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Introducing Jenna Bush, the blond one

Before they became the First Family, few things could cause as dark a cloud to come over the faces of George W. and Laura Bush as media questions about their twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara. It was actually then-Gov. Bush's fond dream that the pair would campaign with him the way he had with his father over the years.

But the teenage girls, named for their grandmothers, wanted their privacy and nothing to do with campaigning. Although they were frequently at campaign events, they mingled with friends off to the side and rarely took the stage. The idea of a reporter interviewing one or both of them never got past the first few words.

How much things change, especially when one of them has a new book coming out.

We are suddenly about to learn a lot at least about Jenna, the blond one. She's the younger twin, by one minute. And in the new issue of People magazine and tonight with Diane Sawyer on ABC News' "20/20," the 25-year-old elementary school teacher talks about her new book, "Ana's Story," the true story of a 17-year-old mother living with HIV.

It grew out of her job teaching for UNICEF in four Latin American and Caribbean countries, where Bush documented the lives of children living in extreme poverty, typically with HIV/AIDS and often in abusive households. "This book," the young Bush wrote, "does not have a tidy ending because it is a work of nonfiction based on a life in progress.... This book must end, but Ana's story is still being written, this time by her."

We learn a little in the ABC piece and People about her fiance, Henry Hager, the 29-year-old son of a prominent Virginia Republican family, and how he dragged her up a mountain in Maine in the predawn darkness of Aug. 15 to propose marriage as the sun rose. We learn that her sister Barbara and mother conspired with Hager to size the custom-made reset ring, originally his great-grandmother's.

Asked if it's hard to watch her father so vilified on television, Jenna says the family doesn't watch much television anymore. "He's a different person to me than what they portray him as," she says.

She declines to talk about the Iraq war. Sawyer presses the issue, saying some people like Matt Damon say the Bush daughters should be fighting in Iraq. "I think," says Jenna, "there are many ways to serve your country...I think if people really thought about it, they know that we would put many people in danger. But I understand the point of it. I hope that I serve by being a teacher."

She says her partying days, once the subject of tabloid fodder, are over. "I've grown in the past five years," she says. "I've become really disciplined."

She says she's eagerly anticipating the end of her father's second term. "It will be fun to have some of him back," she says.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Comments () | Archives (7)

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"She says she's eagerly anticipating the end of her father's second term."

Not half as much as the rest of us!

"She says she's eagerly anticipating the end of her father's second term."

As a spouse of an active military personnel who has been gone 4 of the past 7 years, I have nothing to say but "AMEN"

Ms. Bush says "I think if people really thought about it, they know that we would put many people in danger."

This shadow of an excuse doesn't hold. Ms. Bush's handlers need to remove this line from her stock replies.

Many presidents have had their children in active warfare. Just this week, in Ken Burns PBS documentary, we saw video of FDR's son in WWII.

To say that Ms. Bush's presence in rear echelon positions in either of our active war theaters would endanger fighting forces there is ridiculous on its face, and insulting to the memory of those presidential children who put their life on line for the country.

"But the teenage girls, named for their grandmothers, wanted their privacy and nothing to do with campaigning."

You know what? It's hard to trust anything that comes out of a Bush's mouth. If the twins 'wanted nothing to do with campaigning,' why did they campaign for their dad? Maybe they didn't do sitdown interviews, but they were around plenty and received plenty of coverage. The whole m.o. of the Bush admin, of doing one thing and saying another apparently has infected even the 'apolitical' daughters.

Impeach Busy/Cheney now.

(Ans: As the item points out, their reluctance was during their teen years BEFORE the presidency, in other words, 1999-2000. Five years later was something different.-AM)

C'mon, Jenna. either put on a uniform and go to Iraq, or admit that your father was trying to con us when he described his Iraq misadventure as a "noble cause." It makes America sick to watch you and your sister partying, writing books and enjoying life and maybe planning a wedding while others are planning funerals. If your Dad is serious about taking the country into his war, let's see his family involved and at risk like the rest of your generation.

Wow, who would have thought, join the military and actually be deployed? What a concept. Look what the media has done to Prince Harry, he can't deploy with his unit because of the attention, don't you think the same thing would happen? This is not 1942, the media respects no boundaries. At least she teaches, unlike Chelsea Clinton who whored herself out to Wall St. By the way, what unit did Chelsea serve in in Bosnia?

As we all know the military is currently voluntary. All active service members know that they may be deployed at any time. It is part of the job and contract. I served my time in the Navy and the Bush twins can serve the country as they feel fit and should not be criticized. How can people say this and cheer for the draft dodger Bill Clinton?


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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