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Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush Meet

December 18, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ She’s new at this gig, but Laura Bush showed she could handle herself at the White House when she stopped by for tea with Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday.

As Mrs. Clinton sought to shoo the media away _ ``We’re going to go in and have a visit,″ she said _ Mrs. Bush paused and turned ever so slightly toward the cameras. No words, just body language that said, no, I’d like to take a few questions.

She wasn’t exactly in need of a tour, she said; she’d been to the White House on many occasions, not just as the daughter-in-law of former President Bush, but also for dinners attended by her husband, the governor of Texas.

``I feel like I sorta know it,″ Mrs. Bush said. ``I have slept in the Lincoln Bedroom, and the Queen’s Bedroom.″

She got a tour anyway, of the second- and third-floor residences, said first lady spokeswoman Erika Batcheller. The tour came after tea in the Yellow Oval Room. The total visit, which Batcheller described as ``very friendly,″ lasted for about an hour.

The Bush camp offered few details. ``Mrs. Clinton invited her to have tea and look around the White House,″ said spokeswoman Karen Hughes.

Even Mrs. Bush’s fashion statement for the day emphasized her quiet, low-key style. She opted for a lavender wool suit, her skirt and blue pumps a contrast to the black pantsuit and electric-pink blouse worn by Mrs. Clinton, the senator-elect from New York.

Not everything was totally smooth.

There were the seven minutes Mrs. Clinton spent cooling her heels in the south vestibule waiting for Mrs. Bush; she passed the time by peeking and waving playfully to reporters.

Then, there were those two steps Mrs. Bush took in the wrong direction as she and Mrs. Clinton turned to go indoors. Mrs. Clinton, holding Mrs. Bush’s hand, gently steered her back in the right direction.

And in between, there was the car door that wouldn’t open.

Mrs. Clinton strode out, coatless and confident in freezing temperatures, to meet Mrs. Bush. Then she watched with rising concern as an aide tugged at the car door with no success. ``We’ve got a frozen door here,″ Mrs. Clinton called to a Secret Service agent, who rushed over and lent extra muscle to the process.

Finally freed from the car, Mrs. Bush _ also coatless _ chimed a cheerful hello. ``I’m glad to see you,″ Mrs. Clinton replied with warmth, clasping the hand Mrs. Bush extended.

That first handshake morphed into side-by-side hand-holding and small talk until they disappeared inside the White House.

As Mrs. Bush arrived to check out her next home, Mrs. Clinton laughed off reporters’ questions about whether hers would be a multi-million-dollar mansion in Washington’s Georgetown section. ``Are you going to help me?″ she teased.

White House spokesman Jake Siewert confirmed that the Clintons are seeking a second home. ``Mrs. Clinton obviously needs a place to hang her hat here in Washington,″ Siewert said.

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