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A Question for Our President

Mr. Schieffer: We’ve come gentlemen, to our last question. And it occurred to me as I came to this debate tonight that the three of us share something. All three of us are surrounded by very strong women. We’re all married to strong women. Each of us have two daughters that make us very proud. I’d like to ask each of you what is the most important thing you’ve learned from these strong women?

Our PresidentMr. Bush: To listen to them. [Laugh.] To stand up straight and not scowl. [Laugh] I love the strong women around me. I can’t tell you how much I love my wife and our daughters. I am, you know, it’s really interesting, I tell the people on the campaign trail when I asked Laura to marry me she said fine, just so long as I never have to give a speech. I said O.K., you’ve got a deal. Fortunately, she didn’t hold me to that deal. And she’s out campaigning along with our girls. And she speaks English a lot better than I do. I think people understand what she’s saying. But they see a compassionate, strong, great first lady in Laura Bush. I can’t tell you how luck I am when I met her in the backyard of Joe and Jan O’Neill in Midland, Tex. It was the classic backyard barbecue. O’Neil said come on over, I think you’ll find somebody who might interest you. So I said all right, bopped over there. There’s only four of us there. And not only did she interest me, I guess you could say it was love at first sight.
—From the transcript of the third presidential debate, October 13, 2004

Um, so, are you saying that you’ve never actually learned anything from the women in your life? Yes, I know: we all enjoyed your little joke, your gently self-deprecating humor. But, seriously: you’ve gained no real knowledge—no insights, no ideas, no fascinating facts, not even an entertaining bit of trivia—from those “strong women” you claim to so admire. You had two whole minutes to come up with something, man. Nothing?

Look, I know that your girls probably don’t have any wisdom concerning underage fun to impart to a past master such as yourself, but your wife’s a librarian, for crying out loud. She’s all about teaching and learning and shit. I realize that you’re not really into reading, but surely, over the course of your marriage, she’s helped you navigate the complexities of the Dewey decimal system at least once.

And I know Bob Schieffer only mentioned Laura and the girls specifically, but you might have given a shout out to your mom, even if you secretly hate her. It would have been the classy thing to do. And how’s about scoring some points with the ladies in the electorate but giving credit to the strong women in your administration, Condaleeza Rice, for example. I might not agree with her politics myself—I might even think that she’s a tool of Satan—but I have to believe that every damn thing you know about foreign policy came from a flashcard she typed up for you, with the big words and names of exotic world leaders spelled phonetically.

You know, listening to you ramble and fumble and fail to come up with a single instance of learning anything from a woman, I couldn’t help but think of that time someone asked you to describe a mistake you’ve made, and you couldn’t. Does admitting that you’ve learned something—that there’s anything anyone, perhaps even particularly a woman, might teach you—make you feel weak? “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.” Dude, that’s Socrates talking, and other very smart people have said more or less the same thing in a thousand different ways. Even if Philosophy 101 conflicted with your frat hazing schedule, surely you must have seen this sentiment paraphrased on a poster or something. Of course, now that I think about it, pride of place on your dorm-room wall was probably given to Reasons Why Beer Is Better Than a Woman, which might explain both your inability to admit fallability and to acknowledge the female influence in your life.

[PROPS TO TED, MY HUSBAND, FOR BUSTING OUT THE PRECISE SOCRATIC QUOTATION I NEEDED. SEE, MR. PRESIDENT? IT’S NOT SO HARD.]

October 14, 2004 | Permalink

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