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Published: 8/31/2004

Families step up in re-election campaign

BY ANN McFEATTERS
BLADE WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF
Lynne Cheney show her granddaughter how to signify four more years. Lynne Cheney show her granddaughter how to signify four more years.
CHARLIE NEIBERGALL / AP Enlarge

NEW YORK - The families of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have undergone a makeover since election 2000.

Laura Bush's hair is now red; their two daughters, Jenna and Barbara, are no longer off limits to the media but are often photographed partying late into the night in Manhattan or working the campaign trail.

The Cheneys now speak openly about their gay daughter, Mary. Both wives and all four daughters now feel comfortable speaking out about policy.

Mrs. Bush, a former teacher and school librarian, was admittedly nervous when she addressed the 2000 GOP convention that nominated her husband for president in Philadelphia.

She insisted she would do it only to promote her interest in education - often reciting the pledge her husband made when they married that she would never be asked to give a political speech.

Tonight she is a main speaker at the GOP convention - calmly ready and confident.

In recent days, Mrs. Bush has defended her husband's restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, saying negative ads about Sen. John Kerry are a fair counter to the "millions" of negative ads about her husband. She also talked about the war on terror and advocated for women's health issues.

A new book about Mrs. Bush is titled The Perfect Wife. Four years ago many Republicans, let alone most Americans, knew little about her. Now, at 57, she is consistently voted one of the most-admired women in America, and delegates are excited about seeing her.

Nicolle Devenish, communications director for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, said that tonight Mrs. Bush will show the nation the personal side of President Bush, "the person behind the presidency," and provide "much different, rare insights into the last four years."

Mark Wallace, deputy campaign manager for Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, said tonight's theme is "compassionate conservatism," while tomorrow's theme is the contrast between the President and Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee.

Thursday's theme is the Bush-Cheney proposed agenda for the next four years. Thus, the campaign said, the "compassion" night was made for Mrs. Bush.

Ms. Devenish said the families of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney will help provide a "more unfiltered look" at the two men. She said the campaign is lucky that both Laura Bush and Lynne Cheney are "tremendous assets" and "extraordinarily charming, smart, savvy, very engaged partners."

While the media generally respected the Bush twins' privacy while they were in college, at one point Mrs. Bush was openly angry at media treatment of her twin daughters.

An example: The New York Post ran a headline, "Jenna and Tonic," after Jenna Bush ran into trouble with the law for underage drinking.

But now both daughters, graduates of Yale and the University of Texas, are campaigning for their father. They hosted a party for young Republicans at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan, showing up at 10:22 p.m. Sunday. Jenna wore a decidedly un-Republican white tank top. Both young women have posed for fashion magazines and have told friends they love New York. They also appeared in evening gowns on videotape at the MTV awards this week, urging young Americans to vote.

John Kerry's daughters, Vanessa and Alexandra, also appeared at the MTV awards.

In an interview with Arts & Entertainment TV network for the show Biography, which is airing a profile of Laura Bush tomorrow, Jenna and Barbara Bush said they doubt their father would be president without their mother's "unconditional love and support."

After polls showing that many Americans have a negative view of Mr. Cheney as controlling, often angry and stern, and with half of Republican delegates indicating to pollsters they wouldn't mind his being replaced on the ticket, Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican party, said he wants one message this week to be that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney are "good guys."

The Cheneys are permitting their elementary-school-age granddaughter, Kate Perry, to be interviewed by the media. The little girl told MSNBC that her grandfather is "very nice" and is "hoping I have a nice future." Asked if he gives her advice, she pumped her head up and down to indicate he does and said "he tells me stuff that's important."

Her mother, Liz, actively works for her father's campaign. The Cheneys' other daughter, Mary, is a gay activist and the motivation for her father to say a few days ago that he does not agree with Mr. Bush that a constitutional amendment is needed to ban gay marriage.

Political daughters are in vogue this year. The Cheneys have two daughters, the Bushes have two daughters, and Mr. Kerry has two daughters.

Contact Ann McFeatters at:

amcfeatters@nationalpress.com

or 202-662-7071.



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