Magazine article Newsweek

Don't Call Her an 'Adviser': Laura Bush Prefers 'Wife' but Don't Underestimate Her

Magazine article Newsweek

Don't Call Her an 'Adviser': Laura Bush Prefers 'Wife' but Don't Underestimate Her

Article excerpt

Laura Bush's political debut was a two-minute speech in Levelland, Texas, back in 1978, when George W was running for Congress. "I ended up mumbling and just sitting down," she told NEWSWEEK. That was then. This week the self-described "reluctant campaigner" is scheduled to kick off the Republican National Convention with a 15-minute speech in prime time. Late last week she practiced using the TelePrompTer and tested out a joke she worked into the speech herself. "I'm definitely nervous. Who wouldn't be?" she says.

But for all her trepidation, Laura Bush has emerged as a self-assured campaigner. She has shilled for her husband on her own in two dozen states, and she often delivers her stump speech without notes. Privately, she is an invaluable sounding board for Bush. Last Easter, while his parents were visiting his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush got hung up on the wording of a statement he thought might be too harsh. Instead of bouncing it off his dad, who was sitting right there, he told his staff: "Read it to Laura. See what she thinks." He also relied on her judgment during the vice presidential search. While aides appraised the contestants' political mettle, Laura sized them up as people. "I'm not George's adviser," she said, a bit tartly. "I'm his wife. I don't advise him about policy, but we do talk issues--and personalities."

Bush pokes fun at the idea that Laura Bush has any Hillaryesque role in his campaign. Last week he teased a NEWSWEEK reporter that his wife was helping him fine-tune a Medicare proposal. …

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