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How Mr & Mrs Bush are handling retirement

February 27, 2009 12:25 IST

From the world's most visible address, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to a sleepy Dallas neighbourhood, life has changed drastically for former US President Geoge W Bush and his wife, Laura, since leaving the White House in January.

The former first lady said as much in a recent interview with ABC, indicating that she and her husband had begun to settle into a normal, routine life at their new home in Preston Hollow, after spending a month at their ranch in Crawford, Texas while their new home was finished.

She pointed out that commercial airline travel and trips to the hardware store have replaced flights on Air Force One and trips to Capitol Hill. And where she once could snap her fingers and have virtually anything on command, the former first lady is still waiting for her copy of The Dallas Morning News to be delivered.

"The only thing we don't have are the newspapers. It has been slow to get The Dallas Morning News delivered," she told ABC. "People bring the newspaper to us later in the day. It's just not being delivered yet."

Mrs Bush added that, thanks to some generous friends who are eager to welcome the Bushes back to Texas, she has yet to prepare a meal herself. And though they've had several large dinner parties, they don't yet have the furniture to handle such formidable crowds.
 
"We have very little furniture. We don't have a kitchen table or a dining room table," she said. "Friends loaned me a kitchen table and the other night I had 16 people for dinner and I had to borrow chairs from the Secret Service next door."

Despite The Dallas Morning News's tardiness, the former first couple have managed to stay abreast of what's going on in Washington DC, their home for eight years, from 2001-2009. But whereas she spent those years transfixed by every little bit of political news, now the first lady is able to relax.

When asked if she watched President's Obama's address to the United States Congress on Tuesday night, Mrs Bush said she simply had forgotten to.

"The next day I thought it was so ironic that for eight years I would be a nervous wreck before the State of the Union, and for days before, as George would be preparing his speech, worried about it and thinking about what was going to be in the speech. And this time it came and went and I didn't even think about it," she said.

While opinion polls of her husband were oftentimes volatile (George W Bush recorded both record highs and lows in terms of popularity with the US public), Laura Bush was seen as a steady, positive force in the White House.

Her legacy will forever be intertwined with the women's rights movement in Afghanistan, where the brutal repression of women under the misogynist Taliban regime raised her ire. She travelled three times (twice without her husband) to Afghanistan, a country never before visited by the US first lady.

As first lady, she was also on the front lines in the battles for improved education, HIV/AIDS awareness and malaria prevention.

Image: A file photograph of former US President George W Bush with Laura Bush, US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

Photograph: Tannen Maury/Pool/Reuters