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Bushwomen Pt I: A Look At The Women in Bush’s Cabinet and Inner Circle

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In the first of a two-part series, we speak with “Your Call” radio host Laura Flanders about her new book “Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species” which tells the story of six women appointed to the inner circle of President Bush’s cabinet and sub-cabinet: Condoleezza Rice, Elaine Chao, Christine Todd Whitman, Ann Veneman, Gale Ann Norton and Karen Hughes. [includes transcript]

  • * Laura Flanders*, host of “Your Call” heard on KALW-FM in San Francisco, and on the Internet, and author of the new book “Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species” (Verso). She is also the author of “Real Majority, Media Minority; the Cost of Sidelining Women in Reporting.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now. Congratulations, Laura.

LAURA FLANDERS: Great to be here, Amy. Congratulations you to on that fantastic interview with Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Bush Women. Let’s talk briefly today in this truncated interview because of the interview with Jean-Bertrand Aristide, we’re sorry to abbreviate our conversations now but you’ll be back tomorrow, Laura, for a more extensive discussion about who the Bush women are. Lay out, though, the overview, the thesis for your book.

LAURA FLANDERS: Typically, Amy, on International Women’s Day, we do the job of revealing the uncovered achievements of women. Normally, they’re the achievements that we are proud of or have a right to feel excited about. In this case, Bush Women is really an extension of that project. I’m revealing the underreported accomplishments of the women in the Bush administration, the cabinet secretaries, Ann Veneman, Elaine Chao, the inner circle folks, Condoleezza Rice, Karen Hughes. My suggestion or my allegation is they’re being used as identity politics puppets to provide an estrogen shield on the administration as it actually pursues policies that leave more people more divided than ever before, rolling back the civil rights and women’s rights, international peace process, worker’s rights. The quarry to the spin job from the White House is this is a very stereotyped-sodden media world, as you and I know as well. Women report their personal stories. You hear about their family and what they’re wearing. When Condoleezza Rice was appointed National Security Adviser, The New York Times wrote a long story that focused on her makeup, hair and dress. It didn’t talk about her record in Chevron or the Bush administration until it was the 31st paragraph or some such thing. I suggest at the beginning of the book, we might not have the Bush administration in the White House if one woman had been taken more seriously and laughed at less, Katherine Harris, the Secretary of Treasury of Florida, as you recall, was mostly reported on the basis of how much makeup she wore.

AMY GOODMAN: That is a very key point when you look at the Bush administration overall, how it came into being. And how you start this book with Katherine Harris.

LAURA FLANDERS: I mean, it’s the story, at the time I was kicking everyone. You talk to a Florida reporter, they knew her history. Came from a very ambitious family. Highly connected to one of the wealthiest citrus growing groups in the state. Somebody who had campaign contribution violations in her very first run for office. When she was appointed Secretary of State, the top election cop, Common Cause of Florida said, how do you expect somebody to uphold the law she, herself, has a history of violating. Floridians knew who she was. But as you know, the D.C. press corps fly in, they weren’t curious and they didn’t know, for weeks they stonewalled the story of what actually happened in the run-up to that election. What happened during that election process. The cleansing of the voting roles and so on and so forth. Katherine Harris was at the center of the corrupt election campaign. Instead of, what we got were jokes about as The Washington Post dedicated to the subject; how she applied or seemed to apply they’re makeup with a trowel.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush was hailed as having a cabinet that looks like America, more so than any other president?

LAURA FLANDERS: It was a spin job. It worked very well. He was hailed as having remade the Republican Party when he appointed Ann Veneman Agricultural Secretary, Kristy Todd Whitman EPA, Elaine Chao Labor, having Gail Norton Interior Secretary, and having the first ever African-American National Security Advisor and the most powerful women in the White House, Karen Hughes.

He was hailed as having remade the party, he really just remade its image and I suggest these women were a key part of that. They do for the Republican parties image what all that language about pro-life does for its rhetoric. They make it look kinda family friendly, the reality of it is very different and that’s what this book gets at. These are serious people who should be taken seriously and we’ll have equality for women when women and people of color are grilled as aggressively and given as much scrutiny as their male companions.

AMY GOODMAN: Tomorrow we’re going to go through each of the women’s records, not their wardrobe. We promise. But tonight, you’re having a very interesting event in New York, which you will also have something similar to in San Francisco on March 18.


AMY GOODMAN: But can you describe what the performance will be?

LAURA FLANDERS: There’s going to be a variety of different performers taking part and Joe Nelson, the journalist, will be performing as Condoleezza Rice. We have a very interesting speech by Condoleezza’s father, John Rice, Dean Rice, speaking out against the Vietnam War in 1971. Charles Turner who played King Lear recently, will be performing at John Rice. Then we have courtesy of Lynn Chapman and Lord Apachalinski adapted Lynne Cheney’s 1981, gothic novel, Sisters, for the stage. This is a breathy, gothic romance featuring lesbian love and condoms and free sex in front of the fireplace between people who are not married. It’s fun job, it’s a fun piece of work, horribly written, let me just say. Funnily enough, it’s dropped off Lynne Cheney’s, the Vice President’s wifes’, resume; her official biography at the White House doesn’t include this, but it was one of the reasons that she got that job as the head of The National Endowments for Humanities. She got the job because she was a published author. We will look at what she wrote and have a few laughs, I hope.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Laura Flanders, I definitely look forward to that tonight and we can talk about it tomorrow in part two of this interview. Tonight’s event is taking place, for those of you who are in New York…

LAURA FLANDERS: …at 7:00 p.m. at the New York Theater Workshop on East Fourth Street between Bowerry and Second Avenue.

AMY GOODMAN: Laura Flanders, author of Bush Women: Tales of a Cynical Species. It is being released today around the country and again congratulations.

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