I don’t know what’s worse

Bush’s joke or Clinton’s reaction:

Interesting, too, that all you have to say is “I saw an ugly woman” and the entire audience cracks up.

via Wonkette.

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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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30 Responses to I don’t know what’s worse

  1. Eileen says:

    Bush is worse. Clinton doesn’t help though. Just like usual.

  2. Kim says:

    Really, I didn’t think it was that bad. I mean, making fun of “ugly people” isn’t cool, right? But I think the audience would have laughed just as much if a woman had been standing up there and said “The ugliest man I’ve ever seen jumped out at me.”

    And Clinton… well, I think he was doing as much to point out the potential absurdity (and inappropriateness) of Bush making that statement in that setting as he was to say that he wished he could get away with it.

    Was it an asshole thing to say? Sure. But in the grand scheme of asshole things that can, have and will be said…I don’t think it was very high up there.

  3. Clayton says:

    My vote goes for Clinton’s reaction but it’s a tough call.

  4. whatsername says:


    I definitely don’t appreciate Clinton’s “I wish I could have said that” sentiment. :|

  5. Eghead says:

    Bush. 100%. Clinton is just being his run-of-the-mill douche-baggy self.

  6. William says:

    Theres a shocker. Something happened in a room that might have had some significance to the greater world and somehow Clinton made it all about him. I could almost forgive Bush the joke, I mean he’s a doddering old product of his time (to paraphrase Dan Savage “the good news is that he’ll die soon”) and I’d expect anyone who had somehow had a hand in creating Bush the Lesser to have needed a series of small strokes just to make it through the last 8 years without hanging oneself. But Clinton’s reaction? Not only does he have the pathological need to make himself the center of attention, but he somehow manages to be the victim in the whole disgusting little episode.

  7. Yvette says:

    Absolutely pathetic.

  8. RacyT says:

    I dunno. I’m not sure Clinton is wishing he could say that — it seemed to me he was pointing out that he’d be taken to task over something that Bush never would be, and that’s true of a whole lot of things. OTOH, his “joke” was fucking tasteless.

  9. Misspelled says:

    But I think the audience would have laughed just as much if a woman had been standing up there and said “The ugliest man I’ve ever seen jumped out at me.”

    Really? You think a man who has the nerve not to fit every prescribed criterion of ideal physical appearance is going to take just as much social punishment for it as a woman? And be just as likely to have a mention of his appearance used as shorthand for “angry, bitter, loud and crass”? And you don’t think the fact that a man was speaking, in a world where male approval or rejection is the end-all standard for female appearance and behavior, is significant?

    This was not just “an asshole thing to say,” is was a sexist asshole thing to say.

  10. weliveunderrocks says:

    @Kim: I wonder, though, if it really were the same had a woman told that joke about a man – after all, describing a man as ‘ugly’ may not be exceedingly nice, but I have the feeling that it is generally seen as an expression of fact/opinion on this very issue of ‘ugliness’. Applied to women, however, it’s close to becoming a statement about moral character, her right to existence even… Certainly, it seems about her right to procreate, which I feel Bush is implicitly denying her. (For ugly, feel free to insert ”racial minority/handicapped/fat/poor” – it’s funny how many women shouldn’t have children according to popular lore.) So, no, apart from being tasteless, I believe it is exactly about the fact that it’s a woman that’s called ugly.

    Us ladies, we don’t have anything going for us other than our looks! So if we’re ugly, why would anyone want to have children with us, hell, why are we even complaining that people won’t stay away from our wombs? We ought to be happy, right! That is why people are laughing, ’cause what exactly does an ugly woman think she needs reproductive rights for? Plus, a rich, old, powerful, white guy is telling the joke, so it’s entirely obvious she should be doubly pleased if only he did try to ‘enter her womb’… right? He, on the contrary, can pick and choose as he pleases, so despite his age he need not be desperate. We all know that; he’s frickin hysterical, isn’t he? Argh,

    On another note, what makes so many men assume that we necessarily, by all means and under all circumstances want to get it on with them? Especially when they’ve just made it very clear that they themselves tend to be tiny bit pickier…

    PS: I didn’t mean to attack any of the commenters here and apologise if it came across that way – please put it down to my English and my lack of sleep.

  11. Erin says:

    A transcript would be nice.

  12. pennylane says:

    Right, in one fell swoop GHWB has completely negated anything she has to say because she’s not f*ckable. And that’s HILARIOUS! I don’t fully get Clinton’s reaction. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to distance himself from HW or was, in act, complaining about the fact he can’t get away with publicly judging the f*ckability of various women whose political views he disregards.

  13. Laurie in Mpls. says:

    I think Clinton was commenting on the fact that he is more likely to have been *skewered* by the audience, the press, the general public, etc., for having made that kind of statement than *either* Bush ever would be. I take it as a “can you *believe* what he gets away with?!” kind of statement.

    I do hope someone takes Mr. Bush, Sr., to task for this. Because I really don’t give a rat’s ass how old he is — he is a public figure who ought to have learned SOMETHING about public relations during his long career, not some guy who never had to speak in public before. I really did think he was better than that, no matter how much I disliked and disagreed with him while he was in office.

  14. Gaina says:

    HAHA! It takes a real wit to insult someone in such a way as to make an arrogant dumb ass like Bush think he was being paid a compliment.

    Oscar Wilde was the master of this art, but Bill just came a pretty decent second I’d say.

  15. Sarah says:

    When I worked in the TV news business, it was well-known that Bush Sr. had a mistress who was one of the reporters who traveled on Air Force One. I’m sure she’s not the only one… Special.

  16. Angela says:

    Sarah, if it was that well known (as you put it) why didn’t the press announce it? I mean, it’s not like they like the 41st President anyway.

    Also, I didnt’ get the same impression about the ugly woman comment as others did. Quite frankly, I thought this was mild compared to the obscene number of blonde and fat jokes going around.

  17. Sarah says:

    To Angela:

    Because it’s very common among politicos, and there was always a hush-hush attitude, but usually it’s handled more discretely than Clinton handled it. When people get found out, it’s usually because they’re being idiots (like boffing a 22-year-old intern). Plus, she was in the press corps, so the buddy system worked, no doubt.

  18. Holly says:

    Bush was bashing a whole bunch of things simultaneously — protesters and activists, the pro-choice movement, feminists, and women he thinks are ugly. It’s not like we would expect any more of him. In some ways that’s how Clinton is right — we’re all slightly more likely to give him a pass for being old, from another generation, for being a total dyed-in-the-wool conservative, for having that creepy “benign old guy” personality that he has, unlike Clinton’s “heheh, I’m a lecherous dick, yeah that’s right buddy, gotta problem” vibe.

    Clinton is harder to interpret but I definitely got a “can you believe he said that, and he’s not going to really take any shit for it” vibe as well as a sorta self-deprecating (usual Clinton) thing of “I can’t get no respect, if I said that I’d get burnt alive, wahhh” shtick. I didn’t get an impression of “I would say that kind of thing if I could,” although “man I wish I could get away with bad behavior” isn’t too far off. But that’s totally his personality, or his persona, right? He likes to play the bad boy, even if he wouldn’t actually argue that someting bad is good.

  19. Quercki M. Singer says:

    Thanks for the right thread in which to ask for help!

    I’m taking a class for older adults in which we discussed a little chemistry. The teacher made a joke:
    “How do you make a hormone?”
    “Don’t pay her.”

    Nobody laughed, but I want to send him to a link that might help him understand why he shouldn’t tell jokes like that. Not that it’s ‘politically
    incorrect’ but all the reasons it’s wrong.

    Links? Arguments?

  20. Anita says:

    Everyone in the room of anywhere near their age would have understood that Clinton crafted an excellent put down of Bush for that offensive joke. That is how I read it because it is exactly the way a southerner would reprimand a peer in public, as I recall.

  21. wiggles says:

    I want to send him to a link that might help him understand why he shouldn’t tell jokes like that. Not that it’s ‘politically
    incorrect’ but all the reasons it’s wrong.

    Links? Arguments?

    Because it’s douchey.

  22. Misspelled says:

    Erica –

    Wolf Blitzer introduces the clips by saying, “There were also some lighter moments. I want you to listen to this story that Mr. Bush told and check out Bill Clinton’s reaction.”

    Bush: “One time, we though we’d outsmarted the crowd. We sent a decoy limousine off in another direction while I snuck out a back entrance. And as we rounded a corner – I’ll never forget it – I saw one of the ugliest and angriest women [this is where people start laughing] I have ever seen in my entire life. Boy, she was really bad. And she charged my car with a sign – I don’t see why the Secret Service let her up there – coming right up to the window. “STAY OUT OF MY WOMB!” No problem, lady.”

    Clinton: “You know, he tells jokes that I just couldn’t get away with telling. [laughter and applause] Can you imagine what they would do to me if I told that joke he told up here? Some people can do things other people can’t. It reminds me, you know, of the story of the two dogs who watch kids breakdancing, and one dog said to the other, ‘You know, if we did that, they’d worm us.’ I mean… some guys got it, some guys don’t.”

  23. Misspelled says:

    Sorry! I meant Erin. That was totally one of those sinking-feeling-just-as-the-Submit-button-goes-click moments.

  24. larkspur says:

    That’s a typical asshat joke for GHWBush to make. It’s totally tone-deaf. It reminds me of the time he made a Presidential appearance at some WalMart (so he could look like a regular guy or something) and he was dumbstruck by the magical space-age laser scanning device that knew the price of the item OMG.

    He lives in a world in which it’s still jolly good fun to ridicule older, unbeautiful women as pathetic because of how obvious it is that nobody would want to fuck them anyway. My father used to make similar jokes, and when I got old enough, I saw it for what it was, and could only wonder about the sense of entitlement men like him feel, especially when they are older and unbeautiful themselves. Doesn’t matter, doesn’t apply to them ever, because, after all, penis, right?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the laughter was the uncomfortable kind. Blitzer sucks for passing off the story as light-hearted. Bill Clinton pisses me off on a regular basis, but I think he did the best he could here. His ostensible complaint about not being able to get away with a joke like that is flimsy, as I believe he meant it to be – check out his unamused expression – but, listen, these two guys are buddies, they’ve been doing the global elder statesguy charitable foundation tour together: how sharp a smackdown could he have issued? I have to say I think he stuck up for ugly old women like me. Poor 41 even whined about the Secret Service. GHW, dude, your son got shoesed. Wait till I chuck my sensible orthopedic footwear at you.

  25. wondering says:

    I’m not Erin, but Misspelled, thanks for the transcript. :-)

  26. J Salahuddin says:

    Here’s another one. Does Barbara Bush have a portrait of Dorian Gray hidden away somewhere or just one of herself?

  27. Pingback: The Morning After: Stay Outta My Womb Edition - The Sexist - Washington City Paper

  28. wayloopy says:

    argh – between Dick Armey and GHWB, it seems like it’s open season on women again… Like clockwork, (1) economy get’s bad, (2) old, conservative white guys get defensive, (3) blame uppity women and try to put them back in their places.

    I know they do it all the time, but it always seems to get worse after step #1 happens.

  29. Addie says:

    The dialogue in Bush’s “joke,” restated:

    Protester: I am really angry about the way the government keeps interfering with my reproductive choices!
    Bush: Ha ha, I don’t want to fuck you!

    I just can’t understand the people who are saying this isn’t sexist.

  30. bobby K says:

    uh, sounds like he was trying to tell a joke. not funny but a joke. you guys are easily offended.

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