Essay

From Her Lips to His Ear

Behind every president, a presidential adviser: Laura Bush could give her husband good counsel.
Behind every president, a presidential adviser: Laura Bush could give her husband good counsel. (By Chip Somodevilla -- Getty Images)
By Sally Quinn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 24, 2006

Dear Laura,

It's time for you to act. Nancy Reagan did it. You can, too.

Things are falling apart. They always do in the second term. And when they do, there's only one person who can change things: the wife. You are the only one who can tell him the truth. You are smart, astute; you're not afraid of him and you love him.

I see you're going on Larry King tonight, and that's a good way to show your support and share your popularity. But your real work is behind the scenes.

The president's poll numbers have tanked. They are among the lowest of any president in history at this point in his term. So think back to Ronald Reagan's second term. He was mired in Iran-contra, his staff was exhausted, and their reaction to criticism was to dig in. Nancy managed to clean house, bring the White House back in touch with the outside world and, in doing so, allowed Reagan to clear his head, end the Cold War and "tear down that wall, Mr. Gorbachev." His polls skyrocketed, from a low of 42 to 68 percent when he left office.

Because of the nature of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Hillary Clinton was unable to carry off the same trick. But you are perfectly positioned.

The biggest problem your husband has now is that so many top Republicans have turned against him. Without the support of his own party, it's pretty much impossible for him to run the country. After the way they went after him over the Dubai ports deal, you can imagine what they are saying about him privately.

Incompetent, unrealistic and insincere were a few of the words circulating at a private dinner recently. Referring to the president's refusal to seek advice on anything -- the war, the economy, foreign policy -- one of the most prominent Republicans in Washington called the situation so dire that he feared "the country would fall apart with another three years of this."

"They don't listen to anybody," said another prominent Republican who was close to the first President Bush.

To a person, every Republican and Democrat I talked to compared your husband to his father. W didn't come out on the winning end. "A real gent," "gracious," "responsive," "inclusive," "conciliatory" were words used to describe the senior Bush. Democrats told how he always returned their phone calls, sometimes at 2 a.m.

Now even Dad's former friends and advisers can't get through. "All of his father's old boys are out in the wilderness together," lamented one of them.

Here are some of the things you can do, collected from half a dozen senior Republicans:


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