Jenna Bush Begins Book Tour and Media Blitz
Sunday, September 30 2007 @ 11:48 AM UTC
Contributed by: Don Winner
The book is being accompanied by the kind of news media and marketing blitz — a first run of 500,000 copies and a 25-city cross-country publicity swing that begins Saturday with an appearance at a Borders bookstore in Annapolis, Md. — that few other twenty-something first-time authors could command.
The rollout is being orchestrated by the high-powered Washington lawyer Robert Barnett, whose author clientele includes a who’s who of Washington, from Alan Greenspan to Lynne Cheney. It began Friday evening, with Ms. Bush’s first-ever television interview, an hour-long sit-down with Diane Sawyer of the ABC News program “20/20.”
In it, the previously publicity-shy first daughter held forth on a range of topics, from her father (“He’s doing a great job, and he’s hanging in there”), the war in Iraq (“obviously a very complicated subject,” she said, deftly ducking a question about whether she agrees with her father) and her future husband, Henry Hager, who proposed last month during a crack-of-dawn hike on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Maine. (“He’s very outdoorsy.”)
In roughly 300 pages, including a “How You Can Make a Difference” section in the back, the book is aimed at teenagers. It is written in short chapters and simple prose, accompanied by color photographs taken by a college friend of Ms. Bush’s, Mia Baxter. “He stank of alcohol and cigarettes,” Ms. Bush writes, in one typical passage, describing how Ana was molested by her grandmother’s boyfriend. “His eyes were wild, like those of pumas that lived in the jungles.”
Ms. Bush’s editors say her aim is to use her platform as a presidential daughter to raise awareness of what she calls “children of exclusion,” those neglected and living in poverty. She will donate her profits, including an advance that has been reported to be several hundred thousand dollars, to Unicef. She declined a request to be interviewed by The New York Times.
“I think she’s bothered that people have made judgments about her without knowing much about her,” said Ms. Bush’s editor, Kate Jackson. “But that is not her reason for doing this. She has continually said, ‘This is not about me; this is about Ana.’ I think if she wanted people to know anything about her, it is that she’s a very capable writer, and a teacher.”
The Bush twins had just left home for college — Jenna to the University of Texas, Barbara to Yale — when their father was elected president. Doug Wead, a friend of President Bush and author of “All The President’s Children,” a book about presidential families, says Mr. Bush made the decision early on to draw a tight curtain of privacy around his daughters, even if that meant the only press they got was negative.
“That was a calculated decision that the president made,” said Mr. Wead, who himself became the subject of negative press a few years ago when he disclosed he had secretly taped conversations with Mr. Bush. “His concern was that if they opened the door, even for purposes of showing the daughters to be more than what they were portrayed at the time, that wouldn’t solve the problem.”
Their mishaps made headlines; Jenna, tagged “the blonde one” in the gossip pages, was twice cited in connection with under-age drinking. When their father ran for re-election in 2004, the twins stepped out onto the campaign trail for the first time, including an appearance at the Republican National Convention. In 2005, a year after she graduated, Jenna Bush went to work as a third-grade teacher in a Washington public charter school; her sister now works in the education department in a New York City museum. “Kids loved her; she was responsible, creative,” Linda Moore, the school’s executive director, said of Jenna.
She left after a year, to pursue an eight-month internship with Unicef in Latin America. Her job was to write case histories of children living in poverty. In “Ana’s Story,” Ms. Bush recounts how she met Ana at a community meeting in Panama, where the young woman stood up, her baby on her hip, and declared, “We are survivors.”
Mr. Barnett, the lawyer, said Ms. Bush encountered skepticism in the New York publishing world, but quickly overcame it with her enthusiasm for the project. Ms. Jackson, of HarperCollins, said Ms. Bush was well aware that by exposing herself to the kind of news media scrutiny she has never had before, she will get questions that run the gamut, from why she and her sister have not served in Iraq (“I think if people really thought about it, they know that we would put many people in danger,” she told Ms. Sawyer) to her wedding plans.
“We definitely talked with her about how this is going to happen, your objective is to talk about ‘Ana’s Story,’ and to be as gracious as you can and as forthcoming as possible,” Ms. Jackson said.
But Ms. Bush is not likely to be forthcoming with details of her plans to wed Mr. Hager, a business student at the University of Virginia with a Republican pedigree. (Mr. Hager, whose father was lieutenant governor of Virginia, once worked for the former presidential adviser Karl Rove.) Those hoping for White House nuptials may be disappointed; Laura Bush told Fox News this week that her daughter would probably marry in Texas.
Ms. Jackson said Ms. Bush has her own answer: “I’ll think about it after the book tour.”
Correction: September 29, 2007
An article on Saturday about the publication of a new book by Jenna Bush, the daughter of President Bush, incorrectly stated that she had been arrested twice in connection with under-age drinking. In fact, Ms. Bush was cited twice for under-age drinking, but was never arrested. The article also said that Ms. Bush stuck her tongue out at Secret Service agents in a widely publicized photograph that was taken in 2004, but the White House said on Saturday that the gesture was aimed at news photographers.