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US First Lady's Comic Routine Scores Hit With White House Press

U.S. First Lady Laura Bush has the country talking this week over her comic performance at the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner. The former librarian surprised and delighted many by making fun of her own husband, President George Bush. As VOA's Brian Padden reports, reaction from the speech from both the President and the public reflects the kind of leaders Americans expect and the role women play in American political life.

In the middle of telling a joke that most at the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner had heard before, president Bush was interrupted by the First Lady Laura Bush.

"I've been attending these dinners for years and just quietly sitting there. Well, I've got a few things I want to say for a change," said Laura Bush.

She then went on to deliver a number of jokes of her own at her husband's expense. She made fun of his early bedtime.

"George always says he's delighted to come to these press dinners. Baloney. He's usually in bed by now. I'm not kidding. I said to him the other day, "George, if you really want to end tyranny in the world, you're going to have to stay up later," joked the First Lady.

She made fun of how this son of privilege tried to adjust to life in rural Texas. "But I'm proud of George. He's learned a lot about ranching since that first year when he tried to milk the horse. What's worse, it was a male horse."

Not only did the audience laugh, the President laughed and reaction across the country has been extremely positive. Historian Allan Lichtman says the speech was so popular because it makes American leaders more human.

"In America we have no monarchy, no aristocracy. So our royalty comes down to the President and the First Lady but we don't have a stuffy view of our royalty. We like them to be above us but also down to Earth. And we love self-deprecating humor like we saw from the First Lady," says Mr. Lichtman.

"George's answer to any problem at the ranch is to cut it down with a chainsaw - which I think is why he and Cheney and Rumsfeld get along so well," said Laura Bush.

Professor Lichtman says the First Lady's presence on the stage and jokes made about prominent women in the Bush administration sends a message about women in America. He says, "I think this also shows the world that we don't have our women stuck in the back room. Not only was Laura Bush making jokes about the President, she was also making jokes about our woman Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice."

Until now the First Lady's has had a more serious public persona, an advocate for education and women's rights in Afghanistan. This speech showed a different and very funny side of Laura Bush.