Books/Alvena Bieri


Laura Flanders undertook a huge and complex project when she wrote Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species [Verso, 2004]. Her study of the women surrounding George W. Bush asserts that the Bushwomen "are the media-driven friendly face of an extremist administration. But at the same time these individuals are fiercely ambitious" and "power hungry" in their own behalf.

Of the group analyzed here, Condoleeza Rice, new secretary of state, is the prime example of Flanders' thesis. Like all of the women here, she was born into a fortunate situation despite the fact that it was 1954 in Birmingham, Ala., she being black. But she was fortunately part of the third generation of her family to go to college. When her father got a job at the University of Denver, the family moved to Colorado. She became a Republican early, she says, because in the Jim Crow South, the Democrats had prevented her dad from even registering to vote. Rice was bright and very talented, and in college she started to work on a degree in music, but then she changed her major to political science. She was especially interested in the history and politics of Russia. In the first Bush presidency, Flanders says, she backed Gorbachev and snubbed Boris Yeltsin, just coming into prominence. That was probably a mistake.

Rice is an excellent example of going through the well-known "revolving door between government and business." While she was on the board of directors at Chevron Oil, she even had a tanker named for her. Then she got a job at Stanford University. Flanders writes that the "royal treatment Rice received in the corporate world did nothing to boost her humility, and she brought to Stanford an almost super-human confidence from her time in government." Ironically, her dad, who died just after she joined the Bush team, was generally anti-war and said in Vietnam days that our country needs to live "for the cause of freedom and for the cause of eliminating useless war." David Corn says he'd like to ask Rice a simple question, "Do you think it is possible -- just possible -- that the Iraq war was a mistake?" Not that there would be an answer.

Policies and postures of other Bushies like Ann Veneman and Elaine Chao remind us chiefly of George Orwell, or that's the way it struck me. Secretary of Agriculture Veneman took up for big, not small, farmers and for "free" trade, which nearly always favors rich countries. And the same with Elaine Chao. The original purpose of the Department of Labor, created in 1913, was to "foster, promote and develop the welfare of wage earners." When it was started, memories of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City, which killed 146 women textile workers, were still fresh. But big business was Chao's concern, and Flanders says that international shipping companies loved her "because the family fortune was tied directly to trade with China."

Several other political writers have come to the same conclusion that Laura Flanders did -- that while the Bushwomen are promoting their own agendas, at the same time they make a good cover for Bush. Maureen Dowd says that from the start of his public life, Bush has been "swaddled by three strong women -- Laura Bush, Karen Hughes, and Condi Rice who cleaned up after his political messes." Hughes was gone for a while but now she's back and like Laura and Condi will be around for a long time to come.

Contact Alvena Bieri, 2023 W. 11th Ave, Stillwater OK 74074 or email

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