IT WAS THE MONDAY MORNING American Airlines flight from DallasFort Worth to Washington, D.C., and the business crowd in the coach section was packed six to a row, everyone reading papers or typing on laptops. Suddenly, out of first class came a toddler wobbling down the aisle, a pink sippy cup in one hand, a little doll in the other. She was cute, really cute, with sandy hair falling in her light blue eyes. She started swaying left, then right. “Oh, hell,” you could see the businesspeople thinking, “she’s going to crash into me and knock the coffee off my tray.” A couple of men on the aisle shifted their bodies toward the center seats, their eyes focused on the intruder, waiting for the inevitable.
Then a nice pair of black pumps came into their field of vision. The men on the plane couldn’t help but notice a nice pair of legs attached to that pair of pumps. Their gazes continued upward, and they saw a dark purple St. John Knits skirt with a matching blazer and silk blouse, very expensive. They saw a pearl necklace and matching pearl earrings. They saw a woman’s face, surrounded by perfectly placed, highlighted blond hair. And right about then is when their mouths dropped wide open.
“Careful, honey,” said 59-year-old U.S. senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, to her 20-month-old daughter, Bailey. She gave the other passengers an apologetic smile as the child recovered her balance and continued her march to the rear of the plane, at which point she turned and headed back to the front. Bailey dropped her sippy cup and then emitted a noise from her bottom that sounded much like a small lawn mower trying to get started. “Oops,” said the distinguished senior senator from Texas.
Kay Bailey Hutchison has now been in the public spotlight for thirty years. In terms of votes received, she is by far the most popular politician in Texas history. No one else—not George W. Bush, not Ann Richards, not Phil Gramm, not Lyndon Johnson—has ever gotten more than four million votes in an election, which she did in winning reelection to the Senate in 2000. She is also the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, comprised of all the GOP senators, which arguably makes her the most influential woman in the new Republican-controlled Senate.
Yet there is one reason, and one reason only, why she is today the source of such enormous curiosity among many Texans. A year and a half ago, she and her husband, Ray, a prominent Dallas bond attorney who is seventy years old, announced that they had adopted a girl, whom they named Kathryn Bailey. A few months later they announced that they were adopting a second child, a baby boy they named Houston, who is three months younger than Bailey.
The Hutchisons had been so secretive about adopting the two children that many of their friends did not know what they had done until published accounts appeared in the newspapers. Even their closest friends, who received telephone calls from the couple just before the news broke, were astonished. Many of these people had grandchildren older than the Hutchisons’ new children. “We joked that Kay and Ray were going to be having their cars taken away from them just as their kids would be getting their drivers’ licenses,” one of her former Pi Phi sorority sisters from the University of Texas told me.
Almost everyone who read or heard about the adoptions was puzzled. “Please tell me—what was Kay thinking?” asked a wealthy Dallas woman I know, whose husband contributes to Kay’s campaign fund every time she runs for office. “I can’t