Culture

Bright Side, Bright Woman, Part I

Dana Perino has written an unusual, interesting, and endearing book. It has a title that is all three of those things: “And the Good News Is …: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side.”

Find the book here.

Dana, as you know, is a former press secretary for President George W. Bush and a current Fox News host and analyst. I call her “Dana” because she is my friend (and I still find it odd to call women by their last name, only, unless they are, for example, “Thatcher”).

Dana’s book is part autobiography; part White House memoir; and part “lessons learned, and shared.”

I’m not going to review it, properly, but I made some notes on it, as I was going through, and I’d like to share them with you, in more or less chronological order — that is, the order in which I made them.

Hope you enjoy.

‐Dana dedicates her book “To my Bush Administration colleagues.” This is a sign of two of her foremost qualities: appreciation and generosity.

‐She describes our mutual friend Marc Thiessen as “a Presidential speechwriter and hockey player.” The hockey part, I never knew! Somehow doesn’t surprise me: He plays politics tough (and well).

‐Writes Dana, “I’d met Karzai before at the White House, and while I knew to be wary of him,” the Afghan president “was quite charming in person.”

He is charming, yes. And more. You’ll often hear that Karzai was a nutcase undeserving of American support. He had his shortcomings, no doubt. But he was also very brave, and very effective, when his country sorely needed those things.

Karzai is not a cartoon, and more people should be aware of this.

‐More Dana: “I’m an optimistic person, and I want people to realize that in America, nothing is ever as bad as it seems because we have the opportunity and capabilities to fix problems (though we don’t always have the will).”

Yes, that is the problem, a big one: will, or, to put it a little differently, willingness. Are we willing to do the necessary to solve our problems? To get a handle on runaway entitlements, for example?

Big, big question mark.

‐This is Dana on Bush (43): “Over the years that I worked for him he became much more to me than my boss or even the President of the United States. He became like a second father, a friend, and a confidant.”

I’ve often thought, You have to work pretty hard to hate George W. Bush. Yet, somehow, people manage. Me, I think he’s pretty much the most likable guy in America. I love him, always have.

Still, I can see what people object to. I grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., as many readers know. I know the Left pretty well.

They recoil at Texas. At Christianity. At conservatism. At patriotism, and self-confidence, and moral absolutes (except their own).

Also, GWB is not overly impressed with the world from which he sprang: Andover, Yale, and Harvard (in that order). A lot of people resent that — i.e., his rejection of his “class.”

I’m not naive about GWB, trust me. I know he’s not walking on water. I know he’s not sweety-sweet. I know he can be a petulant, prickly SOB. Consider this: He gives you a nickname; you don’t give him one.

But I admire and, again, love him. Show me a person who doesn’t get at least a partial kick out of George W. Bush, and I’ll show you someone to be cautious about.

(I could go on, but I wrote, what? Eight billion words about GWB from 2001 to 2009?)

‐Early in her book, Dana writes that she will “include my reflections on the importance of civility that I learned from my childhood and then from the Bushes, and how it’s being lost in politics and pop culture. I worry about how aggressive and vicious our discourse has become.”

You know what a lot of Republicans worry about concerning Jeb Bush? They worry that, if he is the nominee, he won’t be aggressive enough against the Democratic nominee — especially if it’s Hillary, who is (a) a woman and (b) a friend of the Bush family (though maybe not as close a friend as her husband has apparently become).

I happen to share this concern, actually. Although I think Jeb’s competitive instincts would kick in.

Let me give you a memory from 2012: During that summer, I asked a smart conservative, “Whom would you like to see Mitt Romney pick as his running mate?” He answered, “Christie.” This surprised me. I said, “Why?” My friend answered, “Because he’s a bruiser, and you’ll need one against Team Obama.”

Interesting.

‐Dana said to one of our fighting men, “What was it that made you want to become a Navy SEAL? Chance for adventure? Family tradition? Physical challenge? Desire to see the world?”

“No, ma’am,” he said. “Chicks dig it.”

She said to another one, “When you get ready to go — wherever it is you may be going — do you have to take a lot of language courses?”

“Oh, no, ma’am,” this one said. “We’re really not there to talk.”

She later told Bush about these exchanges.

He threw his head back and laughed. Then he looked out the window, bit the side of his cheek, and jutted out his jaw a little to the side — an expression I saw him make when he was letting a feeling or a thought settle in.

“God, I love those guys,” he said.

Yes, he did, and does. And that’s one reason a lot of us love him.

‐Dana grew up “modestly” in “rural America,” with “clear blue skies and lots of sunshine,” she writes.

I was raised to believe that America was a force for good in the world and that it should take its leadership role seriously. I understood early on that the freedom of America is what made our way of life possible, and that we should help other people live in freedom, too.

Many people on the left despise that view. Many on the right despise it too. It is a good one.

‐Dana grew up in Wyoming and Colorado, the daughter of a ranching family. Let me give you a slice — another slice — of her memoir:

My great-grandmother lived to be 100 years old, so I got to know her. She always sent us birthday cards that had $2 bills inside — we kept them for good luck. In her later years, my grandparents set her up with a house in town and she would visit with friends and family, watch soap operas, and braid throw rugs out of Wonder Bread plastic sacks.

All of this is very familiar to me, personally, down to the Wonder rugs.

‐Dana writes of her family’s “amusements”: “My grandfather bought us an Olympic-sized trampoline that he set up in the storage shed while the big combine was used in the summer.”

Trampolines as amusements, or entertainment: I remember that very well. (Would kids today look down their noses?)

‐I give you an idyll — or rather, Dana does:

In the evenings, my grandpa would make us root beer or Pepsi floats, or we’d have some watermelon from his garden. We ate well, always a salad of cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes with olive oil and vinegar dressing and beef of some cut — usually cooked well without marinade. Sometimes there was a chocolate cake my grandma made or vanilla ice cream that was delivered by the Schwan Man, a grocery catalog delivery service.

The noontime meal was called “dinner,” and it was the main meal of the day.

Again, I could sing several verses of this song, and am, within myself.

‐This is Dana on her grandfather: “Like most country people I’ve known, he had a real bond with the animals under his care. He knew his own life — his family’s livelihood — was tied to the animals’ safety and well-being. And he was a bit of a softy.”

Environmentalists — who are often city-dwellers — tend to think they know more, and care more, about animals than anyone else. This is such a crock. A conceit and a crock.

‐This, sports fans, is a marriage:

I also grew up watching a true love story. My grandpa adored my grandmother. He called her Mother and she called him Dad. She didn’t mind that he snored like crazy at night. They didn’t snap or bicker. They were kind to each other and accepting of flaws. She’d run him a bath and set out his clothes for his meetings in town, and he’d rub her shoulders and tease her to make her laugh. They adored their grandchildren and on Sundays we’d sit between them in the pickup and take a drive all around the ranch.

‐More:

We watched a lot of TV in my grandmother’s living room. She called the sofa a “davenport,” the cushions were like bricks, and the fabric pricked at our legs when we wore shorts. My sister and I chose to share one of the large La-Z-Boy recliners and she took the other. When the news was on, my grandmother often remarked on President Reagan’s good looks. “He sure has a good head of hair,” she sighed (my grandfather did not).

Again, very, very familiar (to me).

‐Dana’s grandmother, she writes,

kept up with beauty trends through Better Homes and Gardens and Woman’s Day magazines. On her dressing table she kept Jergens Rose Milk Lotion, a glass jar of Oil of Olay, and White Shoulders perfume. My grandfather kept her supplied with that, and my mom has her last bottle, unopened.

Does this seem familiar to you, as it does to me? (How about Redbook?)

‐Dana’s grandfather was “generous to his daughters. He used to slip $20 bills into my mom’s pockets that she’d find later.”

How about that? Familiar? (It is to me, as I perhaps don’t need to say.)

‐Let’s talk TV viewing — and news consumption:

On Saturdays we had a quick family meeting to plan our Sunday schedule. I drove my sister crazy because I always pushed for the 8:30 a.m. church service because then we’d get home in time to watch the Sunday shows. We topped off our weekend with 60 Minutes, the tick-tick-tick signaling it was time to come in from the backyard. My dad got me hooked on the news. That was a good thing.

Something similar in your own experience? Sing a few bars of that one?

‐Dana’s aunt Patty Sue was twice mayor of Rawlins, Wyo.

She and her husband, Rodney Schuler, continue to serve on the city council while they run Memory Lanes, their bowling alley. Memory Lanes is the first tobacco- and alcohol-free bowling alley in Wyoming — she was told it would never succeed but it’s the busiest place in town.

Honestly, that is maybe my favorite passage of the entire book.

I think we should knock off for today. We’ll finish tomorrow, with Part II. The second part will be lighter on western idylls, heavier on politics. I look forward to it. I’ll see you.

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