Flim-Flam and Flash: The First Lady's Speech Offensive to Some
Reported by Marie Therese - May 5, 2005
Imagine you are President Bush.
Your poll numbers are in the tank. The war in Iraq is descending into chaos. Gas prices are at an all-time high. Consumer confidence is weak. The stock market is trending lower. Interest rates are trending higher. The House Majority Leader* may be indicted. The Democrats have won a few victories and are showing signs of life.
You're quaking in your boots at the prospect of giving a speech in front of an audience of reporters that - with the exception of FOX News - has become increasingly more rambunctious and not so willing to read your press releases and report them as news.
What do you do?
If you're George Bush, you do what you're really good at - give 'em the old razzle-dazzle.
You send in your secret weapon, the First Lady, your wife, Laura Bush. Ever compliant, ever the good little political wife, she delivers a humorous, sometimes raunchy, speech with obvious gusto and good comedic timing and - surprise, surprise - she's a hit!
The next day the media falls all over itself playing and replaying snippets of the speech. Things are looking good for you - a small victory in a sea of disasters. Based on her coverage, Mrs. Bush could probably run for public office!
But, apparently, not everyone is pleased.
Certainly not Michelle Malkin, the perky doyenne of the socially stunted - oops! socially conservative - wing of the Republican party.
Pity poor George. It's tough trying to play to two diametrically opposed audiences.
The average American likes "Desperate Housewives" and the occasional risque joke. And - heaven knows - the President needs to appeal to that middle-of-the-road group since his latest polling shows that swing voters are jitterbugging to the other side of the dance floor. Laura Bush's performance was clearly meant to woo this recalcitrant group.
On the other hand, the religious right - Bush's real political power base - espouses a moral philosophy that brooks no deviations from their perception of the norm. It's obvious from Michelle Malkin's reaction to Mrs. Bush's jokes, that, while the White House's gamble may have paid off in the real world, among the rigid Christian contingent of the Republican Party, the First Lady's performance is seen as yet another "lowering of the bar" of decency and morality.
It would seem that the "razzle-dazzle" that worked so effectively in the past to catapult George Bush to the highest echelons of power has lost some of its glitter and glam.
Maybe that's because the old "razzle-dazzle" tap dance only works when the press is complicit in the deception.
Remember the musical "Chicago"?
How far would sleazebag lawyer Bill Flynn have gotten without Mary Sunshine, girl reporter?
What better way to end a post about a comedy routine than with a slightly altered song lyric?
And, now, ladies and gentlemen, straight from sold-out performances in front of the crowned heads of Europe, that man about town, that bon vivant of the Levittown-Westbury set, your humble correspondent with the baby face, Mr. Billy O'Reilly!!!
Drum roll, please.
BILLY O'REILLY (Spoken)
Georgie, you got nothing to worry about.
It's all a circus, kid. A three ring circus.
These polls - the whole world - all show business.
But kid, you're working with a star, the biggest!
Give 'em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle Dazzle 'em
Give 'em an act with lots of flash in it
And the reaction will be passionate
Give 'em the old hocus pocus
Bead and feather 'em
How can they see with sequins in their eyes?
What if your hinges all are rusting?
What if, in fact, you're just disgusting?
Razzle dazzle 'em
And they'll never catch wise!*
TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW BETWEEN BILL O'REILLY AND MICHELLE MALKIN, MAY 4, 2005
Video clip of Laura Bush, April 30, 2005, addressing the White House Press Correspondents' Association dinner: "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' (laughter) with Lynn Cheney (more laughter). Ladies and gentlemen, I am a desperate housewife." [End clip.]
O'REILLY: By now most of you have probably seen Laura Bush's comedy routine at a Washington dinner last Saturday night. Now, I thought it was great, but not everybody agrees. Joining us from Washington is FOX News Analyst [sic] and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin, who has mixed feelings about the situation. That's true, right? Mixed feelings? I read your column today.
MALKIN: Yeah. I would say so. I mean it's about a 1.5 on my outrage-o-meter, but I've definitely heard from a lot of social conservatives who were bothered by some of the remarks and ...
O'REILLY: Alright, I don't care about social conservatives. I care about you, Michelle, you're our pal.
MALKIN: Yes. Yeah. Absolutely.
O'REILLY: You - were you offended?
MALKIN: I am a huge fan of Laura Bush's and her grace and her charm definitely stood out over the course of the campaign season in stark contrast, I believe, to the other potential First Lady and I think that's what a lot of people admire about her. So what was a little bit disturbing and disappointing, I think, was that some of these jokes, particularly the ones about the Chippendales and the old one - I know it's an old joke about, about the horse - startled people a little bit and startled me.
O'REILLY: Yeah, but Michelle, Michelle, Michelle, I'm talkin' about...
MALKIN: I think, I think it was a little bit beyond the line.
O'REILLY I'm talkin' about you.
O'REILLY: Alright. You. Michelle Malkin. Alright, let's take the Chippendales thing now. Now you, Michelle Malkin, hip, young, in tune with America (she laughs) alright - are offended that Laura Bush said that she went to Chippendale's? Come on! Michelle!
MALKIN: You're makin' me out to be such an old sourpuss, Bill! But here's the thing. I think that there's time, place and manner factors and I think that context is really important.
O'REILLY: Michelle, she was speaking to the most barbaric crowd in the country -
MALKIN: Well, it was ...
O'REILLY: Press people ...
O'REILLY: ... who have no standards, nothing. If there's ever a time you wanna mention a horse or any of its anatomy, it's in front of press people, Michelle!
\MALKIN: Well, in a way I think you're making my argument for me which is that - exactly - she's in front of this media elite crowd and I think it's exactly at those kind of moments where a lot of people ...
O'REILLY (overtalks last 5 words): Would you be offended if I said that there were a lot of horses' butts in that crowd?
MALKIN: I might, I might because you know why.
O'REILLY (seemingly incredulous): Really??!
Malkin: Because it's not just that audience that is being pandered to. I think - you know - I think the people who wrote these jokes and who knew that they were going to be delivered, knew that they were also going to be broadcast widely to a much broader audience.
O'REILLY (overtalks last 5 words): And I think - and I think that they wanted to get across that Laura Bush and her husband, the President, are human beings, Americans, just like the rest of us and once in a while will take a little naughty thing and have a little fun with it. Look ...
MALKIN: Yeah, except at the same time. Except at ...
O"REILLY: Come on! Ya' hafta - they're human beings. They're not people in a jar that are supposed to behave in a certain way.
MALKIN: You know. That - that's funny. I get that reaction a lot from people who are now calling me a lemon-sucking conservative (laughs) ...
O'REILLY: Lemon? Lem - No. You're not that. Michelle ..
MALKIN: But ..
O"Reilly: That's why, when I read your column, I went " Ya' know. Michelle's not that way! You're not a stuffed (pause) shirt."
MALKIN: I'm not. I'm not. And as I said I think for the most part the comedy routine was great. I just don't think it was necessary to talk about these kind of things, especially at a time when we're trying to raise the level of discourse and especially at a time when social ...
O'REILLY (interrupts): Who's trying to raise the level of discourse?
MALKIN: Well ... You do ...
O'REILLY: Certainly not the press people in that crowd!
MALKIN: Yes, but you do ...
O'REILLY: But don't you understand the PR value of doin' something like that?
MALKIN: I really don't, actually.
O'REILLY (overtalks all of her words): She comes across as a regular person.
MALKIN: No. But ...
O'REILLY: She comes across as a regular person ...
MALKIN: But look at the flip ...
O'REILLY: ... with a regular marriage.
MALKIN: Look at the flip side of what you're saying, though, which is that by saying that, you know, if you don't watch "Desperate Housewives," if you don't think ...
O'REILLY (disparaging): Aw, Michelle ...
MALKIN: ...that old horse jokes are funny, then somehow you're irregular and alien.
O'REILLY: No. Nah. Now you're extrapolating things that weren't there.
MALKIN: And I think that the secular - No. I think that the secular left and I think a lot of the mainstream media have done a fantastic job at marginalizing social conservatives who think that we should try and argue for more public decency in the public square.
MALKIN: That's not ...
O'REILLY: Michelle, if you want to go to Chippendale's, I'll buy you a ticket. You can tell us all about it.
MALKIN (laughs): Well, no thanks, Bill.
O'REILLY (smiling broadly): Alright. Michelle Malkin. Thanks very much. As always we appreciate it. [End of interview.]
Reprinted below is what Michelle Malkin wrote about the First Lady. The remarks below are contained in a review of a new book by Brian Anderson entitled "South Park Conservatives."
South Park may be "politically incorrect." But "politically incorrect" is not always a synonym for "conservative."
My discomfort with South Park's increasingly mainstream vulgarity is not a matter of nitpicking. We're not just talking about a stray curse word here or there. As liberal New York Times columnist Frank Rich points out, South Park "holds the record for the largest number of bleeped-out repetitions (162) of a single four-letter expletive in a single television half-hour." That's probably about the same number of profanities uttered at John Kerry's infamous New York City celebrity fundraiser last summer, which Republicans rightly condemned for its excessive obscenities.
Rich is wrong about most things, but he's painfully on target in noting the incongruous pandering now taking place by some in the cool-kids clique on the Right. Conservatives criticize Hollywood relentlessly, but as Rich notes, "the embarrassing reality is that they want to be hip, too."
Which brings me to Mrs. Bush. She demonstrated at the celebrity-studded White House Correspondents' Dinner this weekend that you can entertain without being profane. Most of her humor was just right: Edgy but not over the edge. But her off-color stripper and horse jokes crossed the line. Can you blame Howard Stern for feeling peeved and perplexed? And let's face it: if Teresa ("I'm cheeky!") Heinz Kerry had delivered Mrs. Bush's First Lady Gone Mildly Wild routine, social conservative pundits would be up in arms over her bad taste and lack of dignity.
The First Lady resorting to horse masturbation jokes is not much better than Whoopi Goldberg trafficking in dumb puns on the Bush family name. It was wholly unnecessary.
Self-censorship is a conservative value. In a brilliant commencement speech at Hillsdale College last year Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner called on his audience to resist the coarsened rhetoric of our time: "If we are to prevail as a free, self-governing people, we must first govern our tongues and our pens. Restoring civility to public discourse is not an option. It is a necessity."
Lighten up, you say? No thanks. I'd rather be a G-rated conservative who can only make my kids giggle than a South Park/Desperate Housewives conservative whose goal is getting Richard Gere and Jane Fonda to snicker. Giving the Hollyweird Left the last laugh is not my idea of success.
* Copyright 1975 Kander & Ebb [Source for original lyrics: stlyrics.com]
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* Post Updated 5/5/05 at 9:45 PM EDT: Apologies to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. I meant the House Majority Leader (Tom Delay) is about to be indicted. Thanks to Nash for pointing out the error. The correction has been made. MT