Lovely Laura Bush: yuk-yuk, or just yuck?
The event under consideration -- the first lady's monologue at the White House Correspondents' Dinner -- weighs in alongside flotsam and jetsam, but the question has hefty ramifications. It may be the ultimate "litmus test," a chance to reveal something more vital than mere politics, and certainly less easily defined: the state of public taste and judgment.
This should come as something of a relief to those among us weary of the well-worn Red State, Blue State divide. Better to carve up the world between those who found Laura Bush's jokes funny, and those who didn't. Or, rather, those who found Laura Bush's jokes an ornament to the White House, and those who wished a grownup had happened by the East Wing to yank them from the script and throw in some nifty new adventures of Barney.
Why? When a woman happens to be first lady, "funny" at any expense isn't part of the job description, not when "funny" comes at the expense of her husband's image. And I don't mean "image" as in public relations product. I mean "image" as in public symbol. World leader.
Commander-in-chief. In these explosive times, with tens of thousands of soldiers under arms.
Which is a sobering thought, or should be.
In other words, feet of clay are fine, but there's no reason to bring the barnyard into it.
Whoopi Goldberg steered a Democratic fund-raiser into the gutter last summer with a crude pun on the Bush family name, prompting Republican accusations that John Kerry didn't "share the same values" as the rest of America.
But what about the rest of the Bush family? Laura Bush is no stand-up comic, but that's all the more reason certain sorts of "jokes" should be automatically, reflexively, unquestioningly ruled out for her public delivery. Jokes that link the president's hands and the underside of a horse, for instance. Jokes that create a regrettably indelible image of the first lady, the vice president's wife, the secretary of state, and a Supreme Court justice together at Chippendale's, waving dollars bills at male strippers. Even jokes that make a "Mommie Dearest" out of former first lady Barbara Bush. Such material won't pull more than a PG rating these days, but a first lady in any era should be mature enough to avoid all "adult" material.
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