(Interview with Jane Clayson, CBS Early Show. Also participating were Karen Hughes, counselor to the president, and Mary Matalin, counselor to the vice president. Broadcast in two parts, on January 21 and 22.)
(Broadcast on Monday, January 21, 2002.)
Clayson: Enron's collapse was just one of the topics on the table when I spoke with some of the most influential women in the White House: Presidential counselor Karen Hughes, vice presidential adviser Mary Matalin and Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke. I asked them about the Bush administration's appearance of impropriety in the Enron debacle.
Hughes: There's been not one allegation of any impropriety -- not one. And that's what I keep saying in my morning staff meetings. You know, help me understand what the question is about, because there's been not one allegation that anyone in this administration has not only not done anything wrong, but there's not even been an allegation that anyone's done anything inappropriate.
Clayson: Many in the administration have received campaign contributions from Enron, and there are those who say that, you know, energy policy, the Bush energy policy, was actually affected by Enron officials. How do you dispute that, Mary?
Matalin: If the charge is this, that you took a contribution from Enron, then about three-quarters of the Congress would be complicit in this Enron implosion. Those who are saying that have either not availed themselves of the plan or are trying to create a political scandal where none exists.
There are also a dozen recommendations in there that the Sierra Club also supports. Does that mean that the Sierra Club put our plan together? No. It's right out there for everybody to see, and anybody who wants will get a free copy. It's good for insomnia. (Laughter.)
Clayson: But what about these task force meetings regarding energy policy, and the vice president, who met with the Enron officials several times during that time?
Matalin: The vice president had one meeting with Ken Lay. And wouldn't you think it malfeasant of anybody putting together a national energy plan not to meet with the president of the seventh-largest company in the country and the largest energy trader in the world? That would be not just malfeasant; it would be kind of stupid.
Clayson: They are the most powerful women in Washington, each behind the most powerful men in the world -- Hughes with President Bush, Matalin with Vice President Cheney, and Clarke with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. They provide a unique behind-the-scenes perspective on the Bush administration's first extraordinary year.
(To Hughes.) How would you describe this last year, Karen?
Hughes: It's really hard to describe. I think we feel about it the way a lot of Americans feel. It's been a year of great sadness, but it's also been a year of really a wonderful feeling of reinvigoration of our patriotism and our sense of national pride and purpose.
Clayson: How would you say your perspective on your job has changed since then?
Matalin: We all know working in the government, working for the people that we do, our respective bosses, is a great privilege and a great honor. But in this particular case, their focus, and hence our focus, is so determined and the mission is so clear and what you're doing everyday is so directed that, you know, we feel like we're contributing.
Clarke: The focus is so clear now, what we need to do. The priorities are so clear that there's just more of what we had before, but it's focused more on that one objective.
Hughes: I feel like I had an awesome responsibility before September 11th, and now it's almost unimaginable because it is so important.
Clayson: Well, do you think the president has changed since the 11th? Because there's so much talk of that. Or do you think our perception of him has changed?
Clarke: I think you just see so much more of it. I really -- I don't sense that the people have changed. I mean, people are seeing what we've known all along. And people ask me all the time, "Oh, my gosh, Secretary Rumsfeld has changed so much." He hasn't changed at all. It's just now the country and the world are seeing what we've seen all along.
Clayson: Mary, you've been spending your time with the vice president in a secure and undisclosed location, really, for the last few months.
Matalin: It's a pretzel factory. (Laughter.)
Clayson: Is that what it is? (Laughs.) We've all been wondering. But how difficult is it governing, really, in isolation?
Matalin: It's actually quite easy. The vice president is very comfortable with it. But the instances of undisclosed secure locations are not as lengthy or as frequent as they appear to be to the press. He's been here all week, and we're here more than we disclose.
Clayson: Let me ask you about the economy a minute. The president's challenge, as you know, is not in a cave in Afghanistan anymore. It's in the unemployment lines across America. How do you turn his sky-high approval ratings into support for your domestic issues at home, Karen?
Hughes: I don't think for the president it's a matter of translating his approval ratings. I think for him it's a matter of putting the right policies in place to create jobs for working Americans, because that's really what it comes down to. So his focus is on creating a climate in which our American economy, our American small businesses and employers, can create jobs.
Clayson: Mary, with unemployment at 5.8 percent, at a six-year high, a recession for many months here, what do you tell people who are unemployed, who are out of a job? They want answers now.
Matalin: Well, you tell them what the president has been telling them and will continue telling them, that the government doesn't create jobs, but the government can create an environment where obstacles are removed and opportunities are provided.
(End of videotape.)
Clayson: Tomorrow the women talk about balancing public service and their private lives, and we'll get their thoughts about the year ahead.
(Broadcast on Tuesday, January 22, 2002.)
Clayson: For three of the top-ranking women in the Bush administration, the war on terrorism has consumed much of their political lives. This morning, in the conclusion of my conversation with presidential counselor Karen Hughes, vice presidential adviser Mary Matalin and Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clark, the women talk about personal and professional high points in the last year and about what keeps them motivated, despite the demands on their personal time.
Clarke: I've always had this huge admiration for the men and women in uniform. And one of the reasons I wanted to go there is to demonstrate to everybody else just how incredible they are. That, quite frankly, was a big challenge prior to September 11th. Post-September 11th, there's a focus. There's a desire. There's a support for information about the men and women in uniform that is incredible.
Clayson: Tell me about Secretary Rumsfeld, your boss, because he's received quite a reputation for these fiery press briefings.
Hughes: The sex symbol of our administration.
Clayson: Well, the president calls him the matinee idol, right?
Hughes: He will not be happy with me about that. (Laughter.) I have to fill in the president's role here. The president loves to tease him about that. (Laughs.)
Clarke: And gets him every time. Those of us who worked for him before September 11th always knew what kind of person he was -- very much a straight shooter. What you see is what you get. He just believes in telling it like it is.
Clayson: These three power players juggle the daily pressures of the White House, but at the same time they face the daunting daily task of being mothers.
Matalin: Let's re-raise something we talked about last time, which applies to the three of us in particular. This is a family-friendly administration in the sense that -- well, in all senses. But it has allowed our families to be supportive of what we're doing. Karen's son was here yesterday. My kids were here earlier in the week.
Clayson: Do you run around the halls with them?
Matalin: So if you didn't -- if we weren't able to do that, if this environment didn't allow us to -- you know, we have a stable -- somewhere to go decompress.
Clayson: Where do you hope to be a year from now, Torie?
Clarke: Surviving. (Laughter.) If the next year is anything like the last year -- and I've only been here for seven months -- I can't imagine. Sometimes I really think it's been seven, eight years.
Clayson: How proud are you, Karen, of the fact that there are so many women in this administration at the highest levels? It's really an unprecedented fixture.
Hughes: Well, I think it's a great credit to the president and to the way President Bush supports and encourages strong women. He had strong women in his administration in Texas. He has key women in his -- we joked; people asked us about the need for a women's office in the White House. We looked around the senior staff table and about half of us were women, and we said, "Well, here it is, right here at the senior staff table," which is exactly where we think it ought to be, right?
Clayson: What's the first thing that pops into your mind when I say, "What's the highlight of the last year for you?" Karen?
Hughes: The highlight of the last year. I think watching President Bush deliver his joint-session speech to Congress. It was such a powerful moment. He called me right after the speech and I told him I was never prouder of him. He, I think, really gave the country such a sense of restored confidence and such a sense of pride, that we are strong, that we can fight and win this war.
Matalin: That was a great moment. We all shared that. But highlights in my life tend to be on the home front. My daughter came home recently and said --
Clarke: She took it right from me.
Matalin: She just said, "Mom, you're the mom I always wanted." She's six years old. (Inaudible.)
Hughes: That's because you don't have a teenager. (Laughter.)
Matalin: And I said, "Why is that?" And she goes, "Because you're getting the evildoers. You're doing something for America." I said, "Well, not exactly. That's not exactly what I do. But if you want to think that." But it goes back to what the president's done by being so uniting and focused. Even six-year-olds and the kindergartners are getting it. And that's the highlight that will endure into the future.
You got a kid story?
Clarke: You took it. Okay, mine was sort of -- I think it was right before Christmas. We were in Afghanistan for a very brief period, and it was just extraordinary to be there. And we're with these very young men and women in just incredible conditions, really tough conditions. It was the week before Christmas. This was just going around talking to them. I'd say to some of them, "Boy, it must be tough being here, holidays coming up."
And to a person they'd look me in the eye and go, "Ma'am" -- and they all called me "Ma'am," which is just horrifying -- they'd go, "Ma'am, this is the most important thing I could be doing, and I'm with my family." You can't make that stuff up. And it just -- you know, it gets you right here. And it's just incredible. So that'll stay with me a long time.
(End of videotape.)
Clayson: The president and his advisers are now busy getting ready for next Tuesday's State of the Union address.
THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS PREPARED BY THE FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., WASHINGTON, DC. FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE IS A PRIVATE COMPANY. FOR OTHER DEFENSE RELATED TRANSCRIPTS NOT AVAILABLE THROUGH THIS SITE, CONTACT FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE AT (202) 347-1400.