What do Laura Bush and Jackie Kennedy have in common?

Well, they both married ridiculously wealthy men whose largess was gifted to them by notorious fathers and grandfathers. In both cases the money was tainted by violence and/or illegal activity.  The Kennedys bootlegged during the great depression and the Bush family’s Standard Oil traded with Hitler’s Germany.

Neither woman’s husband toiled for the wealth that kept their wives in gorgeous clothes, fabulous homes, and indulged their children beyond the average kids’ wildest imaginings.

Oh yeah, and they were both married to presidents of the United States.

But last week, in an interview Laura Bush gave to CNN’s Larry King, we learned one more way that First Lady 43 was like First Lady 35.  They both stayed in the Whitehouse silently tolerating husbands who continually screwed folks their wives didn’t approve of them screwing.

Words change periodically and because “screw” has evolved so many times, I’ll explain.  In this context I’m not referring to the traditional mechanical definition, “a simple machine consisting of a spirally threaded cylindrical rod that engages with a similarly threaded hole.”  Nor do I mean the standard verb tense, “cause to penetrate, as with a circular motion.”

I’m employing modern slang incarnations of these historical definitions.  Still, screw has acquired many definitions since it first joined the English language somewhere around 1404.  So I must therefore point out that I’m also not referring to the noun “screw” as it pertains to “a worn out horse” or “prison guard.”

No I mean two definitions of a more recent and vulgar vernacular: neither of which compliment the respective president to whom I have applied these terms.  In the case of Kennedy, as any Marilyn Monroe scholar will tell you, screw is “slang for sexual intercourse.” And in the case of George W. Bush it means “to cheat: defeat someone through trickery or deceit.”

First let’s tackle the obvious.  There are verifiable rumors, repeated in Time Magazine as well as other places, which claim that Jackie Kennedy didn’t just know that her husband was screwing around but that she sold her silence regarding JFK’s tawdry behavior to her father-in-law.  It is alleged that not only did Joe Kennedy pay for all of Jackie’s baubles and beautiful clothes while she was first lady, he also gave her a cool million to stay with JFK and protect his political career.

As for GWB using social issues to polarize our nation and win an election – we realized from Laura Bush’s CNN interview that she disagreed with him on those fundamental issues of personal freedom – but chose to go along with his policies of oppressing folks for his presidential political gain.  Why didn’t she leave him, if not physically at least rhetorically, and tell the press that she did not agree with her husband’s tactics?

It’s easier to label Jackie’s moral sidestep than it is to understand Laura’s sold out conscience.

Heck, Jackie’s predicament reminds me of that old joke about the guy who sits down with a woman in a bar and offers her a million dollars to sleep with him.  She replies meekly, “well sure.”  Then he asks her to do the same for fifty dollars.  Haughtily she retorts, “What kind of a girl do you think I am?” The man replies, “I think we’ve established that, we’re just working on the price.”

So when Laura Bush blithely told Larry King and all his viewers, “when couples are committed to each other and love each other that they ought to have, I think, the same sort of rights that everyone has.” And then went on to state that abortion is “important for medical reasons, and other reasons.” I couldn’t help but wonder what possible compensation she might have received to keep quiet while gays and women making the toughest choice of their lives were used as rhetorical subterfuge to gain re-election.

Maybe for both first ladies it wasn’t money or lifestyle that kept them silent in the face of dishonor and their husband’s win-at-all-costs mentality.  Maybe these women were afraid of their powerful husbands.

If so, that brings us to another definition of screw that we should all employ more often, “to muster or summon up; as in courage.”