In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 9, 2005 / 30 Nissan, 5765

Laura Bush: No laughing matter

By Diana West

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Lovely Laura Bush: yuk-yuk, or just yuck?

The event under consideration — the first lady's monologue at the White House Correspondents' Dinner — weighs in alongside flotsam and jetsam, but the question has hefty ramifications. It may be the ultimate "litmus test," a chance to reveal something more vital than mere politics, and certainly less easily defined: the state of public taste and judgment.

This should come as something of a relief to those among us weary of the well-worn Red State, Blue State divide. Better to carve up the world between those who found Laura Bush's jokes funny, and those who didn't.

Or, rather, those who found Laura Bush's jokes an ornament to the White House, and those who wished a grownup had happened by the East Wing to yank them from the script and throw in some nifty new adventures of Barney.

Why? When a woman happens to be first lady, "funny" at any expense isn't part of the job description, not when "funny" comes at the expense of her husband's image. And I don't mean "image" as in public relations product. I mean "image" as in public symbol. World leader. Commander-in-chief. In these explosive times, with tens of thousands of soldiers under arms. Which is a sobering thought, or should be.

In other words, feet of clay are fine, but there's no reason to bring the barnyard into it. Whoopi Goldberg steered a Democratic fund-raiser into the gutter last summer with a crude pun on the Bush family name, prompting Republican accusations that John Kerry didn't "share the same values" as the rest of America.

But what about the rest of the Bush family? Laura Bush is no stand-up comic, but that's all the more reason certain sorts of "jokes" should be automatically, reflexively, unquestioningly ruled out for her public delivery. Jokes that link the president's hands and the underside of a horse, for instance. Jokes that create a regrettably indelible image of the first lady, the vice president's wife, the secretary of state, and a Supreme Court justice together at Chippendale's, waving dollars bills at male strippers. Even jokes that make a "Mommie Dearest" out of former first lady Barbara Bush. Such material won't pull more than a PG rating these days, but a first lady in any era should be mature enough to avoid all "adult" material.

Once upon a time, such discretion was a no-brainer, an obvious rule that needed no articulation, much less conscious thought. No more — which is why there seem to be more people, including conservatives, applauding Mrs. Bush than sitting on their hands. We live in a society that prizes the guffaw above all, where "lighten up" is a commandment and anything really does go. But it goes for no reason. That is, I can think of no reason to motivate a first lady to mock a president in front of a White House press corps that makes a career of doing so on a daily basis. "George," she said, "if you really want to end tyranny in the world, you're going to have to stay up later." The hilarity of her moment passes, but something has changed.

Exactly what it is that has changed is difficult to explain. After all, the whole thing was "just" a joke. But Laura Bush is not Joan Rivers. Splashing into the media mainstream to join the derisive fun, decoupling fateful words from mortal purpose, is a risky proposition for the wife of a superpower leader. One day, "ending tyranny" is Mr. Bush's raison d'etre; the next day, it is Mrs. Bush's punch line.

The day after that — who knows? The lingering air of uncertainty is hardly worth the media snickers, even if the first lady did manage to "humanize" her husband, as The New York Times so admiringly put it. Certainly, she knocked him down some pegs, which in our age is much the same thing. But imagine other presidencies, particularly in wartime. Would we have said Eleanor humanized FDR by doing a stand-up routine about Franklin always "fearing fear itself"? Or that Pat Nixon humanized Richard by wondering where the heck the peace was that Dick said was "at hand"? Or that Nancy Reagan humanized Ron by teasing him about tearing down that old wall?

"Lighten up," they say, in a programmed response. No thanks. A laugh-track nation doesn't really offer serious comic relief.

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JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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