In memoir, Laura Bush reveals painful events during husband's presidency

By Ann Gerhart
Thursday, April 29, 2010

One of the persistent questions about Laura Bush always has been whether she is more liberal than her husband.

In her new memoir, "Spoken From the Heart," the former first lady refers to this line of inquiry as "an odd sort of Washington parlor game" that wearies her. So the answer will not be found in this book, which is scheduled to be released on May 4. The Washington Post bought a copy Wednesday at a local bookstore.

She recounts the moment when Katie Couric asked her if she believed the law permitting abortion should be overturned, and she expands her answer from then only slightly:

"We are a nation of different generations and beliefs, seeing issues through different eras and different eyes. While cherishing life, I have always believed that abortion is a private decision, and there, no one can walk in anyone else's shoes," she writes.

On gay marriage, she writes that before the beginning of the 2004 presidential campaign, "I had talked to George about not making gay marriage a significant issue. We have, I reminded him, a number of close friends who are gay or whose children are gay. But at that moment I could never have imagined what path this issue would take and where it would lead."

It led, of course, to a divisiveness which persists in American politics. In her memoir, Bush does not dwell on that. Instead, she writes with dismay of Sen. John Kerry answering a presidential debate question about the subject by mentioning that Vice President Cheney's daughter, Mary, is a lesbian. "Beside me, Jenna and Barbara gasped. They were utterly stunned that a candidate would use an opponent's child in a debate."

She's none too happy with Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for the mean things they said about her husband, President Bush. She calls out the House leader for calling Bush "dangerous" and the Senate majority leader for calling him "a loser" and "a liar."

"Subsequently, in a private, one-on-one meeting in the White House Cabinet Room, Reid said to George that he would stop calling him names. But he didn't stop," she writes.

Nevertheless, the Bushes continued to invite both to the White House for events "repeatedly," and "when the Queen of England visited in the spring of 2007, Pelosi danced in the White House in her long ball gown."

She has a few other scores to settle with the press, and she names names:

The New York Times' Jason DeParle interviewed her "in a tone that was adversarial and more than a touch offensive." Jim Vandehei, then at The Washington Post, appalled her in Egypt when, during a presentation by the director of the Giza pyramid excavation project, he "elbowed his way to the front of the press pool, climbed onto the pyramid plateau and began shouting out questions" about Egyptian politics. As an ever-watchful monitor of how her husband was portrayed in the press, she confronted Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times for using in a story an anecdote about George W. Bush at Yale that Laura Bush writes wasn't true. "While the truth may not be as interesting, it is the truth," she chides.

Unflinching honesty

There is some startling stuff in here, perhaps more startling to me, who spent much of my time as a reporter covering Bush and as a writer researching her biography, searching for a shard or two of information that might reveal more about this intensely reticent and unassuming woman.

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