The Good Wife

Don’t misunderestimate Laura Bush. The least political of first ladies turns out to be a pretty good politician after all. But, asks Mimi Swartz, is she really happy in her new role? Or is she just biding her time until the partisan wars are over, playing . . . the Good Wife.
The Good Wife
Maine Attraction: The future White House occupants in the late seventies at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport.

WITH JUST DAYS TO GO before the end of this, one of the bitterest electoral seasons in memory, I found myself wondering how Laura Bush, that famously reluctant political wife, was holding up. She seemed to be doing just fine: Resplendent in powder blue, she sent the Republicans into a frenzy during her impeccably soporific speech at the GOP convention, and she was even nice to Dr. Phil after he noted crabbily on a promotional spot that first twin Jenna Bush had stuck her tongue out at reporters. Laura seemed to have long forgiven—or was using to ironic effect—her husband’s broken promise several decades ago that she would never have to make a political speech. Now she was barnstorming the country on George W. Bush’s behalf, speaking her mind—albeit softly—being less than optimistic about the prospects for stem cell research, supporting those smarmy Swift boat ads that denigrated John Kerry’s military service, and being nasty-nice as the First Surrogate, calling Rathergate as she saw it. (“You know,” she said of the 60 Minutes documents that purported to prove her husband was a military slacker, “they probably are altered and they probably are forgeries, and I think that’s terrible, really.”)

Her sable-hued, wash ’n’ go do remained impervious to attacks that others might consider hair-raising. Loyal Democrats have taken to spackling her with the Stepford Wife label. Cultural critic James Wolcott, swept up in an anti-Bush swivet, retracted the nice things he had said about Laura in Vanity Fair and dissed her in his blog as “just another warden in a pantsuit” and “another saccharine phony.” Kitty Kelley described her in The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty as the Southern Methodist University coed who was “the go-to girl for dime bags of marijuana.” In The Perfect Wife, biographer Ann Gerhart dumped all over her for being a bad mom. (“There is plenty that the Bushes don’t ask their daughters to do, that much is clear.”) Austin artists and writers—big fans when Laura was their ardent supporter as Texas’s first lady—have raised money to display their unhappiness with the president in full-page newspaper ads in swing states. Prestigious American poets torpedoed a reading she tried to host at the White House. Laura Bush

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