Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Ann Richards bashes Bush before speech

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards told a crowd of about 2,000 women how they could be in better shape physically and financially Monday at the Aronoff Center downtown.

Richards, a consultant, author and one of only two women to serve as governor of the Lone Star State, was the last speaker in the annual Smart Talk lecture series. Formerly known as the Unique Lives & Experiences Women's Lecture Series, it was started 10 years ago in Toronto.

The series has been held in Cincinnati each of the past five years. The Cincinnati Enquirer has been its chief local sponsor.

In an interview before her speech, Richards discussed her new book, her experience as a female governor, President George W. Bush and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's political future.

Richards' book, I'm Not Slowing Down, will make its debut in August. It will focus on women's health issues, in particular osteoporosis. Richards said her mother had the disease and broke several bones in the final years of her life.

Her mother's condition prompted Richards to undergo a bone density test, through which she discovered that she was in the early stages of the disease.

Since then, Richards has taken up a strict weight-bearing exercise regimen to build her bones and muscles.

"I'm probably in better shape now than I've been in my entire life," she said.

Richards, a Democrat, said she was encouraged by the number of women in political positions despite the fact that they face more challenges in raising money and winning elections than men. She said she believes that she will see a female president in her lifetime.

"I don't know who that will be. It's extremely difficult to see that far out," she said. "If Hillary chooses to run, she will have an enormous groundswell of support - and it's likely that she would win."

Richards also criticized President Bush, saying that the U.S. economy, schools and the environment are all suffering under his administration. She said Bush's tax cut has placed the nation in "hock" just as it did in Texas when he took over as governor.

"When I came in as governor, we were $6 billion in the hole," she said. "When I left office, we were $2 billion in the black. If I'd have known I was going to lose to George Bush, I'd have spent every dime."

E-mail kaldridge@enquirer.com

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