- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Sending women to war is a lousy idea, as any red-blooded man who ever wore the uniform would tell you, but Laura Bush can handle a blade on a political platform as skillfully as any Marine, Legionnaire or Ranger ever could.

Miss Laura doesn’t use a rapier — thin blades are for sissies and squaw men — when the business end of a bayonet will do it quicker, better, bloodier. She’s taken to heart Stonewall Jackson’s admonition to his soldiers to make short speeches “but when you unsheathe the sword throw away the scabbard.”

Miss Laura, the stuff of every Southern boy’s dreams, threw away the scabbard Saturday night at the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents’ Association. Hair, teeth and eyes littered the platform when she sat down, and the president (and Karl Rove) could put it down to a fine evening’s work.

The correspondents and their guests are still quoting their favorite Laura lines to anyone who will listen: “I am married to the president of the United States, and here’s our typical evening: Nine o’clock, Mr. Excitement here is sound asleep, and I’m watching ‘Desperate Housewives’ — with Lynne Cheney. Ladies and gentlemen, I am a desperate housewife.”

Naturally, the Internet has been afire with speculation, analysis and satire since. Some bloggers were taken in by the dispatch headlined “Conservative Christians Not Laughing at First Lady’s Comedy Act.” This was posted as an “Official Statement” from the “Coalition for Traditional Values,” which turns out to be a figment of a clever imagination, meant to be confused with the similarly named Traditional Values Coalition.

A purported pastor, “the Rev. Dr. Roy DeLong,” warned that the first lady’s performance comes when the president’s “manliness is already under attack,” and urged him to read “a familiar passage” from the Bible’s Book of Ephesians: “Wives, submit yourself unto your husbands, as unto the Lord.”

“Pastor DeLong” rebukes the president for having been seen “holding hands with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia,” for encouraging Americans to consider driving hybrid cars, “widely believed to be ‘gay’ cars.” But in the eyes of the mythical pastor and his imaginary congregation, it’s Miss Laura who courts the fiery judgment of Jehovah:

“One of the Proverbs says that ‘a virtuous woman is a crown to her husband, but she that maketh him ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.’ I bet President Bush is feeling pretty rotten today.”

If so, every politician should feel so rotten. Andrew Sullivan, the New Republic and Time magazine essayist and part-time blogger who yearns to be a desperate housewife himself, was particularly outraged by the crack about “gay hybrid cars.” But he, too, took down his Internet outrage when it was clear that the religious-right criticism of Miss Laura’s gig was a hoax.

But not all the scolding was, in fact, a hoax. David Corn of Nation magazine, which is as left as you can get and still be housebroken, was one of several journalists who were highly offended. Miss Laura’s jokes sent some of them into overnight swoons. One reporter for CNN sniffed that she found the first lady’s gig “a little shocking,” so there may be hope yet for the revival of taste on the tube. “I’m not sure I want to explain a lot of those jokes to my 4-year-old,” said Mr. Corn. It’s true that most 4-year-olds would rather hear about the Social Security trust fund, but when Miss Laura went on, the little shavers should have been home in bed, dreaming of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Shocking or not, the George and Laura Show continued yesterday in the Rose Garden, when they appeared together to promote history tourist sites. “A couple of funny lines one evening and she gets carried away,” the president said. But he couldn’t resist stringing out her joke that he’s Mr. Excitement, off to bed as soon as the sun goes down.

“When we first moved to the White House,” he said, “she was reading Edith Wharton’s books. Sometimes it was hard to get her to turn off the light.”

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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