Laura Bush’s Advice for the Future First Gentleman

The former first lady thinks a first gentleman might have it easier than most spouses.

National Journal
Jack Fitzpatrick
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Jack Fitzpatrick
Jan. 30, 2014, 11:51 a.m.

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Laura Bush has ad­vice for a fu­ture first gen­tle­man, who­ever he may be: “Stand back and be quiet.”

That ad­vice may not be rel­ev­ant to the front-run­ner for first first gen­tle­man, Bill Clin­ton, an already-talk­at­ive former pres­id­ent. But Bush cri­tiqued the way the pub­lic views first ladies and the­or­ized that a first gen­tle­man might not face the same pres­sure, in an in­ter­view with C-SPAN Thursday.

Bush was crit­ic­al of the pub­lic’s “glam­or­ous” view of the first lady and said they are too ob­sessed with the shal­low parts of the role.

“Maybe we should be that way about the first gen­tle­man also, and really cri­tique the way they look all the time — their choice of tie or their hair­style or whatever,” Bush said. “Or maybe their weight.”

The bright side, Bush said, is that a first gen­tle­man might change some of those stand­ards. For ex­ample, a man might be less likely to quit his job after his wife is elec­ted, Bush said, which could set a pre­ced­ent for first ladies to keep work­ing after mov­ing in­to the White House. When asked if the first lady should re­ceive a salary, Bush said no, but that the more im­port­ant ques­tion is wheth­er she should give up her ca­reer.

“Cer­tainly a first gen­tle­man might con­tin­ue to work at whatever he did, if he was a law­yer or whatever,” she said.

Clearly, Bush was not as­sum­ing that the Clin­tons would end up back in the White House, or re­fer­ring to any spe­cif­ic can­did­ates.

In ad­di­tion to spec­u­lat­ing on fu­ture pres­id­en­tial spouses, Bush re­flec­ted on her own time in the White House, say­ing one of her biggest mo­ments was giv­ing the pres­id­en­tial ra­dio ad­dress after the 9/11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks, in which she fo­cused on the Taliban’s treat­ment of wo­men in Afgh­anistan. That, she said, was the mo­ment she real­ized how much in­flu­ence a first lady can have.

But much of be­ing a first lady is less ex­cit­ing than it seems, Bush said.

“It’s ac­tu­ally a very nor­mal life up­stairs on those two floors that are the White House res­id­ence,” she said. “First ladies prob­ably — and I know I did — ac­tu­ally lie on the couch and read a book.”

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