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Bush: Automakers must ensure viability

President George W. Bush said U.S. automakers' needed to ensure their own long-term viability in their pitch for $34 billion rescue package.
/ Source: NBC News and news services

President George W. Bush said U.S. automakers asking for a $34 billion rescue package must prove that they can ensure their own long-term survival.

"No matter how important the autos are to our economy, we don't want to put good money after bad," Bush said in an interview with NBC News' John Yang broadcast Thursday. "In other words, we want to make sure that the plan they develop is one that ensures their long-term viability for the sake of the taxpayer."

Detroit’s Big Three auto chiefs returned to Capitol Hill on Thursday with more detailed plans on how they would spend the money for their financial survival.

"In order for them to get any help for the Congress, they're going to have to prove that, one, the money — taxpayer money will be repaid and that they'll be competitive," Bush said. "And, at the White House we haven't had time to really fully analyze their plans."

Bush's comments on U.S. automakers came early on in several interviews that grew increasingly reflective of his two turbulent terms in the White House. Topics quickly moved on to more personal issues — the Bush marriage, his daughters and adjusting to a much quieter life.  

Bush said the pressures of the job have brought him closer to his wife, Laura, and his marriage has grown better in the White House.

"I give her all the credit about why I can say a good marriage has gotten better," Bush said.

Bush said he and his wife have "been through a lot together. It's been a fabulous journey."

"The emotional support that we give to each other and that our children give to us and we give to them ... is so necessary," Laura Bush said.

The president said he was struck by the nurturing way that his grown twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, interacted with the young daughters of President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle. Malia and Sasha Obama visited the White House recently and got tips on how to have fun at the gated mansion.

"It can be a place with a lot of love and warmth," the president said. "And ours has been that way."

Obama takes office on Jan. 20.

The Bush daughters, now 27, were teenagers when their dad mounted his first run for the White House.

"They've become women of the world during this time in Washington, D.C.," the president said. "And they love to bring their friends in. It's neat to see them grow up."

The Bushes both described a remarkably "normal" life together in the executive mansion.

"I'm a nester," the president said. He said he and his wife typically have dinner together, just the two of them, and spend their evenings reading books.

The first lady said they also watch baseball, football or whatever the sport of the season is.

And there's this, she said: "We do puzzles. We like to do jigsaw puzzles. We have those upstairs."

President Bush of late has been detailing his post-presidency plans: building a policy institute about the expansion of freedom, writing a book and adjusting to a quieter life.

"And then," he said, "I'm sure I'll be doing what Laura tells me to do."

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.