Straight Talk

PROUD MARY MARY MATALIN, until recently a counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, and her husband, political commentator James Carville, will speak at the George Bush Presidential Library Center, in College Station, February 28.

You've now worked in the administrations of two presidents with wives who are Texas women. What are Barbara Bush and Laura Bush like off-line?

With those two, off-line is on-line. What you see is what you get. They don't have different personalities in front of the camera. They're always the same. They know who they are, they're comfortable with who they are, and they never put on any airs. Which is a lovely thing.

What about them strikes you as particularly Texan?

They're ladies. They don't try to be men; vive la différence . They're optimistic, unflappable, and practical. If they can't get something done one way, they figure out another way. No moping. All the Texas women I work with are like that, from Karen Hughes to Margaret Spellings, who is the president's domestic policy assistant, to Andi Ball, who is Mrs. Bush's chief of staff, to Ashley Estes, the president's secretary, his right hand. That Ashley—talk about unflappable. She has the most stressful job in the White House, and she never doesn't get it done. Another thing about all these women: They're all funny. A force for joy.

What's the difference between Texas women who are Democrats and Texas women who are Republicans?

The only female Texas Democrat I really know is Ann Richards, who is definitely practical and walks through walls. And she's not just funny; she's a stand-up comic. I don't agree with her politics, obviously, but I like her. She's gritty, pioneeresque.

So why are you and James going to College Station?

At the request of George Herbert Walker Bush. Forty-one is my beloved. We stay in touch. I want to go see him.

Are you done now with full-time work in politics, or are you biding your time until the next Bush runs for president—maybe Jeb or George P.?

If any Bush at any time asked me to do anything, I can't imagine that I wouldn't do it.

(See College Station: Other Events. )

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