What day is it when Laura Bush makes an appearance on the Sunday schmooze shows? It’s a very, very bad day for the president and his administration. It’s an old routine by now. When the going gets rough, the White House calls in the Bushwomen and so it was again this past Sunday.
It’s hard these days to look at George W’s poll numbers without getting vertigo, but on Fox News, Laura Bush dismissed the polls and polling generally. At the very same time, the administration’s supporters were elsewhere on the shows, extravagantly flaunting the ABC/Washington Post poll from earlier last week which conveniently suggested some Americans are fine with the seizure of their cell phone records. Fox can be expected to pander, but so it turns out can every network.
On ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, the First Lady did what she’s always called upon to do: she attempted to lull the nation into the false illusion that anyone in the Bush family cares about non-millionaire Americans. The host had a stellar opportunity to skewer Bush family values when the First Lady said that rebuilding Gulf Coast schools was a top personal priority: “It’s certainly among the most important work that I’m doing right now, the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, because schools have to be rebuilt or families can’t come back.”
If Stephanopolos had cohones he’d have pointed out that the last time any member of the Bush family promoted school rebuilding post Katrina, it was in order to channel some charity back to the family. When Barbara Bush made a contribution to the Presidents’ Katrina Hurricane Relief Fund she got a tax deduction but the money went with the instruction that it only be spent on school software programs bought from Neil Bush’s company. The Bushes have yet to find a crisis they or their friends can’t make a buck off.
In the days since Laura Bush’s reappearance on TV, some have expressed qualms about “going after” the Bushwomen. Writing for Alternet, Jan Frel — whom I like, and have written pieces for — writes: “It may not have been appropriate to go after Laura Bush when she was pushing for her pet projects on literacy and AIDS in Africa but the question arises, if she’s going to come out and make an outright political defense of her husband, does that put her in the category of “fair game?”"
Pet projects on literacy aside (they’ve mostly had their budgets cut by her husband anyway,) there has never been a shortage of factors qualifing the First Lady as fair game. Every First Lady has been that in any case (and if you doubt it, read Blanche Cook’s account of the villification of Eleanor Roosevelt. ) And Laura Bush has been an equal partner in the President’s fatal games. Lest we forget, in late November, 2001, it was Laura Bush who changed the tone on the assault on Afghanistan. After weeks of macho talk, the Bushmen had failed to apprehend Osama Bin Laden — either dead or alive — and in public opinion, the gung-ho spirit was beginning to sag. At the same time, the US Air Force started dropping its largest non-nuclear bomb — the Blu 82 Daisy Cutter — from cargo planes over the mountains Afghanistan. A 15,000-pound dumb device, the Blu 82 devastates an area the size of several football fields, killing every thing that breathes. Just that week, out came Laura Bush to deliver the President’s Weekly Radio address (as one reporter put it “all by herself.”)
Just in case anyone thought that the most powerful nation in the world was blowing an impoverished, feudal state to bits for revenge, La Bush cast the whole operation as a strike for female liberation. “The people of Afghanistan — especially women — are rejoicing,” said Bush. In fact, some were gathering up the remnants of their friends and family.
Liberal critics have laid off the Bushwomen for reasons having to do with “propriety?” I don’t think so; more like sexism: the guys don’t take the women seriously. Whatever the reason, it’s way, way past time to take off any remaining gloves. C’mon guys. If reporters had given Bush’s hench women even half the scrutiny they give his men, perhaps Lady MacBush’s approval numbers wouldn’t be twice as high as her husband’s.
© 2006 Women in Media & News