She might have to rush in at the – in the middle of the night. And what is she supposed to do with her baby if she can’t bring the baby onto the Senate floor, which has been, of course, prohibited. And so this was kind of a no-brainer for the women senators, but some of the men didn’t necessarily take some convincing, but they were a little bit confused about why this would be necessary.
MS. LIASSON: They didn’t know what to do. (Laughs.)
MS. CORDES: One said, well, couldn’t she just vote from the cloakroom? And another wanted to know about the Senate dress code, because obviously the baby wore a cap, which is also prohibited. You know, that kind of thing. That in the end, they did pass this resolution unanimously, and just in the nick of time, because the very situation that she was describing came up the very next day. And the women senators that I spoke to said: You know, this is not so much about the convenience of one female senator. This is about sending a message to employers across the country that there are very simple, small things that you can do to make work much easier for working mothers and fathers, and to enable them to be as effective as they want to be. And your business will benefit if you make some small changes.
MS. LIASSON: She was the first, but I bet she won’t be the last.
MS. SALAMA: Oh, yes.
MR. DAWSEY: In fact, oh, go ahead, sorry.
MS. SALAMA: Oh, I was just going to say, change doesn’t always happen very quickly in Congress. And so this was definitely a refreshing good-news story. And I happened to be on the Hill as well when this happened. And one of the senators came out and he kind of looked at me and he goes: How cool was that? You know, they were really – they were really excited about that.
MS. CORDES: Yeah, they were proud of themselves.
MS. SALAMA: Yeah, they were really excited about.
MR. DAWSEY: But back to Karen Tumulty for a second – (laughter) –
MS. LIASSON: I’ll never live this down. I’ll never be invited back on Washington Week!
MR. DAWSEY: Someone posted on Twitter that – earlier this week they said: What if there were 10 babies on the floor? And Karen replied and said: I would be fewer than usual. (Laughter.) Which I thought was a pretty good quip.
MS. CORDES: Yeah, yeah, yeah, that is pretty good.
MS. SALAMA: That is amazing.
MR. COSTA: That’s a good quip. And I think we’ll leave it there, because that’s –
MS. CORDES: Ten crying babies.
MR. COSTA: Ten crying. We can go all night with these baby jokes. (Laughter.) But we’ll keep it there. That’s it for this edition of the Washington Week Extra. While you’re online, check out my Washington Week blog on what’s next for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, something we talked about on the show.
I’m Robert Costa. See you next time.