Sunday, August 26, 2007

Washington Post asks: Why Isn't Jenna Bush Serving In Iraq?

Just kidding. The WaPost piece highlighted below does not ask why Jenna is not serving in Iraq. But the title of the diary is not a cheap attempt to draw readers, it is rather a cheap attempt to highlight what a crappy job the media is doing on holding war supporters’ feet to the fire on “why their kids aren’t going.”

The following column about Jenna Bush is by Robin Givhan, the Washington Post fashion reporter who gave the world an update on Hillary Clinton’s sexy neckline. This time Givhan is sharing her “deep thoughts” about “what Jenna means to us all.” Apparently Givhan shares a gene for “spiritual depth” with Lindsay Lohan.

Jenna Bush, Engaged in A Tricky Role

By Robin Givhan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 26, 2007; Page M01

Do not be fooled by Jenna Bush.

She has wrapped herself in the golden glow of celebrity. But she is something else entirely.

For almost seven years, the blond Bush twin has reveled in the trappings associated with Hollywood starlets -- from wearing made-to-order designer clothes to smiling brightly from the glossy pages of a Vogue photo spread. She has walked red carpets and swanned past velvet ropes. Like so many celebrities, she has taken on a cause -- education -- and is using her fame to stir interest and attract media attention to an upcoming book tour. She has indulged in the kind of naughty behavior that paints her as human but not necessarily in need of an intervention. As she said onstage at the 2004 Republican convention, in a scripted introduction of her mother that had all the awkward, self-deprecating humor of an Oscar segue: She and her twin, Barbara, had misbehaved when they were "young and irresponsible." Who couldn't relate to that?

(Really, who couldn’t? Even a combat veteran in Walter Reed because one of his legs got blown off could probably manage a sly, empathetic chuckle at the hi-jinx of these young beautiful impetuous twins...if he was on the right medication...)

Jenna even had a moment of public exasperation with the media -- her own version of a modest paparazzi meltdown. She stuck her tongue out at the press corps from behind the gray windows of the presidential limousine while campaigning with her father. It was the non-gustatory equivalent of Hugh Grant hurling baked beans at a photographer.

(Well, how about that? That is news. The Hugh Grant reference made me keep on reading:)

Like a lot of celebrities, 25-year-old Jenna likes to have her fame when it's convenient and advantageous. And mostly she has. Celebrities have their double-wide bodyguards and fierce mama-bear publicists to manage their image. The president's daughter has the Secret Service and the impenetrable silence of the first lady's press office. Unless bad behavior turned up on the police blotter, it was not likely to be featured on "Access Hollywood."

The role of "celebrity" is easy to play. Selflessness and hard work are not requirements. The rules are simple. Dress well, smile for the cameras, and occasionally make an appearance at an artfully managed photo op.

(Meanwhile, here are the updated casualty figures from the latest suicide bombing—whoops, too late for that, back to Jenna:)

In some ways, the glare of fame has distracted us from the truth. As the president's daughter, Jenna isn't a celebrity. She's a symbol, and that's a far more cumbersome role.

(Yup. Being a symbol is as cumbersome as wearing seventy pounds of body armor and Kevlar helmet and carrying a machine gun through the streets of Baghdad. Britney Spears will tell you the same thing—the pressure, the pressure—the kids who volunteered for combat don’t how lucky they are compared to Jenna and Barb...)

...But the engagement is different. It is weighted with the baggage of family, tradition and America's misty-eyed habit of trying to cast the first family as a narrowly defined version of the Ideal Family -- that deeply ingrained fantasy of well-behaved kids, nurturing mother and God-fearing father.

The White House feeds that desire when it releases the president's menu for Thanksgiving dinner, for instance. (Consider the controversy if the president shunned good ol' turkey and opted for Tofurkey.) ...

(Christ, yes, that would set off a shit-storm of controversy among the soldiers who patrol Sadr City every night. Well, maybe not there, but you’d get miles of ink out of that Tofurkey thing from deep thinkers in the print media...)

...The wedding -- and everyone presumes one will follow the engagement -- would be much less complicated if Jenna could just have a celebrity blowout instead of symbolic nuptials. Celebrity weddings can be overwrought, overpriced and tacky. But just how indulgent a bride can Jenna be in wartime? Celebrity wedding dresses are assumed to be couture, not made in America. The wedding favors can be Chinese imports and no one will care...

Now this kind of coverage might seem fatuous to you, if you’re aware that there’s a war on. But Givhan’s reporting does raise a very important issue: Why does the WaPost allow Givhan regular space for this, the most stupid-ass sort of news commentary?

I mean, what we’ve got here is some kind of news analysis through the prism of “People” or “Us” magazine—politicians and their kin as pop celebrities, with focus on what they’re wearing and where they’ve been seen and how they’ve been handling the paparazzi and “what that all MEANS and why that is so very, very important to all of us.” A WaPost experiment in making politics more “fun”, more “dishy”? Won’t we get a positive response if we treat the politicians the way we treat the entertainment/fashionista people?

Well, vapidity does draw attention. And Givhans does touch on a salient, newsworthy point regarding candidates’ children, further on down the piece:

...During the campaign, if the children are old enough, they can become surrogates for the candidate. The five fresh-faced Romney boys blog for father Mitt. But they have also become Exhibit A for those who want to make an issue of whose children are serving in Iraq and whose are not...

Well, yeah, there are a lot of Americans who would want to make an issue of that—so why doesn’t the WaPost write about that, instead of this “paparazzi” crap? Why not do a regular series of eight hundred word pieces on all the candidates’ children who are of age to do military service, and have them explain why they’re not going?

Now *that* would be *dishy*; deep-dish indeed. If you want to get really *dishy.*



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