The Left's Unnecessary Partisan Attacks on Laura Bush

Protests against the former first lady being selected for a women's rights advancement award are because she's a Republican.

Former First Lady Laura Bush, left, kicks off a national book tour with a book signing at Books-A-Million in McLean, Va. on Tuesday, May 4, 2010, promoting her new book, "Spoken from the Heart."

Having just been through a discussion of ideological orthodoxy among the political parties, it is no small surprise that it has once again reared its ugly head. This time the target is former first lady Laura Bush, who is this year's winner of the Alice Award from the Sewall-Belmont House, a museum dedicated to chronicling the advancement of women in America.

"Twenty-two women," the Washington Examiner recently explained, "including former members of the museum's board, have penned a letter to the museum in protest of Bush's selection," which is being led by National Organization for Women cofounder Sonia Pressman Fuentes.

Their argument against giving Bush the honor is, at best, specious. "I'm not complaining that she's a Republican," Fuentes said. "I'm complaining that she's never done anything for women to get this award."

[Read the U.S. News debate: Is There a Republican 'War on Women'?]

Nonsense, says ShePAC, an organization dedicated to electing economically conservative women to office. The group said in a recent email sent in Mrs. Bush's defense:

A simple search of Wikipedia shows that Laura Bush dedicated much of her eight years in the White House to causes directly affecting women. Mrs. Bush travelled  to the Middle East to lift the stigma of breast cancer and raise awareness of this deadly disease. She promoted the PEPFAR initiative in Africa helping to stop the spread of HIV-AIDS and malaria. And at great personal risk, Mrs. Bush travelled  into the dangerous and war-torn Afghanistan to promote education for young girls and equality for women. Here at home she fought to raise awareness and prevention of heart disease—the leading cause of death amongst women. And she is a champion of the greatest equalizer of all—education and literacy for all of our children, stocking libraries devastated by Hurricane Katrina among many other projects.

The argument over the award is more ideological than it is based on facts. As the list of accomplishments compiled by ShePAC more than demonstrates, Mrs. Bush's record in support of women and the rights of women is impressive, worthy of the kind of attention and honors she conspicuously eschewed during her time in the White House. She is not, however, a doctrinaire feminist on the order of Ms. Fuentes or any of the other women who have the unction to claim to be the only ones allowed to determine what is in the best interests of their gender.

[See a photo gallery of President Bush’s legacy.]

The criticism of the award is about the close-mindedness of a small group of activists who want to control, for political purposes, the discussion of so-called women's issues. Those criticizing the award do not speak for all women and do not define what accomplishments on their behalf are worthy of acknowledgment, as much as they might like it to be so. They are, however, a perfect example of the lack of room for dissent and disagreement that is a hallmark of how many on the left conduct themselves today when engaged in political discourse. They are really only interested in dialogue when both sides are saying the same, pre-approved thing.

  • Susan Milligan: Cheers for Internet Heroine Martha Payne
  • Follow the Thomas Jefferson Street blog on Twitter at @TJSBlog.
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy