Justifying my long years of public devotion to her intelligence and beauty (also the fact that she is the frail hawser linking G.W. Bush to reality), Laura Bush fired off those jokes at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, mostly minted by Landon Parvin. And don't start whining about her stuff being "scripted." You think FDR wrote that thing about the Four Freedoms, or Dwight Eisenhower made up that phrase about the military industrial complex? It's what they decide to read aloud that counts, not who wrote it.

Laura chose some edgy lines: "George and I are complete opposites -- I'm quiet, he's talkative; I'm introverted, he's extroverted; I can pronounce nuclear ..."

She accurately called her ghastly mother-in-law "actually more like ... hmm ... Don Corleone," made fun of George's pretensions to being a rancher, had some cracks about male strip clubs and "Desperate Wives."

The reaction of the progressive crowd? Frank Rich in the New York Times howled that the First Lady's press secretary had divulged her boss had never watched "Desperate Housewives." Big deal. Why would she need to? Laura's jokes were too strong a diet for The Nation's wimpy David Corn, who quavered to Fox News, "It was very risque. I was wondering what the social conservatives and James Dobson had to say about all these jokes that were laced with sexual innuendo. Not a very family-values-type speech. I'm not sure I want to explain a lot of those jokes to my 4-year-old."

Imagine being taught to read on an exclusive diet of Nation editorials. When they reach maturity (which comes at 12 these days), every time the little Corns come across a cuss word, their hands will shake so much they'll have to sit on them.

Laura rolled out a very old joke about mistaking a stallion for a cow and trying to milk it. This sent other progressives scurrying to their laptops to issue an appeal to their brothers and sisters in virtue to complain about Laura to the FCC.

Let me say this on the record: In a race between HRC and Laura for the White House, I'd vote for Laura every time. The record shows she's antiwar, pro choice and, since she's worked in libraries, she's seen the seamy side of life. My old friend Laurie Townsend used to spend half her mornings at the Jefferson branch of the Detroit Public Library telling geezers to "put it away." Maybe a library encounter was when Laura and George started dating, when he was in there practicing his reading skills. (Remember, when Brendan Gill visited the Bush compound in Kennebunkport, the only thing he could find to read was "The Fart Book.")

By contrast, HRC is running for the White House on a platform of attacking sex and immigrants. Politically Hilary's out there in the Arizona desert with the Minutemen, Guarding Our Borders.

When it's not getting in a fret about Laura, what's the Left up to? It's cheering entrapment. Mayor James E. West of Spokane, Wash., a Republican and a man who has drafted anti-gay legislation, has been accused by the Spokane Spokesman-Review of using what an AP story excitingly termed "the trappings of his office" to establish relations with someone he mistakenly thought to be an 18-year-old man on the website The man was actually a private computer expert hired by The Spokesman-Review as part of a sting operation.

It sure looks like entrapment to me. If the FBI had done this sort of thing (as, in fact, they do), leftists would be howling their heads off. The mayor, who's taking a rest from the cares of office, denies all. He also says he's had sex with adult men.

I remember the mayor's office in Spokane 20-odd years ago when I enjoyed the only official welcome to a mayor's office I've ever been accorded. I had a speaking date in Spokane to denounce Reagan's war on Nicaragua, and the lady mayor, Shari Bernard, invited me to her office and gave me a cordial greeting on behalf of the town. Obviously the mayor's office has gone down in the world since then, but the Spokesman-Review's tactics seem disgusting.

I tend to go by the guideline of my friend John Scagliotti, producer of the great documentary "Stonewall." If someone has a political record of persecution of gays, then that person is fair game for being outed if they turn out to be a closet case. But outing is very different from entrapment.

Leftists in Spokane whom I've quizzed on the matter say the mayor had it coming to him. "Entrapment, enshmapment," said one blithely. I answered another thus: "I have no problem with outing the hypocritical West, or with raking up his past, or with kicking him out. I do have a problem with entrapment. Wait till the FBI entraps some liberal pal of yours by cruising him on the Net, then busting him and putting him away for 15 years because he saved images of little boys on his hard drive. You can't have double standards on these things."

Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

*Note: this article is, indeed, by Alexander Cockburn.