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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 12/19/2010

Laura Bush's human rights model

By Jennifer Rubin

First Lady Michelle Obama's fondness for food hectoring is annoying in two respects. First, it is the sort of nanny state nagging that presupposes all of us are incapable of managing our lives and those of our children without the help of our betters, the ones with a White House staff to tend to their garden. But mostly I object because, in comparison to the pressing issues of the day, this is trivial stuff.

I was reminded of the latter point on Friday when the Associated Press reported:

Former US first lady Laura Bush said Friday she had spoken for the first time with Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and called her an "inspiring champion for human freedom."

Burma, actually. Burma is the country at issue. In a statement released later in the day, Mrs. Bush told us:

This morning I spoke for the first time with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. I was heartened to hear the strong voice and enthusiasm of such an inspiring champion for human freedom. Daw Suu has been under house arrest off and on for the last 20 years, but she never lost hope or stopped believing in a free Burma. I am encouraged Daw Suu has been released and look forward to the day when she and the people of her beloved country live in freedom.

Why didn't our current first lady -- or for that matter, our president -- put in a call? It would have been a powerful sign of solidarity with the oppressed people of Burma. A White House call would have been an unmistakable warning to the despots that rule her country to allow her and her countrymen to exercise basic human rights. But alas, it was the former first lady who practiced engagement -- not with the thugocracy, but with its most prominent victim. Maybe the Obamas, both of them, need to rethink their priorities and consider whether this administration has been engaging the wrong people.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 19, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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Comments

She was to busy telling us how fat our children are, and planning her next junket to Hawaii

Posted by: whatmeworry3 | December 19, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Puleese Ms. Rubin, by now you must realize that the only states worthy of harsh criticism by the Obama clique are states friendly to America like Israel. Obama and company use the proverbial kid gloves with rogue states like Iran or North Korea, America's enemies like Burma, as well as tacitly anti American states like China, Russia, and Turkey.
Obama will never use harsh language with the bad guys, only with Israel.

Posted by: Beniyyar | December 19, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

I used to think that this -- the Obamas now obvious and utter contempt for issues of human freedom and human rights -- must be the most lumpish, unwieldy truth for libs to schelp around regarding their leader. But it hit me -- they don't care about those insignificant little brown people in those Godforsaken lands either. The only thing that bothers them is the effect on the Obamas' image and any possible political damage.

It's all about POWER with these people. Nothing else matters. Now I don't know what you libs call this kind of world view, but I'd say it's about as far down the other end of the spectrum from Hope as one can slouch.

Posted by: johnnyramone | December 19, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I think it's great that Laura Bush made that contact.

I also think it's great that Michelle Obama is doing what she's doing. Two main reasons:
1) The rate of childhood obesity has tripled since 1980 (CDC data), so Ms. Rubin is off target in stating that we as a nation don't need some help here. If she thinks health care is an issue now, just wait until these obese kids grow up and start developing weight-related illnesses.
2)All First Ladies have pet projects. Ms. Rubin should be grateful that the current FLOTUS isn't involved in areas that are more critical to Republican sensibilities.

Posted by: MsJS | December 19, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

We should not be surprised that Mr. and Mrs. Obama are so inwardly focused. It's hard to look beyond ones image when that mirror is seems so flattering.

Posted by: DonKeyhoti | December 19, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

"Puleese Ms. Rubin, by now you must realize that the only states worthy of harsh criticism by the Obama clique are states friendly to America like Israel."

Barack and Michelle are existentially committed to the notion that America and her close allies are responsible for much evil in the world. They literally feel uncomfortable criticizing dark skinned third world dictators. It goes against the grain.

Posted by: DavidThomson | December 19, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

"Burma, actually. Burma is the country at issue."

Of course! Why should the government of a country be allowed to decide what the name is? That's the job for a Washington Post columnist!

Posted by: 54465446 | December 19, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Burma yes, Egypt no, Russia, yes (sometimes) Georgia yes, Somalia, no, Rwanda no, Zimbabwe, no, China no (sometimes).

This whole bit about where to apply human rights is all so confusing. Good thing we have an expert WAPO columnist to let us know where and when we need to make phone call about human rights.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 19, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Benniyar:

How did Burma of all places become our enemy? Also how did China which leads the world in buying Treasuries becomes anti-American, as well as Turkey, the world's ONLY non-theocratic, Democratic, Muslim state?

Posted by: 54465446 | December 19, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Team Obama Food Police™ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVklJ0hYzMg

It's a very funny, satirical video on Michelle Obama and the passing of the Healthy Kids Act™.

Posted by: Dalibama | December 19, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who thinks our national rates of childhood obesity are a trivial problem is really not cooking w/ gas. Certainly the military leaders who have expressed concern about obesity among the pool of potential recruits don't find it trivial. Laura Bush focused on health initiatives too--heart disease among women.

So Mrs. Bush made a phone call. Fine, but it seems unlikely to have a greater effect on human wellbeing than M. Obama's obesity initiative. And if you don't see why a sitting first lady can't speak out on this sensitive political issue, you are clueless.

Why is it necessary to bash Obama to compliment Bush? The two topics--human rights in Burma and childhood obesity-have pretty much nothing to do with each other. Bringing them together in this way is just another example of conservative meanness--something I should no longer find surprising.

Posted by: ndgirl | December 19, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I had high hopes for Jennifer's column upon first reading it. I understand the need for a columnist to be provocative to draw readership, and I was looking forward to challenging reading.

I don't think that either conservatives, liberals, or moderates are mendacious as a group, but the responsibility lies with the individual. Now I have come to realize that there is a "Rubinesque" version of the truth that goes beyond provocative writing.

For instance in the bizarro world of this post, one would get the idea that the Bushes somehow played a role in gaining the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and that the President had been idle.

"A White House call would have been an unmistakable warning to the despots that rule her country to allow her and her countrymen to exercise basic human rights. But alas, it was the former first lady who practiced engagement -- not with the thugocracy, but with its most prominent victim. Maybe the Obamas, both of them, need to rethink their priorities and consider whether this administration has been engaging the wrong people."

The truth is of course the opposite. Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest for the last 5 years of the Bush administration during which time her release was either never an administration top priority or they were spectacularly unsuccessful.

On the other hand President Obama has been working both privately and PUBLICLY to demand her release. From The Telegraph (UK) in June of this year, the President's public message:

"I wish to convey my best wishes to Aung San Suu Kyi, the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate, on the occasion of her 65th birthday on June 19," Obama said in his message. I once again call on the Burmese government to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally and to allow them to build a more stable, prosperous Burma that respects the rights of all its citizens."

Furthermore, back in February of this year the President made this public comment:

"There are elections that are being held right now in Burma that will be anything but free and fair, based on every report that we are seeing," he said. "For too long the people of Burma have been denied the right to determine their own destiny. We renew our calls for the authorities to free Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners immediately and unconditionally."

But somehow, in the her seemingly unreasoned dislike of anything with the name Obama attached, Rubin manages to openly lie about
what has occurred in an effort to turn the truth on it's head.

To the extent that US diplomatic efforts were the determinative factor at all, the Bush administration failed and the Obama administration succeeded!

Sadly, my expectations for a minimal level of accuracy in Jennifer's column are now greatly extinguished.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 19, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse


I joined this website "123 Get Samples" and i got freestuff from it, it took about a week for me to receive? something i actually wanted so just join them and it is easy and free

Posted by: gloriariley20 | December 20, 2010 5:36 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, it's terrible that a first lady is trying to be a role model and encourage kids to eat their vegetables.

I realize that a blog titled "Right Turn" feels obligated to bash Democrats in general and the Obamas in particular, but can't you find something more substantive to gripe about?

Posted by: jprice2 | December 20, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Mee-OW! Who is this know-nothing chica?

Let’s not forget that after killing her former boyfriend, Mrs Bush married a drug-addled drunk who opened America to attack by his Saudi buddies and spent the morning staring at “My Pet Goat.” Bush foreign policy made the US a laughingstock worldwide, except among fundamentalists in god-forsaken places like the Levant and the American South.

Posted by: DannyPl | December 20, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

dannyp:

Please, take your pathetic drivel elsewhere. The fact that Jennifer lied, does not in any way detract from the fact that Laura Bush is a very gracious woman, and was a terrific First Lady.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 20, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Our admin didn't call as there is no room for graft and corruption...

Posted by: Dandapani | December 20, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer apparently doesn't realize that foreign policy is the responsibility of the President of the United States, not the First Lady.

From Bloomberg (5/27/09):

U.S. President Barack Obama described Myanmar’s court case against pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as a “show trial” and demanded the military regime release her immediately.

From the Voice of America (11/13/10):

President Barack Obama has welcomed the release of Burmese democracy leader and 1991 Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest calling it long overdue. However, Mr. Obama is calling on the Burmese military to release all political prisoners and says the political opposition in Burma continues to be deprived of legitimate political process that could bring change to the country.

Oh, and what was Laura Bush doing during the 8 years her husband held the presidency? Her focus, as Jennifer well knows, was childhood literacy. So, Michelle Obama is a hectoring hag for going after childhood obesity, but Laura Bush, sorry, Saint Laura, was wonderful for going after illiteracy.

Is it too much to ask for a conservative who simply doesn't toss out ad hominem attacks? We've got the comments section for that.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 20, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

You are kidding, right? You want the First Lady to insert herself into foreign policy? Really?
I'm thinking you are a bit confused as to the role of the First Lady. Mrs. Bush had her reading project and Mrs. Obama has childhood obesity.
How come no one called it a government takeover of reading when Mrs. Bush made that her personal mission?
So what is the issue here? It's okay for people to get fat and then drain our health care dollars because of problems related to obesity and no one should say anything? Sorry, but if Mrs. Obama wants to promote healthy eating and personal responsibility for watching our children's collective weight, I think that is a fine Republican value of encouraging personal responsibility. Plus, if my taxes are going to support school food programs, I WANT the government and anyone else that can, telling schools to offer healthier food choices that kids are learning are better for them (celery, good - fries, not so much). File that under "long-term positive impact for the nation."
Looks like some blogger got up on the wrong side of the bed when she wrote about Mrs. Obama's lack of foreign policy announcements. Last time I checked, that was the job of the State Department.
And kudos to Mrs. Bush for letting us all know what a mensch she is. I knew she had something to offer beyond a perpetually vapid look.

Posted by: independent1VA | December 20, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

You are kidding, right? You want the First Lady to insert herself into foreign policy? Really?
I'm thinking you are a bit confused as to the role of the First Lady. Mrs. Bush had her reading project and Mrs. Obama has childhood obesity.
How come no one called it a government takeover of reading when Mrs. Bush made that her personal mission?
So what is the issue here? It's okay for people to get fat and then drain our health care dollars because of problems related to obesity and no one should say anything? Sorry, but if Mrs. Obama wants to promote healthy eating and personal responsibility for watching our children's collective weight, I think that is a fine Republican value of encouraging personal responsibility. Plus, if my taxes are going to support school food programs, I WANT the government and anyone else that can, telling schools to offer healthier food choices that kids are learning are better for them (celery, good - fries, not so much). File that under "long-term positive impact for the nation."
Looks like some blogger got up on the wrong side of the bed when she wrote about Mrs. Obama's lack of foreign policy announcements. Last time I checked, that was the job of the State Department.
And kudos to Mrs. Bush for letting us all know what a mensch she is. I knew she had something to offer beyond a perpetually vapid look.

Posted by: independent1VA | December 20, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

fairlington blade:

Notice that you've moved here from Greg Sargent's column. Funny, I was sort of the house conservative over there, while here I'm the house liberal! LOL

Speaking of Greg, glad I decided to stop posting over there. I looked at the archive the other day and there were about 4-6 posts of his on DADT every single day. I think he just became totally unhinged after the election.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 20, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

"Why didn't our current first lady -- or for that matter, our president -- put in a call?"

They're probably thinking, "Is there a way we can do that to Rush Limbaugh?"

Posted by: zgystardst | December 20, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

"Burma, actually. Burma is the country at issue."

Actually, what this does is parade the author's abysmal ignorance. An ignorance which is so easily dispelled by even the most cursory research, that one must assume that it's willful, as required by the demands of ideology.

Now don't get me wrong. I despise the military dictatorship that currently holds hostage their people. But as an earlier writer aptly pointed out, the nerve of these people to decide what their own country should be called!

Let's get back to the ludicrous ignorance that's really the root of my complaint. "Myanma(r)" is one of two ancient names for this modern country. It's the literary (written) name, while "Ba(r)ma" -- rendered in English as "Burma" -- is the spoken-word equivalent. Both of these being documented simultaneously since the 12th. century.

"Burma" is actually the British colonial name, and therefore is quite appropriately replaced in the post-colonial era, irrespective of the autonomous government which decides it's now time to make the replacement. (It was in 1989, BTW.) And "Myanmar" is an eminently appropriate choice for both linguistic and historical reasons.

The author's woefully ideology-motivated ignorance redounds to the utter detriment of her arguments.

Posted by: laboo | December 20, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

@ 54465446 - As the Republicans found out over the last year or so, it's more fun playing offense than defense. I was motivated to post on this one when it actually made the print edition.

I'll give Jennifer credit. Mashing Aung San Suu Kyi with childhood obesity is something Glee-worthy. Jennifer seems to have not noticed that first ladies taking on "causes" is traditional and considered proper. She apparently hasn't noticed that the typical American looks like a crew member of the Axiom.

Incidentally, always enjoy your posts.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 20, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

@laboo - I suspect that Jennifer still refers to a particular city as Bombay. And thinks the capital of China is Peking.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 20, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Well sorry that Mrs. Obama took it upon herself to RECOMMEND that kids eat healthier. However, isn't that the job of the first lady? I had to listen to Laura Bush tell me how much my kids should be reading (I thought that as a parent, that was my job) and then hear Nancy Reagan tell me I shouldn't be doing drugs. Now, as I've gotten older, I don't do drugs, I read more (as do my kids) so what is so wrong with a healthier kitchen and school cafeteria? It all goes to an overall healthier mind and body for kids. Is it really worth complaining about a first lady trying to make a dent in childhood obesity? If so then tell Mrs Bush to get out of my bookshelf. I'll be the one to tell my kids when and what to read!

Posted by: smb42 | December 20, 2010 11:01 PM | Report abuse

If Laura were so concerned about human rights, it might've been nice if she'd said a word or two to her hubby when his policies were leading to the reckless death of over 100,000 people and loss of $1+ trillion dollars in Iraq, FOR NO GOOD REASON WHATSOEVER.

Posted by: seankindler | December 21, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

If Laura were so concerned about human rights, it might've been nice if she'd said a word or two to her hubby when his policies were leading to the reckless death of over 100,000 people and loss of $1+ trillion dollars in Iraq, FOR NO GOOD REASON WHATSOEVER.

Posted by: seankindler | December 21, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Read the response to this article: The Post's Newest Know-Nothing http://www.bluevirginia.us/diary/2672/the-posts-newest-knownothing

Posted by: franko2 | December 22, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse

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