Home on the Ranch
Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
09/13/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT
09/13/2004 AT 01:00 AM EDT
"Hey Bushie! Bushie! C'mon, that's enough." First Lady Laura Bush is growing impatient with her husband, who, as a photo crew awaits him, lingers with a pair of reporters outside the main house on their 1,600-acre Prairie Chapel ranch outside Crawford, Texas. This is the family's true home, their place to relax, even in the middle of a hotly—and at times bitterly—contested battle for the White House. For the first time, Bush and his wife, Laura, 57, are being joined on the campaign by their twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, 22, young women who have shown little interest in politics.
Win or lose in November, where do the Bushes see themselves in five years? "First of all, it's win," says President Bush, 58. On Aug. 24, PEOPLE senior editor Patrick Rogers and Washington bureau chief Sandra Sobieraj Westfall joined the Bushes in Crawford for a unique experience—the Bushes' first interview as a family.
President Bush, your daughters are now with you on the campaign trail. Are they giving you advice?
President Bush: Well, they're constantly giving me advice, you know—smile more, whatever. We tease each other a lot and laugh a lot. I'm really glad they're there.
Do they tell you how to appeal to young people? How to be more hip?
President Bush: That may be a lost cause. No, I think young people are interested in, you know, hearing about the big issues. For the last 3 1/2 years they've seen a country that has been attacked and has gone to war. They want to know, Can we win the war, can there be peace?
Mrs. Bush, you've spoken sympathetically about Teresa Heinz Kerry and the scrutiny she has come under. I wonder if you, especially, have concerns about your daughters?
Mrs. Bush: We both really thought about that, because we have left the girls out of every single campaign before, on purpose. We didn't want to use them, we didn't want to bring them out to be in our television commercials. It's not so much scrutiny that we were worried about, but it was just the loss of anonymity that we wanted them to be able to have when they went off to college, for instance. We wanted them to be like every other freshman.
Jenna, what has it been like from your perspective?
Jenna: We've had a great time. It's really cool to see people that love our dad, because there's so much criticism of anybody that would put themselves out in the political eye. So the people that come, the 10,000, 15,000 people that come to hear him speak, who are normal and real, they love him, and that's actually really touching.
Is it harder than you thought, more grueling?
Jenna: We're just not very political, so there's been more humorous times. I mean, the first day [at campaign headquarters] we were watching CNN. We didn't know, but they came in and sort of changed it to FOX.
Mrs. Bush: Don't put that in. That was off the record. [Laughter]
So when your dad is on TV and American Idol or something like that is on, do you always watch your dad, or do you change the channel?
Jenna: Well, we're not really into American Idol.
What do you watch?
President Bush [joking]: Jeopardy!
Jenna: No, The O.C. I hate to say it.
Okay, so is it The O.C. season finale or your dad's big speech?
Jenna: Dad's big speech. I mean, if it's a really big one or State of the Union. Barbara: We can TiVo The O.C.
Jenna and Barbara, do you have plans for the future after the election?
Jenna: I'm very interested in education and the charter school movement that has been going on. I helped a woman in D.C. [who was starting] a charter school, and it was a really great experience. So hopefully I'll be teaching. I'm moving to New York.
Barbara: I'll probably be going abroad in the future. I hope to work for a child psychology clinic for children with AIDS. But I'm putting everything on hold. Neither of us could have a job and be campaigning for our dad.
You've been praised for your sense of style.
Barbara: Well, we both like clothes a lot. I mean, we're 22. We're dressing like everyone else that's our age really. But I'm definitely interested in fashion; so is Jenna.
Jenna: You're more.
Barbara: I'm more so. My two summer jobs have been with fashion companies. Both were so much fun, and I loved the people I was working with.
Is it fair to say you spend more on the clothes?
Barbara [looking at Jenna]: I don't know. President Bush: Man, it's a heck of a race. [Laughter]
Jenna: Ifs not that bad! I lived in Austin, and Austin is a really casual city. I lived in New York last summer, and any of the clothes that I bought I've worn like once, because in Austin you wear T-shirts and jeans.
What you think of your dad's style?
Barbara: We think he's cute. [Laughter] Jenna: Dad looks really cute when he's just at the ranch in jeans and a T-shirt. That's his cutest.
President Bush: From there it's barreling downhill.
Here's a question that might give us a little insight into what you think of your dad. If he were sent away to a desert island, what three things would he bring with him? Things, not people.
Jenna: He couldn't bring Barney [President Bush's Scottish terrier]?
Barbara: He would bring a picture of Barney.
Jenna: Running shoes.
Barbara: And the Bible.
What about your mom?
President Bush: Vacuum cleaner. [Laughter] Jenna: She's very clean. Some Windex, maybe.
Mrs. Bush, we read that you like Bob Marley. And Jimmy Cliff?
Mrs. Bush: Well, I just have my old record collection.
Jenna: I think it's funny people think it's shocking that my mom would have good music taste. What does music have to do with politics? I mean, she can have cool music tastes. She's a normal woman.
Our research tells us that, at least on one occasion, you had a karaoke here?
Barbara: That was at Camp David. My parents never got on it.
Mrs. Bush: No, believe me, we were in bed long before the karaoke machine started.
Sir, can you tell us anything about your daughters' taste in men?
President Bush: Excellent taste in men. Excellent taste.
Do they differ?
President Bush: No, actually, there's a lot of common traits: polite, not afraid of the old man, which is good.
Mrs. Bush: Funny.
President Bush: I, of course, like the boyfriend who says, "Hey, Mr. President, want to go fishing?" Or "What a great dog you've got there." [He scans the room for Blake Gottesman, 24, an aide who once dated his daughter Jenna.] Can you get Blake in here so he can describe himself? [Gottesman enters the room.] Come in!
Can you describe yourself?
President Bush: They're trying find out what kind of boyfriends...
Jenna: I was 14 when I dated Blake. We've been broken up for 12 years!
Girls, is it a little bit like bringing Gaylord Focker home?
Barbara: We do love that movie.
Mrs. Bush: We showed Meet the Parents to [British] Prime Minister Blair and his wife, Cherie, on their first visit to Camp David.
Jenna: That's very American humor, though, I bet.
Mrs. Bush: Oh, they thought it was very funny.
Jenna, what do you admire about your parents' marriage?
Jenna: Well, I mean, they've been married for 24 years.
Mrs. Bush: Twenty-six.
Jenna: So actually it's better than I even thought! I just think they're very patient with each other, and they laugh a lot, which I would want in a marriage.
When they fight, who wins?
Jenna: I was a very dramatic kid, and I used to think they would fight a lot. But now, at age 22, I realize that they really don't. My mom dominates.
President Bush: I know when to beat a hasty retreat.
You've just been traveling with your grandmother [famously strict former First Lady Barbara Bush]. Do "Ganny's rules" still apply?
Barbara: Mmm-hmm. Definitely.
Jenna: We had some wardrobe malfunctions. Age 22 and 80 don't really go together. There were outfits that got nixed before they even were put on.
Barbara: She doesn't like a lot of complaining, really.
Mrs. Bush: Yes, you don't get to complain.
Jenna: About anything.
Mrs. Bush: That's a very good rule.
Jenna: But she's funny, and she's fun.
Sir, has being the daughters of a President changed Barbara and Jenna in any way?
President Bush: You know, I don't know. I don't have anything to compare to. But I do know that they make me proud, that they are very capable, smart young women who are going to chart their own path in life. And that is the most important thing for me, that they have got the confidence to say this is what they want to do and go do it.
With your daughters out on the trail with you, you really are surrounded by women—National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, your advisor Karen Hughes.
President Bush: Except for Barney. [Laughter] No, you're right.
Why is that?
President Bush: Because I'm a smart man, and I know talent when I see it. And these are people who are able to give me really good, sound advice, in a way that is very honest. They can tell me if they think I'm wrong, tell me if they think I'm right, and they do so in a way that causes me to listen.
Last question. Do you think there is any chance you are the last Bush in the White House?
President Bush: No. My dad set, you know, a great example of public service, and he showed that you could go into the political arena with a value system and come out with the same value system. You can go in as a loving person and come out as a loving person, that politics doesn't change you. Plus, to serve your nation is a great honor. [But] I can't tell you who it's going to be.
Jenna: Not us. [Laughter]