She's called "the secret weapon" of George W. Bush, and compared to Eleanor Roosevelt and Abigail Adams. Arnold Beichman of the Hoover Institution says she ought to run for president: "In a presidential contest between Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton, there is no question whom majority public opinion would favor."
Hyperbole aside, Laura Bush has become a first-class diplomat in the Middle East. She has apparently taken the advice she offered to her husband at the recent White House Correspondents Association dinner: "George, if you really want to end tyranny in the world, you're going to have to stay up later."
On a five-day trip to the Middle East, she carried personal messages of hope to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and ran into a nest of barely peaceful demonstrators in Jerusalem. Who could not be touched as she tucked a handwritten note into the Western Wall, the most sacred shrine of Judaism, where angry demonstrators noisily demanded that the United States release Jonathan Pollard, the American Jew imprisoned here for spying for Israel? She braved stronger protests at the Dome of the Rock, where Muslims believe Mohammed mounted his horse for a gallop to paradise. As she was taking off her shoes and covering her head with a shawl to prepare to enter the mosque, a man yelled: "You don't belong here." She went inside, anyway.
In Jericho, where Joshua knocked down the walls with a blast from his trumpet, the city has been turned over to the Palestinians. The first lady met with Palestinian women to deliver a message of hope for peace between Israel and Palestine. "It will take a lot of baby steps, and I'm sure it will be a few steps backward on the way," she said. Alas, no walls came tumbling down this time.
While Laura Bush was delivering messages of good will, representatives of both Israel and Palestine arrived in the United States to deliver their own messages, and with mixed effect. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon went to New York to defend his decision to remove Israeli settlers from Gaza without guarantees from Palestinians (guarantees which aren't usually worth much, anyway). Polls show a firm majority of Israelis on his side. The pullout is perceived as necessary to maintain Israel's security and to start the zillionth chapter of the peace process, this time with a new leadership of the Palestinian Authority. But the issue remains exceedingly contentious.
In a speech at Baruch College in New York City, a friendly audience was infiltrated by protesters who tried to disrupt and dismay. Outside the auditorium, Orthodox Jews accused him of selling out.