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Commentary: Beating a Boring Bush

By Rawlins Gilliland, KERA 90.1 Commentator

Dallas, TX –

12 years old, watching late night TV, an old movie started. When I called Mother to join me, she asked, "Who's in it?" I told her, "Barbara Stanwyck." "Not interested," she scoffed. I shot back, "Why don't you like Barbara Stanwyck?" Her reply? "I don't like the way she looks." Feeling smug, I reminded Mother, "You can't hold someone's looks against them." She lowered her eyelids and sneered. "I can if they're supposed to entertain me."

Question is, are our leaders "supposed to entertain us"? Certainly not. But are they supposed to engage us? Absolutely. With this in mind, I sometimes put all politics aside and ignore the obvious; that Pamela Anderson has become an overripe tomato. Yes, we're in an unpopular war. And yes, we have a deficit larger than Kanye West's ego. But strictly talking personality, let's evaluate our White House occupants with Entertainment Tonight superficiality. Ready?


Take two presidents: Reagan and Clinton. Not infrequently, I disagreed with either. But neither was ever DULL. Both delivered fine speeches well. I listened when they spoke and I was sometimes moved. With the notable exception of this President Bush's post 9/11 speech delivered in Washington's National Cathedral, I feel narcoleptic when he talks. Where is the inspiration of elevated expression?

I privately felt both Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton were arguably drab women. But Nancy understood pomp and was a natural at creating glamorous occasions. Events were similarly grand in the Clinton years - gala dinners, remarkable receptions. Hillary never particularly looked good but she was ever changing and personified an intelligent unpredictability, even through 8 years of bad hair days. Our current First Lady, whom I've met - she's lovely and very pretty - is completely predictable in her choices, head to toe. So too with her husband. There is never any unexpected twist to their appearance or anything they do. Foreign trip state visits seem eventless, emotionless, colorless. Everything's the same. Nice and Dull.

Five years later, I still feel that I could find myself sitting next to a man like George W. Bush in coach on my way to Milwaukee. Laura Bush could be sitting beside my sister in a Hair Salon. There's no intrinsic sparkle. The daughters are lackluster. They look better than Amy Carter or Chelsea Clinton. But they seem unexceptional. Dull.

I try to be fair. But what to make of a president who affects a "we're ordinary folks" demeanor while remaining more aloof than any POTUS since the first President Bush. Inscrutable usually connotes an arcane allure. Not here. What you see is what you don't get. Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, even Dwight Eisenhower look intriguing, imaginative, even feisty compared to this.

Friends who admire or dislike President Bush may applaud, question or condemn his policies. But we all agree that Clinton and Reagan exuded magnetic charm while otherwise diehard Bush supporters admit: this First Family is stale, like reading a two year old Redbook magazine in a dentist's office while your spouse has a root canal.

I'm bored beating these Bushes for something interesting to say. Which was my point, exactly.

OK. Let's get back to talking politics!

If you have opinions or rebuttals about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.