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Inside the Numbers
The debt we owe Laura Bush

By Matt Towery
Morris News Service
With so many newspapers columns about bailouts and debt, I thought I might just change the pace by paying tribute to a woman to whom we as Americans are indebted -- First Lady Laura Bush.
I know President Bush doesn't read columns, but with all due respect, he needs to read this one. So, I'm writing it to him.
Dear Mr. President,
This message has nothing to do with you or your presidency.
I'll leave that to others. But, then again, it has everything to do with you and your presidency.
Being an ex-elected official and candidate for statewide office -- now permanently "reformed" by not participating anymore -- I know what the wives of political leaders go through. Not that I can ever know how tough it gets when one reaches the level of the presidency. But I can imagine.
For this and other reasons, I want to thank you personally and on behalf of a great number of Americans for the service your wife, Laura, has given to America.
Like plenty of us political men, you married "over your head," which I'm sure you know. Many of us are lucky to have bright, devoted and strong wives who not only help hold our families together during our years in political office, but who could themselves tackle many of the issues we do, often with superior skill to our own.
In the case of your own Laura, she helped raise two bright and beautiful young women. Sure they had a few teenage incidents. Whose kids don't? But they have brought honor to your family and have been a great reflection on their parents.
Then there is the side of your wife for which we as a nation owe a huge debt.
I know that most Americans know that Mrs. Bush was a librarian when you met her. But I'm not sure everyone knows that she earned not only her bachelor's degree from Southern Methodist University but also a master's degree from the University of Texas. This woman is no wallflower.
And, as you know Mr. President, she has in her always friendly, warm and articulate manner, put her keen mind to work for America.
While she has been best known for her tireless efforts to promote global literacy, Laura Bush has been just as active on a range of issues -- from her "Women's Health and Wellness Initiative," to her fight to end oppression against women in nations such as Afghanistan, where she actually took the place of her husband in presenting the weekly presidential radio address in 2001.
But you know all of that, Mr. President.
But I want others to recognize how active she has been on behalf of people who need help and often can't fight for themselves. And we all recognize that while this is a kind and caring woman, she can be passionate and, in her own way, fight effectively for others. In fact, she is still fighting for the women of Afghanistan.
I can only imagine how proud you were of her performance on "Meet the Press" recently, where she deftly handled a range of issues in a way that seemed to me to be as competent and articulate as say, Sen. Hillary Clinton or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In fact, I was blown away by her ability to take anything Tom Brokaw asked of her and ace it.
What makes this all the more interesting is to see her just a week or so later, live in the White House showing the Christmas decorations to a national audience. I loved the part when the dog ran right past her, and she cracked a joke and never missed a beat.
So whether it's the Christmas tree or denouncing the disfigurement of young girls in a nation so very far away, Laura Bush is able to handle the task with grace and ease.
I guess it is a bit presumptuous to write a sitting president in a national column. But we all know this will never reach George W. Bush. But it just would not be fair, particularly given the tough years this nation and her husband have endured, not to at least recognize one of the greatest first ladies in American history.
Matt Towery served as the chairman of former Speaker Newt Gingrich's political organization from 1992 until Gingrich left Congress. He is a former Georgia state representative, the author of several books and currently heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage. To find out more about Matthew Towery and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.



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