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October 11, 2004

Four More Years... of Laura Bush!

I just went down to grab a Diet Coke from the news store in the lobby and saw the President speaking on MSNBC on the lobby television. He's in, I think, New Mexico. He was talking to a crowd, just in the process of greeting them and introducing the people. What stopped me was his mention of Laura. After telling the anecdotes we've mostly all heard by now, he went on to say that one of the major reasons to send the Bush-Cheney team back to the White House was to ensure that Laura Bush was the First Lady for the next four years. That was interesting. Bush is pretty gracious, and not one to criticize people directly (except, of course, for his immediate opponent in the race), but the way in which he delivered that line wasw clearly meant to raise this question: Do you want Teresa Antoinette Heinz Kerry as First Lady for the next four years?

I've actually defended Teresa on one occasion. That remark about getting the food, water, and generators to the hurricane victims in the Caribbean after the hurricane did not strike me the same way as it did most others.

Visiting volunteers in New York packing relief supplies for Hurricane Ivan victims, the Democratic presidential nominee's wife said that food and water are more important than clothes in the shipments to the Caribbean islands.

``Clothing is wonderful, but let them go naked for a while, at least the kids,'' Heinz Kerry said, raising some eyebrows. ``Water is necessary, and then generators, and then food, and then clothes.''
Boston Herald, September 17, 2004.
I was brought up in a clothing-optional-for-kids part of the world, and I suspect the same may be the case in Madagascar. If the climate is tropical, clothes are not a priority except for reasons of modesty. Food and water are necessary for life. Power is of great importance in the healthcare infrastructure, and in repairing the damage. Once you keep the kids alive and healthy you can worry about clothing them. In temperate zones or farther toward the poles, where the climate is harsher, we think of clothing as shelter. It's more important to sustaining life. I can't say for certain that Teresa was thinking in this practical fashion when she made that remark, but the context suggests it. It's only insensitive to put the issue the way that she did if you see clothing as a part of the survival equation, or if you place modesty above life. I hope everyone criticzing her remark falls into the former category.

But I may be giving her too much credit. She certainly has made more than her share of silly , or flat rude, remarks. The same story lists four more gaffes:

During the Democratic convention in July, Heinz Kerry told a journalist to ``shove it'' - an episode that was caught by a nearby TV camera.

More recently she touted her husband's health care plan, saying: ``Only an idiot wouldn't like this. Of course, there are idiots.''

Heinz Kerry, one of the world's most wealthy philanthropists, also said: ``The common man doesn't look at me as some rich witch.''

When pro-George Bush hecklers interrupted a Kerry rally and chanted ``Four more years'' she shot back: ``They want four more years of hell.''

A diplomat Teresa is not. And while we aren't voting to elect a First Lady per se, the First Lady certainly can have an effect on national and international relations. First Ladies can and have affected policy. Hillary Clinton tried to drive through a heathcare plan. Nancy Reagan drove the "Just say no" plan to fight drug use among kids. Laura Bush has been involved in issues of education, and especially reading, but she's played a quiet and unassuming role, not looking for the national spotlight.

Laura is there for George. We don't get the impression that she's creating incidents or causing issues for him. They certainly aren't making headline news. The same is clearly not true in the Kerry family. And to anyone who recognizes the importance of money in relationships, the dynamic in the Kerry family has to be very different from that in the Bush family. More so even than in the Clinton family, Teresa as First Lady would wield enormous power. She controls the family purse-strings.

So, when George Bush says one of the important reasons for re-electing him is that Laura will be First Lady for for more years, he's really saying, obliquely, that we won't have to worry about having Teresa as First Lady, with all that that would imply. In this case it implies a lot, billions according to some estimates.

Posted by dan at October 11, 2004 11:57 AM | TrackBack
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