Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Laura, the Unlikely First Lady

It always seemed incongruous that Laura Welch, a librarian, ever married George W Bush, a confirmed bibliophobe. Let’s look at Laura & George early in the relationship. George was a party animal in college and a hale fellow–well met for years afterward. They first met at a backyard barbecue in '77 and three months later were married. Four years afterward their twin girls were born. But all was not joy and roses at the Bush household. George’s family values — drugs and alcohol — brewed a few storms. George couldn’t even calm the surface waters with success in business. Consecutive failures with Arbusto, Bush Exploration, and Spectrum did not mix well with gin. Laura finally said she was leaving with the twins, Vice President’s son notwithstanding.

George, after a few broken promises, finally found help and became a born again Christian. [Within the Methodist Church?] We all know the general outlines of the political story of George and Karl and Alberto that followed.

Now Laura lives in the White House in all its intrigue. She knows about the Situation Room and suspects that somewhere within the black hole in the West Wing there is an Office of the Vice President where Dick Cheney practices snarling before a mirror. Laura doesn’t buy into the neocon doctrines of her husband’s administration. The evidence comes from a slew of nuances in her official affairs of state.

In February ’03 she announced a White House event, “Poetry and the American Voice,” to celebrate the work of three anti-establishment literary figures: Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, and Emily Dickinson. Then the Oval Office cabal learned that one of the invited guests, Sam Hamill, intended to read some anti-war poems. The First Lady’s press office was instructed to call off the celebration. Reading 19th century Walt Whitman is one thing, but opposing an imminent war in the 21st is aiding the terrorists. Laura, we should note, did not announce the cancellation herself.

In March ’05 she was sent to Afghanistan to justify the first Bush-Cheney war. We were there to free Afghan women from the misogynist Taliban. A photo-op was arranged for her to give bookmarks to smiling Afghan girls. While there, though, she met with the Marines and thanked them for protecting the rights of Afghan women. The Marines protecting the rights of women? That was Laura the satirist.

More recently she was offered up to the media for a series of interviews. George Stephanopoulos, Norah O’Donnell, and Chris Wallace handed her some powder puff questions mixed in with a few about the president’s low approval ratings and the war in Iraq. Laura’s replies were in keeping with the talking points she had been given. But if you watched her non-verbal language, she was saying something else. First, she wore no flag pin. Then, she nodded her head up and down when the interviewer questioned some dubious action of the administration. When she replied with the company line, she shook her head from side to side. Laura was trying her best.

Right now the First Lady is looking to buy a house in Dallas. She clearly doesn’t want to stay on the ranch with “Mr. Excitement,” as she has called him, after they leave Washington. What courageous publisher will give her a book contract to tell all she knows? She may even want to run for the Presidency, come 2116. A librarian might be an idea whose time has come by then.

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