April 13, 2004,
I wasn't worried about President Bush's reelectability over Iraq. I never stayed up late fretting over John Kerry or Richard Clarke. Prescription drugs, illegal aliens, the Defense of Marriage Act.... I figured these were all blips on the electoral oscilloscope that would be overcome by our beloved president, who cuts such a handsome figure in a flight suit.
But now that Bush has lost the Blonde Vote, I'm bracing for President Kerry.
The election was lost last week, when the president was addressing an otherwise friendly crowd in El Dorado, Arkansas. Bush, who must have been tired, inexplicably felt the need to comment on the hair of one Sammie Briery, who made a major fashion faux pas that day when she left the house without wearing a hat.
"You and my mother go to the same hair-dye person," Bush told her, demonstrating that, for all his book learning and cowboy charm, he really is the first blond president.
The crowd no dummies among them got it. They gasped at the gaffe.
Ms. Briery, who began the week in obscurity and ended it with a dozen links on Google, kept her dignity.
"Mr. President," she replied. "I'm a natural blonde."
Oh, yes," said the president. "Couldn't help myself."
There is only one suitable response from the Blondes Who Love Bush: arggggggggggggggh!
How could he? How could a married man, who has lived on this Earth for 50-plus years, often in the company of women, know so little about them? Karen Hughes, please stop him, before he insults us again!
For starters, Mr. President, it's hair color, not dye. No woman since the Eisenhower administration has dyed her hair. We lighten it, streak it, highlight it. We dye eggs. Not hair.
Furthermore, you're not supposed to notice. All blondes are natural blondes, if you want to get their vote.
So sensitive is the subject that I will not ask a strange woman where she gets her hair colored, no matter how badly I want to know. When I move to a new city and need to find a great colorist I mean, stylist I will occasionally approach someone with fabulous hair and cautiously ask who "does" it. To ask who colors it to imply that such fabulous hair is the work of a mortal, as opposed to an omnipotent God is an insult, not only to the woman, but to her stylist. This is something all well-mannered people should know.
Ms. Briery is a Bush supporter (or at least, she's gamely trying to be) and the next day, she halfheartedly tried to defend the president and make the insult seem like nothing more than a misunderstood compliment.
"How can anyone not be delighted to be compared to somebody's mother?" she said, presumably in that high-pitched tone that betrays a lack of sincerity.
In the words of President Bush, and in the same tone: Oh yes. How can we not? Deep down, all blonde women want to be told we look like Jessica Simpson's mom, not Jessica Simpson.
I can feel the poll numbers plunging.
Now, some might argue that the blonde voting bloc isn't big enough to decide an election. This might have been true 100 or so ago, when only informed people were encouraged to vote. But today, we have this silly notion that everyone should be encouraged to vote regardless of how little information they possess and so it has come to pass that a sizeable percentage of the electorate possesses registration cards they obtained via MTV. The blonde caucus, therefore, is vast.
I, of course, am a natural blonde, just like Ms. Brierly. We are not being dishonest. In the annals of Female Logic, if you were ever blonde as a child (and many Caucasian kids are, if only for a few lemon-juiced weeks at the beach) you can truthfully say you are a natural blonde for the rest of your life, even if you entered first grade as a brunette.
For me, the case for my natural blondness was strengthened by the arrival of my children. For 11 years now, strangers in line at the Safeway have smiled indulgently at us and said, "Well, I can see where they got their blonde hair from!"
"Oh yes," I say pleasantly, suppressing raucous laughter.
One day, I shall pen a memoir, I Never Was a Natural Blonde Until I Had My Children.
Regrettably, the fourth child arrived 19 months ago with what appears to be dark hair. I say "appears to be" because there's still not much of it, and if you hold her in bright sunlight and painstakingly separate each strand, you can argue that she, too, eventually will be blonde. At least after we go to the beach this summer. Meanwhile, she's wearing a lot of hats.
Which is what I recommend my fellow blondes do at all future Bush rallies. It may be that he's learned his lesson, that he will never again comment on a woman's hair, no matter how unusual it is. But we can't be sure of this. The president is a very busy man, and his handlers may have protected him from the Miss Clairol fallout. He still may not know that he said anything wrong.
And now that he's lost the blonde vote, can the redheads be far behind? Don your wide-brimmed hats, everyone, and hurry. The future of the republic is at stake.
Jennifer Nicholson Graham, an NRO contributor, is a writer in Virginia.