Mrs. Bush's Remarks to Washington Press
Corps Embarrassing, Lacking In Discernment
By Michael A. Peroutka
(Warning: This is not a column to be read by young children --- a sad thing to have to say about public remarks made recently by First Lady Laura Bush.)
Several months ago, I criticized the public remarks of the Bush twin daughters at the Republican National Convention as foolish, embarrassing and dishonorable to their parents. When I began my critique, I asked: Is it just me or did anybody else cringe and feel sorry for our country because of what these young women had to say?
Well, I've had a similar reaction , and would ask this same question, concerning First Lady Laura Bush's recent remarks at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington DC.
In a well-rehearsed routine that was supposed to be funny --- but was not --- Mrs. Bush began by stepping to the podium and interrupting her husband who was speaking. Referring to the President as "Mr. Excitement," she noted that on a typical evening he was sound asleep by 9 pm and she was watching the TV show "Desperate Housewives" with Vice President Dick Cheney's wife Lynne. Noting that she was a desperate housewife, Mrs. Bush added: "If those women on that show think they are desperate, they ought to be with George."
One reviewer has said that if this sleazy show had a subtitle, "it would be 'sex and the suburbs'" --- illicit sex, of course, sex outside of marriage. Referring to this program's "dark take on American domestic life," the reviewer noted that various episodes have been about "betrayal, an affair, an accident, a cover-up, an arrest, a murder, a burial and a memorable scene involving a urine sample."
Mrs. Bush also said that one night, after the President went to bed, she and Mrs. Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and [Bush adviser] Karen Hughes "went to Chippendales." She said she wouldn't say what happened but Mrs. Cheney's Secret Service code name is now "Dollar Bill." A "Washington Times" story describes Chippendales as "a strip club where women tuck cash into male dancers' skimpy thongs."
Mrs. Bush said the President's mother was less like the "Andy Griffith Show's" character "Aunt Bea" and more like Mafia boss "Don Corleone." She made fun of her husband's inability to pronounce correctly the word "nuclear." And she said the President has learned a lot about ranching since he once tried to milk a horse --- "what's worse, it was a male horse."
Ex-Roman Catholic priest and TV talk show host John McLaughlin is quoted in the "Washington Post" as saying, with a chuckle, about Mrs. Bush performance: "She was successful in disabusing any thoughts that she's a Christian fundamentalist extremist." Well, yes. I would say that she did this with vengeance.
Ironically, it was a liberal journalist who got it right. David Corn, a reporter for the far-Left "Nation" magazine said, of Mrs. Bush's standup routine: "It was very risque. I was wondering what the social conservatives and James Dobson had to say about all these jokes that were laced with sexual innuendo. Not a very family-values-type speech."
Several news reports have said that Mrs. Bush saying what she said was the President's idea.
In his historically instructive book "Myths In Stone: Religious Dimensions Of Washington D.C." (University of California Press, 2001), Jeffrey F. Meyer, a professor of religion at the University of North Carolina, says this about President George Washington's concern about ceremony and domestic behavior:
"[He] sensed that everything he did was significant. From the procedures to be observed in high government rituals down to questions of domestic etiquette --- how the president should relate to leading citizens and to ordinary citizens, what kind of house he should occupy, and what clothes he should wear. All of these issues, he realized, were expressive of the status of the president. He understood that all these items would, to use contemporary jargon, 'make a statement.'"
Indeed. And the same thing can be said about the behavior of a President's wife. The actions of a President's wife are significant and revelatory of the status of the office of First Lady. And what Mrs. Bush has demonstrated is that the status of her being First Lady is not a pretty one.
One TV reporter noted that on this particular evening in Washington DC all of us had seen "a side of Laura Bush that the public has never seen." I, for one, wish that Mrs. Bush had no such side but --- since she does --- that it had never been shown in public.