Vast areas of the Pacific Ocean will be protected as national monuments, thanks to an 11th-hour proclamation by President Bush. Score one more for Laura Bush. Perhaps because she came after Hillary Clinton, Mrs. Bush’s power has often gone unnoticed. But over her years in the White House – years when her approval rating was often double that of her husband’s – she came to understand that when she spoke people listened. She then determinedly used her position to further causes she cared about. And those causes could be surprising.
For the oceanic monuments, Laura Bush pulled out of her quiver a first lady’s most powerful weapon: the ability to influence her husband. The president rejected the advice of his vice president, according to the Washington Post, and listened instead to his wife, who had studied the issue by “soliciting input from outside scientists, asking for briefings on the proposed monument designations.” Deeply involved in public policy, Laura Bush is somewhat bemused by people’s perceptions of her.
“I read in this morning’s newspaper that I was prim,” she laughed to a group of historians and journalists she invited to the White House shortly before the presidential election. But she admitted that it had taken her some time to understand how powerful she could be. “I can’t believe how dense I was,” she joked.