Marryin’ the Librarian: Mrs. Bush Pushes a Book
When George W. Bush married Laura the librarian in 1977, ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” was a huge hit—and my generation took instructions well—we were shaking our groove things in unison without one thought of ever having the civil right to marry. In the disco, we sure lived loud, but in terms of living large at work or in church, it was a quiet, faceless make-no-waves existence. We’ve come a very long way baby—and the right to get homo-hitched is actually within reach. We’ve brought our families and friends along—and our self esteem has risen proportionately to the gains we’ve made. This evolutionary change has come in spite of—rather than because of—the former first couple.
So it makes it all the sadder still that Mrs. Bush waited until after her husband’s two interminable terms to voice her own view that gay marriage is a right. But yes, 33 years since her own marriage and after eight of those years in the White House, where her husband made our lives a living hell, Laura is contrite. She seems to be humming directly to us that other hit tune of 1977—Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word.”
See, Mrs. Bush the librarian didn’t just “shush” her library patrons. She shushed herself. For eight years. About gay marriage. So now she tells Wolf Blitzer that they’re not homophobes. (Some of our best friends are gay!) In the hit Broadway musical, Music Man, Marian the Librarian sang:
There was love all around
But I never heard it singing
No, I never heard it at all
Till there was you!
Well, Mrs. Bush, in addition to your friends, millions of us were there for all eight long years—watching in horror as Karl Rove racked up points by gay bashing and marriage baiting— turning states red with contrived boogey men and women who might want to settle down together and make a life. And, as if your own “gay friends” weren’t enough of a reminder of how unjust this was, maybe you could have looked up from the dinner table and see the Vice President’s daughter, Mary, and her outlawed partner, Heather.
Ignoring your own power in your own idyllic love nest on Pennsylvania Avenue, you muzzled your own self in the East Wing and watched Karl Rove flout and rout us from his perch in the evilest of empires in the West. Rove was his “brain.” You were supposed to be his “heart.” The fact that both nouns need quotation marks around them is sadder than sad.
But you had these feelings of compassion for us and yet, not one word from you. So, your dog, Barney ate your homo-work? Is that the excuse? Imagine being a gay citizen who works hard and plays by the rules listening to you tell the media that you just wished it hadn’t been so divisive like that—and that you and your twins were shocked …shocked! that Mary Cheney’s sexuality would come up in a VP debate. So your husband’s political operatives can whip the right wing into a lather over gay marriage and that doesn’t shock you? But the mention that there’s a gay member of the Vice President’s family is off limits? With all due respect, that’s not acceptable.
Your other comment was that you not only had gay friends but that you had “friends with gay children.” Let’s see, one of your friends would be the Vice President. He and Mrs. Cheney allied themselves with the reddest of the red state soldiers and welcomed into the tent people who would harm their own daughter. This is— among other things—a heinous crime against PFLAG.
It’s well known that you had no official power or policy role. You weren’t elected (well, neither was your husband, but he took the oath and sat in the Oval—so we all had to cope). Presidential historians and biographers will debate the power of Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and your very own mother-in-law, Bar. But on this issue where you profess personal experience, I have to ask a question: Did Eleanor Roosevelt ever come to mind as you watched the injustice from within the White House political operation? Did you ever have the impulse to shake things up? Did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, a courageous move might have been to invite your gay friends to the Rose Garden for their own commitment ceremony?
Think about it: Eleanor didn’t even know Marian Anderson, and yet, she stepped in and put a stop to the insanity of blind prejudice. You claim to have gay friends. With friends like that, who needs an enigma?
Good luck with your book tour. You are certainly a class act and your book bona fides are unrivaled. But, trust me, Mrs. Bush, I am not the only one who wishes that you would have helped your friends and made the history books instead. Alas, women who “behave” rarely make history.
Brent Mundt resides in Washington, DC but lives in Rehoboth Beach.