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Robert Richardson
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Well, after reading about Laura Bush's sartorial debacle at the Kennedy Center festivities, in which she and three other women appeared in identical de la Renta gowns, it is clear that this was not an unfortunate, but innocent, coincidence. As we old-timers say: "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy action." But four times?

A leaked top-secret analysis from the CIA (Couture Institute of America) presents a chilling glimpse into the brutal, but largely unknown, world of couture terrorism. This is a battle fought without quarter, and often without bras, in the salons of haute couture. Few of the fashion sycophants who Oooh and Aaah as each year's latest offerings are presented realize that the sullen anorexics who slouch down the runways actually are pawns in this international Theater of the Absurd.

The full CIA analysis is too detailed and lengthy to present here, but I have summarized the salient points:

1. The Laura Bush incident is not the work of militant Muslims. Having four Muslim women in one place, all wearing identical burkas, would not be noteworthy. Careful analysis by Interpol has failed to turn up any evidence that Al Qaeda has sleeper cells in the fashion industry.

2. The Kennedy Center embarrassment was not the work of the Brits. Decades of observing the Queen's clothing should convince even the most rabid anglophile that fashion is not a Royal priority. In fact, an eyes-only report by MI5, which was suppressed by Downing Street, suggests that Princess Diana was killed, not because of her affair with Dodi al Fayed, but because she was too chic and fashionable and made the Queen feel unacceptably frumpy. Hell hath no fury like a middle-aged woman with too much power and terrible hats.

3. The fact that Princess Diana was killed in Paris might lead one to suspect that the long arm of the French fashion establishment might have reached the Potomac on that fateful night. But no, fear not. Despite the French intransigence regarding our cheery adventure in Iraq, and our childishly changing our menus to feature Freedom Fries (we changed sauerkraut to Liberty Cabbage in WW I, so there is a good historical precedent for this stupidity), the French are too subtle to clone that rather unremarkable gown four times.

4. Despite the fact that we have outsourced 93% of our tech support to India, thereby burdening them with trying to make sense of the Windows operating system and applications, and communicating this to tens of thousands of anxiety-ridden American victims of Microsoft bloatware, India has not perpetrated this Kennedy Center foolishness. They have no need to. Even a cursory study of their exquisite saris clearly demonstrates a superior beauty and stunning sophistication that is to de le Renta's sequined offering as a Wal-Mart acrylic is to the finest cashmere. No, India is secure. They did not do it.

5. The Russians? CIA analysts doubt it. Unlike Raisa Gorbatcheva, Lyudmila Putin (nee Shkrebnev) "never did think her destiny would give her such a difficult role - to be the country's first lady. She does not look like a high society lioness: in contrast to the western first ladies, she likes jumpers and not elegant costumes and jewelry. She had dreamt of quiet peaceful family life, wanted to be just a loving woman." See: http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/8009-9.cfm

6. And so that leads us to.... (a drumroll please).... the Democrats! But wait! That is too obvious. When the cheese is missing everybody blames the mice. Why would the Democrats, flushed (or at least a bit ruddy) with success do something that stupid? Certainly they are capable of it, and for the past several years, especially including the last presidential campaign, they have demonstrated a glorious skill at self-immolation. But somehow this business of quadruple gowns at the Kennedy Center bash seems too clever, too ....errr.... nuanced for the party that can't even get choosing a Speaker of the House right. No, I'm afraid that Nancy Pelosi's gang are not haute couture kind of guys.

So where does that leave us?

7. Ahah! With the disaffected neocons, that's where! And they fall into two camps, both, as they say on CSI, with motive (puh-lenty of motive) and opportunity. Camp #1 are the pro-Iraq-war hawks who thought that the bully little war was a great idea, but who are deeply angry at Dubya for screwing up the implementation and listening to Rummy (who is to Iraq what MacNamara was to Viet Nam). The second group, the "faith-based" neocons, are furious with Dubya for dissing their representatives and smirking at them when their backs were turned (never turn your back on Bush).

Both groups never will forgive Dubya, but their experience also shows that he is impervious to facts, logic, and rational thought. So how to exact some sort of vengeance, albeit it feeble? Saying "Mr. President, we're rather cross with you" just won't cut it. Feed Barney some laxative so he poops on the Oval Office carpet? No, too easily ...err.... covered up. And then some Rovian operator came up with the clever idea of embarrassing Bush through Laura.

Obscene amounts of money changed hands, secret meetings took place in obscure Beltway bistros, three de la Renta employees found themselves with Swiss bank accounts and retirement cottages in Sarasota, buyer records were expunged, two suspicious de la Renta employees found themselves inexplicably fired, and Voila! The Quadruple Gown Caper !

But it didn't work. Four gowns was overkill, and although Oscar clearly is toast, and three innocent but furious lesser ladies doubtless will get their $8500 back, Laura took it well and Dubya really hadn't a clue. In fact, rumors have it that he frequently sees double, so seeing four identical gowns might just have caused him to smile that little smirk we all have come to know and love, rub his eyes, shake his head, and simply hang onto Dick Cheney's arm. It might not have seemed too odd to him.

Obviously, the couture terrorists have overreached themselves.

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Bob Richardson is a retired electrical engineer and information specialist. He lives in New England.
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