Former First Lady Laura Bush was well known as a sort of traditional First Lady: content to take a supporting role to her president husband during his eight years in office. Recently, though, Laura published her memoirs, revealing surprising details about her personal life -- and her personal disagreements with George W.
In the new memoir she is promoting, Spoken from the Heart, Bush says she asked her husband to refrain from making gay marriage a significant 2004 campaign issue.
"We have, I reminded him, a number of close friends who are gay or whose children are gay," she wrote, as quoted by Politico. "But at that moment I could never have imagined what path this issue would take and where it would lead."
Bush said on CNN that she also disagrees with her husband on whether Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman's right to an abortion, should be overturned by the Supreme Court.
"I think it's important that it remain legal, because I think it's important for people, for medical reasons and other reasons," she said.
Now, I met Laura Bush a few times during the 2004 campaign, and, personally speaking, she was a wonderful woman. She was kind, reserved, compassionate -- a true lady in every sense of the word -- and she spent hours shaking hands, meeting her husband's supporters, taking pictures and signing autographs, taking time to speak with women individually as she cycled through campaign stops. She was and is the very definition of a lady.
That said, I'm not exactly as surprised by this revelation as pro-life blogger Jill Stanek is, for example. Laura Bush never made her position on abortion that well known, and rarely answered questions about the subject. Early on in the Bush presidency, when she did speak on the subject, she indicated that she was "somewhat pro-choice," a stance she quickly explained had more to do with an attitude of prevention and care for women than it did with the procedure itself.
After all, she wasn't the one who got to set the mood for the country, and so, I'm sure she felt her opinion didn't matter -- particularly where it came into conflict with the president's agenda -- and it's not as though anyone can make anyone else listen to them. Would Michelle Obama be so bold as to differ from her husband on a matter central to the very people who elected him into office? Probably not (at least not as long as David Axelrod had a say in the matter).
The same is true for Laura Bush's stance on gay marriage. She seems to believe that cultural opposition to gay marriage is wearing down with time, and is careful to say that she supports extending the same rights to same-sex partners that married couples enjoy. That's not to say that she doesn't support gay marriage outright -- just that, even in this "shocking" revelation, she seems careful.
That's probably because the Bush Administration's stance against gay marriage was far from just a personal position. In 2004, the issue of gay marriage, and its corresponding legislative priority, the Defense of Marriage Acts, were used to energize "values" voters who were unlikely to vote in a presidential election, but who could mean the difference between Bush's re-election and a loss. By empowering conservative Christians who opposed gay marriage to ban the practice -- at least in theory -- in their own states, the Bush team ensured high turnout. Opposition to gay marriage, then, meant keeping your job.
So, where was Laura Bush when she could have done something, as the Washington Post asks? Probably silently cursing the political life, writing drafts of her memoirs, and planning her Larry King interviews.
To tell the truth, I still really like Laura Bush, and I find this almost-totally-secret life of hers completely fascinating. Conservative women are currently struggling for their place in the party and their voice in the ideology that defines their positions. We're just now coming to terms with more progressive social ideas, learning how our beliefs operate in the world, and defining what it means to be a liberty-minded female inside today's political spectrum. In part, we have Sarah Palin to thank for that. I believe what we're seeing here is a new era of outspoken conservative women -- and whether nor not I happen to fully agree with them on all issues, I'm all for it.
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