White House Secrets of the Heart

Popular biographer Christopher Anderson didn't snag interviews with President Bush and his wife for his just-released "George and Laura: Portrait of an American Marriage," but he did talk extensively with Laura Bush's 83-year-old mother Jenna Welch, whom the White House usually manages to keep under wraps.

Welch confided that after her daughter's first date with the future president, the fact that they lived in far-flung Texas cities -- she in Austin, he in Midland -- seemed an insurmountable hurdle. "You know, it was like 'Fat chance,' " Welch quoted her daughter. " 'I really like him, but how is this going to work?' " Later, when the romance heated up, Welch fretted that Dubya was blowing it. "I thought George was a great catch, but I was afraid he was pushing so hard he might ruin the whole thing," she recalled.

Other tidbits:

* Former Bush fiancee Cathy Wolfman, who nearly ordered up the wedding invitations three decades ago, described their breakup to Anderson: "When he asked her to spend another summer with the family at Kennebunkport and she refused, he was dumbfounded. 'I don't want to go to Maine, George,' she told him. 'And I don't think this is going to work out.' She slipped the engagement ring off her finger and handed it to him. George, stricken, began to weep."

* Before twins Jenna and Barbara were born on Nov. 25, 1981, fertility experts told the Bushes "that it was highly unlikely that Laura would ever become pregnant. The news plunged her into a state of depression; Laura became so unhappy that she avoided walking down the baby aisle of the supermarket."

* Despite claims that she quit smoking in 1992, "in truth Laura would, in times of stress, bum cigarettes off friends and sometimes even from reporters so long as no photographers were around to snap a shot of her with a cigarette in her mouth." During the 2000 presidential campaign, "whenever she was satisfied there were no members of the press around, Laura bummed a cigarette off the nearest smoker and appeared to savor every drag."

What's God Got to Do With It?

* The sniper crisis may be over, but cable rivals Fox News and CNN are squabbling over the leftovers. After Fox News's Rita Cosby won a prison interview last week with "Son of Sam" killer and born-again Christian David Berkowitz, "Crossfire" host Tucker Carlson took aim at Cosby for having written the mass murderer a successful pitch letter that included such sentiments as: "Your personal story and spiritual growth inspired me to write to you," and "The Lord calls on individuals at various times to serve Him and serve His people."

Carlson mocked Cosby for invoking the Almighty, and Carlson's co-host, Paul Begala, piled on: "It's not right just to suggest that God wants a mass murderer to go on television. Of course, God watches CNN, anyway. He told me so today."

Yet on Saturday night, when Fox broadcast Cosby's fresh footage filled with Berkowitz's sniper insights, CNN -- which tried and failed to get its own Berkowitz interview -- ended up airing a three-year-old Larry King appearance in which the criminal lamented the quality of prison life, and King asked about the style of his uniform. A CNN spokeswoman said that "the newsworthiness of a David Berkowitz interview is obvious," but "no CNN request -- past or present -- required divine intervention."

Cosby quipped: "It's a good thing God watches CNN. Hardly anybody else does."


* Don't try booking author Gordon Liddy on Bill O'Reilly's show. Yesterday the Watergate burgar-turned-radio host -- who is hawking his latest, "When I Was a Kid, This Was a Free Country" -- told us that the Fox News personality "is a pimp for Saudi Arabia." Apparently O'Reilly got on Liddy's bad side several weeks ago when a producer for "The O'Reilly Factor" interviewed the daughters of American Pat Roush, whose Saudi ex-husband spirited the chidlren to the desert kingdom. Roush, whose daughters claimed in the interview that they didn't want to leave Saudi Arabia or see their mother, later accused O'Reilly of hampering her efforts to get them back. O'Reilly told us that he's baffled by Liddy's attack. "Wow. I'm sorry he's in a snit, but I always find him very interesting. The guy is just very far right."

* Viking Penguin has made the winning but undisclosed seven-figure bid in the auction for George Bush confidant Karen Hughes's White House memoirs. The book, an account of Hughes's "unique relationship with the president" and her life as a working mother and wife, is tentatively titled "10 Minutes from Normal."

* After last week's sniper arrests, the cult of personality surrounding Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose is spreading like topsy. The Post's Sarah Mark reports that Moose was "sitting in the nosebleed section for Sunday's Ravens game in Baltimore, only a few rows from the top. . . . Although the game went horribly for the Ravens" -- who lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-18 -- "the fans had something they wanted to cheer about. . . . Folks looked up, saw Moose, clapped and shouted: 'Moose! Moose!' He reportedly was offered better seats, but he declined." The chief didn't return our call.