Signs and Wonders
Laura Bush
Associated Press/Photo by LM Otero (file)
Laura Bush

Signs and Wonders: Laura Bush, Virginia’s Bob McDonnell, songwriters, and Jerry Lewis

Newsworthy

Laura Bush wants out. Former first lady Laura Bush told Larry King back in 2010 that she favored same-sex “marriage.” Today, not so much. A pro-homosexual group wants us to believe that even Republicans, at least the reasonable ones, support gay “marriage.” So the group, ironically calling itself the Respect for Marriage Coalition, produced an ad featuring Mrs. Bush’s comments to King. But now she wants the ad, or at least her contribution to it, pulled. “Mrs. Bush did not approve of her inclusion in this advertisement nor is she associated in any way with the group that made the ad,” Anne MacDonald, a spokeswoman for the former first lady, wrote in a statement Thursday. “When she became aware of the advertisement Tuesday night, we requested that the group remove her from it.” The spot also features clips of former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of State Colin Powell voicing their support for same-sex “marriage” rights. A spokeswoman for Powell said Thursday they weren’t contacted for permission to use the clip, but that “his remarks are in the public domain and we have not asked them to remove it.”

From darling to doghouse. Some people consider Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell a rising star in the Republican Party. But among Tea Party folks, he’s taking some hits. He has promoted a transportation bill that critics say will raise taxes by up to $6.1 billion over five years. On Wednesday, Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, said it was a “massive tax increase.” Norquist, with characteristic wit, said Virginia residents could avoid the tax increases by using the roads and airports that already exist to exit Virginia for other states: “Other states with Republican governors and legislatures that are actually cutting taxes. North Carolina, Louisiana, Kansas, and Nebraska are all calling to eliminate their state income taxes. Ohio, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Wisconsin are cutting their income taxes. Texas and Florida, who cannot cut their income taxes because they don’t have any, are preparing to cut their sales taxes. All of these states have roads … and elected officials that stand with taxpayers rather than against them.”

Assessing the culture. Events such as the Academy Awards, coming up this weekend, don’t usually show us much worth imitating, but they do offer us a look at what culture is like in the Year of Our Lord 2013. The Songwriters Hall of Fame is perhaps an even better indication. The Greek philosopher and musicologist Damon said, “Let me write the songs of a nation, and I care not who writes its laws.” The question is, what does the 2013 class of the Songwriters Hall of Fame tell us about our nation? This year’s inductees, announced this week, will include Joe Perry and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and Mick Jones and Lou Gramm of Foreigner. Holly Knight, J.D. Souther, and Tony Hatch are lesser-known inductees. Knight wrote anthemic hits “Love Is a Battlefield” and “Invincible” for Pat Benatar and “The Warrior” for Patty Smyth. Souther made his reputation as a songwriter for The Eagles, writing several hits, including “Heartache Tonight,” “Victim of Love,” “New Kid in Town,” and “Best of My Love.” Hatch is best known for the Petula Clark hit “Downtown.” Catchy tunes, all, but mostly songs about nothing at all.

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What is success? As I think about these songwriters—who have been successfully financially, but in most cases bankrupt aesthetically, personally, and spiritually—I can’t help but also think about how we define success today. That question is at the heart of what could be Jerry Lewis’ last film. The 86-year-old legend is wrapping up shooting in California on a movie called Max Rose, the story of a failed jazz musician who had a successful 65-year marriage. I was on the set with him in Los Angeles yesterday, along with director Daniel Noah, who also wrote the screenplay. Lewis told me he wanted to do a movie that defined success in ways different from the ways our modern, materialistic, youth-worshipping culture currently does. “This is a movie in which old people and lifelong marriages are celebrated,” he said. “These are ideas worth talking about.”

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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