President Bush yesterday nicknamed his wife Laura “Leno” Bush for poking fun at him at a televised dinner over the weekend and pronouncing herself a “desperate housewife.”
The nickname was bestowed at a White House Rose Garden ceremony two days after the first lady brought down the house at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner at the Washington Hilton. Mrs. Bush sardonically referred to her husband as “Mr. Excitement,” whose early-to-bed routine drove her to a Chippendales revue.
Echoes of that stand-up routine could be detected yesterday in the first lady’s introduction of her husband at a Rose Garden ceremony touting historical American sites.
“They’re wonderful destinations for school field trips, for family adventures, or even for a romantic getaway,” she said, drawing laughter from an audience of preservationists. “It’s now my honor to introduce America’s history-buff-in-chief, George W. Bush.”
“A couple of funny lines one evening and she gets carried away,” the president deadpanned as he joined his wife at the lectern. “Laura ‘Leno’ Bush.”
Still, Mr. Bush did nothing to counter his image as a social underachiever, which was reinforced on Saturday when his wife cracked: “George, if you really want to end tyranny in the world, you’re going to have to stay up later.”
If anything, the president cemented that image while discussing the first lady yesterday.
“When we first moved to the White House, she was reading Edith Wharton’s books,” he recalled. “Sometimes, it was hard to get her to turn off the light.”
The repartee continued a few moments later when Mr. Bush inadvertently omitted a word from his prepared remarks.
“The restoration of the 18th Bolduc House has attracted visitors from around the country,” he said.
“Eighteenth century,” Mrs. Bush gently interjected.
The audience laughed as the president allowed a pregnant pause.
“You’ve become a comedian and an editor,” he told his wife with cheerful restraint.
The comedic musings of Mrs. Bush, who appeared on the “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” a week ago, have impressed even the White House press corps, which yesterday declared her Saturday performance “stellar” and “boffo.”
Some even speculated about her running for president, a notion that was pooh-poohed by White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
“Once his time is up, the two of them look forward to returning to Texas,” he said. “And he does think she did a spectacular job Saturday night.”