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Bush-bashing Bridge Players
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 11/21/07

Awhile ago it was the Dixie Chicks. Now it’s the Bridge Babes. Recall Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks famously took advantage of her star entertainer status to bash the president of the United States while performing. The outrage which ensued was expressed by millions of Americans who did not share her sentiments and perhaps millions more who may have but thought her remarks out of place at a concert venue with a captive audience, so to speak.

Now comes the U.S. women’s bridge team with another crass example of over-the-line Bush bashing, this time in, of all places, China where a similar gesture directed against China’s chief of state could have gotten somebody thrown in jail. The occasion was the world bridge championship competition in Shanghai last month. A team representing the United States won the women’s title. (Way to go, team!) Four members of the team were then photographed with one of the members, identified in a New York Times News Service photograph as Debbie Rosenberg, holding up a sign reading, “We did not vote for Bush.” Other team members in the photo were identified as Jill Levin, Jill Meyers and Irena Levitina.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

This incident, predictably, also provoked outrage, especially from other bridge players, some of whom reportedly accused the women of treason and sedition. Apologysts, of course, countered with the free speech argument. But the president of the U.S. Bridge Federation, a non-profit group that selects teams for international tournaments, argued that private organizations can in fact place limits on the speech of people who represent them. He said that these antics could cost the federation corporate sponsors. He seeks a written apology from the players plus a one-year suspension from federation events, probation and community service.

Three players not photographed with the sign expressed regret that the action offended some people. Other players appeared stunned and clueless over the reaction to the incident which the team captain described as a spontaneous moment of levity. “What we were trying to say, not to Americans, but to our friends from other countries, was that we understand that they are questioning and critical of what our country is doing these days and we want (them) to know that we, too, are critical,” she was quoted as saying, as if that justified the action. “I earn my living from bridge and a substantial part of that from being hired to compete in high-level competitions,” whined Ms. Rosenberg, who perhaps should have given that some thought before politicizing the event.

To keep this in perspective, the world bridge competition probably ranks right up there with the international sack race competition in terms of public interest. But the Bush bashing episode made it newsworthy and reflected poorly on the behavior of a group supposedly representing our country abroad and especially in a country that takes such political gestures very seriously. In such a role, they are not acting exclusively as individuals but as representatives of all of us.

In a broader sense, this small episode calls to mind the extent to which Bush hatred has spilled over from politics, academia and journalism into other professions and occupations, especially within the entertainment industry. Celebrity actors, athletes and entertainment executives feel free to take advantage of the pulpit that their celebrity status accords to inflict their political and social views upon audiences that assembled and paid big money, presumably to enjoy their talent, not to be subjected to their biased and often naïve and juvenile political opinions.

Often, the latter consists mainly of ridicule and personal animosity directed at the president. Increasingly, it has become strident and hateful. It goes without saying that anyone in public office is fair game for criticism and past presidents, to be sure, have had hatred directed against them. Bill Clinton had his share. But the intensity of the hatred directed against George W. Bush exceeds anything that I can recall. Hatred contributes nothing of value to political discourse and, indeed, poisons it by encouraging retaliation.

It would be well for all Americans to keep in mind that, popular or not, Mr. Bush will hold the world’s most powerful office for another year in these dangerous times for our nation. Like him or not, he is president of us all and he deserves the respect and loyalty due the office. CRO

copyright 2007 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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