June 3, 2005

Pro-choice inclinations and relentless practicality.

Rebecca Mead has a piece in The New Yorker about Laura Bush that is written in that labored style that makes you assume she really must have a point that matters. I'll leave you to find the point, if you want. I just wanted to break out this one sentence:
Barbara Bush’s pro-choice inclinations, consistent with the relentless practicality displayed by her heel height and sensible hairdo, was taken to be a much more significant indicator of her husband’s true position on abortion than anything he might have said to pro-life voters.
Okay, obviously, the subject and the verb don't agree. You'd have thought The New Yorker, with all its pretensions about writing style, would never let a mistake like that through.

But let's move on.

What's practical -- let alone "relentlessly practical" -- about the big, teased, rigidly-in-place, bubble hairstyle? I see relentlessly practical hairstyles on women every day. Long, parted, naturally straight hair is relentlessly practical. Very short, Beatle-cut, thin hair is relentlessly practical. All-one-length, naturally curly hair is relentlessly practical. A slicked-back ponytail is relentlessly practical. You try getting your hair into a Barbara Bush/Ann Richards teased bubble without professional help!

I can't address the subject of Barbara Bush's shoes, as I have no mental picture to draw from, but what exactly is it about sensible shoes and hair that is supposed to suggest a pro-choice position on abortion? If the article weren't so hostile to George W. Bush overall, I would suspect the writer of having the old-fashioned sort of anti-feminist attitude that relied on the argument that feminists are feminists because they can't attract men or don't want to! So what's the point? An idle slam against Barbara Bush?

But the larger point here is that a Republican President who must say things to please his anti-abortion constituents does well to have a wife who signals to abortion rights supporters that they really don't need to worry that he'll take their rights away. The husband and wife conjoin into a mystical entity that works some political magic.


Frank Borger said...

Why, oh why did I suddenly do a flashback to Nixon's "my wife wears a practical cloth coat" (or was it sensible?)

I wonder if her next column will be about the eternal men's garb question, "boxers or briefs?"

olivia1 said...

OK, I am going to go read the whole piece but first I have to get over the smiling at some of your delightful dissections. You are so right about the hairdo observation. Rebcca Meade just reveals herself to be silly and desperate to come up with a Bush (any Bush) putdown. It's actually gotten entertaining to see their efforts...kind of like going to the zoo and spending extra time around the monkey cages.

Meade said...

frank borger: As I recall, it was neither "practical" nor "sensible." It was "a Republican cloth coat."

Matt said...

As I read it, the point made was that Barbara Bush the elder was, when pressed, a pretty clear advocate for the pro-choice position. (I have no idea where Barbara the younger and her sister Jenna stand.) The point that was made is that certain pro-choice voters used this (rightly or wrongly) to justify their vote for Bush. "He's married to a pro-choicer, so he can't be THAT pro-life!" (And by all indications, Bush the elder was pro-choice up till his 1980 campaign, just as DEnnis Kuicinch was pro-life up till his 2004 campaign on the other side.) It's not a "slam" by any means, but making the point of how Barbara Bush in her own way played a distinctive political role, something Laura has yet to really do, IMGO.

Ann Althouse said...

Matt: The "slam" I'm referring to is the insult to her personal appearance. I agree with you about the rest of it.

Mark Kaplan said...

The Checkers speech came into my head also and I seem to recall Nixon have used the words "practical cloth coat." I guess it's time to find the speech on the internet.

Mark Kaplan said...

I was wrong about "practical." According to two different internet transcripts it is "respectable."

"Well, that's about it. That's what we have and that's what we owe. It isn't very much but Pat and I have the satisfaction that every dime that we've got is honestly ours. I should say this—that Pat doesn't have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat. And I always tell her that she'd look good in anything. "

Erica said...

Poor Barbara.I think the shoes/haircut dilema is the least of her worries. I posted about her today,actually, you all might like it: http://shesontherag.blogspot.com

Erica said...

There's an extra "m" on "dilema" that i've neglected...slap that on there for me, will ya?