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Context of 'April 30-May 1, 2005: Press Responds with Adoration, ‘Sycophancy’ to First Lady’s Performance at Correspondent’s Dinner'

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Laura and George W. Bush on the left, Sami al-Arian on the right.Laura and George W. Bush on the left, Sami al-Arian on the right. [Source: Al-Arian family via Associated Press]Sami al-Arian poses for a picture with George W. Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, while Bush is campaigning for president in Florida. Bush chit-chats with al-Arian’s family and gives his son Abdullah the nickname “Big Dude.” Al-Arian is a former Florida professor and Muslim political activist who has been under investigation for suspected ties to US-designated terrorist groups. [Washington Post, 2/22/2003] Al-Arian will later tell friends that he used the occasion to press Bush about overturning the Justice Department’s use of “secret evidence” to deport accused terrorists, which is an issue for many Muslim Americans during the presidential campaign. Newsweek will later comment, “In those pre-9-11 days, Bush was eagerly courting the growing Muslim vote—and more than willing to listen to seemingly sincere activists like al-Arian.” [Newsweek, 3/3/2003] At the time, al-Arian is vigorously campaigning for Bush at mosques and Islamic cultural centers in the pivotal state of Florida. In a reference to Bush’s tight margin for victory in Florida which wins Bush the presidential election, al-Arian will later say, “We certainly delivered him many more than 537 votes.” [Newsweek, 7/16/2001] Author Craig Unger will later comment, “Astonishingly enough, the fact that dangerous militant Islamists like al-Arian were campaigning for Bush went almost entirely unnoticed.” Bush’s speechwriter David Frum will later write, “Not only were the al-Arians not avoided by the Bush White House—they were actively courted.… The al-Arian case was not a solitary lapse… That outreach campaign opened relationships between the Bush campaign and some very disturbing persons in the Muslim-American community.… [We] Republicans are very lucky—we face political opponents too crippled by political correctness to make an issue of these kinds of security lapses.” [Salon, 3/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Sami Al-Arian, Laura Bush, David Frum, Abdullah al-Arian, George W. Bush, Craig Unger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

George W. Bush taking the oath of office.George W. Bush taking the oath of office. [Source: White House/ Wally McNamara]George W. Bush is inaugurated as president, replacing President Bill Clinton. Bush is sworn in after a tumultuous, sharply disputed election that ended with a US Supreme Court decision in his favor (see 9:54 p.m. December 12, 2000). He takes the oath of office on the same Bible his father, George H.W. Bush, used in his own 1989 inauguration; the oath is administered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. In his brief inaugural address, delivered outside the US Capitol, Bush asks Americans to “a commitment to principle with a concern for civility.… Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos.” In words apparently chosen to reflect on the criticisms surrounding former President Clinton and his notorious affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Bush says, “I will live and lead by these principles—to advance my convictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility, and try to live it as well.” He continues addressing the American people, saying: “I ask you to be citizens. Citizens, not spectators. Citizens, not subjects. Responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character.” At a post-ceremonial luncheon, Bush issues a series of executive orders, some designed to block or roll back several Clinton-era regulations. He also acknowledges that because of the election turmoil, many Americans believe “we can’t get anything done… nothing will happen, except for finger-pointing and name-calling and bitterness.” He then says: “I’m here to tell the country that things will get done. Republicans and Democrats will come together to do what’s right for America.” [New York Times, 1/21/2001]
Thousands of Protesters - Thousands of protesters line the streets during Bush’s ceremonial drive to the Capitol, a fact not heavily reported by many press outlets. Salon reports, “Not since Richard Nixon paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1973 has a presidential inauguration drawn so many protesters—and last time, people were out to protest the Vietnam War.” Though Capitol Police refuse to estimate the size of the crowd lining the street, Salon reports that “many thousands of protesters were in evidence.” Liz Butler of the Justice Action Movement, the umbrella organization that helped coordinate the protests, says: “The level of people on the streets shows that people are really upset about lack of democratic process. They took it to the streets. We saw tens of thousands. We saw far more protesting Bush than supporting him.” Some of the people on the streets are Bush supporters, but many more are not, and carry signs such as “Bush Cheated,” “Hail to the Thief,” “Bush—Racism,” “Bushwhacked by the Supremes,” and others. The crowd, though outspoken in its protests and unrestrained in its heckling of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, is generally peaceful, and no serious violence is reported, though a few minor altercations do take place, and large contingents of police in riot gear—including personnel from every police department in the District of Columbia as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and from departments in Maryland and Virginia—are on hand. At least one protester throws an egg at the limousine transporting Bush, Cheney, and their families to the inaugural ceremonies; perhaps in response to the protests, Bush breaks with tradition laid down by earlier presidents and does not walk any large portion of the parade route. Nine people are arrested for disorderly conduct, most for allegedly throwing bottles and other debris. Bulter says: “Of course, we’re ashamed that Bush has decided to be a ‘uniter’ by uniting people against him. They all chose to come out in the freezing rain—even the weather couldn’t stop these people.” Protester Mary Anne Cummings tells a reporter: “I think it’s important to remind the incoming administration the country does not want a right-wing mandate. They did not vote for a right-wing mandate.” [Salon, 1/20/2001; CNN, 1/20/2001; New York Times, 1/21/2001] Thousands of protesters march in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities as well. [CNN, 1/20/2001]

Former President George H. W. Bush, along with former First Lady Barbara Bush, leaves Washington, DC, by private jet, bound for a speaking engagement in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Bushes spent the previous night at the White House. They had flown to Washington the previous day to attend several meetings and a dinner. One of the meetings attended by the former president was the annual investor conference of the Carlyle Group, which was also attended by Shafig bin Laden, one of Osama bin Laden’s brothers (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They are later informed of the WTC attacks while on their jet. Due to all planes being grounded, they have to land in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [CBS News, 11/1/2002; CNN, 10/25/2003; Newsweek, 10/27/2003]

Entity Tags: George Herbert Walker Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Members of Laura Bush’s staff who are with the first lady at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, go to the White House and then head home. [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Most of Bush’s staffers are with the first lady at the Secret Service headquarters, having been with Bush for her scheduled appearance on Capitol Hill this morning. (Bush’s other staffers stayed behind at the White House.) [ABC, 9/18/2001 pdf file] They were brought to the headquarters for their own safety (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] Some of them briefly returned to the White House earlier in the afternoon, to collect some of Bush’s belongings (see (1:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Members of Bush’s staff now leave the Secret Service headquarters and go to the White House a final time. There, they have to show a Secret Service agent their IDs. “Then,” according to Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, “it was time to go home.” The first lady will head back to the White House at 6:30 p.m. (see 6:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 203]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Noelia Rodriguez

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President and Mrs. Bush enjoy a laugh at the Correspondents’ Dinner.President and Mrs. Bush enjoy a laugh at the Correspondents’ Dinner. [Source: MSNBC]The highlight of the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner (an annual fete where, as author and media critic Frank Rich will write, “reporters suck up to people in power [and] clamor to rub shoulders with… C-list celebrities”) is the scripted comedy stylings of First Lady Laura Bush. The media will report that Mrs. Bush “steals the show” with her jibes at her husband. She “interrupts” President Bush as he is beginning his address to the assemblage; Rich will write that her move “prompt[s] the ballroom full of reporters to leap to their feet and erupt in a roar of sycophancy like partisan hacks at a political convention.” She tells a risque joke involving her husband, a horse, and masturbation, receiving roars of adulation. The entire act is carefully scripted and staged, but reporters gush over it in the next morning’s news, even as they acknowledge it for the public relations stunt it truly is. “We truly saw the real Laura Bush,” one reporter writes. Others write of Mrs. Bush’s “most humanizing populist riff, [her] affection for the runaway new television hit Desperate Housewives,” but few note that her press secretary later acknowledged that Mrs. Bush had never actually seen an episode. Rich wonders at the reception such a performance, featuring off-color masturbation jokes and lies about television-watching habits, might have received from conservative journalists had the performer been named Hillary Clinton. “The press corps’ eagerness to facilitate and serve as dress extras in what amounted to an administration promotional video,” Rich will write, “was a metaphor for just how much the reality-based community had been co-opted by Bush’s own reality over the past four years.” [Associated Press, 5/1/2005; Rich, 2006, pp. 174-175]

Entity Tags: White House Correspondents’ Association, Frank Rich, Laura Bush, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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