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November 10, 2008

Obama – Bush White House Visit: What Was Laura's Problem?


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Although the media completely looked the other way, Laura Bush did something quite strange while posing with the Obama’s right after the couple arrived at the White House this afternoon. First standing there opening and closing her hands (#1), Laura — whose left arm was touching Michelle Obama — suddenly stared down at her left shoulder (#2) the way someone would suddenly notice a bee had landed on them.

The action was pronounced enough to cause Michelle to look down (#3), to appear momentarily confused, and even elevate her left hand in a “what just happened?” gesture (#4). At that point, with the photo op over and the couples moving to go inside, Michelle naturally turned to Laura Bush. Mrs. Bush, making the turn but not quite making eye contact with Michelle, then said by way of explanation (#5 — as could be made out from the C-SPAN feed):

“It’s a Fall color.”

So, what happened? Ostensibly, it looked like Laura — smack in the middle of an otherwise thoroughly brief photo op — involuntarily moved to check the color of her dress, perhaps to compare her choice with the burgundy Michelle was wearing.

If the moment was innocent enough, however, it suggested one of two things to me. First, on a day in which the polls reflected historically low approval ratings for her seemingly unaffected husband, it seems logical enough Laura had been gripped by a sudden concern over how she looked alongside the newly- and (very) popularly-elected Mr. Obama and Mrs. Obama.

My second thought, however, goes specifically to her comment and involves not just brown versus red but white versus brown. (I hope I’m not being too Freudian here, but the metaphoric implications are profoundly rich.)

So, Laura Bush, knowing the Obamas were dropping by, got up this morning and picked out a brown outfit, then suddenly and very consciously realized it standing next to Michelle in front of the entire visual press corp. Then, after flinching in a way that clearly, if momentarily, threw off Michelle Obama, Mrs. Bush accounted for it with a reference to color.

Well, as the victor in this history-making election and Laura’s immediate replacement, Michelle — in the political universe — actually is the color of Fall.

And then, the reference to season might have been metaphorical too. Meaning, to the extent the Obama’s — America’s first African-American first couple –represent the hit of Autumn, you could say Laura’s seasonal description of her reaction was informed by Michelle and Barack’s immediate embodiment of the Bush’s political fall.

Here’s the C-SPAN video to take a look.

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