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The BBC's Brian Barron in Washington
"The prize has gone to George W Bush"
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The BBC's Stephen Sackur in Washington
"Nothing will get done without reaching out to Democrats"
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Thursday, 14 December, 2000, 17:26 GMT
Laura: 'A fabulous First Lady'
Laura and George Bush
Mrs Bush is likely to be a more traditional presidential wife
According to her husband, Laura Bush was always going to make a "fabulous First Lady".

At nearly every campaign rally, George W Bush recited the line, while his wife smiled demurely, acknowledging the cheers of the crowd.

"They say you can judge a man by the company he keeps and I keep really good company," he told audience after audience.

I am not George's adviser. I'm his wife

Laura Bush
"I'm married to Laura Bush. What a great lady! What a fabulous First Lady she is going to make."

Such pronouncements not only signalled that there were no complications, but were a fitting old-fashioned introduction to a woman who is expected to restore the role of the First Lady to its traditional position.

Historic role

Mrs Bush is unlikely to be a presidential wife in the fashion of Hillary Clinton, who was seen as a radical figure who was never going to adopt a subservient role to her husband.

Early on, she adopted the role of principal policy adviser to her husband only to see her public approval ratings nosedive as Americans perceived her as ambitious and scheming.

George Bush
Laura Bush is credited with pressuring her husband to quit drinking
Mrs Bush has already made it clear that the line would be drawn at policy-making.

"I am not George's adviser. I'm his wife. I don't advise him about policy but we do talk about issues and personalities," she said.

She is expected to adopt an historic role ascribed to first ladies - quietly pursuing personal pre-occupations behind the scenes.

This is likely to include child literacy, for which she has a passion.


The 54-year-old former teacher and librarian has in the past championed literacy and early learning, which were poorly funded in Texas. She also started up the annual Texas Book Fair.

Mrs Bush differs from her husband in one fundamental respect: While she describes herself as a bookworm - whose favourite work is The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky - he is continually lampooned for being an intellectual lightweight.

The only child of a well-to-do family in the oil town of Midland, Texas, Laura sang in church, became a debutante, graduated and worked as a primary school teacher and, later, in the Houston library.

Although she comes across as demure and quietly spoken, she is widely regarded to have assumed the role of the strong woman providing stability in her husband's life.

She is credited with pressuring him to give up his heavy drinking in the mid 80s, after his oil business went deeply into debt.

"It's me or the Jim Beam," she was reported to have told him.

One Republican pollster described her as a woman of quiet persuasion, the fist in the velvet glove, he said.

This is a trait that has no doubt won her respect from her doughty mother-in-law Barbara Bush, family matriarch and the woman dubbed the "silver-haired howitzer".

Barbara Bush told a recent rally. "I know Laura Bush will be the most beloved and admired First Lady ever."

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See also:

14 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Bush gets Hollywood approval
14 Dec 00 | World
World press reacts to Bush
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