Laura Defends Inauguration Outlays

First lady Laura Bush is quick to defend her husband against critics who say too much is being spent on his inauguration, especially with the nation at war and with South Asia still reeling from the recent tsunamis.

Estimates put the price tag at $40 million and counting, and that doesn't include the cost of unprecedented security..

"I think we've been very, very careful to pay attention to what the events are," she told CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante in an exclusive two-part interview in the White House for The Early Show. "The very first event is a salute to the military and over 7,000 troops have been flown in from around the country to be able to come to that salute.

"Families of people who are deployed now in Iraq and Afghanistan are invited to the event, and that's the big salute of the whole event, is, to the military.

"So, I think we've paid attention to the tone with what's happening in the United States right now, with our military troops deployed in harm's way.

"The money that the inaugural costs, as you know, is raised privately. It's not government money that pays for the inauguration.

"And I also think the inauguration is a symbol of our democracy; it's something that we've done every four years, when a new president is sworn in for a new term, and I think its very important as a symbol of our democracy."

As she looks ahead to the next four years, Mrs. Bush says she will "still focus on education. I want to build on what was done with the No Child Left Behind Act and early childhood education and, instead, this time, focus a little bit more on middle school and high school students.

"I'm also interested in what we can do for adolescents, particularly adolescent boys. I think we've not paid that much attention to boys over the last couple of decades, and we raise boys to be totally self-reliant in the United States. And the fact is, boys need to be taught the same life skills that girls are taught, and I think we just need to pay attention to them."

"We know," Plante said, "you want to go to Afghanistan, maybe Iraq. Do you think you will?"

"I think I will," Mrs. Bush responded. "I hope I will, sometime -- I hope this year, be able to go to Afghanistan, for sure, and I do want to be able to continue to work with the women and girls of Afghanistan.

Mrs. Bush says there's one aspect of the inauguration she hopes is different this time than it was four years ago. "I hope that we'll actually be able to pay attention to it," she says. "I think, four years ago, it was such a whirlwind that we didn't really observe it, we couldn't stand back from it, and I hope we'll be able to do that. I'm going to try to make notes every night so I really can remember things that happened that day and feelings that I had. So I think it'll be great."

Does she think those notes will ever find their way into a book? "They might. They might sometime," Mrs. Bush said. "I hate to act like I'm going to write a book; so far, I haven't managed to write one, but maybe I will."

Mrs. Bush gave Plante a semi-exclusive: a look at the Bush family's new Scottish Terrier, Miss Beazley, and insight into how the first pets are getting along.

"She's just doing great," Mrs. Bush said, holding Miss Beazley in her lap. "She's settled in really very well. She's really sweet. She's teething, so she does a lot of chewing."

As for Barney, the Bush's other dog, he has "become very protective of her and he doesn't act really particularly jealous, so I think that's great. He rushes in to see her. She stays in the kitchen, mainly, the kitchen upstairs, where there's not a carpet, and she's just been a very, very sweet dog. So we've had a lot of fun with her.

"She likes to chase our cat. The only one who's not really thrilled with Miss Beazley is our cat, India."

Mrs. Bush adds, "(Miss Beazley) likes Barney, she loves Barney. She's very interested in everything Barney does."

In Part Two of the interview Thursday, Mrs. Bush talks with Plante about how the Bush twins are doing, and what she's going to wear to the inauguration.

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