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Laura Bush: Unexpectedly, Probably Inadvertently, Fascinating

Filed under: The Squib Report   Tagged: , , , , , ,

Martin Schneider writes:

I'm still reeling from the resentments and denial and misguided assumptions inherent in Laura Bush's interview with Chris Wallace of FOX News, as quoted in this Jezebel post, anyway. (I haven't watched the interview itself.)

The takeaway is that Laura Bush censored herself in order to conform to the image of a good conservative wife, and now she's upset that she doesn't get the fawning press that Michelle Obama gets. Something like that. For me, the whole thing is resonant in tons of ways, as if the cross-section of gender, politics, and society isn't generally volatile.

Bush's mild griping about being placed in a "box" proves yet again that when it comes to femininity, even relatively shrewd choices that involve denying one's own power as a woman are counterproductive. Laura Bush, who I believe is pro-choice, anti-war, and in favor of increased civil rights for homosexuals, took one for the team, played the quiet wifey, and now she envies liberal women who, whether it works out well or badly, express their entire selves, come what may.

It's also interesting that she identifies liberal women as getting some big break from the media—is she familiar with Hillary Clinton?

Given her political beliefs and her apparent disappointment about her role as First Lady, I'd suggest that she consider voting Democratic next time.

Beyond that, it's fascinating to see just how much denial is tied up in the conservative, or at least Bushian, worldview. Laura Bush had to lobotomize her public persona, and is today not so happy with the outcomes that flowed from that choice. Meanwhile, conservatives of all stripes took a "don't talk about Daddy's drinking problem" attitude towards Bush's deficiencies. There's something deep going on here. Liberals may be blinkered on all sorts of things, but we don't have the specific problem of getting tied up in knots because we refuse to countenance this or that.

Jezebel has it right when it observes that Michelle Obama didn't exactly rush to be placed in a "box." Laura may tell herself that it's not proper for a First Lady to do X or Y, but for once, the "trickle-down" logic of Republicans turns out to be on the money. If it's not proper for the First Lady to do that, then doesn't that logic extend to "ladies" of all descriptions? How far down the chain of power do you have to go before it's all right for a wife to have a different public opinion than that of her husband?

The problem with George Bush's ideas about executive privilege is that you can't draw a circle around the presidency and say, "We believe in accountability in life, but not in this area"—people are going to draw logical conclusions from a move like that, for instance that you are ipso facto opposed to accountability.

And the exact same thing holds true for the First Lady. When you issue yourself a gag order, you can't then turn around and complain that your complexity has been silenced or whitewashed. And that predicament has everything to do with the limitations of conservative visions of propriety and femininity.

Update: Having now watched the video, I now confess to a suspicion that this post is just a tad too strident. Most of her assertions are fair enough, taken at face value. For example, First Ladies are in a box, and that doesn't have that much to do with Laura Bush or any specific person. Plus she comes off as really sensible and likable. However, the logic I'm responding to is still inherent in certain utterances and elisions, and as such, I still think that my take and also Jezebel's take are both entirely in bounds.


I’m not going to watch the interview, because of a distaste of all things Bush, but it seems that if Laura Bush doesn’t like being in a box, she has no one but herself to blame. She didn’t exactly rush to defend either Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama when they came under fire from the right.

I am amazed that anyone would comment on something they have no personal knowledge of. If you wish to debate or critique something you should watch or read about it. That hold true for the administration for admittedly not reading the dozen pages that constitute the AZ illegal immigrant bill.

For the record I am a 25 year registered democrat a female and lesbian. I watched the interview. Laura Bush was not whining, not defensive not demure. She was charming forthright, eloquently informative about the Bush years. She is not just in support of civil rights for gays but an all out right to marriage. Would you review a restaurant you haven’t eaten at?

Dear Terri,

I agree with you that my post may have been a little overdone. I think you have a point about that, and you may have noticed that I admitted as much in my update. Aside from that, I’m going to have to cheerfully disagree that I treated Ms. Bush unfairly.

Thanks for reading!

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