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‘W’ stands for waiting for the real issues

First Lady Laura Bush remarks on the economy

By Leigh E. Rich

What wasn’t quite touted as a campaign stop by the Office of the First Lady was nothing but a stump for her husband, George W. Bush, and his leading campaign promises to make his tax cuts permanent in the next four years, to reform medical liability, and “to expand math and science education” among America’s youth “and broaden Internet training so America’s workers can compete in the technology-driven world,” Laura Bush said Wednesday after touring the Lakewood-based aerospace technology firm, Design Net Engineering.

The president’s better half visited the company owned by Sandy and Gerry Murphy, after which she was to deliver “remarks on the economy” to the small crowd of employees and their families, several women business owners, and a handful of Colorado’s political elite. Among the 80 people, mostly women, who filled the back reaches of Design Net’s headquarters were Lt.Gov. Jane Norton, Frances Owens, Claudia Beauprez, and Pete and Marilyn Coors.

Gwyneth Dieter, head honcho of the Colorado branch of Laura Bush’s “W Stands for Women” platform and wife of “one of George’s roommates at Yale,” also was in attendance. As the First Lady stood in the back room that was bedecked with three Bush-Cheney campaign banners, she thanked the Murphys and Colorado’s politicos, several of whom she described as “very good friends” of her and the president.

During her brief stop, Bush barely touched on America’s economy, only noting that “25 million small business owners have each saved an average of $3,000 this year” because of tax cuts, “real after-tax incomes have increased by 10 percent,” and “1.5 million jobs have been created since last August.”

Local press who were given exclusive interviews with the First Lady didn’t press her on the economy or any other significant issues. News 4’s evening broadcast boasted of Molly Hughes’ exclusive with Bush, who “spoke very candidly … about why her husband should be president.”

But Hughes’ interview consisted of three questions about whether George and Laura’s political perspectives match up, how she feels that a “vote for John Kerry is really a vote against George Bush,” and if she gets nervous when speaking in public.

The Rocky Mountain News, the other news team in town to garner a one-on-one, didn’t delve any deeper, spending much of its column inches on Bush’s favorite book, where she vacationed as a child, whether her daughters will speak at the upcoming convention, and “the most effective way” she helps her husband relax.

But Laura Bush spent much of her speech at Design Net hitting hot topics such as creating reliable and affordable health care, improving American education via her husband’s No Child Left Behind Act, and helping small businesses stay afloat in the corporate-driven world.

Left out of the news coverage were hard-hitting questions about the lower-than-expected job growth in July, the fact that the 1.5 million new jobs haven’t kept pace with America’s growing population, or how President Bush plans to make his “tax relief permanent” while controlling the country’s largest deficit in history.

Bush also talked of women’s emerging roles in the world during her Colorado stopover, including the strides Afghani women have made and the “10 million American women who own their own businesses.”

A case in point, Bush said, is Sandy Murphy, CEO of Design Net, “a systems engineering and technology company, with a special expertise … in avionics and mechanical and electrical engineering,” according to Linda Strine, a spokeswoman for Design Net and owner of the business development and communications firm Infinite Links.

Also a lawyer with Rothgerber Johnson and Lyons, Murphy was appointed CEO of Design Net by its board this January. While Sandy handles “the business end of things,” her husband, Gerry, who has degrees in astrophysics and electrical engineering, oversees the technology.

“She’s kind of the straight man, if you will,” Strine said of Linda’s part-time role at Design Net. Once the company, founded in 1996, grows to the next level, Strine explained that Gerry will “bring in someone else. … He has two strong women who work in the company that he’s been grooming for potential promotion.”

About one-third of Design Net’s 40-some employees are women, and both the Murphys and Strine donated $1,000 to the University of Colorado’s women in engineering program in honor of Bush’s visit.

“Not everybody can be a rocket scientist,” Strine said, emphasizing that fostering such a math and science skill set will prevent students from being “turned away from that field early on.”

Bush hyped Design Net and CEO Sandy as “part of a sisterhood of women who own their own businesses, a sisterhood that just keeps growing.”

While the First Lady tried to gather Colorado’s female vote, Susan Turnbull, deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, however, issued a press release touting that “‘W’ means ‘wrong for women.’”

“The president opposes stronger enforcement of equal pay laws; he opposes increasing the minimum wage, which would benefit nearly seven million working women; he refuses to extend the child tax credit to 12 million children in lower income working families; he has offered two tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans while women and their families are losing access to health insurance; and health care costs continue to escalate,” Turnbull said. 

Rich, L. E. (2004, August 20). ‘W’ stands for waiting for the real issues: First Lady Laura Bush remarks on the economy. The Colorado Statesman, p. 3.

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