Unplugged | Kate Clinton

Extreme Makeover

At kiosks and bus stops all over New York, there are posters for the movie Resident Evil: Apocalypse. And almost on every poster, someone has graffitied a very tasteful P at the beginning of the first word. That about sums up the election for me.

But not quite. The final summation comes on the reverse side of the President Evil billboard, with a poster for the ABC series Desperate Housewives. The series' tagline is "Everyone has a little dirty laundry."

Now I know Michael Moore has told me not to be a Downer Dem, so flattened by the Juggernaut of George that I am not able to walk upright, but when I saw the poll that Democratic Soccer Moms had been switching to become Republican Security Moms because they believe that the resident of the White House will best protect them from terrorism, I did have a moment.

In New York magazine, Naomi Wolf, whose alpha plan for the Gore man the Republicans gleefully derided four years ago, credits the original girlieman, Karen Hughes, with the extreme makeover. And all without giving each and every housewife a new Pontiac!

In her "The Sexes" column, Wolf writes that Hughes has managed the transformation first by bringing out the warm, fuzzy side of the Vice Cusser through the tender stories from his blushing bride. And second by having Aura Bush humanize her hell-is-on-the-way husband with purred stories of him wrastling with issues of war and peace. Which cause him to fall off his bike a lot.

And though it pained Wolf to say it, she said it nonetheless: The Republicanizing of the desperate housewives is all Teresa Heinz Kerry's fault. For by keeping her Heinz name, she is "publicly, subliminally cuckolding Kerry with the power of another man--a dead Republican, at that." Hold the mustard! He might as well change his name to Harry Kerry.

W stands for War on Women. The Administration's policy on women is often hard to see because it is written in the font size of pharmaceutical ads. So let me enlarge it a little: The heading is that wives must be subordinate to their husbands. And here is the fine print:

* propose a constitutional ban on abortion

* pledge to support only anti-choice judges

* enforce a law banning abortion without any exception for the woman's health

* maintain a law blocking abortion for poor, young, and military women

* submit a Human Life Amendment conferring personhood on the fertilized egg

* fund abstinence-only sex education

* extend the global gag rule on contraceptive education worldwide.

Meanwhile, Bush gets away with all this by "feminizing" some of his rhetoric, especially in his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, where Hughes's handiwork was obvious. "Two thirds of all moms also work outside the home," Bush said, "and government must take your side."

His government? Where's he been for four years? He hasn't exactly been hiking the minimum wage or funding free quality child care. Nor is he proposing it.

But the rhetoric is the thing. And Hughes made sure he talked emotionally about the wounded soldiers and the kids who just wanted their mothers and fathers back. Message: "A good man with a big heart," as Laura put it.

And a weird mind. A few days after the convention, Bush was speaking to a crowd and was denouncing medical malpractice suits when he let this one slip: "Too many OBGYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country."

Am I the only one who found that creepy?

-- Kate "I hate Kerryoke" Clinton is a humorist.

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Forty years ago the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against "hostile environmental modification techniques...

The beauty and the tragedy of everyday life in a war zone.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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