Cal  Thomas

President Bush's greatest asset is not his former special assistant, Karen Hughes, who will soon be returning to "active duty" following a tour to promote her new book to help him with his re-election campaign. It is his wife, Laura.

I was reminded of this during an interview with her Thursday (April 1) at the White House for my Fox News Channel show, "After Hours."

Laura Bush can keep her cool, even when prodded with selected quotes about her husband from prominent liberals:

- "a miserable failure" - Dick Gephardt

- "a bumbling governor from Texas with a terrible record, who couldn't put three sentences together with a cue card" - Ralph Nader

- "a moral coward" - Al Gore

And from John Kerry: "The Bush administration has run the most inept, reckless, arrogant and ideological foreign policy in the modern history of our country."

In response, Mrs. Bush flinches a little and straightens her already perfect posture as if steeling herself to fight back. She resists the temptation, saying, "I think those are terrible quotes. I'm sorry you read them to me. . I think it just shows what a very, very brutal campaign season we're going to have. Because it sounds to me that people on the other side are saying whatever they want to say, whether there's truth to it or not. They're just saying the worst things they could possibly say about my husband. And, of course, none of those things are right. No one wants to hear things (like this) about the person they love. But I also think the American people don't really like it."

She continues, noting that the "other side only says terrible things . and never says what their own plans are, or what they would do differently, what their vision is." Ah, the "vision thing," to recall her father-in-law's famous and dismissive line during the 1988 campaign. It's one of many lessons Mrs. Bush and her husband have learned from that experience.

Didn't the president promise to bring a "new tone" to Washington? Did he fail?

She laughs and responds, "I think they (Democrats) have failed. I think they are the ones who don't want a new tone in Washington. I think that if there were a new tone in Washington, then it would benefit my husband. And they are determined not to do anything to benefit my husband."

Cal Thomas

Get Cal Thomas' new book, What Works, at Amazon.

Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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