Though the First Lady is absolutely not someone I'd wish to go shopping, or hang out and do girly-girl things with, I had to admit after her debut as a commedienne, that she was certainly cast in a light that threatened her "stepford" status while forcing unwelcome visuals of her husband's foray into the stables. Nor did I relish the thoughts of him crawling into bed at 9 pm every night wondering what he slept in...(oh, come on now, you did too..admit it!)..but, the whole deal was kinda funny but not for her routine. Funny as in weird I guess.
Noticably silent was an outcry from the Religious Right, pretty much known as a humorless crowd, objecting to lovely Laura's laughs at her husband's expense. Did anyone else notice the hardness in his eyes let alone the content of her "routine?" Watching it, I couldn't help but wonder whose idea it was to ruffle the feathers of the Fundies but when I settled on the thought that it was probably engineered by President Rove just to decrease the potential for W's usual incoherent gaffes, I thought that was about the end of it. Until a dear friend sent me this article which I thought I'd share with you. As Bill O'Loofah would say, "you be the judge."
Click here: TomPaine.com - Reading Laura Bush's Lips
Reading Laura Bush's Lips
May 16, 2005
Bill Berkowitz is a longtime political observer and columnist.
In his mostly positive review of First Lady Laura Bush’s performance at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner late last month, L. Brent Bozell III, the founder and president of the Parents Television Council, a premier conservative media watchdog group, suggested that the event may have been “designed to loosen up the stuffy evangelical Christian image as the Washington press corps worries about a new American ayatollah under every bed...” The New York Times’ Frank Rich called her performance “a harmless piece of burlesque” that “paid political dividends.”
How extreme a makeover was the White House seeking when it sent Laura Bush up to pinch hit for her husband? Is Team Bush concerned that after the right’s embarrassing—and some might argue shameful—actions in Florida during the Terry Schiavo affair, the American people are beginning to view the administration as too much in sync with ever-widening invasive religious right agenda? Has the normally reticent mainstream media begun to notice the broad theocratic underpinnings of the movement?
In an era when Texas legislators are considering legal action banning cheerleaders from performing “indecent” routines and wearing midriff-baring outfits; when an Alabama elected official proposes to ban books containing gay characters or written by gays or lesbians from all public facilities, when the Kansas Board of Education has renewed its almost-annual battle against evolution; and when Alaska’s Republican Sen. Ted Stevens intends that the FCC gain dominion over pay cable television networks in order to limit their “offensive” content, will Laura Bush’s rousing and raunchy routine mute concerns over the administration’s links to a broadening right wing agenda?
The first lady’s string of one-liners have been widely repeated in the weeks since the event. She started by interrupting the president—as per the script—and seizing the platform. Then, she mixed some light-hearted lines—"I am married to the president of the United States, and here's our typical evening: Nine o'clock, Mr. Excitement here is sound asleep, and I'm watching 'Desperate Housewives' [a program she had evidently never watched], with [Vice President Dick Cheney's wife] Lynne Cheney" —with several sexed-up jokes—"Ladies and gentlemen, I am a desperate housewife. I mean, if those women on that show think they're desperate, they ought to be with George. One night, after George went to bed, Lynne Cheney, [Secretary of State] Condi Rice, [Bush adviser] Karen Hughes and I went to Chippendales,"—the home of buffed male strippers.
The most outrageous joke described the president’s early arrival at the ranch in Crawford, Texas: As a graduate of Andover and Yale, which “don’t have real strong ranching programs,” the president was ill-prepared. He was so out of his element that he tried to milk a horse—a male horse.
That was “probably the first joke told in earshot of a president that involved him and a horse’s phallus,” New York Times columnist John Tierney pointed out. In one joke, the president was involved in homosexual Zoophilia. A joke might have been better suited for a Democratic president, but like some of the non-family-values songs on the president’s iPod, this was definitely a Nixon-goes-to-China moment.
What would the religious right say about what The Nation’s David Corn characterized as a “risqué” routine? As of this writing, no major religious right leader has commented.
One of the few, however, willing to criticize the first lady was a pastor named Roy DeLong. According to the Internet and The Drudge Report, Pastor DeLong, who claimed to be the chairman of the Coalition for Traditional Values sent a letter to the White House complaining about the First Lady’s performance.
In real life, however, neither Pastor DeLong nor the Coalition for Traditional Values actually exists.
Before their non-existence was revealed, the Traditional Values Coalition—an anti-gay right-wing fundamentalist network of churches run by the Rev. Lou Sheldon—wary that the Coalition for Traditional Values’ name sounded perilously close to the TVC, assured NewsMax.com, a conservative news service, “that he wasn’t upset by Mrs. Bush's sometimes bawdy routine.” He called it “hilarious,” and said that she “stole the show.”
There was a smattering of criticism from conservatives:
Michael A. Peroutka, the 2004 presidential candidate of the far-right Constitution Party, who ran under the banner of "God, Family, Republic," had as much of a problem with the first lady’s routine as he did with the “foolish, embarrassing and dishonorable” routine of the Bush twins during last summer’s New York City convention. Peroutka, who “cringed” at the Bush daughters' remarks, also “cringed” at the first lady’s remarks.
Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin thought that while most of the First Lady’s performance was “Edgy but not over the edge,” the “off-color stripper and horse jokes crossed the line.” “Can you blame Howard Stern for feeling peeved and perplexed?” Malkin wrote. “And let's face it: If Teresa ("I'm cheeky!") Heinz Kerry had delivered Mrs. Bush's First Lady Gone Mildly Wild routine, social conservative pundits would be up in arms over her bad taste and lack of dignity.”
Other right-wing commentators weren’t as troubled. The Washington Times’ Suzanne Fields gave the first lady a “rave review for her comedy routine.” Fields mentioned several of Laura Bush’s jokes, but not the one about the president masturbating a horse. Fields wrote: “What made Laura so funny was the way she completely went against type, against all conventional expectation. Naturally, in Washington, where everything has to have a political interpretation, some people didn't get it.”
Bozell, whose Parents Television Council helped turn Janet Jackson’s nipple-baring “wardrobe malfunction” during the halftime show at the 2004 Super Bowl into a year-long pro-censorship orgy, was comfortable with what he heard.
While Bozell’s column avoided the “milking a male horse” comment, he maintained that “What made the First Lady's routine such a smash with the crowd was the implausibility of it all. Those who follow the Bushes around with notebooks for their employment would find Laura Bush to be the antithesis of a ‘Desperate Housewife.’ The routine was funny because it was Mrs. Bush.”
These days, Republicans and their surrogates appear to have carte blanche to say whatever they want whenever they want. On the May 6 edition of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” the comedian pointed out a few examples of rhetoric that would be unacceptable in another political climate: on the floor of the Senate, Vice President Cheney told Patrick Leahy, the Democratic senator from Vermont, to go fuck himself; Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn claimed that it was understandable that some people might respond to “activist judges” by turning to violence; and Pat Robertson recently maintained that “activist judges” were a greater threat to our democracy than terrorists.
“Last week, the National Review's Stanley Kurtz, the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto and David Brooks of The New York Times—all secular conservatives—penned breathless columns defending the Christian right as just your average, civic-minded people's movement and protecting their values against a minority of ‘militant secularists,’" Max Blumenthal told me in an e-mail interview. Blumenthal, who has reported on the religious right for Salon, The Nation and MediaTransparency.org, pointed out that “only a few months ago, Laura Bush was attacking John Kerry for supporting embryonic stem-cell research, and now she is telling dirty jokes to the Washington press corps.
“In the wake of the Terri Schiavo debacle, the Republican elite seems to be engaged in a concerted campaign to dispel the notion that its alliance with the Christian right could usher in a theocracy,” said Blumenthal. “Their refusal to take the Christian right's stated intentions seriously only highlights their underlying cynicism.”
When Laura Bush playfully pokes fun at her husband while performing roundly raunchy stand-up, be mindful of the chutzpah it takes to tell sexually laced jokes while fronting for an administration whose public policy initiatives doesn’t countenance AIDS education or comprehensive sexuality education in the public schools.
That Was CNN
1 year ago