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Bush, Cheney daughters woo Colorado’s women

Colorado’s second-in-command joins First Twins, Liz Cheney

By Leigh E. Rich

According to Barbara, Bush-Cheney country is all grassroots.

Barbara Bush, that is, the younger.

Named for her grandmother and the former first lady—whom twin sister Jenna dubbed “Barbara ‘the enforcer’ Bush” at Tuesday’s “W is for Women” panel—the junior Barbara boasted that her father’s current bid is the “biggest grassroots effort in the history of presidential politics.”

Such a claim to fame may be vital in this election, as many partisan staffers on all sides have maintained in recent weeks that such person-to-person support will be a deciding factor come Nov. 2.

And that seemed to be the force behind Tuesday’s GOP stump at the University of Denver that featured the First Twins, veep daughter and public policy researcher Liz Cheney, Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, and breast cancer activist and former Hungarian Ambassador Nancy Brinker.

“What you guys do here on the ground will determine who wins Colorado,” Cheney said.

About a hundred women, college-age and beyond, turned out for the afternoon event on “national security and women’s issues”—which included how the Bush plan will affect women’s health care—held in a small lecture room in DU’s Sturm Hall. A handful of men joined in as well, and both genders were poised with disposable cameras and cell phones, ready to capture the twins for posterity.

But the Bush sisters didn’t stay long, nor did they speak directly to women’s issues.

Jenna reiterated her father’s often-heard campaign anecdote about how First Lady Laura Bush agreed to marry Dubya so long as she never had to give a speech.

“Wrong family, mom,” Jenna said, pointing out that Mrs. Bush has given more than 30 in this election alone.

The statistic prompted wows from the crowd, which also cheered as Barbara proclaimed that “one huge benefit of voting for (my dad) is that you get to keep my mom in the White House for four more years.”

The first lady’s popularity, Barbara added to a round of laughter, is “a little bit like having a rock star for a mom, except she’s in bed by 9:30.”

But the daughters sang their father’s praises as well, deeming him open-minded, down-to-earth, humorous and “extremely disciplined.”

He is a “role model of discipline,” Jenna said, “ … running a marathon at the age of 45 and reading the Bible daily.”

Most importantly, however, they say their “dad is a great president” and someone who “always supports his team to the very last pitch.”

“There is so much energy in this state to reelect my dad,” Jenna said of Colorado’s GOP support, telling the mostly female group that “it’s really important that he’s reelected.”

While Jenna repeated her father’s common stump about the strides Afghan women have made because of America’s war on terror, Barbara stole another line from her mother’s campaign trail—pointing out that the Bush administration has two, strong women leaders in domestic policy adviser Margaret Spellings and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

“Women are in charge of everything at home and everything that happens abroad,” Barbara said.

In addition to keeping Colorado on the GOP radar, Tuesday’s “W is for Women panel” also seemed to underscore the importance of getting out the female vote. In 2000, approximately 22 million unmarried women did not cast a ballot, and both the Republicans and the Democrats have been clamoring for these votes that may be up for grabs.

“Women voters are the key to this election,” said Gwyneth Dieter, a W is for Women steering committee member who acted as moderator for the event.

The angle on Iraq

Before introducing the panel, Dieter called the president’s record “second to none” and stated twice that Bush is “a steady, consistent and decisive leader both here and abroad.”

And even though event volunteers passed out note cards so attendees could write down their questions, only Dieter posed questions to the panel’s members—every one of which she read from a clearly partisan script.

With the opening topic on Iraq, Dieter asked Cheney, a senior research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, to speak about the Duelfer report as well as John Kerry’s characterization of terrorism as a “nuisance.”

Cheney said the war in Iraq “was exactly the right decision,” even if there is currently “a lot of confusion and mudslinging about this.” She also supported the Bush administration’s policy to not just go after terrorists but any regime that harbors terrorists.

“That Bush doctrine is critically important to winning that war (on terror),” Cheney said, emphasizing that “Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was the nexus. … (There is) no question that America and the world today are safer because Saddam Hussein is in jail.”

Criticizing Kerry’s approach as focused more on law enforcement and intelligence gathering rather than winning a war, Cheney added, “Senator Kerry, for all accounts, is living in a pre-Sept. 11 world.”

She also rhetorically asked the audience, “When was terrorism ever a nuisance? … Was it just a nuisance when the Coal was attacked” or the embassies in Africa?

“It’s an insight into what Senator Kerry really believes,” she said, despite attempts by Kerry and Edwards at the debates “to adopt some very tough rhetoric. … The senators have begun talking tough” in order to deflect attention from their records, she maintained.

Borrowing a few catchphrases from her father’s campaign team, Cheney also questioned whether Kerry can build alliances after deeming America’s allies in the war in Iraq as “the bribed and the coerced,” and she broached the issue of the October 2003 vote regarding the $87 billion in military funding—the one-year anniversary of which, she pointed out, was last Sunday.

“Senator Kerry came down on the wrong side of all of those issues. … (He is) not a risk we can afford to take given that we are a nation at war.”

Planning to keep health care privatized

Switching to the topic of health care, Dieter posed questions to Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and a longtime Bush supporter, about health savings accounts and how “abusive lawsuits” are affecting women’s health care.

In response, Brinker told the group that Bush and Cheney “are the only two with a plan, I can assure you.”

She emphasized keeping America’s health care system privatized—deeming it “the world’s best” and even saying that many Europeans “have great respect” for it—while criticizing Kerry for encouraging increased government involvement.

“Other countries lust for what we have,” Brinker said.

Touting the Bush agenda and its tax-free health savings accounts, access to health care associations and Medicare prescription discount cards as capitalistic, “concrete” plans that work, she alluded to “how bad it will be to nationalize any more of our health care system. … Not everyone needs everything. … Right now there’s tremendous waste.

“All of us have to become better consumers,” she maintained. “We won’t become better consumers unless we own our system.”

Adopting a Bush agenda

Rounding out the discussion on women’s issues, Dieter spoke to Norton mainly about adoption and education—something in which Norton and Gov. Bill Owens have invested effort, Norton said, mentioning the state-level adoption-promotion recommendations she and Owens will present before the state Legislature come January and calling Colorado “one of the cutting-edge states” regarding the president’s No Child Left Behind Act.

By 2014, according to Norton, “every child will be proficient in reading and math,” there will be a qualified teacher in every classroom, and parents will be kept apprised of school and teacher performance.

“Don’t let anyone tell you it’s unfunded or it’s a mandate,” she said of No Child Left Behind.

But Norton also used her time on the stump to defend the president’s economic record. “He really did inherit a recession. Then we had 9-11 and corporate scandals.”

In response, she said, Bush implemented “three rounds of tax relief. … That was decisive action and what we needed at the time. … Because of the president’s decisive action, we have an economy that’s back on track,” she claimed.

The other panel members also buttressed Norton’s and the Bush twins’ testimonials that George W. is the man for the job.

Perhaps deliberately using one of Kerry’s frequent words, Brinker repeatedly called the Bush agenda “a great plan. Again, a plan that works.”

And Cheney, a mother of four, deemed the election “the most important in my lifetime” and claimed “it is the president and my dad who are offering the solutions for the 21st century.

“(Kerry and Edwards’) ideas really are the tired ideas of the past.”

Rich, L. E. (2004, October 22). Bush, Cheney daughters woo Colorado’s women: Colorado’s second-in-command joins First Twins, Liz Cheney. The Colorado Statesman, pp. 1, 12.

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