Laura's Loss: Spokeswoman Leaves

Think you've got the stuff to beat back rumors about first twins Jenna and Barbara Bush or tales about first lady Laura Bush sneaking a smoke or two? Here's your chance. The first lady's able and gracious spokeswoman, Susan Whitson, tells us that she's leaving to start a family after nearly two years in the East Wing. "Being Mrs. Bush's press secretary has been the single best job I have had," she says.But not an easy one, that's for sure. Just consider the diversity of calls she gets from reporters: everything from questions about the once-partying twins to interview requests for first pup Barney. Whitson says she just recently decided to leave Washington and move permanently to Washington, Va., home of the famous Inn at Little Washington and where she and her hubby have a house."Yes, I am returning to the quiet life," she says. "My husband and I are moving out to little Washington full time and hope to start a family." She's leaving in mid-March.A former high school teacher who worked in the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign before joining the White House, she leaves with great memories: "I have been able to travel around the U.S. and all over the world to help Mrs. Bush promote very important issues, like education and global health," she says. "For most of us, we recognize that we should either commit to the end or give another person the opportunity to do our jobs for the remaining two years. For me, leaving was a very personal decision."Hers was the third major personnel announcement from the East Wing this week. The first lady earlier announced the hiring of a new pastry chef and the departure of social secretary Lea Berman and the hiring of her replacement.The changes have prompted rumors that insiders have found the job to be less thrilling and glamorous than they expected, in part because of the infrequent social events like state dinners the Bushes hold compared with previous administrations. But Whitson brushed those aside: "Not as glamorous? Wasn't what I expected?" she scoffed in an E-mail. "I will miss working at the White House and with Mrs. Bush very much."
By Paul Bedard