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Jan 21, 2005

Inauguration Coverage: The "Really, Really Wonderful" Laura Bush

If you've been following the BAG, you know that my main beat is analyzing images.  Words, however, form pictures too (which is where my main training comes from). 

When we read the news, we mostly attend to content.  As such, a lot of the more nuanced stuff flies right by.  However, this is a problem in a biographical sketch or a personality profile.  In the presentation of self, especially in a political interview, almost everything is nuanced.  And, if the person has psychological baggage at all, there will also be contradictions. 

Yesterday, as part of the NYTimes Inauguration coverage, the paper ran a front page story titled: "A More Relaxed Laura Bush Shows Complexity Under Calm."    Referring to someone as "complex" actually says very little, except to suggest that there's more to a person than meets the eye.  From this forty-five minute interview, it sounds like Laura Bush's demure surface actually covers up someone with a lot harder edges.


If the account of the interview is chronological (and it reads like it is), it seems like this "book on the night table" question is where the conversation started: 


The double "really" and the "gentle liberal" sound either a little too warm and fuzzy, or even a bit patronizing.  When called upon for a real opinion, however, Laura qualifies her interpretation with the possibility it might be meaningless.  True to her neutral veneer, the impression she does offer is also ambiguous.  For example, you can't tell if she feels disposed to the liberal because his ideology has a gentleness to it, or she appreciates it because he's not troubling anyone over it.

From that point, it sounds like the interview got a little tense. (Or, we might say, the true not so conforming Laura started coming through.)



After reading this sequence, it seems that the "complexity" the Times speaks of might have something to do with contempt. 

Laura seems to take offense to most everything, including the question about not keep a diary; the fact Karl Rove might have had a disproportionate role in George's reelection; and the impression people have that Dubya doesn't read.  The article also depicts her as confrontational (fixing a stare at the reporter over a question she didn't like) and sarcastic ("I think I could write a diary that wouldn't be subpoenaed.").  I would add that, if Laura did use the word "hate," that's a pretty strong term.

In reading this account, perhaps the main question is: Where is the antagonism coming from?  Of course, it's no secret George Bush and his family have been openly antagonistic to the press.  Given the fact, maybe the Times reporter came into the interview with a chip on his shoulder.  Even so, Mrs. Bush still seems more thin skinned than she would have people believe.  (Otherwise, she would have handled this interview --no matter what attitude the reporter brought along -- with a little more grace.)

It looks like things started to slide with the answer to the mother-in-law question.  Maybe Laura was just mimicking Barbara Bush.  Or maybe (which is a hypothesis I'm interested in), Laura's personality is a lot closer to Barbara's than people realize.  In any event, Laura certainly had the opportunity to give a nuanced answer.  Instead, she insult the reporter by disparaging his profession, and also revealed a passion for indiscriminate venting.


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Well I wanted them to ask her... "So what is it like being the very first - first lady who's killed someone?"

Frankly, I've always wondered I'm the only person who sees Laura Bush as hypocritical. Bring her up at a dinner party and even capital 'D' Democrats will tell me how wonderful she is. It would be OK with me if she thought of herself as a true political operative (in the Hillary Clinton mode) or stayed out of the political arena altogether. Instead, she campaigns (happily according to the election issue of Newsweek) along side Karl Rove--a man implicated in so much that is reprehensible in politics.

Although not mentioned in your post, I was particularly bothered by her reference to Chelsea Clinton's miniskirt using the "wardrobe malfunction" buzzword and all the negativity that implies. Was this a knee jerk kick at the opposition? Perhaps a bone for the moralists of of her party? For someone who only 2 paragraphs later is lauded for letting her (older, and therefore presumable wiser) daughters make their own mistakes, it seemed petty at best and yet another example of Mrs Bush not necesarily what she presents to the world

Ah, the buxom Laura Bush with the Xanax stare and the hips like a lyre. Having only recently kicked the cigmo habit, the Vehicular Homicide queen also is rumored to have sold dime bags of weed while in college. Who'd a thunk it? Being married to the coke-sniffing, alky George while he was still half in the bag, you know she is no Mother Teresa. Bet she either cleaned up George's puke a few times or got slapped around a little when Jorge was pissed. Poor little librarian would probably trade a life of being single and popping pills to being married to the Texas dipshit...

Q. What do Marion Barry and Laura Bush have in common?

A. They both blow a little dope!

i'm really interested by the hypothesis stating that laura bush is closer in personality to barbara bush than otherwise thought. think of the folk-truth that sometimes men are attracted to women who resemble their mothers. laura bush: a southern belle, deferential and supportive in public, while in private provides direction and a sense of control. she's the ideal wife for a rich young dynast... she also could provide some of the qualities george may have lacked; say, control, for example. 'behind every powerful man is an even more powerful woman'.

Perhaps Laura Bush is a kinder, gentler version of Barbara?

From what I've read of Barbara, the statement from charming young gent of the old school ~ "provides direction and a sense of control" ~ would be generous.

"Referred to by her children as 'The Enforcer,' Barbara Bush has by her own admission always been the family disciplinarian. She was, from most accounts, a cold taskmaster, and she spanked the children readily. Called 'the one who instills fear' by a close family friend, she would boldly break up fights between her sons, 'bust them up and slap them around,' according to a brother-in-law." From "Bush on the Couch," Justin A. Franks, M.D.

My guess is that if Barbara is "the one who instills fear," then Laura would be "the one who allays fear." Apparently, she isn't very effective in this role given GWB's use of fear to manipulate the nation. A fearful man who instills fear in us all?

It is also interesting to note what one of Barbara's childhood friends said about her: "She was sort of the leader bully. We were all pretty afraid of her because she could be sarcastic and mean."

We've seen plenty of bullying behavior from the president along with a fair amount of sarcasm and meanness. What kind of woman is attracted to a man with these character traits?

For what it's worth, hereinla, I've never even met a small-d Democrat who thinks Laura Bush is wonderful. Of course, I'm an academic librarian, and surrounded by many of that ilk, none of whom appreciate Laura Bush milking the "I was a librarian" angle when her husband's administration is causing the American Library Association to spend well over $1 million fighting the intrusive tentacles of the USA PATRIOT Act.

What I found most fascinating in Michael's excerpted piece is that she "hates" it when people suggest that her husband doesn't like to read. Seeing as her husband has fed most of the grist to that mill, that's RICH. A man who brags about not reading newspapers because he has flunkies to do it for him is not a poster boy for your library.

I tend to think that Laura is absolutely like her very tough mother-in-law. After all, Laura is the one who finally put her foot down to her drunken hubby and said, "It's me or the alcohol." After George's conversion experience, he started going to Laura's denominational church, not his family's. She strikes me as the traditional iron fist in a magnolia-scented glove, and I wouldn't trust her as far as I could see. When she equated the slanderous SBVT attacks on John Kerry to the completely substantiated attacks on her husband's AWOL military career, she defined herself as someone who plays neither nice nor fair.

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