Opinion: Now it’s Laura Bush’s turn to tell all -- or most


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You can always find the ubiquitous Mike Allen’s hotel room on the campaign trail. The star writer has the room with C-SPAN blaring at 3 a.m. while he writes his daily Playbook, which has become indispensable for fans of politics.

So now he tells us that just before she and her husband move to their new home back in her beloved Dallas, Laura Bush has signed with Scribner to write a book about her life and her side of being a spouse in politics and the White House. Plus her ongoing work helping Burmese dissidents and Afghan women.


For many years, Bush has been sitting or standing there politely with her husband through his business and political lives, reading and watching what’s written and said about him and knowing a different truth.

Sometimes, a diluted emotion seeps out. ‘Is the media fair?’ she said to Fox News’ Chris Wallace. ‘No.’

Now, with an as-yet-unnamed collaborator, the former school librarian, who consumes two or three books per week herself, will have a turn writing her own story. The book, as yet untitled, is scheduled for spring of 2010.

Bush leaves the first lady’s office two weeks from today way more popular than her husband but a lot more confident and comfortable in the public spotlight than when she arrived in Washington in 2001 or, before that, in Austin, Texas.

The former Laura Welch made a deal with her fiance before their marriage. She’d work out with him, and he’d never ask her to give a speech. Neither one kept their promise. In fact, they spent their honeymoon campaigning unsuccessfully for a West Texas House seat, and, just days into her life as a political wife, she found herself on the steps of a rural courthouse explaining her husband’s platform.

Few realize that Laura Bush has been a part of every presidential campaign since 1980 -- except Bob Dole’s in 1996 -- plus two successful Texas gubernatorial races.

If candid and the writer earns Bush’s confidence, the book should make for fascinating reading. Reserved in public, Bush does not pull her punches on opinions expressed privately to the man she calls ‘Bushie.’ And he listens closely, especially to her intuitive readings of staff, just as Laura listened closely to her mother-in-law Barbara, another political wife and ex-first lady.

During the 1999-2000 primary season, Laura Bush had her own intense cross-country campaign operation, going to South Carolina while her husband hit Michigan and then New Hampshire before Iowa. She did scores of speeches, school visits and library story-times, securing valuable free media exposure with revealing stories about her husband and his character.


But after the Philadelphia convention in August, everyone knew she’d be right by his side for the rugged two-month slog through September-October; the candidate was clearly more comfortable and confident with her there. Though her wifely opinions are far less reserved than her public persona.

Asked recently about her husband’s tepid description of her displeasure with his long-ago remark that he wanted Osama bin Laden ‘dead or alive,’ here’s how Laura Bush now describes it:

‘I don’t know that I said, ‘Tone it down, darling,’’ said the first lady. ‘I might have said, ‘Tone it down, Buster!’’

That old geezer Don Surber is having a little contest over on his blog to come up with a title for Laura Bush’s book. Our favorite so far: ‘Shhhh: A Librarian’s Story.’

‘Bushie!’ might work, though. Or perhaps, now: ‘Tone it down, Buster!’

--Andrew Malcolm

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