Two years removed from his presidency, here comes the second intimate look at the George W. Bush White House, courtesy of Laura Bush. But while Karl Rove’s account was layered with policy minutiae and campaign “strategery,” Mrs. Bush paints a picture of family life and state dinners, as she figured out what it meant to be a full-time first lady. Here is The Daily Beast’s selection of some of the most interesting bits.
The Fatal Car Crash
“In the aftermath, all I felt was guilty, very guilty. In fact, I still do. It is a guilt I will carry for the rest of my life, far more visible to me than the scar etched in the bump of my knee. At some point most people in these situations come to make a mental peace with the fact that it was an accident. And that it cannot be changed. There is no great clock to unwind, no choice that can somehow miraculously be made again. But I can never absolve myself of the guilt.” (p. 64)
Child of the '60s
“Once, during my senior year, I was curious to see what real hippies looked like. My roommate Jane and I dressed in jeans and bare feet and hung beads from our necks. Then we headed of to Lee Park, one of the largest parks in Dallas and named for Robert E. Lee, to look for the fabled hippies. But there were none—instead, everyone else in the park turned to stare at us, imagining that we were the hippies who had come to commune with nature in the middle of the city.” (p. 79)
Love at First Month?
“By the end of the month, George had asked me to marry him. We had been dating only six or seven weeks but our childhoods overlapped so completely and our worlds were so intertwined, it was as if we had known each other our whole lives.” (p. 95)
First Lady Fashion Plates
“I really felt for Hillary Clinton, who spent years having the press write nasty things about her hairstyles. It unnerved me enough that I paid with our own money for someone to come to the White House and blow-dry my hair almost every morning, just so I could try to avoid a bad hair day. But while some first ladies are genuinely interested in fashion, I’m not one who follows each new season’s trends; I have been wearing the same suits, sweaters, and slacks for years. Jackie Kennedy is always going to be more stylish.” (p. 185)
'Beacon of Calm'
“On December 18 , ABC broadcast Barbara Walters’s annual special on the Ten Most Fascinating People of the year. Barbara had selected me as 2002’s most fascinating person, calling me a ‘beacon of calm in the center of the storm.’ It was flattering, but even as it aired, I said to George with a smile, ‘Bushie, what goes up must come down.’” (p. 275)
Tapping the Admiral
“The royal family is not without its quirks. When Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, came to visit us, they requested glasses of ice before we began a long receiving line. The staff dutifully produced them, and the prince removed a flask from his pocket and added to each a small splash of what I presume was straight gin, so that they might be fortified before the hour of shaking hands.” (p. 296)
“The following afternoon we had a cookout with hamburgers made from Texas beef [with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Crawford]. When I next saw the Japanese prime minister, he raised his arm and made a muscle, telling me, “That hamburger made me strong. I went home to do political battle, and I was strong because of that hamburger.” (p. 291)
Picking Your Battles
“In 2004 the social question that animated the campaign was gay marriage. Before the election season had unfolded, I had talked to George about not making gay marriage a significant issue. We have, I reminded him, a number of close friends who are gay or whose children are gay. But at that moment I could never have imagined what path this issue would take and where it would lead.” (p. 303)
White House Movie Critics
“On nights and weekends, I had a second career inside the White House: movie critic. After years of barely being able to squeeze in time for a movie or waiting until it came to the video rental stores, George and I were now the happy beneficiaries of the White House movie theater and a supply of feature films from the Motion Picture Association… My inner movie critic decided that many films were too long and could stand a good bit of editing; for his part, George did not like films that depended on the F-word for much of their dialogue.” (p. 365)
Everyone Wants a Souvenir
“Sadly, pilfering was a common problem at the White House. Guests would walk out of the washrooms with hand towels stuffed in their jackets or purses. One prominent television personality was known for having a collection of White House paper hand towels, monogrammed with the presidential seal, in her powder room.” (p. 371)
In Defense of Bushie
“Day in and day out, the criticism of George from all sides was withering. He was denounced and caricatured in ways far worse than his father had been. I survived it because George did. He is not a self-pitying man. He is not a man of outsize ego or arrogance, despite what his critics said.” (p. 383)
From President to Campaign Issue
"I heard the daily rants from the campaign trail. It got so that even the weather seemed to be George’s fault. And I wondered if Barack Obama, who spent far more time attacking George than he did his opponent, John McCain, would want to amend his words once he discovered the reality of the White House and was himself confronted by the challenges and crises that hit a president every day, all day.” (p. 420)