Oprah: Now that you've settled into the White House, explain how you and your husband were feeling on the night of the election. Were you relatively calm?
Laura: We were. Throughout the day, we heard some of the exit-poll reports, which showed that the outcome was close. But we were at peace. George ran a wonderful campaign. He gave it 100 percent—we both did. And whatever happened, happened.
Oprah: That's a good place to be—I call it the place of surrender. When I interviewed the president on my show, he said that if he didn't win he'd be okay.
Laura: Yes, but you can still imagine what a roller coaster it was. On election night, when Florida and Pennsylvania were first called for Vice President Gore, we were disturbed because we needed to win one or both of those states in order to win the election. So we didn't watch the rest of the results with our friends at the hotel; we went back to the Governor's Mansion with our parents.
Oprah: Did you stay up all night?
Laura: Nearly. We stayed up Tuesday until 4 or 5 A.M., when the television stations said it was too close to call. At that point we thought the vote would be settled by Friday. But it all kept going on and on, which meant we had to put other things off. If we had known for sure that George had won, we would have started thinking about the move to the White House. And whether we had won or lost, we would have taken a vacation—but because we were in limbo, we didn't. We kept thinking, "We'll know tomorrow." I think the whole country felt that way.
Oprah: Was there a point when you thought, "I'm going to release this?" Or were you tied to the process every day?
Laura: We were tied to it every day—everyone was, because it was on television every minute. But we weren't uptight about it every day.
Oprah: Did being in limbo make you want to fight harder?
Laura: It was out of our hands. The campaign was over, and it was about getting the votes counted. Like everyone else, I was waiting to see what happened. When the election was finally called right before Christmas, we immediately left for Washington. Mrs. Clinton hosted me here at the White House, which was very generous of her. She showed me around the whole upstairs living quarters and gave me advice.
Oprah: What did she tell you?
Laura: She told me to take advantage of the time I have as first lady. While she was in office, she had turned down an invitation because she thought, "I don't have time." Later she saw it as a missed opportunity, and she wished she had taken advantage of it.
We Hear You!