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The W Effect: Bush's War on Women

August 31, 2004

A group of 900 Republican women gathered Monday at the Waldorf Astoria to hear about why women should rally behind George W. Bush. We hear former first lady Barbara Bush and Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney at the event and we speak with radio host Laura Flanders about her new book The W Effect: Bush’s War on Women. [includes rush transcript]

President Bush’s supporters frequently cite the number of women in his cabinet as proof of his support for women’s rights. But numerous women’s groups this week have held protests against Bush’s agenda and what they call the war on women.

In response, a group of 900 Republican women gathered on Monday at the Waldorf Astoria to hear about why women should rally behind George W. Bush.

The "W Stands for Women" event featured members of both the Bush and Cheney families, including the Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, who sat silently on stage; the president’s sister, Doro Bush Koch, and mother, 76-year-old former first lady Barbara Bush; as well as Dick Cheney’s wife Lynne and daughter Liz.

  • Barbara Bush, Former First Lady speaking at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, August 30, 2004.
  • Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney speaking at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, August 30, 2004.
  • Laura Flanders, author of the book Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species and the editor of the new book The W Effect: Bush’s War on Women. She is also the host of "Your Call" heard on KALW-FM in San Francisco, and on the Internet.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush’s supporters frequently cite the number of women in his cabinet as proof of his support for women’s rights. But numerous women’s groups this week have held protests against the Bush agenda and what they call 'the war on women.' In response, a group of 900 Republican women gathered Monday at the Waldorf-Astoria to hear  about why women should rally behind George W. Bush. The 'W Stands for Women' event featured members of both the Bush and Cheney families, including the Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, who sat silently on stage; the president’s sister, 'Doro' Bush Koch and mother, 76-year-old former first lady, Barbara Bush; as well as Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynn, and daughter, Liz. This is an excerpt of what the former first lady, Barbara Bush had to say.

BARBARA BUSH: I must tell you that being around so many supporters like this, renews my faith. I’ve tried to avoid watching the news lately. Because it does raise my blood pressure. Unfortunately, the President’s father can’t resist. He hates to miss a word. So while he’s spends his evening cursing at the TV set and occasionally even throwing things, I calmly sit by, needlepointing and listening to books on tape. I don’t need to hear all that stuff. I can look at you and get great strength.  [cheers and applause] Now all of you — all of you mothers know what it’s like when someone says mean things about your — someone you love. Imagine what it’s like when these terrible, untrue things are said on national TV for the whole world to hear. Sometimes I just want to give people a piece of my mind. [cheers and applause] But of course, you know, I would never do that. As George would say: ’Wouldn’t be prudent!’  

AMY GOODMAN: Barbara Bush, former first lady and mother of the current president, speaking last night at the 'W Stands for Women' event in New York. Also in attendance was Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne Cheney, who took the stage minutes later.

LYNNE CHENEY: It’s such an honor to be here today. Looking at the women sitting on this stage, I mean, it is so remarkable.  The stories of women’s advancement. I can remember when Dick and I first came to Washington, and it was a rarity to spot a woman cabinet officer. It was a rarity (maybe it didn’t even happen) that women rose to high-level policy positions within the White House. I think that took longer to happen than women being in the cabinet. So this is — this is such a wonderful moment, to look back here and to see all of these women of high achievement working for George W. Bush.  [applause] And it is always an honor for me to be any place that Barbara Bush is. [applause] I can remember how much I  admired her when she was first lady and Dick was Secretary of Defense. And one of my favorite pictures (and you don’t even know this) [addressing Barbara Bush], it’s when you had cabinet wives come over and, well it was just this wonderful picture of you greeting me and being warm as you always are, and I love that picture, and thank you for everything you’ve done. [applause] And Doro — [applause] What a great sister! You’ve been a good friend to Liz and me, too, and we appreciate that. And it really is terrific to see Jen and Barbara out here.  Thank you for being here today. You know, one of the things that’s happened to me over the last three years, is I will have people come up to me and they say the same thing. It’s in different — different versions of it.  But basically, it’s something like this: 'We are so glad that George Bush and your husband are in the White House.' [applause] And I know exactly what they mean. We live in times of peril. There is no question about that. These are times of great challenge for the American people.  And it is such a comfort to all of us to have these good men, who are so solid, so stable, so strong, leading our country.

AMY GOODMAN: Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, former head of the National Endowment of Humanities, speaking yesterday at 'W Stands for Women' event at the Waldorf-Astoria. We’re now joined by radio talk show host and author Laura Flanders. She has written several books, one of them, Bush Women: Tales of a Cynical Species  and, the latest, editor of The W Effect: Bush’s War on Women. She’s also host of 'Your Call,'  heard on KALW FM in San Francisco, and a host on Air America. Welcome to Democracy Now!.

LAURA FLANDERS: Glad to be with you, Amy.  

AMY GOODMAN: So — Lynne Cheney, Barbara Bush — you write extensively about them.  

LAURA FLANDERS: Yeah, these are two people who have been front and center of the Bush 'W Stands for Women' campaign. This time around and also in 2000.  This is a long-term campaign to try to mobilize women voters. Yesterday at the Waldorf (as you said, "not in the streets, but in the suites") they were gathered; and you would think that the point was to kind of give people the fuel to go out and campaign. I thought it was a little weak on the facts and the statistics. Even the people there, the women delegates, were complaining as they were coming out. I would have liked to have heard more that we could use in the way of facts and statistics about what this administration has done. Well, obviously, you know, the Barbara Bush quote brings it all home. I mean, this is a woman from a family who models disdain for facts and reality. She wants to be doing her needlepoint, she says, instead of paying attention to the news; and she really counts on the people of America, I think, to show the same kind of lack of interest in what’s really going on. What was shocking to me yesterday was that there on the stage were the cabinet secretaries I write about: Ann Veneman, Gail Norton. You had Elaine Chao — people who are long-term activists, who are overhauling this nation’s laws and regulations to serve their masters. Lynne Cheney, a former board member of the Lockheed Martin Corporation, of course, somebody with a very strong right-wing record, one of the big leaders of the campaign against diversity and inclusion in the curriculum. This is an administration that likes to say it appoints women because — well, it doesn’t believe in affirmative action, it’s not just because of their gender or their race, it’s because of their credentials and their intelligence and their, you know, smarts for the job.  This event yesterday became a kind of grandmother contest. The substance of the — the  biggest substance was: Who is the grandmother of America?  Is it Lynne Cheney or is it Barbara Bush?  It was a very, very, kind of pathetic display. One of the things that was — that is interesting, and that’s important for people to realize, is that women will decide this election.  And the Republican party is very aware of it. The majority of the so-called 'undecideds' — that tiny, slim, five million persuadables, that everybody is focusing on — the majority of them are women, and they’re moderate voters. Hence the moderate display at this convention and the moderate language that you’re hearing this week on the convention floor.  The reality is very different, of course, of what this party platform is, and what its record has been thusfar.

AMY GOODMAN: Tonight Laura Bush will speak. Lynne Cheney will also —

LAURA FLANDERS: Lynne Cheney will also speak —- but just one more thing. One of the things they’re emphasizing, and I suspect they’ll emphasize tonight, is the liberation of women in Afghanistan and the participation of the Iraqi soccer team in the Olympics—-no matter how many times the soccer team of Iraq say if they were home, they’d be members of the resistance — nonetheless, they simply can not get out of this rhetorical kind of loop here. When we’re talking about Afghan women, people listening to the speeches tonight need to remember that — How much money was there allocated in the 2004 budget from this administration for the Women’s Department in Afghanistan? Not one cent. It was only when women’s organizations made a fuss that any money came from this administration to go to the Women’s Department in Afghanistan.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact —

LAURA FLANDERS: That claim is simply a lie.

AMY GOODMAN: Wasn’t Laura Bush the first first lady to do the presidential radio address on Saturday?  And I remember listening to it as she talked about the liberation of Afghan women.  

LAURA FLANDERS: Absolutely, and the timing was brilliant, and it shows the role of women in this administration. If you remember, Bush came out very strong after 9/11— the beginning of the war on Afghanistan was all about, 'Smoke ’em out, shoot ’em out, bring ’em home dead or alive.' That wasn’t going so well by November. By November the war was going badly. The air force was deciding to use the daisy cutter bombs — the biggest in our arsenal. You have to drop them out of a cargo plane. They destroy everything in a three-mile radius. Who do they bring out onto the television to cast this war — not as a war of revenge, the most powerful nation in the world against one of the world’s most underdeveloped states? They bring out Laura Bush to say, this isn’t about revenge, this is about protection — defense, not just of Afghan women and girls, but of women and girls in the world; and she said, women and girls in the world are threatened by the Taliban, and we are coming to liberate them. Afghan women haven’t been liberated. They have been denied the support they were promised. But Laura Bush will be used again to put a soft face and a kind of feminist-friendly face on a devastating bombing campaign, and on the abandonment of women who were counting on them for support.

AMY GOODMAN: Laura Flanders, thanks for being with us. Author of Bush Women: Tales of a Cynical Species , and her latest book, editor of The W Effect: Bush’s War on Women.  You can hear her on KALW FM, public radio, and on Air America and Thanks for being with us.

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