Laura Bush has been amping up her public profile lately, becoming increasingly outspoken in the waning months of her husband's administration, the New York Times observes. She's been the administration's leading voice on Burma, calling UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, testifying before Congress and writing an op ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. This week she is flying to the Mideast on a breast-cancer-awareness mission.
On the surface the trip is typical first lady fare, but it's not a coincidence, the Times posits, that it comes just weeks before a Bush-sponsored peace conference. And she's been waging a "policy charm offensive" on behalf of the No Child Left Behind bill, which is up for reauthorization, inviting key lawmakers for coffee. “It is a noticeable difference in her role,” said one White House insider. “She’s becoming much more public, and more proscriptive. She’s not just following; she’s leading.”