What are we to think about the White House Correspondents Dinner? It occurred almost two weeks ago, but I am still not sure what it means.
Perhaps we should have been prepared for Laura’s standup comedy routine, after watching the similarly risqué and sometimes unfunny performance of the Bush daughters at the Republican Convention last summer.
In an administration obscenely misshapen by hubris and hypocrisy, Laura Bush had seemed to serve as a rare moral defense. She was a small, steady light in an administration enamored of the easy lie and bloated with lust for territory seasoned with the blood of good men and women.
But at the Correspondents Dinner, the "First Lady" enlightened me, Bush’s conservative base and the world on how she and the other "values" oriented women of the administration spend their time in downtown D.C. after their decrepit better halves nod off. I’d bet the Dollar Bill nickname for Lynne Cheney was fantasy and the visit to Chippendales never happened.
Laura joked about being a "Desperate Housewife," referring to that deliciously modern Peyton Place on Sunday night television. A little closer to truth, perhaps.
But it was the milking the male horse joke that turned my stomach. The language. The imagery. The disrespect to George — except wait — George thought it was hilarious. If we needed any more proof that George W. Bush was a permanent emotional resident of a high school locker room, Laura handed it over.
Laura and her speechwriters seemed delighted to waste one more share of that dwindling Bush political capital from the 2004 election.
Afterwards, very little media attention was paid to the embarrassing evening. No raised eyebrows about Bush family raunchiness in light of its loyal Christian right support base. No interviews with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, seeking to make sense of Laura Bush. No hard-hitting questions about the physical and mental health of George W. Bush, his persistent incoherence or even comparisons with last year’s entertainment fiasco when Bush crudely joked about trying to find WMDs as our young men died horrible deaths in Iraq.
In the intervening two weeks, several news items emerged, all ignored by the same White House Correspondents who applauded so heartily for George and Laura.
Colonel David Hackworth died after a tough fight with cancer. America lost her most highly decorated soldier and a true patriot. Most Americans wouldn’t know this from watching CNN or listening to our "war" president.
A Bush-supporting Baptist church in North Carolina decided to become "political." Its first act — Stalinesque by any standard — was a purge of those suspected of disloyalty to Bush, followed by a broader purge of those who opposed the idea of political churches. The threat of IRS investigation of the church’s tax-exempt status calmed the storm and the good Reverend Chan Chandler resigned.
Larry Franklin of the Office for Special Plans was finally arrested by the FBI. Was he arrested for his own protection because he was cooperating with the FBI, or was he not cooperating after all? Is he the fall guy for his boss, Bill Luti, now Special Assistant to the President at the National Security Council, and the soon to retire Doug Feith, or even Paul Wolfowitz and Don Rumsfeld? Did the people paying for expensive Plato Cacheris pull the account? What was the real role of the Israeli government in promulgating lies to bring us to Iraq, permanently, it seems? It would be a great story, if it could be told.
Capping it off in the past two weeks was the release of British documents that show that the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq was made long before permission was requested of the U.S. Congress, or the American people, and without any moral or legal justification, beyond Bush and the neocons saying "I wanna." The present administration made a steady and effective effort to create false "facts" for public consumption beginning in early 2002. It’s what I saw in the Pentagon myself, and shared with you, but I always hoped it was an aberration or a mistake. It wasn’t.
The neoconservative movement emphasizes militaristic internationalism abroad, in regions of finely defined Washington interest, while waving the flags of cultural conservatism and social democracy at home. Its evangelical call for the export of American values and governing styles, as well as its appearance of support for the "good old days" strikes a chord in some parts of the Christian community.
Co-opting Christian traditions for political ends shows American neoconservatism at its most criminally fraudulent. Christianity emphasizes personal accountability, humility and modesty. Christians model themselves on Jesus’ example, which importantly included obedience to God, even when that meant dangerous disobedience to earthly kings and counselors.
Instead, we have a robust and growing monstrosity of a centralized state at home and an amoral and deadly foreign policy abroad, both cheered and defended by America’s Christian religious fundamentalists.
Laura Bush and her jokes, like George W. Bush’s repeated exploitation of his Christian base at election-time, reveal the sheer contempt with which the administration holds the traditional values crowd.
We need to wake up. Christians know better than to be seduced by talking snakes and promises of grandeur and world dominance. Of all people, they should be leading the way in undeniable and unshakeable opposition to our current Caesar.
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley, and writes a bi-weekly column on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for militaryweek.com.