Dr. Phil McGraw, accompanied by his wife Robin, sat down with President and Laura Bush in the living room of the first couple’s Crawford, Texas, ranch for Wednesday’s installment of the Dr. Phil daytime TV show.
The hour, which emitted a warm-and-fuzzy feeling, dealt with such family matters as whether children should be spanked – now-22-year-old twin daughters Jenna and Barbara Bush were not – while it consciously sidestepped such harsh campaign issues as Iraq and the economy.
Bush’s Democratic rival, John Kerry, and wife Teresa Heinz Kerry are due to get the Dr. Phil treatment next Wednesday, while Thursday night in primetime, the two presidential candidates are scheduled to debate one another.
Describing his subjects as “protective parents,” Dr. Phil asked the Bushes about subjects ranging from teenage drinking to how they dealt with Jenna’s sticking her tongue out at the press during a recent campaign stop – prompting Laura to interject, “She says she’s working on her impulsiveness.”
“I was in the limo with her” when the tongue came out, the president said nonchalantly, “and I said, ‘Jenna, you just made national news.'”
“I missed it all,” insisted Laura. “I was hiking in Glacier National Park.”
Both parents, however, concurred that Jenna has learned that her behavior was not dignified.
As for how discipline was administered in the house while the girls were growing up, the president said of himself and Laura: “We were ‘in-your-roomers,’ as in ‘Get to your rooms.'”
At the outset of the interview, McGraw brought up the subject of his latest book, Family First, which deals with making family the top priority, and told the Bushes: “I am really committed to putting family back in America. I think it’s what you have put in the White House, and I think it’s what we need to put back in America.”
The president, shaking his head in agreement, responded by saying: “If you have a child, that child has got to be the No. 1 priority in your life. I tell people along the campaign trail, ‘If you are fortunate enough to be a mother or a father, you’re responsible for loving that child with all your heart.'”
Laura also said that she expects Jenna and Barbara to marry men who are just like their father, “though not necessarily someone who wants to become president of the United States.”
Said the incumbent, blushing ever so slightly after his wife’s compliment: “I’m just looking for (them to marry) someone I can go fishing with.”