the choice 2000
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Courting Laura

We went to dinner at Jan and Joe O'Neill's when we met each other. And then the next night we played miniature golf if Midlin. You've been there, so you know there are no native trees, and it's a desert. But it's actually an old miniature golf course with some trees, and it's very pretty. And that was fun.

Do you remember what you were wearing?

I remember what I wore when I went over to his house...I had a blue sundress on for when I went over to the O'Neill's house to meet George.

How was he dressed, do you remember?

Same way I think he always was up until he ran for Governor.

Which was...

Sloppy! [laughs] Only kidding.

We knew each other very vaguely; we'd been in the same junior high in the seventh grade together. And then we actually lived in the same apartment complex in Houston in the early '70's at the same time. But we just had never run into each other. So even though we really knew each other only vaguely, it was in a lot of ways like we'd known each other our whole lives.

Well, I mean, I just knew he was funny. I knew he was a lot of fun. And I saw that, of course, as soon as we went out. Right after that, really just three months later, we married. So shortly after that barbecue, we really decided to get married. And we made our plans about three weeks before our wedding date. In fact, our wedding invitations were hand-written by my mother, because our engagement was so short we couldn't have invitations printed. But one thing George promised me was that we'd have a really interesting life. And we have.

What I'm struck by is this remarkable quality of his, apparently, in all aspects of his life; where he will make up his mind and do it. Tell me how that relates to you all's courtship and relationship.

Well I mean, I think that characteristic that he has, that he's spontaneous I think. But also, I think he's quick to make really good judgments. And certainly that one was one. But I think both of us knew, we really did know. We were older; we were 31 when we married. We'd been looking for each other, I think, for a long time. And we were really glad when we found each other.

George and Barbara Bush as Parents

I think George and Barbara Bush are the kind of parents everybody probably wishes they had. They are parents who really let their children know that they love them, in every way. Barbara Bush is a very ferocious mother; ferocious with her love. Which I think is great. And President Bush is really that way too. So I think in a lot of ways, that sort of unconditional love that George was lucky to get from his parents, and that I also was very lucky to get from my parents, frees children to try things, to have confidence, to not really be afraid of either success or failure.

I think they saw him as a lot of fun. They saw him as a son who was very pleasing to them in a lot of ways. A lot of the things he did, the education he got, those were all things that they wanted him to have. Going to Andover, for instance, and the college degree that he got. I think in all those ways he was a very pleasing son. He and his mother have a special relationship; I think they are a lot alike. But they like to needle each other. They like to make each other laugh, and I think they're very pleased with him as a son, but I think they also are with every single one of their children. And I think that gives children a lot of confidence.

The Death of His Sister

I think really when that happens to you when you're a child, there are a lot of ways you try to make it up to your parents in any way that you can. And I think he did that. And I do think that that's one reason that he and his mother have a particularly close relationship, because I think he tried whatever he could do to make it up to his mother, because he knew how sad they were, both of his parents. And I think also, I think she thinks that that's when he became sort of the wise guy and the funny guy, because he tried to make them laugh; tried to smooth things over in their family. I know how difficult that was. But also, I think for him, it gave him a sense of how precious life is, and how life can change in an instant because of the death of somebody you love.

Advice from Barbara Bush

I think she tries to not give advice, because she knows that daughter-in-laws probably don't want a lot of advice from their mother-in-laws. But when George ran in that race in '78, she told me one time, she said don't criticize George's speeches. She said that she criticized her George's speech, and he had come home for weeks later saying it was the best speech he'd ever given. So I took her advice, of course. I mean, I was very careful never to criticize a speech of George's. There were plenty of other people around to criticize him. But one night we'd driven home from Lubbock to Midlin, and we were just turning into the driveway. And he said, "Tell me the truth. How was my speech?" And I said, "Well, it wasn't that good." And with that, he drove into the garage wall. [laughter]

The First Campaign

We were just, as I said, 31 years old when he decided to run for it. 32 by the next election, by the night of the election. All of us really were political novices. All of our friends were. I certainly was. George had worked on a few campaigns; he'd worked on his dad's campaigns. And then he worked on a couple of other campaigns. So he knew more than anybody else, any of our friends, about it. I think-- and I'm sure if you talk to all of our friends, they'll tell you how everyone in Midlin got into the race, putting signs together, putting signs in people's yards.

It was a lot of fun. We had a great time. It was an open seat. There was no reason not to try to run for it. I don't think he thought-- I mean, of course if he had won, it would have been the beginning of, we hoped, a long political career. But as it turned out, he didn't win. And so after that race we settled down in Midlin doing exactly what he'd been doing before, which is in the oil business. We were hoping to have children. And we were thrilled in a couple of years when we had twin girls. So I think in a lot of ways as soon as the race was over, we just didn't look back, and settled down. And then of course what happened was his father starting running for president and then was chosen by President Reagan for the Vice Presidency.

Getting Serious

I think he became really more serious. I think it was a time in his life; we had little children. We'd had these two babies. And he just settled down and became more serious about a lot of things. And certainly religion was one of them. It was a time in his life when he had started going to a bible study with a number of his very good friends in Midlin. And I think all of those things together-- his dad was getting ready to run for President of the United States-- I think there were a lot of things that came together that made him a more serious person. And quitting alcohol was a result of that.

And I think George just realized that alcohol was competing for his energies. He was already a runner. He'd been an athlete and a very disciplined runner since he was in graduate school. And I think he realized that he needed to quit drinking, and he just quit. And I'd love to take credit for it; I'll be glad to take credit for it. But I didn't do it; he did it. And for anyone to quit any habit they have, any bad habit they have, they have to have a lot of discipline. And he does have that kind of discipline.

Deciding to Run for Governor

When his dad lost in '92 was really, for the first time George and his brother Jeb were freed to run. It was the first time they had the opportunity in their whole lives to not have to think about how everything they said or any political position they took would affect their father. And I think that was freeing for them in a lot of ways. And I think that because his dad lost in '92, as difficult as it was for all of us, that really gave them the opportunity then to run themselves.

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