This past Sunday morning I watched Elizabeth "Liddy" Dole and Charles "Chuck" Schumer discuss the coming election on a Fox news talk-show. Mr. Schumer, a Democratic talking machine who has never been at a loss for words was forced into a stunned silence by the voluble Mrs. Dole, the Aunt Pittypat of Republican politics. For those who are not up on their "Gone with the Wind," Aunt Pittypat was Scarlet O'Hara's fretful, garrulous, and foolish maiden aunt. Now if I have to tell you who Scarlet O'Hara was -" read no further. No, no, go on. Mrs. Dole raced to cover her pro-Bush talking points and denigrate the damned Democrats -" read Yankees - who threatened to take over the Congress, her Congress. It was an amazing performance. Words of praise for Bush and fellow Republicans tumbled out helter-skelter as words of contempt for the nasty carpetbagger Democrats leapfrogged over each other in a mess of praise and disdain.
Nothing matched it for a shameless defense of the indefensible except Ken Mehlman's defense of the racist ad used against Senate candidate Harold Ford by the Republican National Committee in Tennessee. Every so often we are reminded that the Republican "big tent" is cut from the same white cotton bed-sheets favored by the KKK. And of course there was the indefatigably industrious Lynne Cheyney plugging her new children's book on CNN while accusing CNN of giving comfort to the enemy by airing terrorist propaganda, with a hurried aside against Jim Webb, the Democratic Virginia Senate candidate she accused of writing pornography. This from the lady novelist famed for her own raunchy novels of Sapphic love.
But I digress. Back to Aunt Pittypat. One would never know that Liddy Dole had started life as a liberal Democrat under Lyndon Johnson. As the wife of Senator Bob Dole she gained success as a lobbyist and a money-making machine, giving speeches at twenty grand a pop for various charities, as together they amassed their considerable fortune. While I am free to describe her remarkably ditsy performance on television, it would be ungallant for this scruffy, aging Northern male to characterize her unusual appearance.
My wife, who is free from such constraints, did remark to me that Mrs. Dole had succumbed to that special cosmetic disorder that afflicts some ageing political women -" the Katherine Harris syndrome. It manifests itself in a woman who runs amuck at a drugstore beauty counter while trying to match her makeup to her garish political views.
Mrs. Dole urged us to keep the faith with this Republican President and his Congress, win the war in Iraq at any cost, and, I assume, make the world safe for Viagra. Refusing to be silenced by the conservative moderator Chris Wallace after she had taken her allotted time and was using up Mr. Schumer's segment, one could see that this lady would brook no interference. She got her message across to the Fox audience: the Republicans must win again this November or the American dream of lower taxes and a regal Presidency would die a cruel and unnatural death. Throw in a bit of old fashioned fear-mongering about terrorism, and we had the whole RNC package.
As one listened to a Liddy Dole it was remarkable how far the American dream had come from the days of our Founding Fathers, and the views of an Abigale Adams, who deeply understood the need to recognize and protect the humanity of all people. Abigale wrote to husband John Adams in 1776, "the passion for Liberty cannot be equally strong in the breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow creatures of theirs." In the eighteenth century the American rebellion was against taxes imposed upon us by British overlords, not taxes to pay for people's needs, and the fight was against the very notion of empire and an imperial ruler.
We fought as an insurgency against an occupying British Army. The British thought they were saving us from our rebellious selves, and that they could impose their beliefs upon us by superior military force. What a lesson to be found there! It is remarkable how many Republicans are prepared to tear up two hundred and thirty years of our democracy -" albeit an always struggling democracy -" to follow a man whom the Founding Fathers, and Mrs. Adams, would have spotted as a Tory sympathizer, indifferent to the rights of others, eager to preserve his wealth and power, and that of his cronies, at the expense of his countrymen and their hard won liberties.
Throughout the past week Laura Bush, the not so secret weapon of the Republican Party, has gone forth to rally the faithful and support her husband whose unpopularity among voters has forced him to appear sparingly for Republican candidates during this pre-election period. Now Laura Bush is the perfect package of a good woman; that engaging Betty Crocker smile, the discreet makeup and dress, the down homeTexas voice, and a professed love of reading. This is everyone's favorite sweet Auntie Laura. She is the caring librarian who steers wayward children towards "quality" books, one who would never use a swear word, or raise her voice to a child. We are conditioned from birth to love and trust the Laura Bush's of the world. She is the Melanie Wilkes in our modern GWTW. And perhaps this is why I find her far more repugnant than any Liddy Dole.
We easily spot in Liddy Dole the whacko pretending to be a wise-woman but what do we make of a Laura Bush, our favorite gentlewoman, the bookish Aunt who advises us to "read, children, read"? Why is she still supporting her husband's intransigent and deadly policies in Iraq that every day kill more of our young soldiers? Why is she standing by her man when that man is destroying the American democracy she claims to cherish?
We all suspect that she knows better. Thus, she is far more dangerous than silly Liddy and far more disturbing that Mrs. Clinton when she stood by her Bill. Hillary was a woman who chose to support her husband in a private matter -" his infidelity in their marriage; their business and not the nation's. Laura Bush supports a husband whose policies have led to the deaths of thousands, and she now campaigns to perpetuate those policies which can only lead to the deaths of thousands more. This is the nation's business. This month one hundred American soldiers were killed in Iraq, while one hundred Iraquis die daily. Someone should turn to dear Laura and in the voice of the true librarian caution her to "Hush! People are trying to think."