First Lady Laura Bush defended her husband, praised her daughters and expressed “empathy” for the wife of her husband’s opponent during an exclusive interview yesterday with Radio Iowa.
AUDIO: 7 min
Mrs. Bush, who spoke with Radio Iowa after delivering a speech to about 600 supporters in Des Moines, commented on the controversy over a CBS News report of her husband’s service in the National Guard. The report was based on documents that critics charge are fake.
“You know, (the documents) probably are altered and they probably are forgeries and I think that’s terrible, really,” Mrs. Bush said, adding that this latest campaign flap is not that surprising. “That’s actually one of the risks you take when you run for public office or when you’re in the public eye for any reason and that’s that obviously a lot of things are said about you that aren’t true and that’ the drawback, that’s the one thing that’s not great about serving in public office.”
Mrs. Bush’s twin daughters are now in the public eye, making campaign appearances on behalf of their father’s re-election. Mrs. Bush said Jenna and Barbara “really wanted” to become part of the campaign.
“They know that this is dad’s last election, so they called him and said they didn’t want to grow up and tell their children they’d never worked on one of their dad’s campaigns, so we’re thrilled to have ’em with us. They were here in Iowa, as you might know, last week for a couple of days. I’m sure they’ll be back and we love it. We really love having them with us. They’re fun and they’re funny and it’s relaxing for us to have ’em around.”
Mrs. Bush herself was reluctant to enter the public sphere when her husband first ran for office; an oft-told story on the campaign trail in 2000 and again this year is how Laura Bush told her husband she supported his first bid for office, as long as she did not have to give a speech. Today, Mrs. Bush is one of her husband’s chief campaigners, and just yesterday, she delivered campaign speeches in three different states.
The First Lady says when she was the age of her daughters she was teaching school in Dallas and couldn’t imagine doing what they’re doing now, but she has offered her daughters some advice about public speaking.
“I told them the most important thing about giving a speech is to make sure you have a speech and so they practiced a lot before they spoke, and they spoke here to small groups in Iowa here last week and I think they’re really very poised,” Mrs. Bush said. “I’m really proud of ’em.”
The public speaking debut for Jenna and Barbara Bush came last month at the Republican National Convention. Mrs. Bush said she “thought they were very funny and very ‘today.'” She knew what the speech was going to be before they gave it, and the First Lady rates her daughters’ performance “really cute and very charming.”
“So you were o-k with the ‘Sex and the City’ reference” in their speech?” Radio Iowa news director O. Kay Henderson asked the First Lady. “Yea,” Mrs. Bush replied, laughing. “I did think about that a little bit but I didn’t tell ’em to take it out. I thought it was cute and young and fun.”
The First Lady’s conversation with Radio Iowa then veered to other campaign topics. Teresa Heinz-Kerry, the wife of democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, yesterday said President Bush’s unwillingness to change is a character flaw. Mrs. Bush defended her husband, saying he “demonstrates a lot of resolve.” Mrs. Bush said her husband is “very steady and…I think the characteristics he has are the ones we really need right now and I think that’s one reason why he’s been so successful as a president, really, is because he has the characteristics that these times demand.”
Mrs. Bush said she can’t judge whether she and Teresa Heinz-Kerry are being treated fairly by the media, and the First Lady said she suspects she and Heinz-Kerry have a lot in common.
“Our names aren’t on the ballot,” she said. “People won’t be voting for us…I’m sure that she’s doing, like I am, everything she can to help elect her husband and that’s certainly what I’m working on. It’s obvious that my choice is George W. Bush, but I also have a lot of empathy for her and I feel like we’re sort of in the same boat. We’re the only ones who know what it’s like this time to have your husband’s name be on the ballot, what it’s like to run in 2004. I suspect we have a lot in common.”