Guest Author - Linda Sue Grimes
If Michelle Obama wants to be like Laura Bush, she has to lose the angry, self-pitying tone that so far has been the face that Mrs. Obama has shown America. This tone comes from character, and may not be something that is so easily changed.
The Proud Gaffe
When asked about Michelle Obama’s gaffe, “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” Mrs. Bush defended the potential First Lady, by remarking, "I think she probably meant I'm 'more proud,' you know, is what she really meant. You have to be very careful in what you say. I mean, I know that, and that's one of the things you learn and that's one of the really difficult parts both of running for president and for being the spouse of the president, and that is, everything you say is looked at and in many cases misconstrued.”
Of course, Laura Bush is quite right; everything the candidates and their wives say is scrutinized, and that is how it must be. And Mrs. Bush, in no way, indicated that Obama’s statement was not, in fact, how Obama feels. Notice she said, “I think she probably meant . . .,” not “I know she meant.”
Laura Bush Diplomat
But by leaving open the possibility that Michelle Obama might really be proud of her country after all, Mrs. Bush shows herself to the ultimate diplomat. She easily gives the offending party the benefit of the doubt. And as First Lady, she has the perfect position to do that.
First Ladies do not have make hard choices as Presidents do. They can be more deferential and get away with it. And the current First Lady always shows her classiness when she spins the potential negative into a positive or at least a neutral.
The Heinz Kerry Gaffe
During the presidential campaign of 2004, when Teresa Heinz (Kerry) said, “Well, you know, I don't know Laura Bush. But she seems to be calm, and she has a sparkle in her eye, which is good. But I don't know that she's ever had a real job – I mean, since she's been grown up. So her experience and her validation comes (sic) from important things, but different things."
It was October, and the Kerry campaign was looking rather glum and Heinz thought she’d garner up some political points against the Bush campaign by impugning Mrs. Bush’s experience. However to Heinz’s obvious intended put down, Mrs. Bush responded, “It didn't hurt my feelings, and it was perfectly all right. She apologized but she didn't even really need to apologize. I know how tough it is. I know those trick questions too.”
Heinz Tricked by Her Own Words
And Heinz later, after learning that Mrs. Bush had actually worked as a teacher and librarian for nine years, apologized by adding rather disingenuously, “I had forgotten that Mrs. Bush had worked as a school teacher and librarian, and there couldn't be a more important job than teaching our children. As someone who has been both a full-time mom and full-time in workforce, I know we all have valuable experiences that shape who we are.”
In her earlier remark, Heinz had admitted that she didn’t know Laura Bush, but then by the time she apologized miraculously she had actually known her well enough and long enough to “forget” that Mrs. Bush had worked as a teacher and librarian. Then Heinz added the clichéd distraction of the importance of such work.
Of course, what we remember most from these incidents is the kindness that Laura Bush offered these clumsy women. Would that we all could be so gracious.