New profile of the US ag secretary Ann Veneman (19/3/2004)

Some excerpts from this exploration of Dubya's estrogen shield

BuzzFlash interview: Laura Flanders
Author of Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species

"Bushwomen" focuses on a subject overlooked by the mainstream press: How the Bush female cabinet members are used to give the appearance of inclusiveness, while they carry out the Bush/Cheney radical right wing agenda.

Author Laura Flanders introduces us to women as cynical, hypocritical and downright nasty as the Bush Cartel men. Like most of the Bush Cartel male members, they all had a helping hand climbing the ladder of success -- and when they got to the top, pulled up the ladder and stepped on the hands of others trying to climb their way up.

All the cabinet women (with special appearances by Laura Bush and Lynne Cheney) have struck a sort of Faustian understanding. The Bush Cartel uses them as "soft feminine" faces to "fuzz up" the extremist, harsh, anti-democracy policies that they are implementing. They, in turn, agree to be used because they enjoy the power and actually support these policies.

The press is often more likely to describe how a female cabinet member looks than what she does, Flanders argues. But they are implementing an ideology that is every bit as extreme as Dick Cheney's or Tom DeLay's.

After you are finished reading the book, you will agree that the Bush women are as scary, opportunistic and dangerous as the Bush men. They are the anti-feminists who got where they are because of feminism. Maybe that's the ultimate equality: women who can act as disgracefully and as dishonestly as the men who chose them.

Laura Flanders is the host of Your Call, heard weekdays, 10-11 am on public radio, KALW, 91.7 fm in San Francisco and on the Internet.

Flanders writes regularly for, The Nation, Ms. Magazine and Znet. Her op-ed pieces have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle... * * *

BuzzFlash: Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species is about the Bush women. Why are they cynical?

Laura Flanders: What's cynical about them is that, from its very first days in office, the Bush administration presented this multi-display, as if to suggest something about its social and economic policy, when most of these women trail a history of undermining the very social justice laws and economic programs that helped put them in power today. It works because of an oblivious media who, I think, will focus on personal history at the expense of any real analysis of these people's political records...

BuzzFlash:  ...The Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman, is hardly known to the public at large. She briefly had her profile heightened with the mad cow incident. Why did you choose to write about her?

Laura Flanders: I took on a project of writing about all the cabinet secretaries, and she was in there. Part of what's interesting, I hope, about it to readers, is that it provides a kind of glimpse of history of the last 20 or 30 years of policy in these arenas, which some of us haven't looked at all that carefully. And in the area of agriculture policy, I learned a whole lot researching this book and came to believe that it's one of the most critical areas of policy-making that we face today. And I think food issues and agriculture issues are going to be key across the board, right and left, in the decades to come. Veneman is someone who's told the story repeatedly about growing up on her family's peach farm, in the central valley of California. She grew up at a time when farm workers were organizing for their rights, and the first-ever female Agriculture Secretary of California, Rose Bird, angered growers no end by actually granting farm workers the right to organize, and banning these back-breaking, short-handled hoes that were ruining the lives of farm workers in the fields.

Ann Veneman, from her very first years out of college, took the side of the growers, and teamed up with those who were out to make sure that nobody like Bird would ever have power in California agriculture again.

BuzzFlash: Now Bird became the chief judge of the Supreme Court under [Califiornia's former Governor] Jerry Brown, right?

Laura Flanders: And then she was hounded out of that job by a growers' coalition who besmirched her name in every way they could. Veneman then went on to be one of those negotiated masters. She's been at the table for the global trade treaties that have been signed over the last 20 years or so. She was in Seattle during the protests. While people were being tear-gassed outside in the rain, she was inside. She was this lobbyist for some of the biggest grain corporations in the world. She was in office in the first Bush administration as Undersecretary for Agriculture, when the first license was given to the corporation Calgene [later taken over by Monsanto] to produce a genetically modified crop - the Flavor-Savr tomato. The tomato was a flop, but Ann Veneman got a post on the board of directors at Calgene just months after leaving office, after Clinton was elected.

It was really revealing to me to look at this person who I hadn't paid much attention to either, and I don't have any personal beef against. But to watch how somebody could play such an instrumental role in successive Republican administrations, and even become Agriculture Secretary, and nobody really looks at her record and talked to farmers; specifically, to farm workers and small family farmers. They know who Ann Veneman is. And the rest of us should get to know her too.  


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