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Laura Bush has advice for a future first gentleman, whoever he may be: "Stand back and be quiet."

That advice may not be relevant to the front-runner for first first gentleman, Bill Clinton, an already-talkative former president. But Bush critiqued the way the public views first ladies and theorized that a first gentleman might not face the same pressure, in an interview with C-SPAN Thursday.

Bush was critical of the public's "glamorous" view of the first lady and said they are too obsessed with the shallow parts of the role.

"Maybe we should be that way about the first gentleman also, and really critique the way they look all the time — their choice of tie or their hairstyle or whatever," Bush said. "Or maybe their weight."

The bright side, Bush said, is that a first gentleman might change some of those standards. For example, a man might be less likely to quit his job after his wife is elected, Bush said, which could set a precedent for first ladies to keep working after moving into the White House. When asked if the first lady should receive a salary, Bush said no, but that the more important question is whether she should give up her career.

"Certainly a first gentleman might continue to work at whatever he did, if he was a lawyer or whatever," she said.

Clearly, Bush was not assuming that the Clintons would end up back in the White House, or referring to any specific candidates.

In addition to speculating on future presidential spouses, Bush reflected on her own time in the White House, saying one of her biggest moments was giving the presidential radio address after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in which she focused on the Taliban's treatment of women in Afghanistan. That, she said, was the moment she realized how much influence a first lady can have.

But much of being a first lady is less exciting than it seems, Bush said.

"It's actually a very normal life upstairs on those two floors that are the White House residence," she said. "First ladies probably — and I know I did — actually lie on the couch and read a book."

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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