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Larry King surprises nearly-wed Jenna Bush with a political question

April 25, 2008 |  6:12 am

There was a time when their father, George W. Bush, first entered public office, that his twin daughters -- Jenna and Barbara -- were so totally embarrassed by the spotlight. Totally.

They had seen the price their grandfather had paid as vicJenna Bush and her fiance, Henry Hager, who will wed in an evening wedding at the Bush ranch in Texas on May 10e president and president and unsuccessful second-term-seeker, plus their father's two campaigns for Texas governor. And they don't like politics.

Despite his fond hopes entering the first presidential race in 1999, both girls said they wanted no part of the public attention. And their parents protected that desire ferociously. Just ask any reporter who sought interviews with the teens in those days.

During the primary contests, they would wait inside the small chartered plane while all the media attention surrounded one or both parents outside. And then slip into separate cars with protective Texas Rangers. They were there at many....

public events, but in the crowd with friends or relatives.

What a change! Now 26, Jenna (the blond one named for Laura Bush's mother) handles most any public attention with aplomb, having been teaching in Washington, D.C., schools and done one book tour.

Now, just two weeks before her May 10 Texas wedding to Henry Hager, a 29-year-old Virginian, Jenna is on another book tour with her mother plugging a children's volume -- "Read All About It!" -- they wrote together to encourage a favorite cause of both, literacy.

Contrary, perhaps, to the wishes of some East Coast society writers, Jenna opted against a White House wedding. "I'm more of an outdoor girl," she said earlier this week on the "Today" show. With her mother's help, they've planned a Saturday evening affair (it can be hot on May afternoons in Crawford) under a tent on the Bush ranch with about 200 friends and family. Hager has already bought a house in Baltimore, where he'll work.

Also this week Jenna and her mother were on "Larry King Live," a highly-coveted prime-time spot for any author or politician. They did talk about the children's book. But, of course, Larry had to get some politics in, asking the Republican first lady which Democratic candidate was her favorite.

As if the savvy veteran would answer that one. Of course, if she had, King would have made news for his program. As it happened, the program made news anyway, but by what wasn't said.

"My favorite is the Republican," said Laura Bush, who is one of very few people who've actively participated in every presidential campaign but one (1996) since 1980. The trio laughed.

Turning to Jenna Bush, King said, "Yours, too, I would imagine."

She seemed surprised. "I don't know," she replied.

"A-ha," said King.

"But, I mean, you know --"

"Are you open to --"

"Yes, of course," said the bride-to-be. "I mean, who isn't open to learning about the candidates? But, I mean, and I'm sure everybody is like that. But I really -- I honestly have been too busy with books to really pay that much attention."

Now, someone from the Bush camp will have to explain to the McCain people, well, you know, she wasn't expecting a political question, she's got a lot on her mind.

-- Andrew Malcolm

                                                                             Photo Credit: AP