Almost bristling (though she has just come from a workout and is so cool she isn't perspiring), she responds to the charge by former anti-terrorism aide Richard Clarke that President Bush did not make fighting terror a top priority before Sept. 11, 2001: "I know that my husband was absolutely serious about his responsibility to the United States. When he was sworn in with the Oath of Office, he swore to protect the people of the United States and the Constitution of the United States. I know he took that very, very seriously."
Surprisingly, Mrs. Bush takes a marketplace approach to much of the "culture war," saying it is similar to cultural issues we have dealt with throughout our history. She cites Prohibition and the temperance movement as ways people tried to change the culture of the time. She prefers an approach that involves more parental responsibility when it comes to monitoring TV and discussing the content of films. She approves of sponsor boycotts and informing advertisers and networks about offensive programming, tuning out the bad and patronizing the good. This may startle some, as the Congress and the Federal Communications Commission threaten higher fines and other actions for expressions of indecency.
On another cultural issue, abortion, she takes a pass. On the day the president signs a bill that would impose penalties for unborn babies killed during the commission of a federal crime, Mrs. Bush says she doesn't think legislation will solve the debate about abortion, noting there are "diverse opinions" and that there are "good people on both sides of the issue."
Laura Bush is the type of "kinder and gentler" person her father-in-law wished to see multiplied throughout the nation. She appeals to a sense of decency and fairness that has always been at the heart of America's sense of itself. The president would do well to get her out on the campaign trail and to give her a prominent speaking role at the Republican Convention this summer.
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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