George W. Bush and Laura Bush

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Who Is He?

Photo: White House Photo Office

Who is this man we've gotten to know so well the past two years? He is a hard worker who gives off the air of a man who's found his calling. He is by nature chipper, with a comic's instincts and timing. He is at ease with himself. He is a person for whom work, family, and faith are everything.

He is a loyal son who told us that his relationship with his father has undergone a change. He is a man in love with his wife. He is a father bemused by the strength and independence of his daughters.

And First Lady Laura Bush is a friendly yet firm presence, both modest and soothing. She has laughing eyes, and her voice hits the ear as more Southern than Texan.

The Bushes are easy people to like. All presidents and first ladies are -- being liked is part of their job, and by the time they've reached the White House it's part of their nature. But most presidents fairly quickly develop a kind of screen in front of them, through which you can see them and they can see you. From behind the screen they talk to you, but they also, in some way, detach.

But there is nothing detached about George W. Bush. He doesn't have the screen. There is a profound present-ness to him. The President was seeing us on a day that was bad (Mideast turmoil) and busy, but he spoke to us with a concentration that showed he was, as actors say, in the moment.

The day that Ladies' Home Journal was invited to the White House was a sparkling June day, one of those mornings that comes after a long haul of bad weather (almost six weeks of solid rain) and presents itself as a kind of gift. The sun had come out strong, and the grass was warm and the birds were singing like they'd just rediscovered their voices.

The grass is in the Rose Garden; the birds are in the crab apple trees that ring it. There are boxwoods, tulips, hyacinths, and roses, all reassuringly flowering. This sunny day, the bright whiteness of the house almost makes you squint. In the colonnaded walkway between the Residence and the West Wing, a White House gardener talks about the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden and points out the two magnolia trees President Andrew Jackson planted almost 200 years ago in memory of his wife.

History was with us.

Continued on page 3:  Q&A with the Bushes


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