Laura Bush: Grace and strength

"All of us now in America have a chance to show our resilience and our courage." Shortly after 9/11, Laura Bush spoke those calming and uplifting words during a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Mrs. Bush had visited three military personnel hospitalized for injuries received at the Pentagon. "An opportunity has opened to do what we can for our fellow Americans," she added, "to think how we can help each other and to reassure our young children. Let them know they are safe and are loved." Heartfelt expressions such as these epitomize Laura Bush in my mind. From the first day she assumed her position as First Lady of the United States of America, she did so with uncommon humility and genuineness. Mrs. Bush brought back dignity and grace to the White House. Like her mother-in-law, she did not seek to be "co-President". She understood her role to be a supporter of her husband, and while it has been reported that she frequently has advised the President and offered opinion, she has done so in that quiet, thoughtful manner that we have come to know.

Laura Bush, like her husband, has been maligned by the MSM on many occasions. I would submit the ridicule and insult have often bordered on abuse. This woman of great courage and personal strength has not failed to maintain her composure even in the face of the most vicious accusations directed toward her family. When the Bush's moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the country had just witnessed the devastating outcome of a First Family embroiled in personal problems, and specifically, a First Marriage that was in tatters. The Clinton's, Johnson's, and Kennedy's were all First Couples that apparently had underlying marital problems that may or may not have impacted decisions coming from the Oval Office. Whatever problems faced George W. Bush as President, the world has knew his wife stood beside him, supported him, protected her family and their privacy, and she never wavered in her love and support of her country.

During the '04 campaign, I heard a panel on CNN talking about the possibility of a Kerry White House. The pundits were giddy in anticipation of having Teresa Heinz Kerry take over. They were confident that there would be no more early bedtimes for the president and his wife. Instead, the Kerry's would entertain frequently and lavishly, inviting media and socialites to share in the grandeur. It was very disturbing to hear this group insult Mrs. Bush's entertaining style and frequency. At a time of war and unrest on many fronts, I believe the Bush's held true to their convictions that their family should be respectful of sobering events of the day, and that it was their duty to maintain a more simple and less flamboyant lifestyle than perhaps prior administrations had undertaken. In spite of media criticism, the Bush's never compromised their true sense of self or their personal preferences.

Mrs. Bush has accomplished much as First Lady, but in keeping with her personality and desire to deter attention away from herself, her work has often gone unrecognized. She isn't the type that the women on The View love to entertain. She doesn't participate in petty gossip; she does not show disrespect to former presidents or criticize policies they may have initiated. An example of her true character and belief there is good in everyone was on display during this campaign. When asked her opinion regarding Michelle Obama's comment about being proud of America for the first time in her adult life, Mrs. Bush extended a verbal hand of friendship and understanding. Always the kind ambassador, she responded that Mrs. Obama likely meant instead that now she is more proud of her country. Mrs. Bush graciously helped to cover a potentially damaging statement, something the press would never have done for her.

I will miss Laura Bush every year at Christmas time. Each year, I've enjoyed the HGTV White House Christmas décor' program that featured Mrs. Bush walking viewers through the steps involved in decorating America's House each year. This year was especially poignant because Mrs. Bush chose the Christmas decorating theme of America and red, white and blue. A true American patriot, Mrs. Bush could not have selected a more appropriate way to end her career as First Lady.

As hope and change move the country forward in 2009, and a new family occupies the living quarters of this great home, one thing remains certain for me. Laura Bush has left her mark on this country, the world and the White House in so many significant and important ways. I will miss her pleasant, engaging smile, her dedication to this country, her concern and love for children and her commitment to her husband and her family. The next First Lady comes onto the scene touted as being the next Jackie Kennedy and someone of great fashion sense and style, not to mention being blessed with shapely bare arms. I wish Mrs. Obama well and at a time in our country's history when we most assuredly need a seamless transfer of strong leadership and vision, we also need the reassurance that the White House traditions be maintained and preserved. As with the family of George and Laura Bush, the closeness and affection the Obama family displays toward each other will be important to the country's morale.

As Laura Bush accompanies her husband into their retirement years in Crawford, I wish this remarkable woman, our First Lady, God's speed. She has served us well and is entirely deserving of peace and calm---both qualities she shared with us.

2009: How strange will it be?

Satirizing politics isn't easy; your imaginary absurdity keeps getting overtaken by the real thing. It wasn't that long ago when we taped our twisted fantasy of 2009 for Colorado Public Television, but since then the Senate vacancy farce has exploded, and now there's the Broncos melodrama on top of that. Embarrassment of riches! Must have been too much merriment on 12/31, because I woke up on 1/1 thinking what a masterstroke it would be if Ritter named Mike Shanahan to Salazar's Senate seat. It could only help the Dem ticket in Colorado next year -- and what a way to take some of the media glare off Ritter's floundering fellow governors, Blago in IL and Patterson in NY, as they grasp for gravitas amid senatorial follies of their own.

Anyhow, Susan Barnes-Gelt and I did get off a few good gibes in our "Head On" exchange about '09's nutty possibilities, currently airing on Channel 12 in Denver and elsewhere across the state. Here's the script:

John: It’s time again for Susan and John’s fearless New Year's predictions. 2009 is gonna be crazy. Harry Reid launches a deodorant brand. Jon Stewart and Joe Biden trade jobs. Bill Ritter gives up the governor gig and heads back to Africa as a missionary. Colorado Public Television acquires the Rocky.

Susan: Republicans drown Grover Norquist in a bathtub. Sarah Palin replaces Shawn Hannity and Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, as the station struggles for viewers. Bill Clinton's handicap falls to the single digits as he's banished to the links for the next four years.

John: The Secretary of State’s husband will still have an ethical handicap in triple digits. So Hillary dumps Bill and marries Henry Kissinger. The Onion acquires the New York Times. Mattel acquires GM. The Mafia acquires Chicago. The Obamas get a pretty little pitbull and name it Sarah.

Susan: Hickenlooper goes to Washington to head the Department of Special Events - the perfect job for a guy who is better at putting on a show than governing a city. With DC becoming the nation's new financial hub, Pennsylvania Avenue changes its name to Wall Street and the bankers morph to street sweepers.

Readers poll: Who was great in 2008?

Backbone Americans far prefer Palin or Bush over Time's Person of the Year, Barack Obama. Voting continues, just a click away. Out of a wide-ranging list of nominees from our thousands of friends, Gov. Sarah Palin leads all contenders for Woman of the Year. President George W. Bush is the other top vote-getter for Man of the Year so far.

To vote, click here and use the comment block. Balloting closes 1/4/09.

The wide interests and lively imagination of Backbone Americans are evidenced by the ever-growing breadth of our list. Other nominees receiving multiple votes (shown alphabetically, not by ranking) included:

Armed Forces Personnel Douglas Bruce Dick Cheney Vaclav Klaus Ron Paul David Petraeus Police & Firefighters Alexander Solzhenitsyn Robert Spencer Rick Warren

Single votes have also been cast for the following:

Chuck Baldwin William F. Buckley Jim Bunning Saxby Chambliss Tom Coburn Constitution & Bill of Rights Dinesh D’Souza Anthony Flew Fernando Flores Bobby Jindal Mort Marks John McCain Millennial Generation Albert Mohler Paul Newman Henry Paulson Putin & Medvedev Ronald Reagan Natan Sharansky Tony Snow Tom Tancredo Peter Wallison John Walsh Oprah Winfrey

Vote for Man of the Year

Who showed the most backbone in 2008? That's our criterion for man or woman of the year. Take the poll today, right here. Yes, we know that Time magazine already made Barack Obama its person of the year. For political appeal and oratorical gifts translating into momentary impact on the world, he deserves it.

But we at Backbone America now invite you to vote your favorite on a different basis -- the individual's lasting impact on human betterment resulting from fidelity to truth and right. In a word, character or backbone.

Cast your vote in the comment block at the foot of this page. It could be someone prominent in the past year's news, someone you think is a rising star with potential for great impact in years to come, or someone whose lifetime achievement was highlighted this year, perhaps by their passing.

In the latter category were Alexander Solzhenitsyn, William F. Buckley, Paul Weyrich, and Charlton Heston. Top newsmakers included John McCain, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and Bobby Jindal. Some might choose the outgoing president, George W. Bush. Or a figure of world eminence like Pope Benedict or Lady Thatcher. We're bound to get some joke nominations, for which I won't even tempt you with suggestions here.

The above names are just examples. Voting is open to anyone you choose. Variety is encouraged.

Use the comment block below to give us your Man or Woman of the Year nomination, more than one if you like, with a few words telling why. We'll tally and publicize the results early in January. Thanks for taking part, and best wishes for the New Year.

Colorado Winners & Sinners of 2008

Before 2008 is forgotten, here’s our annual salute to Colorado winners and sinners of the old year. Denver hosted a successful DNC and sparkled for its 150th birthday. Coffman and Polis went to Congress after tough primaries. Ritter’s tax increase flopped. Hard times for Rockies baseball and the Rocky Mountain News. So begins one of my current TV mini-debates with Susan Barnes-Gelt. The full script for this month's series on Colorado Public Television is posted on the home page, left column partway down. Our exchange continued as follows:

SBG- The biggest winner, now that we are at the end of 2008, is the American public; witnessing the end of the Bush government. Eight years of being lied to while corporate goliaths and hedge fund managers got rich, have taken a huge toll.

JA- Enough with the Daily Kos talking points. Give me some hometown humor. How about Mark Udall making “Boulder liberal” into a badge of honor with his 10-point victory? How about Speaker-designate Bernie Buescher becoming election roadkill? How about Golden changing its name to Tincup after the Coors brewery goes away?

SBG- That's a good one and Commerce City sounds like a brand all America would love to adopt! Urbanism is a huge winner. With Obama's election - a true urbanist who thought about being an architect. C I T Y is no longer a 4-letter word!

Update by JA- After this piece was taped mid-December, the ball took another funny bounce for ex-Rep. Bernie Buescher as he was appointed Secretary of State. Overnight, with Ritter's help, he became resurrected roadkill. Is that what they mean by failing upward?