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Jewish World Review May 9, 2002 / 27 Iyar, 5762

Tony Snow

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Musings | The other day I got to return to the small Kentucky county where my mother met my father; where their parents met and raised families and where my cousins and second cousins and other kith and kin still build businesses and homes and lives along the wooded ridges of such places as Williamstown, Owenton, Corinth and Dry Ridge.

Grant County is a place where people hold each other dear. They celebrate births together and mourn deaths. They worship school teachers and local volunteers, because those are the people who hold together towns that have a lot more love than money. Fittingly, I met friends I hadn't even known -- people who knew me before I could walk or talk; who remember when my dad was a young hellion; and when my mother was a young girl -- destined also to die young. It's a place full of living, buzzing with change -- heck, it now has multiple traffic lights, not just one. And it will always be the place, more than any other that set the pace and tone and direction of my life.

I attended my 25th college reunion, returned to my old graduate school, and gave a talk in Grant County. I got pretty royal treatment -- as befits a minor media personality. I posed for pictures, signed some autographs and got to hear people share their enthusiasm for my work.

And then, I returned home -- and my heady adventure gave way to gruesome reality.

I was looking over a brochure for a program-stills charity auction at my daughter's school. Here's breakfast with Congressman Jim Moran. Estimated value: Priceless. Dinner with a local councilman. Estimated value: Priceless. A copy of a book by Sen. Robert Byrd. Estimated value: Priceless. An artifact contributed by Senator John Warner. Estimated value: priceless.

And lunch with me. Estimated value: 150 bucks.

And the look on my wife's face when she saw the brochure: doubled over, tears running down her cheeks, laughing so hard she couldn't talk. That was priceless.

There are two ways to handle bad press. If you want to look like a whining imbecile, you can moan, complain and point fingers at the evil media. If, on the other hand, you want to look good, you can use self-effacing humor.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush chose the latter course after the Wichita Eagle, one of the major Kansas newspapers, reported that she had boasted to a local audience that she had had three breast sizes during her life. Correcting the record, she wrote: "I am indeed a bosom buddy to two presidents, so I shared (with the audience) some of the things I have learned .... That includes 57 years of married life, six children, 14 grandchildren, five wars, three DRESS sizes, two governors, two parachute jumps and now two presidents. .... Your article has left this generally outspoken mother speechless, but has given my children much to laugh about. ... I just wanted to get this off my chest."

Now folks that's why Americans love Barbara Bush.

At last Saturday's White House Correspondents Association Dinner, President Bush did as presidents do at such events: He told jokes and looked presidential. Then came entertainer, Drew Carey, who did as comedians sometimes do: He made people laugh.

But along the way, he accomplished two other things of note. He praised the young men and women who serve overseas, often in harsh conditions, against enemies known and unknown -- Americans who come not to conquer land, but liberate. And he talked briefly about religion -- making specific mention of the Bible.

Now, if you want to silence a room filled with Washington illuminati -- people schooled in studied cynicism, willing to commit only to a lack of commitment to creeds and courses of action -- talk about a divine creator and immutable truth. For a moment, you could hear the air conditioners whooshing.

But then again, maybe the silence was a sign that Carey performed a small miracle -- making members of the capital city's press herd do something they seldom do -- think on their own.

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