Bush twins join to lighten up GOP delegates

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It was a comedy skit that was pretty risque for the Republican Party. It mentioned "Sex and the City" and underage drinking and poked direct fun at the two daughters on the other side of the aisle, Vanessa and Alexandra Kerry.

Barbara and Jenna Bush, the impetuous 22-year-old twins whose exploits have included sticking out a tongue at reporters, getting into trouble for drinking and landing themselves in the tabloids during their most recent trip to New York, took center stage Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention.

They were no shrinking violets.

"Our parents have always encouraged us to be independent and dream big," Jenna said. "We spent a lot of time at the White House, so when we showed up for the first day we thought we had it all figured out, but apparently my dad already has a chief of staff named Andy," referring to Andrew Card.

"When your dad's a Republican and you go to Yale, you learn to stand up for yourself," Barbara said.

Looking out at the family box in Madison Square Garden, the girls joked that after Arnold Schwarzenegger's popular speech, in which he laughingly complained about marrying into the liberal Kennedy clan, the Bushes could never complain if one of them married a Democrat. Then they teased their beaming grandmother, the ever-proper Barbara Bush.

"We love you dearly," Jenna told the laughing former first lady. "But you're just not very hip."

They used an example from HBO.

"She thinks `Sex and the City' is something married people do but never talk about," Jenna said to even more laughter from the packed convention floor.

By contrast, the girls told the audience that their parents were at least partly on the cutting edge when it came to pop culture. They said the Bushes knew the "difference between mono and Bono." They quoted a popular rap song by the group OutKast, saying that if they really begged their parents, they could probably get the president and the first lady to "shake it like a Polaroid picture."

The political priority of a convention is to put a party's best foot forward and fast forward through any missteps. Instead, the Bush twins tackled their embarrassing incidents head-on.

"We spent the last four years trying to stay out of the spotlight," Jenna Bush said, alluding to her now-famous underage drinking escapades. "Sometimes we did a little better job than others."

Their speech Tuesday in Madison Square Garden was certainly their most visible moment while visiting New York this week. But they haven't exactly been staying in their hotel rooms, making the rounds of parties at hot Manhattan clubs.

The twins know the city well. Barbara managed earlier this year to land herself on the front page of a New York tabloid after a photographer caught her dancing with what has been reported as a handsome Ecuadorian playboy. Jenna, for her part, has earned her mother's description of "impulsive" after being charged with underage drinking during college and for sticking out her tongue at reporters last month.

The twins made fun of themselves. They mocked their powerful family. And they took a quick swipe at an almost-too-good-to-be-true story the Kerry daughters told at the Democratic convention about how their father once had saved a family hamster by giving it CPR.

"We had a hamster, too," Barbara said. "Let's just say ours didn't make it."

Perhaps the only line that the party faithful--particularly the grandmothers among them--couldn't take was the light-hearted dig at Barbara Bush. Even as the former first lady laughed and shook her hands in jest at her granddaughters, a little gasp could be heard from the crowd.

"Oooooh," one female delegate said to the woman walking next to her. "They're going to go to hell for that one."

Television coverage

Coverage of Wednesday's events at the Republican National Convention, including speeches by Vice President Dick Cheney and keynote speaker Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.), will be shown on a number of channels.

Live coverage of the convention will be available beginning at 9 p.m. on ABC, CBS and NBC. On cable news channels, convention coverage will be interspersed with regular programs. On Chicago's PBS station, WTTW-Channel 11, coverage will run from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. C-SPAN again will offer gavel-to-gavel coverage of the convention.

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