The First Lady: Laura's New Agenda
New confidence: The First Lady wants to focus on alcohol and drug abuse among youths
She was the president's secret weapon through the homestretch. Now she's got fresh goals for a second term.
Newsweek Nov. 15 issue - In the past four years, Americans have learned a lot of things about Laura Bush. Some fit the prim；端庄的？, proper stereotype. She's a neat freak who,
her husband has joked, would want a vacuum cleaner if she were stranded on a desert island. And between speeches on her nonstop campaign tour—she was one of the most sought-after
speakers besides the president himself—she diligently prepared for Christmas at the White
House. It's a massive undertaking that began early in the summer. On the way to campaign events she pored over pages of possible themes, before selecting one that will remain top secret until after Thanksgiving. In addition to her stack of weighty briefing books and prepared speeches, her carry-on bag included sample Christmas-card designs. But other things about the First Lady might surprise her admirers. Mrs. Bush is a big Ben Stiller fan, and especially liked the campy comedy "Zoolander."
As she looks ahead to four more years in the White House, the First Lady's agenda would likely have the same mix of the traditional and the somewhat unexpected. With a 74 percent favorability rating, she is far more popular than her husband. In recent interviews, Laura has hinted at longer-term plans. Aides say she is concerned about drug and alcohol abuse among juvenile delinquents. In a second term, says an aide, Laura would like to focus on programs devoted to helping these kids—boys in particular—by getting them cleaned up and teaching them life
skills. This interest is "something fairly new," says the aide, and came up unexpectedly. The issue was brought to Mrs. Bush by a Dallas friend who told her about a program that gives at-risk kids stray dogs to train. "I just would be interested to see if there is something we could do for those young people who get in trouble," she told Larry King.
In 2002, not long after the First Lady recorded a radio address on the plight of Afghan women under the Taliban, the women working behind the cosmetics counter at an Austin, Texas, department store thanked her. It wasn't until then, says a top aide, that she realized how much influence she could have.
Voters who suspected Mrs. Bush is more moderate than her husband had their suspicions confirmed during the campaign. She signaled that she differed with the president on high-profile issues,
including a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. A week before the election she told Charlie Gibson of ABC News that "I'm not really sure about it. I think it's important to have the debate." It's a time-honored tactic in Republican politics: the candidate's wife softening the hard-line views of her husband (who softened his view in his own appearance on ABC). Her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, did the same for the first President Bush when she hinted she was pro-choice. But Laura is careful to avoid the appearance that she may actually have some influence over her husband. "I understand why he has the opinions he has. He understands why I have the opinions I have," she told The Washington Post. "But we don't argue issues—we've been married too long to spend a lot of time arguing issues."
Instead, she used her influence to sway crowds in swing states across the country. When Karl Rove worried that Florida was tilting toward；倾向于？ John Kerry in the final weeks of the
campaign, he immediately turned to Laura Bush. The First Lady went on a solo campaign tour across the state. She urged voters to let her husband finish the job he started. Thanks in part to Laura, he'll now have that chance. She will, too.