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First Daughters

After years of zealously guarding his twin daughters' privacy, President Bush has turned a public spotlight on them by making both active players in his re-election. Daughters Barbara Bush, left, and Jenna Bush.
There was a time when the children of presidents weren't the slightest bit reluctant to stand front and center, reports Susan Spencer for Sunday Morning. Half a century ago, it was all but impossible to drag Margaret Truman out of the limelight. In fact, the Secret Service followed her everywhere but on dates.

President Kennedy showed off John John and Caroline, while both Presidents Johnson and Nixon allowed cameras at their daughters' wedding celebrations. Even Amy Carter -- just a kid, really —- was all over the place.

Chelsea Clinton, it seemed, was the first to be given some personal space. Today, the Bushes demand no less. In the past, reporters who have dared to ask about twins Barbara and Jenna have been told to back off.

"I want my privacy," says Laura Bush, "and I want my children to be left alone."

And, for the most part, the twins have spent the past few years under wraps. There were a couple unfortunate (and well-publicized) mishaps with underage drinking three years ago, but aside from that, the public has had little information regarding the twins.

But now that the president's reelection campaign is under way, Mr. Bush's 22-year-old daughters have finally surfaced. The question is if they had a choice not to, what with Sen. John Kerry's kids lobbying for their father.

Jenna and Barbara chose to make their media debut in print, appearing in a flattering full-page spread for Vogue magazine, complete with designer gowns and Harry Winston jewels. Perhaps to balance any impression of glamorous superficiality, the piece also reveals that, after the campaign, the Bush twins have philanthropic plans: Barbara hopes to work on an AIDS project in Africa, while Jenna expects to work in a Harlem charter school.

So far, the twins' campaign outings have included several rallies, closed fundraisers and an online chat about their father.

And then, of course, there is Jenna's infamous tongue. It's unclear as to what exactly was going on there, whether it was a playful moment or simply a failure to realize that cameras can penetrate tinted windows. Jenna hasn't made any statement on the matter. In fact, neither sister has been anywhere near a microphone, and their parents seem overly anxious.

According to Ann Gerhart, a Washington Post reporter who has spent the last three years covering the first lady, "[Jenna and Barbara] never seemed to have a particle interest in politics. And their parents have not pushed them to be interested in politics."

The Bush twins are fraternal, not identical. The girls are named for their grandmothers, Jenna Welch, Laura's mother, and Barbara Bush, George's mother and former first lady: "I think their personalities got kind of switched up in utero," says Gerhart. "Jenna is very much like her grandmother, Barbara. And Barbara is more like her grandmother, Jenna, a little quieter and a little more bookish."

Susan Ford, now Susan Bales, was roughly the twins' age when her father, Gerald Ford, was president. "I had a blast," she says "There's no question I had a blast."

She also had a prom. That's right, a prom in the White House.

Yet for all the fun Bales had being first daughter, she admits that it's a tough position. "It's the articles that are written," she says, "the critical letters that you get in the mail from people who don't even know you. And you really didn't ask to be there."

What's more, as first daughter, you certainly can't do what everyone else is doing, a fact the Bush twins found out the hard way.

"I did underage drink," admits Bales. "I know my children have done it too. They're being normal kids--they're just college kids, and what do college kids do? They're doing what normal kids do."

In spite of being perpetually held to a higher standard, Bales cherishes her memories from her days in the White House. She met everyone from Peter Sellers to Queen Elizabeth to Chairman Mao, and got to travel the world

Like the Bush twins, Bales campaigned for her father and, she says, never for a minute regrets the her time spent in the White House

Jenna and Barbara told Vogue that they were afraid that, if they didn't campaign with their father, they would regret the missed opportunity. And who knows, perhaps after weeks on the rubber chicken circuit, they'll actually come to appreciate political life.