WWDExclusive: Meeting Mrs. Bush: The First Lady on Politics, Style and Keeping Her Cool

First Lady Laura Bush opens up about the campaign ahead, the comfort of Crawford, being in the “wives of world leaders club,” and of course, style.

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Despite a few apprehensive-looking aides who stand smiling somewhat nervously, Bush seems at ease, laughing readily and speaking her mind as two attentive stenographers tape-record every word. From one of the two bookcases in the room, a rag doll and the cover of “Madeline,” the classic children’s book, offered silent approval. She’s known to be low-key — perhaps all those recent workouts with a personal trainer and her sister-in-law, Margaret Bush, have helped keep her calm amid the growing political storm.

Asked if she’s more relaxed and has more press availability than she did three years ago, when fashion-related questions were prohibited from one WWD interview, the First Lady straightens her posture and says, “I think I have a lot of press availability, I do. There might be more interest [now].

“When there’s another spouse of a candidate, there’s a little bit of equal time…that’s kind of showing up,” Bush adds, a reference to the Chanel- and pashmina-wearing Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of the presumptive Democratic presidential challenger, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

At the very least, she looks more relaxed and trim, wearing a coffee-colored Oscar de la Renta suit. With legs crossed, she occasionally swings the toe of her pointy crocodile-type slingback. Ever the candidate’s wife, she denies her apparent increased visibility is part of a campaign strategy.

“I already have campaigned a lot for my husband and I will continue to. It’s not new. I mean, it’s something I’ve done for years, really. From that very first campaign in 1978 when he promised I wouldn’t have to give a political speech,” says Bush, laughing at the long-forgotten broken vow made before her husband’s failed first Congressional race, when they spent their “honeymoon year” crisscrossing the Lone Star State in a convertible.

And while she isn’t fond of the First Lady title, Bush clearly understands she has a role to play in her husband’s political appeal. “Politics is really a people business. It’s for people who like other people,” she says, seated on the only couch in the room, a cream-colored one with a faint celadon floral pattern. “Successful politicians connect and like other people, and I think my husband certainly has that quality. And I like people. It’s also a family business. You know, if you’re married to somebody who wants to be in politics, then the whole family’s involved.”
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