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Jenna and Henry: Now They're Really, Really Official

The couple has not yet set a date for the wedding.
The couple has not yet set a date for the wedding. (White House Photo Office)

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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, August 17, 2007

Back in February 2005, Laura Bush was asked about the guy her daughter Jenna was seeing. "This is not a serious boyfriend -- I hate to have to be the one to say it on television," said the first lady. "But he's a very nice young man."

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And one not easily dissuaded. Henry Hager proposed marriage to Jenna on Wednesday in Maine. She said yes.

"They have been great, great friends all this time," his mother, Maggie, said yesterday from her Richmond home. She added it was "pretty evident" that the relationship was headed for marriage. Her son, following tradition, first asked the president for permission to marry his daughter. "Anybody raised in this family follows the rules," she said.

The White House announced the engagement yesterday and confirmed that Henry, 29, presented the 25-year-old teacher with a ring, but no wedding date has been set, said Sally McDonough, press secretary for the first lady. Family history suggests sooner rather than later -- Jenna's parents were engaged just six weeks before they tied the knot in 1977.

Henry, a student at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, has a sterling Republican pedigree. His dad, John, is a former lieutenant governor of Virginia and now heads the state's Republican Party. Henry met the blond first twin while working on the president's 2004 reelection campaign, and the two have been dating ever since. They have been spotted together in Texas, Richmond and Washington: at inaugural parties, Georgetown's Smith Point, Thanksgiving at the Crawford ranch and most publicly at the White House dinner for Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla , Duchess of Cornwall, in November 2005. Soon after, Jenna was telling friends he was The One.

The courtship was serious enough that in May 2006, Jenna apparently thought he was ready to tie the knot. The two were dining at Asia Nora when waiters brought champagne to the table -- with a mysterious note taped to her glass. Jenna read it and burst out laughing. "I thought you were proposing!" she hollered loud enough for everyone to hear. "I nearly [soiled] my pants!"

There was speculation that their romance had ended last fall when she headed to Latin America and he to U-Va., but the acknowledgments to her upcoming book, "Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope," include nods to her "amazing" parents and "my patient Henry."

The engagement would seem to bring to a close a colorful chapter of the vivacious twin's life: Jenna was a young English major at the University of Texas when her father came into office; both she and sister Barbara chafed at the coverage of their underage drinking and late-night partying. After graduation in 2004, Jenna quietly began teaching at Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School in D.C. and then went to Panama to work for UNICEF. She returned this spring to put the finishing touches on the manuscript and prepare for her book tour next month. Her next project is writing a children's book with her mother, who told USA Today that Jenna was likely to return to teaching after the book tour.

Henry graduated from Wake Forest University in 2000, worked for Karl Rove, moved on to the 2004 reelection campaign, then joined the Commerce Department. Last fall, he headed for U-Va. and an MBA and will finish the second of two years next spring.

No word if they'll have a White House wedding -- Jenna would be the first presidential daughter to wed at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. since Tricia Nixon married Ed Cox in 1971. Glamorous, sure, but the smart money is on Texas or Maine -- the White House just isn't the place Jenna considers home.

Hey! Don't Be Down on His Ranch Look

What really gets George W. Bush riled up? Calling him a fashion victim.

At home on the range: Bush, riled up over talk about his Western garb?
At home on the range: Bush, riled up over talk about his Western garb?(Charles Dharapak - AP)
Last week, Marques Harper of the Austin American- Statesman wrote a short piece about the president's sartorial style on his Texas ranch, where Bush is spending a two-week vacation. The article was reprinted Tuesday in a Waco, Tex., paper, and the leader of the free world was not pleased.

Harper received a phone call that morning from White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino, who, Harper told friends, said the president read the article and was unhappy about the way he was portrayed.

"I was surprised," said the style writer, who declined to repeat the off-the-record conversation with Perino when we called.

Harper wrote: "The president has two distinct looks when he's in Texas: the ranch-hand man and the crisp appearance of a ranch owner. In recent months, with his sliding popularity, he's opted to look more like 'Walker, Texas Ranger' than a sweaty, tough ranch hand." In the piece, an image consultant offered that Bush needed to "step it up" to keep his "bravado image" on the ranch.

"It was a piece that looked at his ranch wear at Crawford over the years," Harper told us yesterday. "It was a fun piece. Here in Austin, I got e-mails saying, 'That was the dumbest story I ever read.' "

No laughing matter for the president, who apparently was offended that anyone would think he just dresses like a real rancher. After clearing all that brush? Never!

THIS JUST IN . . .

· Former British prime minister Tony Blair has retained Bob Barnett -- who else? -- to handle his book deal. The Washington lawyer has brokered high-profile tomes by Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Alan Greenspan, Bob Woodward, Mary Cheney, Jenna Bush and many, many more.

· California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will speak at and Nancy Reagan will attend today's invitation-only funeral in Beverly Hills for Merv Griffin. The 82-year-old legend of television, one of the former first lady's best friends, died Sunday of prostate cancer.


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