Our questions for Laura Bush

Published September 1, 2004 3:32AM (EDT)

To hear Laura Bush talk about her husband tonight, it's no wonder she's been pressed into service on the trail with her own campaign plane. "The First Lady Bush," as her husband called her Tuesday on Rush Limbaugh's show, was the main attraction on RNC "compassion" night. And while she may not have riled up the delegates like Arnold or performed as sassily as her twins who introduced her -- "Grandma thinks 'Sex in the City' is something married people do but never talk about it" -- Laura Bush sold her husband like no one else can. The problem is, of course, we already know all we need to know about the product she was selling.

While the president was fumbling to explain his flubbed comment that he didn't think the "war on terror" was winnable -- "I probably needed to be more articulate," he told Rush -- his wife was comparing him to Lincoln and FDR. Her portrayal of his deliberations over invading Iraq ignored the evidence he rushed to war against the advice of weapons inspectors and without the support of critical allies, neglecting the al-Qaida threat and cherry-picking intelligence, of course. But her version will probably work better with swing voters, assuming they haven't been paying attention to current events these last couple of years."I remember some very quiet nights at the dinner table. George was weighing grim scenarios and ominous intelligence about potentially even more devastating attacks ... I remember sitting in the window of the White House, watching as my husband walked on the lawn below. I knew he was wrestling with these agonizing decisions that would have such profound consequence for so many lives and for the future of our world," she said.

Bush not only talked foreign as well as domestic policy, but added personal touches to reinforce her husband's image. The young couple once drove an Oldsmobile Cutlass when their transportation wasn't as "fancy," she said, and you'd almost think her husband was a self-made man if you didn't know better. They met at a barbecue in Midland, Texas, and married three months later. "He treats every person he meets with dignity and respect; the same dignity and respect he has for the office he holds. And he's a loving man, with a big heart," she said.

"Tonight," Bush said, "I want to try to answer the question that I believe many people would ask me if we sat down for a cup of coffee or ran into each other at the store." Her question was: "Why do you think we should re-elect your husband?"

We have some questions of our own. Just off the top of our heads: If your husband is such a compassionate conservative, why does he insist on tax cuts for millionaires while racking up deficits for our children? Does it bother you that the tax burden has shifted to the middle class? What is your husband doing about the alarming increase in impoverished and uninsured Americans on his watch? Why did his administration work with business interests to screw American workers out of overtime pay? Will you and your husband ever attend a funeral for a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq -- maybe when the death toll hits 1,000, as it will soon? Why does everyone at your husband's convention keep saying that the terrorists "heard him" when Osama bin Laden is still at large? We could go on, of course.

Laura Bush tried to soften the edges of her husband's harsh presidency tonight. While her charm and persuasion may have worked on some swing voters out there, she's asking America to forget a lot.

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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