A real-life Mrs. Cleaver

Debra J. Saunders

6/14/2002 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
For a woman who never wanted to enter politics, Laura Bush is one smooth customer. She's developed a persona of America's den mother. Soothing, caring, maternal. A real-life Mrs. Cleaver. In person, Mrs. B is a little different. For one thing, she's better looking. She has beautiful skin -- not a dead flake on her face. She's also an engaging politician, who knows how to answer questions, make her point and not leave any marks, as modern first ladies are supposed to do. Be partisan without appearing partisan. She wields a velvet hammer. Asked at an interview Wednesday morning if Californians who oppose Alaskan and offshore oil drilling give oilmen a fair shake, she smiled and said: "You know, in some ways, we want to have our cake and to eat it too. I guess in America we want to drive SUVs that use a lot of gas. Certainly in my home state, and I think in this state, we do a lot of driving. But at the same time, we don't want to drill for oil. So I guess we just need to figure out the way to come to terms with all of everyone's interests -- to try to figure out the most efficient and environmentally sound way to meet our energy needs. And I think we can do that." I asked her about the politically explosive Esquire magazine article in which Bush administration Chief of Staff Andy Card confessed that he worried that the president "will lose confidence in the White House staff" as trusted aide Karen Hughes leaves. Laura Bush replied that Hughes will remain part of the White House team, and that the rest of the staff is highly competent and will do just fine, thank you very much. How does Mrs. B deal with White House staff? Why, Karen and Andy and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice are all "friends." And she's genuine when she talks about America since Sept. 11. Americans have to be "vigilant," she said. "It's just a new time in America. I know we'll get through it. I know that we're really very, very strong as a country. I'm not sure that we all thought that before Sept. 11. We might have thought we were sort of soft. " We've ome to find out we really still have that strength." Don't you wish she could tuck you into bed every night? There was one sour note to the first lady's visit. Whenever the Bushes come to Northern California, ClickAction CEO Gregory Slayton is sure to be at the head table -- wearing a white baseball cap. Maybe Slayton thinks it's cool -- but he just looks like a millionaire trying to cover his bald spot. Slayton and his oversized cap sat near Dubya when he visited San Jose in April. And he was there Wednesday at a campaign luncheon for GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bill Simon, where Laura Bush was the featured speaker. It seemed they'd let anyone into the event -- even Democrats. Gabriel Sanchez and Amber Paspricha of the campaign team for Gov. Gray Davis even made it in. Quipped Sanchez: "They let a few Democrats in. That must be part of Simon's leftward transformation."