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Judy Woodruff: The inauguration of George W. Bush

January 19, 2001
3 p.m. EST

Judy Woodruff will be anchoring Live coverage of the Presidential Inaugural Opening Celebration. She was one of the anchors for CNN's Election 2000 coverage.

CNN Moderator: How will this inauguration differ from others that you've covered over the years?

Judy Woodruff: Well, for one thing, it may be held indoors, depending on what the weather forecast is this evening in Washington. That would make it different from all previous ones other than Reagan's second in 1985. The decision about whether to move the swearing in indoors will be made tonight; the people around Mr. Bush very much want it outdoors. It just feels very different indoors; not as panoramic a scene, of course.

CNN Moderator: Significant numbers of protesters are expected to demonstrate during the inaugural. How much of a negative impact, if any, do these sorts of rallies have on the mood of the festivities?

Judy Woodruff: There are almost always protesters at inaugurations. Perhaps the protests will be larger this time, because there are still raw feelings over the Florida vote and other issues. But I don't see this dampening the event in a substantial way.

CNN Moderator: Having covered all of Election 2000 in great detail, what are your impressions of George W. Bush, the man, and George W. Bush, the politician?

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Judy Woodruff: I think George W. Bush, the man, is a plain-speaking fellow, very much a product of the Texas that he grew up in. His background has affected who he is in a significant way. George Bush the politician is very conservative, and very business-oriented. He is a believer in the free market system. I think he has some excellent people skills that will come in handy in Washington.

Question from chat room: Judy, any final estimates on what's expected of Bush's speech?

Judy Woodruff: I just interviewed Bush's Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, and he told me the speech will be short, perhaps 10 to 12 minutes long, and will focus on unifying the country. He will try to move past the divisions highlighted by the elections, to talk about what is good and strong about the United States, and what we can all agree on. He also said Bush will have a major initiative in education reform during his first week in office.

Question from the chat room: Are there normally any surprises in an inauguration or are they pretty much fully scripted?

Judy Woodruff: Every President likes to keep something under wraps; something that the press has not been writing about for days. So I will look for a surprise, even if itís a small one.

CNN Moderator: How will Bush's leadership style differ from Clinton's and how will this be apparent to the public?

Judy Woodruff: Very good question. Clinton is perhaps the most talented politician I have ever covered: able to keep complex policy details in his head, at the same time he was thinking political strategy, and figuring out how to play the people he needed to help him.

George W. Bush is smart and skilled in dealing with people. I think he will delegate policy details somewhat more to the people around him.

CNN Moderator: Will the press have as much access to the Bush Administration as they did to the Clinton White House?

Judy Woodruff: Republican administrations tend to be somewhat more closed to the press than Democratic administrations. By that I mean there is a desire to manage the news somewhat more. But I think the press presence in Washington is so overwhelming and there will be so many requests for access and interviews, that it will be difficult for the people around Bush to provide very limited access.

Question from chat room: What was your most memorable moment at an inauguration?

Judy Woodruff: I almost froze to death right in front of the White House during the Jimmy Carter inauguration in 1977. I had just arrived from Georgia three days earlier, where I was working as a correspondent for NBC News. The only coat I brought was pitifully inadequate to protect me from temperatures in the teens and '20's.

CNN Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts to share with us?

Judy Woodruff: I think it is a mistake to view this inauguration as somehow less important or less momentous, because the election results were so close, or because Bush came in second in the popular vote, behind Al Gore. Bush will be the President, and will have all the powers of the office, even with a divided electorate. He is the titular head of the most powerful government on earth for at least the next four years. We all should pay close attention to what he says and what he does. It will be a fresh beginning, worth watching!

Judy Woodruff joined the chat room via telephone from Washington, D.C. and CNN.com provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Friday, January 19, 2001.



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Inauguration Day
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RELATED SITES:
CNN.com -- George W. Bush -- The Inauguration of the 43rd President

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