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Bush twins set to join US election campaign
Updated: 2004-06-17 13:50

Jenna is the blonde and Barbara the brunette and the world could soon be seeing a lot more of the daughters of President George W. Bush in his new battle for the White House.

Jenna Bush (2ndL) and her twin sister Barbara (R) with their grandparents former president George Bush (2nd L) and first lady Barbara Bush (L). [AFP]
Since Bush's first election win in 2000, the 22-year-old twins have been largely shielded from the media glare -- apart from some brushes with the law in 2001 because of under-age drinking.

But after graduating from different universities, Jenna and Barbara are now travelling in Europe. Jenna took part in a religious pilgrimage in Spain, walking up to 30 kilometers (20 miles) a day on the way to Santiago de Compostela.

Last Thursday one of her secret service guards tackled a thief who was trying to take a portable phone on a restaurant table in the southern resort of Tarifa where Jenna and four friends were eating.

They will find out on their return what role they will play in the Republican campaign for the November 2 election.

"I expect them to join their father's campaign sometime at the end of the summer, but in an unknown capacity at this point," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the president's wife, Laura Bush.

The president and his wife have both made it known that they want to protect their daughters from the pressures of the presidential term on the incumbent's family.

Jenna and Barbara have made only rare public appearances and the White House has refused to answer questions about them.

Apart from a few photos, the media only discovered the daughters in 2001 when Jenna, then 19, was arrested twice in two months for underage drinking. The second time she was with her sister.

While the pair became the butt of chat show jokes, there was also some sympathy for their plight.

"You need to have a pretty hard heart to believe that a 19-year-old woman deserves to be reported to the police and punished by a court -- not to mention nationally humiliated and publicly psychoanalyzed -- for ordering a margarita," said a Wall Street Journal editorial at the time.

In March, a provocative photograph of Barbara dancing in a nightclub with her legs wrapped around Fabian Basabe, the son of a wealthy Ecuadoran businessman, was plastered on the front page of the New York Daily News tabloid.

But the "coming out" of the sisters, has been kept under wraps because of the White House's media shield around the young women.

"We hope that the media will continue to show respect for the daughters and allow them to go about their lives," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan last month.

But he added that "the daughters have also expressed a strong interest in helping the president on his reelection."

Jenna and Barbara have posed for fashion photographs in Vogue which the magazine says will hit the stands in August.

Both People and Time magazines have dedicated articles to the sisters in recent weeks.

"The usual rule is you keep the kids out of the media, out of the political spotlight until they are adults," said Allan Lichtman, a political science professor at American University in Washington.

But he added, "They are now adults and fully able and ready to participate in politics. The media is not going to keep their hands off them anymore."

Neither of the twins has expressed interest in running for public office so far.

Jenna who graduated with a degree in literature from the University of Texas, is pursuing a career in teaching, said Johndroe.

Barbara who graduated from the prestigious Yale University, where her presidential father and grandfather, George H.W. Bush, studied, will work in a program to fight against AIDS in Africa and Europe.

But some have suggested the girls take another path.

A recent editorial in the Hartford Courant said the president should encourage his daughters to enlist in the military as a way to prove that he is serious about fighting the war on terror. The White House did not comment.

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