Teresa Heinz Kerry issued an apology yesterday for saying she doubted that Laura Bush, the president's wife, "ever had a real job." Bush's work as a teacher and librarian in Texas, and then as a mother of twin girls, has been well publicized.
In comments that touched off a bit of panic among some Democrats, and some disgust in the Bush camp, Heinz Kerry -- wife of Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry -- told USA Today that she would differ from Bush as first lady by continuing her career as a philanthropist and also because her "experience is a little bit bigger" than Bush's.
"I don't know Laura Bush," Heinz Kerry said in remarks published yesterday. "But she seems to be calm, and she has a sparkle in her eye, which is good. But I don't know that she's ever had a real job -- I mean, since she's been grown-up. So her experience and her validation comes from important things, but different things. And I'm older, and my validation of what I do and what I believe and my experience is a little bit bigger -- because I'm older, and I've had different experiences. And it's not a criticism of her. It's just, you know, what life is about."
Laura Bush was an elementary school teacher and librarian in the Dallas, Houston, and Austin school systems from 1968 to 1977, the year she met and married George W. Bush, according to her official biography. She earned a master's degree in library science in 1973.
Kerry aides said they were a bit unnerved when they read Heinz Kerry's remarks. As media outlets began highlighting the remarks, the campaign opted for an apology that was also aimed at the working mothers whom Kerry is courting.
"I had forgotten that Mrs. Bush had worked as a schoolteacher and librarian, and there couldn't be a more important job than teaching our children," Heinz Kerry said in a statement of apology. Referring to her years raising three sons, she added: "As someone who has been both a full-time mom and full time in the workforce, I know we all have valuable experiences that shape who we are. I appreciate and honor Mrs. Bush's service to the country as first lady, and am sincerely sorry I had not remembered her important work in the past."
Patrick Healy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.