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Is not the title of this article I wrote for the Atlantic Wire Culture Channel [Ed. Note: DUH], on the surprising politics of Laura Bush. And why should it be? It has nothing to do with what I actually wrote! But I read Laura Bush on Laura Bush, I read Curtis Sittenfeld on “Alice Blackwell,” I sat down to write about it, and then I saw her Larry King interview. And oh, my goodness:

Laura Bush has always been a quiet one. She’s private, modest, unambitious. She was reportedly unhappy when her husband ran for public office, didn’t aim to influence his policy, and quit her job upon marrying him. She adopted the least partisan causes imaginable: literacy, breast cancer. She seemed like the sort of mild, polite, ordinary woman who might go to church with your mother, or organize suburban potlucks. Her approval ratings stayed high while her husband’s tanked; no matter how disastrous his administration became, it was hard to dislike her. She never said enough to offend anyone; the worst you could call her was boring.

That’s likely to change, now. Laura Bush—the quiet one, the boring one, the woman too nice to offend—sat down with Larry King Tuesday night to promote her new memoir, Spoken from the Heart. With just a few words, she dismantled much of what we thought we knew.

Click through! Read more! Enjoy! And so on!


  1. ladysquires wrote:

    A few things:

    Part of me wonders how much her book was shaped by the Bush legacy machine and how much it ever even could have been a tell-all.

    I would love to imagine that the people in the White House Communications office knew that she held these positions and silently had a freak out every time she’s walked in front of a camera wondering if TODAY WOULD BE THE DAY. Just a little fantasy of mine.

    I have to agree with you, though. It isn’t enough to just think the right things if you’re not actually going to do anything about it. It’s sort of like how Sarah Palin plays all the right language games around disability but isn’t really interested in actually providing services to the disabled or anything. I know you wrote a post about that a while ago.

    Thursday, May 13, 2010 at 11:59 pm | Permalink
  2. Quinara wrote:

    Sorry, Sady – love your writing, but what exactly are you taking Laura Bush to task over, here? Failing to overcome the cultural conditioning we’re all subjected to, that says our will/self should be subject to our husband’s? Failing to ‘act out’ when all of the world’s media is watching her, with the power to make her life extremely miserable indeed?

    It seems highly unnecessary to me to blame Laura Bush for what she didn’t do ‘for the sisterhood’, since it was George making his policies (against his family’s stated wishes, apparently), the rest of the media/world approving Laura’s ‘blank face’ and encouraging it to continue.

    Blaming a woman for not doing enough, just when she is slowly starting to use her influence for a good cause, seems like a completely backwards way of dealing with the situation. Maybe she could have ‘done more’, but it seems to me more like she’s doing what she can, when she feels safe to do it. This reads slightly like you’d have preferred she was a right-wing nobody, if she wasn’t going to be a raging activist, because feminism has no place for people making tentative, private steps (on national television…).

    Friday, May 14, 2010 at 3:06 am | Permalink
  3. Sady wrote:

    @Quinara: Sorry, not buying it. In this case, “quiet, private” steps include not putting up any opposition or using her influence to stand for the right thing when her husband was in the position to affect (and did affect) the lives of countless GLBT folks and women for the worse. He was making public policy, which makes her decisions or lack thereof public.

    Friday, May 14, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink
  4. emjaybee wrote:

    Every time I saw her with that blank, glazed look on her face, I just assumed she was on some Serious Goddamn Drugs. Possibly at the behest of the Bush clan.

    When I was feeling particularly sympathetic, I wondered if marrying into the Bushes wasn’t a little like marrying into the Mafia; old Poppy still had his CIA contacts after all. Maybe she *couldn’t* leave.

    Friday, May 14, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  5. SkyinFrench wrote:

    I’m reading Eleanor Roosevelt’s autobiography and her commentary on the “blank face” of the First Lady contrasts starkly with Bush’s interpretation. Eleanor was a staunch advocate of many things her husband did not care to promote (though, to be fair, neither did he undermine them). She was not interested in participating in politics, but ambitiously advocated for certain causes. This is a face that you could not project a make-believe fantasy life – which, ultimately, is exactly what the Bush administration needed to maintain some partisan popularity. Eleanor said she never gave her opinion to the president, but did question him and challenge him on certain issues. If Laura Bush really has all the convictions she’s claiming, she effectively spent eight years as a doormat. In the end, I think it’s a difference of ambition: because Laura Bush demonstrated a lack of ambition she was widely accepted and trusted by a divided country.

    Friday, May 14, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink
  6. Samantha B. wrote:

    I dunno, SkyinFrench, what the hell do I know, but my take was always that she was deeply ambitious, and that’s why she wasn’t prepared to rock the boat. She was/is intoxicated with power for its own sake, in the Karl Rovian school of life.

    Friday, May 14, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Permalink