Bush twins embrace a more political party

Campaign: The president's daughters are ready to get serious in support of their father.

Election 2004 -- The Republican Convention

August 30, 2004|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

NEW YORK - It used to be the words "Bush twins" and "party" would never appear in any sentence the White House would be too eager to read, but last night the president's famously fun-loving daughters were unleashed on the party scene on official business - to help their father win re-election.

Americans who knew the first twins mainly through the gossip pages - partying in New York or being cited for underage drinking or otherwise romping with friends - will see them this week as representatives of the Bush-Cheney campaign. This means not former MIPs (minors in possession), but full-fledged political VIPs, Republican starlets working to attract young voters to the GOP cause.

Just like the Democrats, who rolled out John Kerry's two daughters at their convention, the Republicans are showcasing the 22-year-old Bush twins in carefully stage-managed events such as last night's "R: The Party," a celebrity gala at Manhattan's Roseland Ballroom.

As the Bush daughters appear at this week's Republican convention, they do so having participated in one interview their whole lives - a spread in last month's Vogue, where they appeared like Disney princesses in lush gowns, pledging loyalty to their dad.

`Enjoying themselves'

Twinkle and Turquoise - the Bush twins' Secret Service code names - have always indicated they'd rather lead private lives. So if they're finally going to campaign, their friends say, they're not going to talk policy in St. John's suits, but find a public role that fits them.

"They seem like they're really enjoying themselves," says Mia Baxter, 22, a longtime friend of the Bush twins who will room with Jenna when she moves to New York after the election. "If they could choose, they probably don't want to be noticed everywhere they go after the campaign is over, but it's just that they know that this is more important than that - they know that putting in their words and helping their dad is more important than that."

The Bush daughters are joined by other children from both parties: two of Kerry's stepsons, three children of Democratic running-mate John Edwards, and Vice President Dick Cheney's two daughters.

But it's the Bush twins and the Kerry daughters - Vanessa, 27, and Alexandra, 30 - whose presence carries the most power. The red-state and blue-state daughters are a reminder that the candidates fighting over war and the economy are fathers who have cared about soccer games and family pets and boyfriends and breakups.

For now, the Bush twins are still finding their political voice - in pre-screened comments in a campaign e-mail and Web chat, they are part adoring daughters, part campaign loyalists, part sassy sorority sisters.

"He made everyone feel welcome and comfortable in our house (except for the occasional boyfriend)," they said of their dad in a recent e-mail to supporters, "and our friends got to know him as a really good guy."

It's unclear whether President Bush's daughters will formally address the convention, as Kerry's did in Boston, but they'll be inside Madison Square Garden when their mother and father speak. They will also appear with grandmother Barbara Bush at a gathering of supporters today, introduce their mother at a GOP women's lunch tomorrow, speak briefly at a youth convention Wednesday and host a "Next Generation of Leaders" gala with New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's daughter Emma on Thursday.

Before this campaign, the twins traveled below the radar. They met world leaders but kept it quiet. Only in this month's Web chat did they gush about meeting Vaclav Havel, president of the Czech Republic, calling him inspiring, intelligent and remarking that "he loves the Rolling Stones!"

They've seen world events through a personal prism.

"Two months after September 11," they wrote in that chat, their father "still found time to throw us a party for our 20th birthday. We invited 20 of our friends down to Camp David for the weekend, and although our Dad had a lot on his mind, he still spent plenty of time with us and our friends, making sure everyone felt welcome."

George and Laura Bush never pushed the twins to enter the political world - the most the twins heard was a gentle suggestion to attend an event.

"When they were really young girls, Laura would say, `I really want you to attend such-and-such with me, because this is going to go down in history as a very important event,'" recalls Susan Nowlin, a friend of the first lady. "And they would say, `You know, we're just going to pass on that, because tonight is the final episode of 90210.'"

Barbara and Jenna, who graduated from Yale University and the University of Texas this year, respectively, are normally ensconced behind a barrier of friends and Secret Service.

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