Laura Bush announced her intention today to step down as First Lady, citing the long hours and wanting to spend more quality time with her family as her main reasons for leaving the position.
Bush, who has been First Lady since January 2001, announced her decision at a mid-afternoon press conference flanked by her husband President George W. Bush, their twin daughters Barbara and Jenna, and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
"I've really, truly enjoyed the last five years. It's been a great ride, but I just feel that the best thing for me at the moment is a change," said Bush. "I want to go back to my home in Texas, to spend more time with my family - my twins Jenna and Barbara, my husband George and my great dogs, Mizz Beazley and Barney. You know, my husband is a busy man and he travels a lot, so I'm looking forward to being able to spend more time with him now."
Bush added that while she has not made any final decisions about what she plans on doing once she officially leaves her duties as First Lady, she is considering returning to the private sector, where she previously worked.
"Sure, I've had plenty of interesting job offers, but I can't go into those right at the moment," she said. "I will tell you that next time you're in Crawford, Texas checking out a book at the Crawford Public Library, you might just run into me."
Bush also shot down rumours that she was asked to step down by Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove in order to give Republicans in Congress the major change that they have been insisting be made in order to restore their confidence in the president's administration.
The Bush administration has been faultering over the past two years from multiple domestic policy disasters, the Iraq War, Katrina, and the recent leak that Bush is planning to nuke Iran's nuclear sites. A recent opinion poll conducted by Ipsos/AP showed the president's approval rating to be at only two percent with a two percent margin of error.
"Course not. That's just horse doodie," said First Lady Bush when asked if she was being forced out. "I'm leaving on my own accord to spend more time with my dear husband George and my twin daughters back in Crawford. The long hours away from home have been hard on all of us. Being First Lady is a demanding job that calls for a 24/7 commitment, and that's something that I just do not feel I can give anymore."
After Condoleeza Rice presented the First Lady with a commemorative plaque signed by the cabinet and the White House staff, President Bush got down on one knee to thank her for her years of service.
"I just want to thank Laura for the last five and a half years of dedicated, around the clock, hard work. It's hard work being First Lady, you know that? In fact, you could say that she worked day and night in this job," said the president to the audience of press and invited guests, including former First Ladies Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan.
Rumours about who Bush will pick to be the new First Lady began swirling through the nation's capital last week after Laura Bush's decision was leaked to the press by an anonymous "senior White House staffer". Possible candidates included everyone from "Everybody Loves Raymond" actress and conservative activist Patricia Heaton, to conservative pundit Ann Coulter. However, those names were shot down almost immediately by President Bush before he left the ceremony.
"I just want to now take this time to cut through al the gossip I've been hearing about and announce that there is only one possible candidate for the new First Lady, and that's my wife Laura. Laura is a dedicated, intelligent and hard working woman who I think will do an excellent job. I obviously married way over my head," said Bush to a roomful of laughter. "I know Laura will do an honourable job as First Lady and I have faith that she will be a great asset to my administration for years to come."
The resignation and re-hiring of the First Lady seemed to have caught Democrats totally off guard, much to the delight of Congressional Republicans, with the initial announcement leaving many veteran Democratic Senators tongue-tied as they tried to figure out how to react.
"Uh ... he .... and she ... and then he ... and she did what? ... can they do that? Isn't First Lady a ceremonial position? You know what, I'll have to get back to you on this," said Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY).
Among those members of the GOP extolling the president's decision is Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), who jumped for joy and pumped his first three times in the air in the Senate chambers upon hearing the news from an aid.
"This obviously shows that the president is willing to make a big time effort to clean up his administration. This is just the signal that we've been waiting for these past few months. I just hope that this move is a sign of things to come," said Frist to reporters outside. "You know, actually I've never really been a fan of the White House chief chef. His lasagna gives me bad gas. I think he needs to go too."