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Politics

Jenna and Barbara Bush Needed ‘Comfort’ After Trump’s Election and Miss the ‘Softer Side’ of Politics

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The morning after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton for the presidency, twins Jenna and Barbara Bush, 35, woke up together in Jenna’s bed (her husband, Henry Hager, was away), “filled with gratitude that we had each other for comfort,” they write in their upcoming joint memoir.

The divisiveness that marred the 2016 election—and how their profound connection as sisters was a force to lean on through that and other milestones in their lives—were key inspirations for the former first daughters’ book, Sisters First, out Oct. 24.

In the deeply personal, emotional and often funny book, the sisters, who called the White House home from 2001 to 2009, wax nostalgic about the administrations of America’s 41st president, (“Gampy” George H.W. Bush) and the 43rd (dad George W.), when D.C was a gentler place, while taking care not to fault only Trump for what Barbara calls today’s “belittling and demeaning” political dialogue. “I don’t think it can be blamed only on him,” Barbara tells PEOPLE in an at-home interview for this week’s new issue.

Perry Hagopian
Peter Zambouros

“With our grandfather and our dad, there was a softer side and I do hope it goes back to that,” Jenna, a Today correspondent, says in the interview at Barbara’s lower Manhattan apartment just four blocks away from the home Jenna shares with her husband, Henry Hager and their two daughters, Mila, 4, and Poppy, 2.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Adds Barbara, the ultra-private co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit Global Health Corps, of what she sees as the rampant culture of discrimination against various groups of people: “That, of course, takes dignity away from people — away from populations of people that are distinct people and can’t be categorized as one.”

As former first daughters, Jenna and Barbara know firsthand how a rancorous political climate can impact the children of presidents.

Jenna says the internet attacks against Trump’s son, Barron, 11, make her “mad” because “the truth is, obviously, Barron Trump didn’t ask his dad to run for president. It wasn’t his decision.”

George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

“And the same with Malia and Sasha and Chelsea and all of us,” she adds of the daughters of former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. “We’re supportive of our parents, but it’s a job without guidelines, and it’s one that none of us asked for, specifically.”

Chelsea Clinton has also spoken out against Barron’s online trolls and critics, including the writer of a Daily Caller story titled, “It’s High Time Barron Trump Starts Dressing Like He’s In the White House.”

“It’s high time the media & everyone leave Barron Trump alone & let him have the private childhood he deserves,” Clinton fired back in a tweet.

It’s a sentiment Jenna shares wholeheartedly.

“I think kids should be allowed to be kids,” she says.