THE BLOG

One Good Thing About Laura Bush

I was stunned to discover this week that Laura Bush has the highest approval rating among national figures in America.

I found this out because George Bush's approval rating had dropped to a new low, 31 per cent, and I couldn't help wondering, Compared To Whom? It turned out that the answer was, Compared to His Wife. Laura's approval rating, according to the Gallup Poll is 73 per cent.

I have never approved of Laura Bush, for all the obvious reasons, but I have to admit that I'm intrigued by her in one respect: she's truly a mystery as a mother. I never like to judge people motherhood-wise, because you never know. But it's hard to think of any First Lady who has been seen less often with her children. Is she deliberately ruling out the promiscuous photo opportunities? Does she have a political position about her daughters' right to privacy? Or is it just that they never call, they never write, they never visit, as the old joke goes.

Anyway, on Mother's Day, I decided to watch Laura Bush on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. She told George she doesn't believe her husband's low approval ratings. She claimed that the press enjoys printing the bad news. She said she wasn't seeing either of her daughters on Mother's Day. No surprise in any of that.

But here's the thing that threw me: George Stephanopoulos asked her if she was a feminist. And guess what? She said yes.

And then she went right on: "A lot of what I do internationally does have to do with women's issues, with women's rights, with the education of women and girls, because it's so important and because women - as we saw in Afghanistan - and girls have been left out, actually forbidden to be educated.... You can't tell me that mothers and fathers don't love their daughters. I know they do and want the best thing for their daughters and sons the world over. I truly believe that. And if women are educated, they're more likely to be able to make wise and healthy decisions for their children."

It was eloquent, even if it did sort of peter out at the end. And I couldn't help but be impressed, because there are so few women in this country - in public and private life - who are willing to say a simple yes to the question, "Are you a feminist?" "Feminist" is a word like "liberal" - it's become a pejorative term not just because the people on the Bush side of things have made it pejorative but also because the people who should be proud to claim the label shy away from it. What would Hillary Clinton say these days if she were asked point-blank if she were a feminist? A simple yes? Or something hedged and safe?

And by the way, Laura Bush isn't a feminist. You can't be a feminist if you don't believe in a woman's right to choose. But nonetheless she said yes. And I liked her for that.